This module discusses some basics of Blackboard 9.1, our campus Learning Management System (LMS), and where to get help.

Every WSU course is automatically given a blank Blackboard “shell” available for your use and customization. You are not required to use Blackboard, but many students will be familiar with it and may expect or appreciate Blackboard to deliver course materials or keep track of their grades.

Dealing with Multiple Shells

If your course has multiple sub-sections (such as an S section for saved seats, or an H section for Honors), each one will have its own Blackboard shell. The “main” shell, however, is accessible by all students registered for any of your sub-sections. Therefore you only have to update the “main” shell, unless for pedagogical reasons you want to maintain the multiple shells.

If in doubt as to which one is the “main” shell for your course, check with IT.

Basic Customization

It’s a good idea to do some basic customizing of Blackboard to adapt to your own style.

Your Blackboard shell has a left-hand sidebar that helps you and your students navigate through the course elements. In Instructor View, the upper part is what students see, and the lower part (usually pale gray) is the instructor course management menu.

In the student’s navigation sidebar, the course default includes “Groups” and “Discussion.” If you are not planning to use these tools, simplify the navigation by hiding those options. You can also choose to move or rename any navigation sidebar item. Add new elements to the sidebar with the + sign in the upper left corner (options include Content Area, Blackboard tool, and Web Link, among others).

The default “Home Page” in our version of Blackboard can be confusing. You can hide or delete it. Any other part of your shell that shows up in the navigation bar can become your home page instead (such as “Announcements” for example) by sliding it to the top of the sidebar, or by selecting it under Course Management –> Customization –> Teaching Style –> Select Course Entry Point.

You can customize colors, themes and header / banner image under Course Management –> Customization –> Teaching Style.

Sample Customized Navigation Bar

Accessibility of Online Documents

Starting in January 2018, WSU has enabled a Blackboard feature called Ally. It takes any digital content uploaded by instructors and scores it according to how accessible it is — i.e. how usable by someone who cannot see it or hear it. If audio/video, does it have closed captioning or a written transcript? If written, how easily does it translate into other digital formats without losing coherence or meaning? (Blackboard will automatically translate text documents into Semantic HTML, audio, ePub and electronic braille). The score appears as a red/green indicator dial, similar to a speedometer.

Note, the student does not see the score or the dial, only the instructor.

Ally is provided as a service to help us understand how our course materials appear in alternative formats, and thus how well we’re doing individually at meeting the needs of the widest possible range of learners.

Blackboard Help and Tutorials for Instructors

While logged into Blackboard, expand the “Help” button at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar by clicking on the arrow. A menu of help options appears:

Blackboard Help for Instructors
Contact Support
Video Tutorials