KCeL Best Practices
Best Practices Using Blackboard Student Authoring Tools
Blogs, Wikis, and Journals are three of Blackboard’s student-authoring tools. All three can be found under ‘Tools’ within the content area of your Blackboard course. Use them to create engaging assignments in which students can: reflect, share, practice writing, co-create knowledge, and comment on each other’s work.
Blogs are easy for the instructor to set up and can be used to document project progress and findings, pursue topics of interest, and host student publications and articles. They can also provide a place for ongoing dialog on course content, peer critique, and commenting. Instructors have the option to assign individual blogs and/or a single course blog to which everyone can contribute.
Best Practices Using Blogs
- Provide clear grading criteria in the form of rubric or list.
- Give students prompts and clear instructions.
- Design a blog that encourages active learning, creativity, and self-expression.
- Foster student to student and instructor to student interaction by asking students to comment on each other’s blog postings.
The Wiki tool offers a single text-editing space in Blackboard where all of the students within a course can collaborate. It is a great tool for teaching about how to work in groups and a powerful medium for collaboration. A wiki can be used as a collaborative space for organizing materials (glossaries, taxonomies); repository of new knowledge; a research coordination space; a course FAQs page; and a shared editing space for working on project plans, essays, and presentations
Best Practices Using Wikis
- Provide a practice wiki so students can gain the requisite group work and technology skills prior to completing the actual wiki assignment.
- Since students might be reluctant to edit each other’s work, consider assigning permissions and roles, and spelling out who can edit and contribute what to the wiki.
- Format and design the wiki space, perhaps with a table or grid, headings, and some built-in prompts and instructions to help students use the wiki.
- Let students know they cannot edit the wiki simultaneously in Blackboard. If one student is editing and another student attempts to edit the wiki, the second person will be locked out until the first is finished.
Journals offer a personal writing space for reflection and private communication with the instructor. Instructors commonly use a journal for reflective writing assignments (a simple structure for a journal involves a three-part entry: description, interpretation, and outcome); private communication on learning development; field logs/notes; or as a space for students to share a section of writing they wish to refine with their instructor’s coaching. Journal assignments can help students connect their academic and lived experiences, develop metacognition, and foster problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Best Practices Using Journals
- If a journal activity asks students to share personal reflections, consider helping them to set boundaries about what they share.
- Make sure that the assignment aligns with your course goals and objectives.
- Be aware of your workload by keeping in mind that frequent journal entries will require your frequent feedback.
- Provide structure, especially when students are doing the assignment for the first time. Share your expectations, grading criteria, and provide clear instructions. Common prompts for student reflections on learning include: What did you learn? How well do you think you did? How did you feel about it? What might you do differently next time?
- Decide whether the assignment will be low or high stakes. Journals are often used for low-stakes reflections about the students’ own learning process.
5. Additional Resources
- Blackboard Blog Tool Tutorial (video)
- Blackboard Wiki Tool Tutorial (video)
- CUNY Academic Commons resource page on how Wikis can be used for teaching (web page)
- 50 Ways to Use Wikis for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom (Google doc)
- Wikify Your Course: Designing and Implementing a Wiki for Your Learning Environment - Educause Review article with classroom examples (web page)
- Blackboard Journal Tool Tutorial (video)