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Center for Teaching & Learning: Blackboard - Groups and Collaborative Tools

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

Adding Collaborative Activities to Courses

Whether your course is a traditional face-to-face lecture or a fully online offering, students can benefit from elements of interactivity with their peers.  Adding collaborative tools such as discussion boards, blogs, or wikis, allow you to create interesting assignments that provide students with experiences that help to hone their writing and peer assessment skill sets.

What are Groups?

Within Blackboard, you have the ability to create groups of students that have access to their own spaces that allow them to collaborate on coursework.  Some groups may only meet in their space to discuss course content or trade files, but you are also able to create assignments that you want them to work collaboratively on--they can access those assignments directly from their group home page.

Creating Groups

When creating groups in Blackboard, you'll have the option to create a single group or to create a group set.

Single group allows you to create an individually named group with the option to manually enroll users into the group, or to allow the students to self-enroll into the group of their choice.

Group Sets allow you to create multiple groups at the same time, but they all have same name with a numerical variance (i.e. Discussion Group 1, Discussion Group 2, etc.).  Group sets let you manually enroll students within the group, with the option to restrict their membership to only one group, allow students to self-enroll within the groups, or you can have membership randomized.

Create a Single Group

  1. Go to your Blackboard course and navigate to Control Panel > Users and Groups > Groups.
    Screenshot of step 1: Control Panel > Users and Groups > Groups
     
  2. Click Create Single Group and select either Manual Enroll or Self-Enroll.
    Screenshot of Step 2: Create Single Group > Self-Enroll
  3. Enter the name of the group in the Name field and a description of the group in the Description field.
  4. Select Yes to Group is Visible to Students.
  5. Under Tool Availability check the boxes next to the tools you want the group to have access to and uncheck the boxes you wish to disable.
  6. a. If you select Self Enroll: Under the Sign-Up Options section, type a name for the Sign-Up Sheet and the maximum number of students per group in their respective fields.
    b. If you select Manual Enroll: Click Add Users under Membership and check the box next to students usernames to add them to the group. Press Submit when you have finished selecting which users to add to the group.
  7. Click Submit to create the group.

Create a Group Set

  1. Go to your Blackboard course and navigate to Control Panel > Users and Groups > Groups
    Screenshot of Step 1: Control Panel > Users and Groups > Groups
  2. Click Create Group Set and select either Random Enroll, Self-Enroll, or Manual Enroll.
  3. Enter the name of the groups in the Name field and a description of the groups in the Description field. Remember, the name and description will be the same for all groups. The only difference is that Blackboard will add a number at the end of the name.
  4. Select Yes to Group is Visible to Students.
  5. Under Tool Availability check the boxes next to the tools you want the groups to have access to and uncheck the boxes you wish to disable.
  6. Type the number of groups you want to create in the Number of Groups field.
  7. Click Submit to create the groups.
  8. If you selected Manual Enroll, you will be brought to the Edit Group Set Enrollment page. This page allows you to add students to the individual groups, with the defaulted option of hiding members already in a group within the set. For each group you will need to add students by clicking the Add Users button beneath each group, selecting the box next to the users for particular group, and pressing Submit to add the users to the group membership list. When you have finished adding users to each group, press Submit at the bottom of the page to save the group enrollments.Screenshot of steps 3 - 8

Discussion Boards

Discussion boards are used to facilitate student discussions regarding a specific topic or theme within forums that you create. Forums provide a means of asynchronous communication and provide a way for students to communicate amongst each other without having to be in the course at the same time. Discussion boards can also be used to provide students an outlet to create thoughtful and graded posts to which their peers may respond.

Create a Discussion Forum

In order to use discussion boards, you will need to create the individual forums within your course. After creating the forums, you can link them to your content areas to make it a bit easier for students to access them.

Create a Forum

  1. Go into Blackboard and navigate to Tools > Discussion Board.Screenshot of step 1: Tools > Discussion Board
     
  2. Click Create Forum.Screenshot of Step 2: Create Forum
     
  3. Type the name of the discussion topic in the Name field and use the Description field to provide the discussion prompt and instructions. If you already have the topic listed in your syllabus, you should copy and paste the text in the description field.
  4. (Optional) Set the forum availability date. Note that if the availability date has passed, or if you set the forum to not be available, you will no longer have access to the forum yourself.
  5. Set the desired forum options. More information on forum options.
  6. Press Submit.

Link to a Discussion forum

After creating a forum, students can access it by going through Tools > Discussion Board > Forum Name, but you can also provide students a link to the discussion forum right in your content areas.

 

  1. Go into Blackboard and navigate to the relevant content area.
  2. At the top of the content area, press Tools > Discussion Board
    Screenshot of Step 2: tools > Discussion Board
     
  3. Click the option Select a Discussion Board Forum and click the name of the desired forum.
    Create link: Discussion board page with a discussion board selected.
     
  4. Select Next and set the desired options.
  5. Click Submit to save the link.

Please note that this only creates a link to the discussion forum. Any edits you make to the link do NOT affect the actual discussion forum. Discussion forum settings need to be changed separately.

Create a New Thread

  1. Go to your Blackboard course and access the desired discussion forum.
  2. Click Create Thread on the top left.
    Screenshot of Step 2: Create Thread
     
  3. Write the thread name in the Subject field and the body of your post in the Message field. We recommend that you write your post in Word first and then copy/paste it into the message field.
    Example discussion thread with the title "Week 10 - Do Vitamin D Supplements Reduce Depression?" and message text that repeat the reseatch question and experiemtnal approach.
     
  4. Press Submit to save the thread.

Respond to a Thread

  1. Go into your Blackboard course and access the forum.
  2. Click a thread to read the existing posts.
  3. Select Reply beneath a post to respond to the message and click Submit to save your response.Bottom of a post with the Reply, Quote, Edit, and Delete buttons visible.

