Blackboard Minimum Usage Requirements

Approved by Deans of Instruction / Academic Affairs
Date: August 12, 2015
Laptop ComputerOverview
A robust, well-organized course in Blackboard supports the success of students by providing them with 24/7 easy access to course materials from anywhere that they can access the Internet. Therefore, ensuring a rich Blackboard student experience is an expected part of the course design and delivery process to which all instructors are to be held accountable.

The Blackboard Minimum Usage Requirements provide instructors at Delaware Technical Community College with a common standard for delivering course materials within Blackboard. The policy below is based on the understanding that a properly designed Blackboard course is an integral element of quality instruction at Delaware Tech.

How To Read This Page
Scroll down to read the full text of each aspect of the Blackboard Minimum Usage Requirements, or click the links below in order to jump to specific requirements. After each explanation, you will find a link to further resources for effective implementation of the relevant requirement.

Minimal Use Checklist

Select the “Minimal Usage Checklist” button above to open the document in your browser then select the small download icon in the upper right of the screen to download the form to your device. Fill out the form with Acrobat Reader, not your web browser, to see how well your course meets the Blackboard Minimum Usage Requirements. Then save the form with a unique name that is applicable to you and your course.

Requirement #1: Standardized Course Menu

Laptop with globe and arrows arching upwardTo ensure consistency of student experience from one course to another, the Course Navigation Menu must include the following links:

Course Home Page
Getting Started Page
Instructor Information Page
Syllabus, Schedule, & Policies Page
Learning Materials Page
Course Email Link
My Grades Link
Blackboard Help Link
Learning Support Link

Additional links may be added to the Course Menu. In order to allow room for innovative course design within reasonable limits, instructors are not required to receive approval before modifying the course menu, but they are expected to notify their department chair of any courses that contain a non-standard menu.

Furthermore, instructors should exercise caution to ensure that navigating the course remains as simple as possible. In general, a link should only be added to the menu if one of the following conditions exists:

The link does not logically fit within one of the standard menu items (For example, a link to the Achievements tool).
The link will be accessed regularly by students (For example, a link to a 3rd-party software, such as Pearson MyLabs).

Requirement #2: Appropriate Course Home Page

Man holding a laptop with world map in background

The Course Home Page is a customizable collection of modules designed to give students access to important updates, information, and tools.

At a minimum, instructors should include the My Announcements and Report Card modules. Furthermore, instructors should customize their Course Home Page so that it is optimized for their students by selecting modules appropriate to the course and removing modules that won’t be used.

Course Home PageTraining Resources

Requirement #3: Effective Use of the Announcements Tool

From the Blackboard Courses tab, students can see all of the messages created using the Announcements Tool from all of their instructors in one convenient location.

For this reason, instructors should convey critical information (such as reminders, cancelled classes, snow day plans, and changes to assignments) to students using the Announcements tool. Furthermore, announcements must be set to expire at the end of the semester.

Announcement ToolTraining Resources

hands holding a tablet with a colorful message

Requirement #4: Accurate Instructor Information

In the Instructor Information tab, instructors should let students know their Delaware Tech email address, office phone number, office location, and office hours. Additionally, this area should include information about the instructor’s preferred communication mode as well as the turnaround time for communication with students.

Adjunct Instructors should refer to their department chair concerning policies about phone number and office hours.

Instructor InformationHow to set up

Requirement #5: Up-to-date Syllabus, Schedule, & Policies

In the Syllabus, Schedule, & Policies section, instructors should include the current approved Collegewide syllabus, evaluation measures, and schedule of topics and due dates for major assignments, special events, etc.

In addition, course or departmental policies (such as late work, missed assessments, attendance, expected behavior, etc.), should be included in this section.

Syllabus, Schedule, & PoliciesTraining Resources

Students in a class

Requirement #6: Helpful Getting Started Page

Man selecting a "Search" button

In the Getting Started tab, instructors should post the most important information that students need to know in order to begin the course successfully. Examples of such information include a welcome message, course orientation, success strategies, student and instructor expectations, required texts, special materials (lab coats, publisher software access code, etc.), pre-course assignments, and orientation for required technology.

Although Getting Started is required for ALL courses, online courses especially should have a robust and well-organized Getting Started section to ensure that students have access to everything they need to be successful in an online course.

Getting StartedTraining Information

Requirement #7: Organized Learning Materials

Hand selecting a blue cubeThe Learning Materials section should contain all of the content that students need to access in order to complete their coursework, such as handouts, required readings, PowerPoints, or videos. Furthermore, students should be able to access all assignment instructions somewhere within their Blackboard course, and the Learning Materials section is usually the most logical place for these.

Instructors should organize their Learning Materials in a way that allows students to find out what they need to do with as few clicks as possible. To this end, effective Learning Materials are typically organized into separate folders by unit, week, project, chapter, or module – rather than by content type (e.g., PowerPoints, Homework, Readings, Study Guides, etc.).

While the Learning Materials section does not replace a student’s need to attend class, well-designed Learning Materials assist students in mastering course objectives at their own pace.

Learning MaterialsTraining Information

Requirement #8: Well-maintained Grade Center

Grade CenterThe Blackboard Grade Center should provide an accurate, up-to-date record of all student grades, including an overall weighted average or total. This overall grade must match the instructor’s evaluation measures and policies, and should be set as the external grade in Grade Center.
Requests to post grades in other platforms (such as MyLabs) must be approved by the dean of instruction.

Grade CenterTraining Information

Requirement #9: Meaningful Communication in Distance Education Courses

Courses that are classified as online, hybrid, or web conferencing should make regular, effective use of asynchronous communication tools in order to build collaboration amongst students and between the students and instructor. Asynchronous communication includes any form of communication that does not occur in real time, such as discussion boards, blogs, journals, and wikis.

Courses that are classified as online must also include at least two scheduled synchronous communication activities – that is, communication that occurs in real time. Such activities include, but are not limited to, chat rooms, video conferences, audio conferences, and phone calls. At the beginning of the semester, the instructor should provide a clear schedule of synchronous learning activities, taking into account student availability. These synchronous sessions should be optional for students, and may take the form of test review sessions, online office hours, Q&A sessions, and similar activities.

Whenever possible, such synchronous sessions should be recorded and made available to students who are unable to attend.

Synchronous & AsynchronousCommunication Resources

social media communications

Requirement #10: Timely Posting of Course Materials

Instructors must post essential course information (such as the syllabus, schedule, instructor information, and a welcome announcement) 7 days prior to the first class. In addition, any critical week one learning materials, such as required readings or first week assignments, should be posted prior to the start of the course.
Any request to be excused from posting course materials within the required time frame must be approved by the dean of instruction.

Laptop on a glass top desk

Course Size Quota

Excessively large courses have an adverse effect on the overall student learning experience.  For instance, excessively large courses are difficult to archive, restore, load, and navigate. The maximum size for Blackboard courses is 2GB.

It is recommended that course files be no larger than 15 MB  for both faculty and student course content. Larger files are often slow to download and cause problems for students and faculty. Files should be compressed or optimized to the smallest size possible, and CCIT staff can advise on file compression and optimization.

CCIT encourages faculty to use multimedia in their courses.  However, large audio and video files should be housed outside of Blackboard and either embedded or accessed through a web link. CCIT is available to help faculty with this and other quota related processes.