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Center for Teaching & Learning: Blackboard - Building Your Course

Supporting the MCPHS faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning

Content areas are the areas in your course in which you will store the course materials. By default every new course shell should include the content areas for Course Introduction and Course Content, but you may want to add a few more yourself.

Creating New Content Areas

  1. Go into your course and make sure Edit Mode is on.
  2. Click the "+" sign above the Course Menu.
  3. Select Content Area.
  4. Type the name of the content area in the Name field and press Submit. You should not make a content area available to users until after the content has been added and is ready for the students to see.

Screenshot showing steps 3 and 4 content area > name > submit

Making Content Areas Available

After you add your materials to the content area, you should make sure that you open it to the students. If a content area is closed, then students will be unable to access the items even if you provide a link to them somewhere else in the course.

To Make a Content Area Available

  1. Go into your course and make sure Edit Mode is on.
  2. Hover your mouse over the content area and click the arrow that appears.
  3. Select Show Link.


screenshot showing steps 2 and 3 arrow > show link

Content Items

Created within your content areas, content items provide a field in which you can use the text editor to provide a combination of text, hyperlinks, multimedia, insert equations, links, tables, and even attach files you would like students to access.

To Create a New Content Item

  1. Access your course and go into the content area you would like to place the item in.
  2. Click Build Content > Create Item.
  3. Type a name in the Name field and user the Text field and text editor to provide the required information.
  4. Scroll down to Options and make sure you select Yes to Permit users to View this Content.
  5. (Optional) Select Yes to Track Number of Views and add any relevant date and time restrictions.
  6. Click Submit.

Screenshot showing step 2 build content > create item

Additional Course Content Types

There are a wide array of options for instructors to add compelling content to courses, explore them further:

Type Description

You can create a link to a file in the content list. You can't add a description with the link, so you want to be sure to use a meaningful title. For example, include "Syllabus" in the title. You can choose whether students view the file as a page within the course or in a separate window or tab. Students need to download some file types such as Word docs to view the contents. This content type saves screen real estate and reduces the amount of scrolling.

You can also create an HTML file in your course that students can open in a new browser window or tab. Or, upload a collection of files, including cascading style sheets (CSS) so that students can view them in the prescribed order and with your design.




You can upload multimedia files from your computer or browse the course's file repository: Course Files or the Content Collection.

More on adding images, video, and audio

Web Link You can link to an outside website or resource.
Learning Module A learning module is a content container that allows students to navigate through the content from a table of contents. You can add all types of content, such as content items, file attachments, links to websites, tests, assignments, and multimedia.
Lesson Plan A lesson plan is a content container that holds the content items students need to complete a lesson. You can also add lesson profiles, instructional objectives, required materials, and more.
Syllabus You can attach an existing syllabus file or build a course syllabus through a series of steps.
Course Link You can create a shortcut to an item, tool, or area in your course for quick access to relevant materials.
Content Package (SCORM) You can add web-based learning content called an SCO or Shareable Content Object. These SCOs are gathered together into a compressed, zipped file called a content package. The zipped file can be unpackaged and played through a content player. Typically, individual components or entire packages are provided to you by schools, private companies, or other sources.

More on content packages

Content Folder You can organize content in folders and sub-folders. Use folders to reduce scrolling and help students find materials easily.
Module Page A module page is a specialized content page that presents content in boxes, such as on a course Home Page. Students can keep track of tasks, tests, assignments, and new content created in the course. You can't add your own content to a module page. The system generates the information in each module.
Blank Page

You can include files, images, and text together on one page. With the editor, you have creative control over how your content appears and the flexibility to change the order and appearance when you want.

Students select the title in the content list to view the content. No description appears with the title, so you want to be sure to use a meaningful title. This content type saves screen real estate and reduces the amount of scrolling.

Mashups You can use mashups to browse for and add social media elements from other websites.
  • Flickr®: Share photographic images.
  • SlideShare: Share slide presentations, documents, or Adobe PDF portfolios.
  • YouTube™: Share online videos.

More on mashups

Course Entry Point

The course entry point is the first area users see when they enter your course. The default course entry point is the Home Page and contains modules that alert students to activity in your course.

