Copying courses from semester to semester within Blackboard has never been easier. You can do it yourself too. Check this post for instructions if you copy within the current Blackboard (bb9). If you need to copy from Bb8 to Bb9, check this post for step-by-step instructions.
While you are at it, you might as well take this time to make some improvements in your course in terms of content presentation to make it easier to navigate and more friendly in interface. Your students will appreciate it. A better organized course may also save yourself some heart attacks later.
Here are some tips:
Go over your Grade Center column, and get rid of any extra columns you do not need. Once the semester starts, duplicate columns will cause no small amount of headache and confusion. You may also hide some columns you don’t want to see all the time, such as “availability” and “user name” (you already have first name and last name). This will make your Grade Center much neater to browse.
Change the naming of some of your folders to call things by their proper names. For instance, in previous versions of Blackboard, there is a folder for “assignments”. If your “assignments” folder contains nothing but exams, that causes some cognitive dissonance. Why not rename the folder “exams” instead?
Think if you can have another way of doing the same thing in a better way at the beginning of the semester. For instance, if you want students to submit journals via the “assignment” tool, consider using the “journal” tool instead. It is much easier to comment and grade that way. If you used to add links to Youtube videos, give the mashup tools a try to embed videos directly within Blackboard.
Set your entry page in a way that provides better guidance to students. For instance, you may set “announcements” as your entry page to get their attention. Or you may start by having “course information” as your entry page, so that students start by reading the syllabus, course schedule and your general orientational materials.
Clean up your text instructions. You may notice that when you copy things over from Word, some of the hidden span codes are carried over and make your text look strange. In the case of assignments, assessments or surveys, they may even cause problems later on. You can get rid of such codes by copying the content under the “html” mode (look for the “<>” sign in your text editor).
Try to organize content into folders. If you have, say, 50 items, under one giant folder called “assignments” or “content”, it becomes very difficult for the page to load, and not very user-friendly for students to find items. Try re-organizing them into sub-folders such as “week 1″, “week 2″, etc. This will also prevent errors in one file from affecting other files in the same giant folder. However, avoid using too many layers to create a labyrinth. Another extreme to to go is to create a folder and have only one item under it.
As the new semester starts, also try some new tools, such as blogs, wikis, groups, etc. Instead of text instructions, you can also try to include a video or sound clip to diversity your methods to present your materials.
Above all, use Blackboard more for your teaching needs. I recently read the results of a 2012 student survey of technology and I find that the most frequently mentioned need is for faculty to “use Blackboard”. For some, it is even the default place to find syllabus, deadlines, assignments and assessments. If you haven’t done so already, please consider post more of your materials in Blackboard.
Please let us know if you want us to show any of these suggested changes.