Threshold Standard: Sites are easy to navigate and provide access to core information
Site Navigation: Introduction
Having access to core module content helps students succeed. Consistent approaches to the structure and presentation of module sites across courses help students and staff to engage with sites quickly and effectively. With this in mind:
- Check the site’s main structure corresponds to the standard module site template
- Name content areas, folders and items meaningfully, and organise for easy navigation
- Ensure that essential module information (e.g. module descriptor, assessment briefs, etc.) is available and easy to navigate
- Upload learning materials such as lecture notes and handouts, preferably before each session
- Link to the Resource List Online for the module
- Keep resources and links up-to-date
When you request a new Blackboard site, you will be given a blank site containing the default menu items. In order to promote a consistent approach throughout the University, it is recommended that staff adhere to these content areas and their names as much as possible; however, you may wish to further personalise the site to reflect the structure or content of the module.
The default menu items for a Blackboard module site are:
- Home Page
- Module Documents
- Staff Details
- Learning Materials
- Discussions (unavailable by default)
- Support Resources
- My Grades
- Blackboard Help
Guidance on how these areas should be used can be found in the Blackboard: Recommended Menu Structure document.
Any empty menu areas should be hidden from student view or deleted. For information on how to do this, read the article on making empty or unused items hidden from students.
- Start of Semester: Determine how the site will be used and communicate that to students
- Site Design Recommendations document
- Blackboard site checklist
Site Navigation 2. Name content areas, folders and items meaningfully, and organise for easy navigation
Content areas and folders should be structured in a way that presents information logically and enables students to find specific resources quickly. To support this, folders and content items should be given meaningful names that assist in identifying their content.
Site Navigation 3. Ensure that essential module information (e.g. module descriptor, assessment schedule, etc.) is easy to locate
One of the first documents to be added to a module site should be the module handbook; this should be located within the Module Documents content area. If the site has been copied over from the previous year, the module handbook may contain the previous year's dates or other out of date information. It is important to ensure that this and all other items on the site, such as lecture notes, are up-to-date so students get the correct information.
For information on how to upload content such as the module handbook to your site, read the article entitled How do I add a file to Blackboard?
Site Navigation 4. Upload learning materials such as lecture notes and handouts, preferably before each session
It is important to provide students with learning materials such as lecture slides, handouts and other resources to help support their learning and revision. Uploading all the material provided to students in lectures and seminars into a clear, organised structure will help students access the learning materials they need and should reduce the number of requests you get to make copies of the information.
When adding session materials to a site we recommend you consider:
- Explaining the purpose. It is good practice to let your students know why you have uploaded the learning materials to Blackboard. Do they need to read them before the session and write down questions about them, or are they purely for revision or backup purposes? Will they be available for the whole year? Students probably don't need to print off everything: if they know they are still going to be available via the site until the end of the year, this will help them better judge whether they need a hard copy or not.
- The name of the file. The name of the file should give students an idea of its contents. A file named lectureslides.ppt will not be very helpful for your students when it is beside ten other sets of slides with the same name.
- File size. If the file is too large (such as full of large images) then it may take a while for students to download them.
- Transitions and animations. Having transitions and animations in your PowerPoint will make viewing it online more difficult for students. It is good practice to remove them before uploading slides to Blackboard.
- Accessibility considerations. Be sure there is a significant contrast between the background colour and the text colour. If you have visually impaired students, having the text in Word format will be more accessible than PowerPoint. A non-white, light or pastel background for slides can help students with dyslexia. With most editable files like Word documents and PowerPoints, students can change the file to whatever colour they prefer for reading.
You may also want to consider providing access to material in advance of the learning event to which it relates, as this can have benefits such as allowing students to prepare for the session and giving disabled students the ability to alter the format of material (where required), in good time. Research into the student experience suggests that having the opportunity to review materials before the session allows them to get more learning out of the session itself. For example, if they know what to expect this allows them to prepare for the session, and can mean they are better able to concentrate on what you are saying instead of trying to write down everything you say word for word.
If you have any disabled students that need to access the materials in a different format, putting the materials up ahead of time gives them (or their support workers) time to change the format of the materials for their needs as well.
- Article on uploading files to Blackboard
Reading Lists Online is a reading list management system that enables academics to produce lists in electronic format. These lists provide links to e-content such as books, journal articles, video clips, and websites.
Reading lists should be embedded into Blackboard modules under the Support Resources tab. Please contact your Learning and Teaching Librarian.
When sites are copied over from the previous year they retain content such a lecture slides and handouts, as well as external links and reading lists. Therefore, before making the site available to the next cohort of students it is important to review and update this material, checking for old dates and expired web or Library Gateway links.
Tools which have been given a timed release function, such as tests, will also retain the previous year's dates so check and alter these as necessary.