Course Structure Gallery

One of the biggest challenges in the transition from original to ultra course view is the need to re-think how course content is organized. In response to student feedback, Blackboard has designed ultra course to keep content in single location and near the top-level of the course. In ultra courses, all course materials live in a single scrolling page under the Content tab and cannot be nested more than three folders deep.  For instructors that were accustomed to creating a number of content areas in the left-hand menu of their original course or used deeper folder structures, this can feel very limiting.This page provides examples from courses offered at Syracuse University to demonstrate approaches other instructors are taking in organizing their Blackboard ultra courses. 

Expand each example to see screenshots and more explanation about the tools each course uses. Clicking screenshots will expand them to a larger size for viewing. 

Course Design Example with Folders

In this example course, folders are used to organize the course materials by type. The instructor has defined four main content types: Schedule and Syllabus, Course Resources, Weekly Content, and Exercises & Projects. The first two folders are populated primarily with files, links, videos, and Blackboard "documents." The last two folders contain sub-folders.

Weekly Content is sub-divided by the week of the semester with the newest week on top; folders contain resources for content covered each week.  Exercises & Projects is sub-divided by assignment with the newest on top; each folder contains Blackboard "assignments" where students submit the materials for the assignment. 

Because there are four main content types and all the course content is organized into these folders, there is little content at the top-level of this course.

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Folder for Information about the Course

The first two folders contains information about the course mechanics.

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The files in the Syllabus and Schedule area are created directly in Blackboard as "documents." These open as an overlay over the course in the same browser window.

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The Course Resources folder has a combination of links to other websites, which open in a new window, and Blackboard documents.

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Course Content

The Weekly Content folder contains a set of sub-folders, each of which contains the materials required for class that week. This instructor has ordered the content with the most recent week on top and older weeks in reverse order.

The instructor uses date availability to control when each folder will appear so students only have access to content for the current week and all preceding weeks. This also ensures that the content for a given week is the first sub-folder a student sees throughout that week in the course.

Each sub-folder contains a mixture of content types: links, Blackboard documents, PDF files, and videos.  

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The documents in this section of the course have a combination of text and images to instruct the student on the use of software used in the course.

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The folder labelled Exercises & Projects contains sub-folders for each project.

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Each project is broken into smaller steps, each of which has a separate Blackboard assignment where students submit their work. The assignment page contains details about what they should do and what they will submit to complete the step. 

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Course Design Example with Modules for Units

In this example course the instructor uses Blackboard primarily to post documents for students, either readings in PDF format or documents the instructor has created in Microsoft Word. The division of this course by section is visible in the organization of the top-level of the content area.

The top is reserved for the syllabus, a course overview, and health and wellness resources. Some of these resources are contained in a folder to gather them in a single location and shorten the list on the content page. 

Modules are used to contain the rest of the course materials. Each module is named for the unit of the course as defined in the syllabus. 

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Modules Define Course Sections

The course is divided into units, which they call "sections," by topic. For each section of the course the instructor has created a module which contains the readings required for that topic uploaded directly to the module.

Materials for all units consist largely of the readings required for that section of the course. All of the course materials are visible to students throughout the term; this instructor does not use date availability to reveal content to the students as the semester progresses.

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Files are Viewed within the Browser in an Overlay

The instructor has set the files within folders to "view and download." With this setting, the files open in an overlay to display directly in the page and show a download button in the upper right corner if the student prefers to read the content offline. 

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Assignments Contained in a Module

All of the assignments in the course, along with materials required to complete them are uploaded in a module named "Assignments." 

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Discussion and Links to Films 

The bottom of the content area contains a discussion board and a final module with links to films that are relevant to the course content. Clicking these links opens them in a new tab in a web browser; in most cases the links point to a resource page at the library where students can obtain a copy of the film. 

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Course Design Example with Documents and Folders

In this example course the instructor has created Blackboard "Documents" to share PDFs of readings and lecture slides, and folders to contain assessments. This allows student to distinguish between content they need to read or study, and activities they will complete.

The instructor has created a single Blackboard document for different types of content like Lecture Slides and Readings. Inside the document, they upload files as attachments that display directly in the page. They add material by editing the document each week to attach additional files at the bottom.

The instructor uses folders to organize their assessments. One folder contains all of the exams that will be offered during the term. Another holds sub-folders for paper assignments. Each sub-folder has the materials and resources needed for the paper and a link to submit the final paper via Turnitin.

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Using Documents to Organize Course Files

This instructor prepares most of their course materials outside of Blackboard and uses the course as a way to organize and present the files they create to students. In ultra, an instructor can create a single document and embed multiple files within it. This can create a streamlined and organized presentation of course documents. The "Lecture Slides" document has a number of PDF files embedded within it that students can expand to view directly in Blackboard or download to view offline.

The instructor can add or remove files from this document at any time by editing it. One disadvantage of this technique is that you cannot set individual viewing permissions within the document itself. Any files included here are visible to the student — the only way to prevent a student from seeing a file embedded within a document is to remove it. 

Folders for Organizing Assessments

In this course, assessments like exams and writing assignments are organized into folders by type. The Exams folder contains the four exams given throughout the term. These exams are created in Blackboard; each has its own availability settings and allows instructors to add accommodations for individual students.

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The Paper folder contains sub-folders for an assignment given in phases. For example, the folder Paper Phase 1 contains the documents and instructions required to complete the assignment along with a Turnitin link for submitting the assignment. 

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