More on the Home Page

To change the entry point, navigate to your course > Customization > Teaching Style > Select Course Entry Point

Choose an available area from the menu. Available entry points are all the areas that appear on the course menu.

screenshot showing select course entry point drop-down

The new entry point takes effect immediately for users who log in to the system after the change. Users who are in the system when the change takes place will see the new entry point the next time they log in.

Selecting a Banner

You can add a banner image to appear at the top of the course entry point. The banner image is automatically centered.

To change the entry point, navigate to your course > Customization > Teaching Style > Select Banner

Use Browse My Computer to locate an image file on your computer. You can't use images stored in the Content Collection or Course Files. However, a copy is stored there with each new upload. If you delete the image from the course entry page, the image file remains in the course's file repository in the main folder.

Course banner example

A recommended size for banners is approximately 480 by 80 pixels.

When you choose a banner image, keep in mind that users can resize their browser windows, expand and collapse the course menu, and use monitors of varying sizes and screen resolutions. After you upload a banner, view it under those conditions to be sure that it appears as intended.


Assignments are used to provide an area for students to submit their homework such as essays or other documents that you will later grade. Students can upload a wide variety of files to the assignment dropbox, so assignments do not have to be limited to just text entries. Please see here for a full list of supported file types.

Create a New Assignment

  1. Access your course in Blackboard and enter the content area where you would like students to submit their assignments.
  2. Click Assessments > Assignment.
  3. Insert the assignment name in the Name field, and enter a description of the assignment in the Instructions field. If you already describe the assignment in your syllabus, it is a good idea to just copy and paste the text. This saves work for you and minimizes the risk of confusion.
  4. (Optional) Attach relevant files and add a due date.
  5. Type the total points possible in the Points Possible field.
  6. (Optional) Use the Submission Details options to specify if this is an individual or group submission, the number of attempts, and / or if the assignment should be checked for plagiarism using Blackboard's SafeAssign tool.  (If you would prefer to use TurnItIn for plagiarism checking, please see TurnItIn Assignments,
  7. (Optional) Add Display After and Display Until dates to restrict when students have access to the assignment. This is a great way of creating assignments before the class even begins.
  8. Press Submit

    screenshot of step 2 assessments > assignment

Create a test or survey and add questions

Navigate to your course's Control Panel > Course Tools > Tests, Surveys, and Pools > Tests 

  1. On the Tests page, select Build Test.
  2. On the Test Information page, type a name. Optionally, provide a description and instructions.
  3. Select Submit.
  4. On the Test Canvas, from the Create Question menu, select a question type.  
  5. On the Create/Edit page, provide the necessary information to create a question.
  6. Select Submit.

When you have added all the questions you need, select OK. The test is added to the list on the Tests page and is ready to make available to students

Adding Assessments to Content Areas

After creating an assessment, you will need to make sure to deploy it in an area of your course that students have access to. Deploying an assessment just means that you create a link to it and set a few of your desired options.

To Add an Assessment to a Content Area

  1. Enter your Blackboard course and navigate to the content area you would like students to go to take the assessment (i.e Week 7, etc.).
  2. Click Assessments > Test and select the name of the assessment in the box next to Add an Existing Test.
  3. Press Submit to progress to the test options page.
    Screenshot of step 2 Assessments > Test

Recommended Test Options

You have many options when developing your tests--here are a few recommendations to help guide your choices:

1. Select Yes to Open test in new window 

While the answer is defaulted to No, selecting yes will give students more screen real estate and less distraction when taking an online exam. If you do not set the test to open in a new window, the student's screen will show the course menu while compressing the exam to fit in the space saved for content areas.

2. Always select Yes to Make the link available 

This option must be selected for students to have access to the exam. If you are deploying an exam, but don't want students to access it right away, you should still select yes and then set the availability dates in the lower set of options.

3. Set a timer and turn auto-submit on

Timers are important as they limit how much time students have while taking an online exam and makes the online exams more aligned with their face-to-face counterparts. Timers are set to countdown the moment a student begins an assessment and continue to tick down--even if a student closes it early.  With auto-submit turned on, exams are automatically saved and submitted to the Grade Center after the time has expired. If auto-submit is off, students may continue working on the exam and Blackboard will force you to manually grade the test attempt yourself.

