The "BEST" Teaching Tips  

Many of these tips and techniques have been handed down through a variety of resources, workshops and instructors. I have attempted to model some of the best practices in my "Blackboard Essential Skills Training" shell. Thank you to everyone who has contributed!


A weekly video introduction to the week's content helps students stay connected to the instructor and helps outline requirements for the week. Create a script first to make it easier for yourself and then be able to provide a written transcript to the student as an alternative format. Iris Carroll @ MJC 

It is important to build community from the beginning of every class. Set up a "Introduce Yourself" threaded discussion forum in order for students to introduce themselves and share information. This will be a way for students to identify and create study and support groups.

A "Getting Started" Learning Module is vital to the success of every online class. The module should contain the Syllabus, contact information, special instructions and requirements as well as "practice" activities that will be common throughout the semester.

Instructional Technology

Be flexible if problems occur with technology or with the new ideas you would like to introduce. Have a Plan B & C. Students understand and it is important to provide them with alternatives.

Use a Test Student for a "true view" of what your students are viewing when you troubleshoot issues. Go to the Control Panel>Course Tools>Add Test Student. You will need to log in as the test student with you lastname,first initial_s (jonesa_s) then the password of your choice that you typed in when setting the test student up. This can be the same as your regular log in to Blackboard. Note: You will need to add the test student to each of your shells.

Addressing Learning Styles

It is easy to address different learning styles with your written lectures or text-based PowerPoints, by using this free video email program, EyeJot  to record 5 minute or less lecture that can be linked or embedded into emails and content areas. Many instructors find if they record a lecture and post it in the beginning of a learning module they save time and answer many questions that students have because they haven't read the instructions carefully.

Tell your students if they like listening to lectures to download a free text to speech software such as Natural Reader They simply highlight their text lecture, article or web page to be able to listen to it. Some newer computer operating systems already have this technology built in. -Melissa Colon @ CC

Accessibility and Universal Design

Save documents and lectures as alternative universal file formats such as RTFs (rich text format) and PDFs (portable document format) to help students with different operating systems and word processing programs to be able to have the ability to open everything without issues.

Using simple techniques for accessibility and universal design such as sans-serif-fonts, headings, alt-tags and descriptions on images, charts and graphs, and content in tables that can be read from left to right is good for all students.

It is important to describe in detail how documents and activities will open and display for students. For example, if you save a document as a RTF (rich text format) or a .DOC it will open a dialog box to open, save or close. Some additional items and activities such as quizzes and web pages open a new window. Students may miss the activity that opens behind the Blackboard class or their browser may be prohibiting the window from opening because of their pop-up disabler or a security bar. A short description can save time and confusion.

Beyond the 4 walls

Allow students to try each problem or activity more than once if they don't get it the first time.

Snow Days are not a problem for the online courses or for hybrid courses. I just had my face to face student listen to the recorded lecture (actually exam review) from CCC Confer on the Snow Day. - Kirsti Dyer @ CC 

Provide an opportunity for your students to engage in an activity away from the computer. Ask students to attend a live concert, play or movie. Then have them write a report, thread, blog or record a video or audio recording of what they learned.  Melissa Colon @ CC

Content and Lecture Creation

It is important to teach according to how the brain learns. Try placing the student in the center of the learning by planning lessons for students to solve by doing.

If you would like to develop online content or try something new out, enroll a colleague in your Blackboard shell to get some feedback. Another set of eyes is important as you fine tune your activity. Melissa Colon @ CC

Check in with your students from time to time to see if they are grasping the concepts and achieving the SLOs for the course.  For example, an open forum, blog or quick survey at the end of a learning module can help identify areas of difficulty and provide valuable feedback. Contrary to what we may believe, it makes us appear confident and interested in our student's learning process. Melissa Colon @ CC

From time to time share a inspirational quote, an image of art or beauty, a cartoon or picture of yourself to mix things up, let your students know who you are! This small, simple gesture builds community in your class.

Create a video lecture with a free online screen recorder that can linked or embedded right into your learning modules. All you need is a headset or Web cam (Webcam is optional). Jim Toner @ CC

Rubrics, models and guidelines are imperative to get the best results and mileage out of forums, assignments, research papers and activities.

Find a video on a topic, there are 1,000s of YouTube videos on subjects that you teach. The Mashup tool under Build Content>Mash Ups will allow you to bring YouTube videos right into the content area.

Create an Overview of the week with Objectives, Goals and Activities listed as the static landing page for each learning module. You can also copy and paste the overview on the outside of each learning module to give the students a sense of what is due for that week in a glance.

Set up a CCC Confer the free video conferencing tool to hold live, synchronous lectures that can be archived and closed captioned for FREE.

Assessment Activities

If you observe a pattern when it comes to a quiz or exam and the majority of students get a particular question wrong consider re-writing the question or covering the material differently.

Use Turnitin (an originality tool) to help students understand the difference between plagiarizing and writing original work. The Turnitin Tool is built into Blackboard which means there is one log in, with drag and drop text and voice comments.

Building Community

Set the tone for the semester by establishing expectations using "Blackboard As An Enhancement" in your classes. Blackboard is available 24/7, access & resources unlimited.

Join the fun, sharing and building an online community with colleagues from MJC and CC at Online@YCCD located on Facebook.

From time to time share a inspirational quote, an image of art or beauty, a cartoon or picture of yourself to mix things up, let your students know who you are! This small, simple gesture builds community in your class.

Use Blackboard Instant Messenger for office hours and study groups. The tool can be added from the plus sign on the menu>Add Menu Item>Tool Link>Wimba Pronto. The students can download and install the 3rd party tool which is now referred to as Blackboard Collaborate. It can then remain on the students desktop and they can log in anytime to see who's online.

Try a "wiki" for a collaborative project such as starting a story assigning each student a different day, a sign-up sheet for student meetings or have students each present a collage as a final project.

Offer students an easy to use, fun & free program called  Animoto to introduce themselves with music, photos, videos, images, etc.

Start a blog to record what it would be like in the day and life of a teacher, fireman, scientist, forest ranger, paramedic, student, etc. .........................

Ask Students to use SlideShare a free internet slide show maker, to create an Internet Slideshow they can share with their classmates on a topic.

Start a Threaded Discussion Forum to help students thoughtfully and thoroughly respond to a topic, issue or idea. Forums expand the class beyond the 4 walls, allowing students to share and build community.

Start a VoiceThread to start a conversation with your students about a topic, image or PowerPoint. Students can respond with text, video, audio or phone in a response.

Interactive Syllabus Example