Edit Forum Settings

  1. Go into your Blackboard course and navigate to Tools > Discussion Board.
  2. Hover over the forum you want to change and click the arrow that appears.
  3. Select Edit.
    screenshot of the forum options drop-down menu with an arrow pointing to a callout around the Edit button
     
  4. Make the desired changes to the options and press Submit to save them.

Learn how to update a discussion forum to allow for inclusion in your Grade Center.

Check out this short tutorial!

Journals

Journals are a personal space for students to communicate privately with you. Students may also use journals as a self-reflective tool to post their opinions, ideas, and concerns about the course, or to discuss and analyze course-related materials.

You can create journal assignments that are learner-centered to enable your students to reflect on the learning process and document changes in their perceptions and attitudes as they progress through course materials. Students can describe problems faced and how they solved them. You can also create instructor-directed journal entries that are more formal in nature and that narrow the focus by listing topics for discussion, to engage students in a targeted dialogue.

Create a journal

You can create one or more journals for your students to use in your course. You must create journal topics before students can add their entries.

  1. Go to Control Panel > Course Tools > Journals and select Create Journal.
  2. Type a name and optional instructions. Make the journal available to students.
  3. Select the Display After and Display Until check boxes to enable the date and time selections. Display restrictions don't affect the journal availability, only when it appears.
  4. In the Journal Settings section, select Monthly or Weekly Index Entries. If you want, you may select check boxes to allow users to edit and delete entries, or delete comments.
    • Optionally, select the check box to Permit Course Users to View Journal. If selected, the journal becomes public. All users can view all journal entries made to the journal topic.
  5. In the Grade Settings section, select No grading or the Grade option and type the number of Points possible. Points possible will apply to one or more entries made by a user to the journal topic. After you enable grading, a column is created automatically in the Grade Center. The journal is permanently gradable, and you can't change the setting to No grading.

    More on grading journal entries

  6. If you want, select the check box for Show participants in needs grading status and select the number of entries required. If you apply this setting, the Needs Grading icon will show in the Grade Center. The entries will appear in the queue on the Needs Grading page after student activity meets this threshold.
  7. Add a rubric if you want.
  8. Select Submit.

The journal topics appear in alphabetical order on the Journals listing page. Select a column title to sort the contents. To learn more, see Journal Topic Page.

Note: You can also add links to journals in course areas, such as content areas and folders. The links have their own set of options, and changing the link options will not change the options on the journal itself.

Blogs

Blogs are personal online journals that are updated frequently and designed to be shared with others.  Often, they allow for commenting, allowing readers to respond to presented ideas and thoughts.

Blogs encourage students to clearly express their ideas. Blogs also address the need to expand various aspects of social learning. From the instructor's point of view, blogs are an effective means of gaining insight into students' activities and provide a way to share the knowledge and materials collected.

In Blackboard Learn, instructors create and manage blogs, and only enrolled users can view and create entries and comments in them. Similar to journals, you can use blogs for a graded assignment or gather opinions and information without assigning a grade.

Types of blogs

Blogs consist of two elements:

  • Blog entries: Text, images, links, multimedia, social media, and attachments added by course members.
  • Comments: Remarks or responses to blog entries made by other course members, including the instructor.

You can allow students to participate in blogs in three ways:

  • Course blogs: You can create a course blog and choose the topic. All course members can add blog entries and comment on blog entries.
  • Individual blogs: Students can add entries only to their own blogs. All other course members can view and add comments to it.
  • Group blogs: If you enable the blogs tool for a group of users, they can perform these tasks:
    • Group members can add blog entries and make comments on blog entries, building upon one another.
    • All course members can view group blogs, but non-group members can only add comments.

You have full control over all blogs in your course. You can edit and delete entries in any of the blog types. You can also delete user comments.

Additional Resources on Blogs

Wikis

Wikis allow course members to contribute and modify one or more pages of course related materials, providing a means of sharing and collaboration. Users can create and edit pages quickly, while tracking changes and additions, allowing for effective collaboration between multiple writers. You can create one or more wikis for all course members to contribute to and wikis for specific groups to use to collaborate.

All course members can use the wikis tool to record information and serve as a repository for course information and knowledge. A course wiki is a vast source of information compiled by course members. Wikis can help build a community of collaboration and learning by increasing social interaction during the exchange of information.

Pictures of Wiki pagesStudents use a wiki to collaborate on shared content from different times and locations. They can view previous changes, comment on content or changes, include new content, and revise existing content. Similar to the discussion board, you act as a facilitator instead of the provider of all course content. Unlike a blog, which can be quite personal, wikis require intense collaboration, where information is linked to and built upon.

You can grade student contributions to a wiki or use it solely for course content review. In either instance, a student can contribute multiple pages to a single wiki and make unlimited revisions to pages submitted by any course member. You can also enable the group wiki tool to help groups share and interact.

You can view all changes to all pages in a wiki. You can view the changes at a high level, and you can drill down to see information about contributions by any individual.

Benefits of using Wikis

Wikis can help course members build a shared repository of knowledge. As the knowledge base grows over time, you can expect the wiki to have some degree of seriousness and permanence.

With dedicated use, you can use wikis for the following educational purposes:

  • Provide an easy to use environment for communication
  • Promote collaboration rather than competition
  • Foster a social and interactive approach to learning
  • Build partnerships where you can benefit from the strengths of others
  • Increase network building, trust, and negotiation skills
  • Provide support and prompt feedback
  • Provide a one-stop area where information is searched, updated, and accessed easily and quickly
  • Increase and enhance the possibility of creativity, spontaneity, and innovation through the application of reflective thinking

*Provided by Blackboard, Inc.

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