4. Test Availability Exceptions can be used to accommodate special requirements 

If teaching a course you may have students that require additional time during assessments. Instead of creating a new exam for them, simply add the users under test availability exceptions and change any options (e.g. timer) to fit their needs.

5. Set a Due Date to add the test to student calendars 

Any assessment or assignment you create with a due date is now automatically added to your students' calendars on Blackboard. These can serve as a wonderful reminder for students and it only takes a few seconds to set.

6. Show test results and feedback to students

Students want to know how they did, but it is up to you to decide how much information they are given. By default, students are only given the score they received, but you can also choose to show them the test answers, what they submitted, question feedback, and even have Blackboard mark which questions they got wrong. More information on test and feedback options.

7. Show the questions all at once, and randomize the questions 

Presenting exam questions one at a time limits students from being able to review their exam prior to submission--a function that can be very helpful for online student. While there may be some instances where it is appropriate to limit the exam to one question at a time (e.g. preparing for a professional licensing exam that only shows one question at a time), more often than not it is best to show all the questions at once.

Blackboard Test Feedback Options Guide 

Test feedback options determine the type of results users receive after a test is submitted. The options are set on the Test Options screen in the section titled Show Test Results and Feedback to Students.

You may set up to two rules to show results and feedback. If conflicts in rules occur, the most permissive settings 
for that user or groups of users are granted.
For example, students will receive the greatest number of attempts, 
longest availability time, and so on.

Refer to this guide to understand each permutation of settings/availability to ensure you are adjusting your feedback settings as you intended.

Item Analysis

Item Analysis is a report Blackboard can generate that evaluates how students answered individual questions on an exam and can be used to identify questions that are too easy, too hard, or are simply confusing. Item analysis can be used to indicate specific areas of your course that may need additional content or clarification.

Run an Item Analysis

  1. Enter your Blackboard course and navigate to Control Panel > Course Tools > Test, Surveys, and Pools >Tests.
  2. Hover over the desired test and click the arrow that appears.
  3. Select Item Analysis.
  4. Click Run. Blackboard begins to generate a report and will send you an email when the report is ready.
  5. After receiving the email, repeat steps 1 - 3 to return to the item analysis page for the exam. The generated report should be listed under Available Analysis.

Screenshot of steps 2 and 3 item analysis > run



The Performance Dashboard

Using the performance dashboard, you can easily see all types of user activity in your course.  You're able to view the activity for all users in your course, including teaching assistants and students, to allow you to keep a pulse on their progress.

You can access the Performance Dashboard by visiting your course shell > Control Panel > Evaluation > Performance Dashboard:

Performance Dashboard screenshot

The Performance Dashboard will show you various types of information:

  • Last Name, First Name, and Username: Displays the users' names and the usernames they use to log in to Blackboard Learn.
  • Role: Displays users' defined roles within your course. Examples of roles include instructor, student, grader, teaching assistant, guest, and observer. A user can have one role in a course, and a different role in another.
  • Last Course Access: Displays the date and time when a user last accessed your course.
  • Days Since Last Course Access: Displays the number of days that has elapsed since the last time a user accessed your course.
  • Review Status: Displays how many items have been reviewed. For a detailed view, select the number shown. If the review status tool hasn't been enabled for your course, this column doesn't appear.
  • Adaptive Release: Displayed only if adaptive release is enabled in your course. Select the icon to open a new window that shows a directory tree overview of the entire course relative to a user and the access status.
  • Discussion Board: Displayed only if the discussion board is enabled in your course. Select a number link to open the Discussion Board page that lists all of the selected user's discussion posts in your course.
  • Customize Retention Center: Displayed only if the Retention Center tool is enabled in your course. This column shows the number of triggered rules and the number of total rules that may trigger a warning. For example, 2/6 means a user has triggered two rules out of six total. Select the data in this column to display a page that shows the Retention Center status for the user.
  • View Grades: Displayed only if the Grade Center is enabled. This column provides direct links to the Full Grade Center.

You can select Print to open the page in a new window in a printer-friendly format. You can sort columns as needed.

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