by Christopher O’Connor, School of Dental Sciences
Last year we decided to open the great big can of worms that was our School’s Undergraduate Blackboard site.
Dental Sciences was one of the first schools to adopt Blackboard some 15 years ago and was perhaps a lesson in how not to structure it. We just had one very large community with all the learning material from our 5-year non-modular course crammed inside.
15 years of abuse later and the site was so full that it ran at the speed of dial up Internet. Accessing a Recap recording became a full mornings task and we had several versions of the same document in various areas across the site. It was in short a nightmare; a nightmare to find anything you wanted or indeed work out where to upload it.
Tired of frustrated students and staff we decided to set up a crack task force of computer illiterate dental academics to cut the head of the snake. It was time for a new Blackboard structure.
Our requirements were to make the site consistent, organised and to meet the new university Blackboard Baseline. We also needed to make the migration as smooth as possible and try to reduce the burden of the process from our academic and support staff.
Luckily for us we involved the Learning and Teaching Development Service (LTDS) early in the process. With their help we were able to understand how we could make Blackboard work for us and start to plan a new structure for the site.
Getting the structure right was the key thing for us and that involved us breaking our course down into smaller courses that we could control. This involved a series of discussions with Faculty, NUIT and LTDS. We knew we only wanted to change this site once and therefore it was important to make sure the changes we planned were sustainable and achievable.
Once we had our new structure in place and the courses pristine and inviting (hopefully) we went about organising the migration and reordering of the content. We decided to hold small group two hour workshops for course leads to drop in on.
With LTDS’s support the workshops were a great success and, in most instances, course leads were able to rearrange all their content before the two hours were up. Staff commented that it was, “Great to have such a supportive team there ready to help!” and, “It was all surprisingly simple and painless!”
We are now three months into the new term and the new Blackboard site has received excellent feedback from both staff and students. Life has simply become a lot easier and I think we all just wish we had done something about it sooner.