Key information to include
Course unit outline, timetable, key contacts
In advance of course unit teaching, make a Welcome and Introduction area available in the landing page. This area should outline the overarching purpose of the unit, unit aims and other crucial aspects of the course unit. This could include details of:
- key contacts
- how any changes to the course or teaching will be communicated
- where to locate the timetable
- where to locate the reading list
- details of contact sessions
- expectations between contact sessions
- or (if wholly online) how communication and collaboration will be facilitated
- use of eLearning elements and other resources
Remember, the Welcome page will represent the first impressions of your online materials to your students, so it should appear friendly and welcoming. Consider adding a Welcome message from the unit lead and a photograph or video.
If you would like training on how to make Blackboard content look nice, it can be found here.
“Was the information about crucial aspects of the course communicated clearly in the documentation (e.g. structure of course, contact sessions, eLearning elements, expectations between contact sessions, intended learning outcomes, reading lists, extra resources, etc.)?”
12. I have been able to contact staff when I needed to.
15. The course is well organised and running smoothly.
16. The timetable works efficiently for me.
17. Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively.
Intended learning outcomes (ILOs)
It is strongly recommended that each course unit sets out the ILOs the student can expect to have achieved upon completion of the unit, along with a description and general aims of that unit of study.
“Were there clear learning outcomes and were these highlighted to the students?”
Assessment and feedback information
The recommended basic course structure features an Assessment menu item. It is a good idea to put everything related to assessment within this area and have it visible as soon as the unit space becomes available:
- how the course unit is assessed, methods of assessment and the % weighting for each assessment
- grade bandings, marking schema and marking criteria
- assignment drop boxes, along with guides on how to upload an assignment, and how to access grades and feedback
- exam tips and model answers
- (online summative examinations are often made available only for the duration of the exam, accessed via an “Examinations” menu item that becomes available just before the examination start time).
If automated activation of course units occurs, it may be necessary to manually hide assessment-related information within the previous year’s unit so as not to compromise the current year’s teaching.
Similarly, if your course unit has guest access enabled, you may wish to ensure this does not apply to resources relating to assessment.
“If guest access is enabled on the unit then the folder containing assessment and feedback information should be hidden from guests.”
(eLearning standards rubric, FSE)
Details on assessment feedback should be provided, to include: the goals of feedback, opportunities for feedback – how and when the student can expect to receive feedback and feedback mechanisms.
“Does the Blackboard page for the unit have a clear section explaining the feedback mechanism that the unit will follow?”
“At the start of each academic year students should be informed of the feedback opportunities available in that year and the main goals of feedback at that stage in their studies. Information must be provided in programme handbooks, unit outlines and course materials to inform students of the mechanisms by which they will receive feedback and the forms it will take for both formative and, where appropriate, summative work. The Blackboard page for each unit should have a clear section explaining the feedback mechanism that the unit will follow. At the start of each unit, the unit teacher(s) should explain how and when feedback will be provided during the unit.”
“For all formative assessments and assessed coursework, feedback will normally be provided within 15 working days after the final submission deadline.”
(TLSO Policy on Feedback to Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught Students)
The recommended basic course structure contains a Communication area, which, by default, features links to Announcements and the Discussion Board. This area can be used to accommodate any other methods of communication you will use in the unit. You should include information in this section on how you intend to communicate with your students, to set their expectations.
It is good practice to let students know at the outset how any changes in the course or teaching will be communicated throughout the semester or year. The Announcements tool may be used for this purpose, but students will need to be told to check their University email inbox regularly.
“Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively.”
Where the discussion board is used, the course introduction could include an invitation for students to participate in an ‘introducing myself’ activity. Staff and students may subscribe to forums, so that they receive an automatic email notification every time a message is posted to one of the forum’s threads.