Instructional Design FAQ

It takes a great deal of careful planning and preparation for the instructor to develop an engaging course - a course that fosters learning and keeps the students interested in the material.

Below are some instructional design tips and best practices that will help you develop and deliver an effective course rich in structure, engagement, and pedagogy.

  • Click to Show/HideTechnical Specifications Up to Speed?
    Encourage your students to verify that they are using a browser compatible with Blackboard. Under the Student Resources section of the Blackboard home page, there is a link titled "Blackboard Help." Students can click on that link to test their browser. Also, if you are requiring any special software, please let students know immediately so they can download or purchase it.
  • Click to Show/HideAre Your Expectations Clear?
    Ensure you are clear about your expectations for your students. If you expect them to login three times a week for assignments, announcements, or to actively participate using one of Blackboard's communications tools, then be sure the students know that.
  • Click to Show/HideWhat About My Syllabus?
    A detailed syllabus will go a long way towards conveying your expectations and will give your students a sense of your presence in the course. Be very specific - some online syllabi are as long as 30 or more pages in length. Let the students know how often you expect them to log in, the rules of communication, your availability, the turn-around time they can expect for you to respond to their email notes, your expectations regarding class work and test integrity, etc. See the Syllabus Guidelines for more details and unit-specific information.
  • Click to Show/HideIs Your Course Easy to Navigate?
    Developing your course so that it is clear how the students are to proceed is vitally important. Ineffective or confusing navigation can be extremely frustrating for students. Organize your course so that the student has little doubt how to begin. It is good to create a "Start Here" button and a "Welcome" announcement that describes what the students are to do now that they are in the class. Organize the materials and assignments in a clear and consistent manner, e.g., by date or by chapter. Post course materials under headings and buttons that seem logical and intuitive. Remove unused buttons. Ask a student or colleague to review your course before actually going live and use that feedback to sharpen it. You can access the course yourself from the student’s perspective using the Student Preview function
  • Click to Show/HideWhat About Netiquette?
    Inform students of the "rules of engagement" when it comes to online communications. For example, it is not acceptable to use "texting lingo" like LOL or BRB; instead students should use proper English and correct grammar. Attacking someone with whom a student may disagree is completely unacceptable as is the use of inappropriate or foul language. Penalties should exist and be listed in your course syllabus. You may also want to remind students of netiquette when they first use a Blackboard Communication tool, such as a Discussion Board, Blog, or Wiki, in your course.
  • Click to Show/HideDo I Teach the Same Way as I Do in the Classroom?
    Your role as an instructor changes from the "Sage on the Stage" to the "Guide on the Side" - a transition that is difficult for many. In an online course, your role becomes more of a facilitator for learning than the sole source of learning. You are guiding your students by having them actively participate in engaging assignments, virtual group work, and other activities that promote the learning process.

    Your availability, however, is extremely vital to the success of the student. They need to know that you are ready to help and are "present" in the course. This can be achieved by timely responses to emails, your participation when students make Discussion Board, Blog, Journal, or Wiki postings, and even, possibly, through virtual office hours. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra can be utilized to create virtual office hours for your students; you do, though, need to account for time zone differences, and you may want to poll your students to determine best office hour time options.
  • Click to Show/HideAre You Starting "Too Fast?"
    Since some of your students may not have taken an online course before, they will likely be unfamiliar with Blackboard and, therefore, may have some trouble just getting started. Perhaps start with a short, ungraded online assignment to ensure all students are able to log in and perform basic functions. One of the easiest examples is to create an "Introduction" discussion board where you ask the students to introduce themselves to each other. Then ask them to find another student with whom they seem to have something in common and post a response to them. Use a Syllabus quiz to provide an example of Blackboard Testing if your class uses online quizzes or exams.
  • Click to Show/HideHow Do I Modify My Class For Online Instruction?
    Having students read the text and then review the PowerPoint presentations you've uploaded is probably not the recipe for an engaging and effective class. If you are set on using PowerPoint, then use one of the tools or software available to you to add audio narration. Add web links to relative sites, create a Wiki and allow the students to build a repository of related materials, add links to YouTube videos, create active work groups, and post thought-provoking and open-ended questions on your discussion board. Try to think of any interesting ways to engage your students - step out of the box!
  • Click to Show/HideBut Can't I Use PowerPoint Presentations?
    Have you ever sat through a friend's slide show of his vacation? If you have, then you know that by slide # 10 or 11, you're ready for it to end but your friend still has a few hundred pictures to show you! This same principle holds true in keeping a student's interest with the PowerPoint you've worked so hard to create. Be careful not to simply place lecture notes on slide after slide and expect the students to read them. Chunk the information into smaller units, perhaps using audio, illustrations, and photos to enhance your presentation. Convert your PowerPoint into a format using one of the tools or software and to enable you to add audio for each slide. The more senses you can touch the better the learning environment becomes. – What tool are we promoting for this?
  • Click to Show/HideAre Discussion Boards Really That Useful?
    Sometimes discussion boards can be better than classroom discussions because students who may typically not speak up in class will actively participate in written communications. International students, too, may also feel more comfortable because they have time to write an appropriate response which may not be possible in a fast-paced verbal conversation. In other words, discussion boards give your students time to think and compose a fuller and richer answer to a question. You should monitor the board although there is no need for you to respond to every posting. Address errors or points of clarification by interjecting occasionally - the students will then know that you as the instructor are paying attention to what they're writing. If you ask open-ended questions, you can avoid the yes/no answers that some students tend to give. Provide examples of the kind of responses you are looking for. It is very important to assign points to the discussion board activity - otherwise your students will likely avoid it.
  • Click to Show/HideWhat Other Communication Tools Can I Possibly Use?
    Discussion Boards are not the only communication tool you can utilize with your students. You could also assign your students to submit blog postings to a question, create a wiki page, or write journals, Journals, though, can only be viewed by the instructor.
  • Click to Show/HideWhat about Real-time Meeting Tools?
    Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is an excellent tool you can utilize for meeting with your students; it is often used for virtual office hours, exam review sessions, or student collaborative work, including group projects and presentations. If you are using it for virtual office hours or for exam review sessions, you do want to account for students in different time zones (including, possibly, students in international time zones). You will want, then, to coordinate a time that will work best for your students.
  • Click to Show/HideBlackboard Assistance?
    If you have questions or problems with your course, you can call Blackboard Technical Support for faculty and staff at 502.852.8833 (Office Hours Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.). For issues outside of our office hours, please contact the IT Help Desk at 502.852.7997. Your students, however, will need to call the IT Help Desk for any problems they may experience. That number is 502.852.7997.
  • Click to Show/HideInstructional Design Assistance?
    The Delphi Center has instructional designers who are available to provide design assistance with any aspect of your course. You may also request assistance with building content, choosing tools that best fit with assignments and asking any other questions to make your course run smoothly. Contact – Aimee Greene, Phone: 502.852.4482.
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