Dr Nick Cook, Senior Lecturer
School of Computing
Science, Agriculture and Engineering
What did you do?
Blackboard Module Design in Computing Science.
Who is involved?
Nick Cook and teaching staff in Computing Science.
How do you do it?
The School decided to address inconsistencies with the layout of modules on Blackboard following some confusion and complaints from students who were struggling to find materials. They organised consultations with staff to ascertain what they needed and what they felt students needed from Blackboard.
As a result of their findings they worked to develop a module “template”, a layout for Blackboard modules which could be used across the school and which was clear, efficient and easy to use. It was decided that menus within modules must be consistent both within and across modules. The same folders should appear within the module as appear in the menu on the left of the screen, there should only be five or six folders, covering the most useful general topics to avoid confusion and allow easy use across devices.
The group of staff decided that the most important folders, to allow students to access the materials they needed were: Announcements, Teaching Materials, Assessments, ReCap Recordings, Contacts and Overview. This easy menu could be viewed without scrolling and offered ways into all of the materials which students had described as important or as their main reasons for accessing Blackboard. This was rolled out across the school stage by stage,with lecturers adapting their own modules based on a universal template provided by LTDS.
Why do you do it?
Students had complained that often modules were filled with a number of folders and it was often tricky to decide whether teaching materials might be available in ‘Seminar Documents’ ‘Seminar Materials’, ‘Lecture Documents’ or a range of other folders, depending on who had arranged them.
Often this meant that it took some time to work through folders to find items, and sometimes important materials were missed because they were hidden by the volume of options within the module and it’s many folders. Students said that they usually went to Blackboard for lecture notes or powerpoints, ReCap recordings and to check deadlines for assessments.
Often they struggled to find information within materials often compiled by numerous different course leaders and simply added to and adapted over time. The new layout promotes accessibility but is beneficial for all students.
Does it work?
Both students and staff reported that the new layout made life much easier. Students could find materials quickly and easily, even on mobile devices and staff felt more at ease within their new “clean” modules, in which it was quick and easy to upload materials without negotiating labyrinthine folders and numerous documents.
Although some modules have deviated slightly from the original template over the years, the vast majority have stuck to this new and easy to navigate style, simply because it’s easier.