Richard MacDonald is a newly appointed Curriculum Support Officer at City of Sunderland College. His role at the college is to support both teaching staff and students on a variety of childcare courses to continue to achieve high standards in teaching and learning. As part of his brief he has been given particular responsibility for ‘looking after’ the Blackboard course sites that support the Childcare courses. What follows are Richard’s thoughts about the potential for the use of Blackboard to support teaching and learning. This was written about a week or so after Richard had undertaken a two-hour training session on Blackboard – his first experience of it.
The Virtual Learning Environment on the college network offers teaching staff another dimension to use for working with students. It allows you to save classroom time which you may have allotted for testing or mock examinations. Material placed on Blackboard may be time limited. When students are allocated workshop time in the Learning Centre, staff can direct the activity via the material on Blackboard. This can avoid the frequently aimless searching of the library and internet to which students have been prone in the past.
You may wish to post the course assignments for the whole year. As well as subject matter, they can include information such as assessment criteria, suggested resources, and deadlines for draft and final submissions.
To avoid the frustration of finding your handouts littering the premises, you can post them to Blackboard. In your lectures, you can make reference to these using OHP or PowerPoint presentations. Students can retrieve the documents during workshop sessions in the Learning Centre. Alternatively, you may wish to provide more comprehensive lecture notes on Blackboard, leaving more time during lectures for alternative teaching activities such as group work etc.
Many courses have standard texts, but you may wish to list supplementary reading material or useful websites. This may extend to articles in journals and newspapers. The online services such as Infotrac, FERL etc. provide useful resources for teachers and students alike.
Blackboard has a facility that enables teaching staff to set written tests using a variety of modes including true/false and multiple choice (which can be automatically marked with student feedback) and essay type questions. Teaching staff may construct tests from scratch, or draw from a bank of questions built up over a period. The test facility has numerous anti-cheating features including password protection, time limits and timed availability.
You can make general announcements to students. This may be useful if you want to transmit information before you see them next.
Blackboard becomes more useful as a teaching tool the more it is used. Getting students into the habit of using Blackboard may contribute to them acquiring good habits and skills when using the Learning Centre. Having your own Practice Site gives you plenty of opportunity to doodle and develop your own skill in producing a distance learning facility. Any technophobes among you should chat with other colleagues already using Blackbaord to see how straightforward it can be.