tool types

Using Course Tools

There are a number of tools in blackboard that you can use to communicate with your students and to generate student-to-student communication in your course. This session focuses on the creation and maintenance of four distinct tools:
  • Discussion boards
  • Journals
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
At their root, all of these tools serve essentially the same purpose - connecting students to you and to each other outside of the classroom. However, their design facilitates certain types of activities and exercise types and you can select any one based on the specifics of the assignment that you would like your students to complete.

Discussion Boards
Discussion boards are useful for generating debate, and are very useful in most social and behavioral science fields. For example, students in a government or political science course could spend a lot of time online analyzing and commenting on the clauses of Alabama HB 56, the Beason-Hammon Act. In an economics course, students could be tasked with discussing the impact and merits of the stimulus, and the impact of the political process on implementing its programs.

Blogs and Journals
Blogs and journal are essentially the same, the difference is in the default setting: blogs are public by nature, journals private (Although they can be made public). these tools are particularly useful for courses in which a student might record field observations, in biology for example. They are also effective in documenting attitude changes and development in critical thinking throughout a semester. For example, students in a difficult dialogues project course could be asked to maintain a blog or journal on their attitudes towards gays in the military over the course of a semester. Biology students in a study away program can post observations from the field to a blog directly from a smart phone or other mobile device. Students in public health that might do clinical observation can maintain a journal to record these observations over the course of the observation period.

Wikis are most useful for group work. Each student in a group can contribute, edit and comment on all the work posted. For example, students in a human geography course might be assigned to examine the reasons why settlements developed in specific locations. One student will examine flora and fauna, another terrain and climate, another water resources, and a fourth might examine geopolitics. The exercise can be continually reviewed, revised, and commented on as they proceed through the semester, and all changes to the wiki posts can be tracked and evaluated. The students collaborate, construct their own knowledge base, and learn  a little about virtual team participation as they go.
These tools take a little time to learn, set up, and implement, but it can be very worthwhile if your goal is to generate dialog among your students.

Create a discussion board