Start Here: Quick Start Guide to Building Online Lessons

This guide is not an exhaustive list of the resources available in Blackboard or other instructional technology programs.  Instead, it is meant to provide the basic building blocks of online lesson-building to instructors who may have limited experience with Blackboard or online course design.  Where options are listed, please read the descriptions provided and choose the option that best fits your comfort level with Blackboard and/or related technologies.  This document covers five key areas - some with multiple options - and each area links out to specific guidance or documentation.  If you have additional questions, please submit a ticket at

Step 1: Structuring Your Course

Keep all content in the "Content" area of your course

If you are new to using your course site in Blackboard, we have guidance about the structure of the left menu and what purpose each part serves.  While it is good to familiarize yourself with all of this information.  The most critical part of the menu at this point is the "Content" area.  This is the section you should use to put all your materials and you can link to assignments and assessments from this area.

Use folders for each lesson

Using a folder helps to keep all related materials together.  This makes it easier for you, as the faculty member, to make sure you have included everything relevant, and it makes it easier for the student to find all necessary materials.  Learn how to build folders.  

Step 2: Creating Lectures

Option 1: Text-Based Lecture (Entry Level) 

A simple option is to write up notes or create an outline of content for the lesson in a word processing program (Word, Pages, Docs) and to save the file as either a .doc or a .pdf.  Some suggestions:

  • Highlight key points in readings from the text or other articles you might post
  • Ask self-study questions
  • Create a summary
  • Create an outline of main ideas  
  • If you have PowerPoints that you use in class, you may want to post these, as well

Text-based documents should be added to the lesson as an "Item" (see guidance below)

Option 2: Hold a Synchronous Lecture Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (Intermediate)

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is a web-conferencing software program that allows the instructor and students to interact via audio, video, and chat.  To interact with audio users must have a microphone (examples: an external mic, a headset with mic, or an internal mic in a laptop) and to interact with video users must have a webcam (either external or internal in a laptop).  Users without a microphone or webcam would be able to listen and participate via the chat window, but would not be able speak or appear on video. 


  • Users can interact in real time
  • Available to all faculty and student users from within their Blackboard course
  • Moderators can record the session 
  • Moderators have the ability to share their screen
  • Moderators can share files through the session  

Option 3: Record Narration Over a PowerPoint (Intermediate)

If you have existing PowerPoints that you use in class, you can record narration to your slides to post for your students.  This does require you to have access to a microphone (examples: external mic; headset; internal mic in a laptop). Save the PowerPoint file and upload it to blackboard.

Option 3a: Narrated PowerPoints uploaded to Ensemble (Advanced)

This is an extension of Option 3.  After you have created the narration for your PowerPoint, you can save the file as an .MP4 (video), upload it to our Streaming media server, Ensemble, and then embed the video in Blackboard.  This method is a multistep process that involves knowledge of a few different programs; therefore, it is only recommended if you are already familiar with uploading video to Ensemble and adding these videos to Blackboard OR if you are familiar with using multimedia in general and feel confident you can easily learn these tools.  For those who do have these proficiencies, this method is preferred because it will make it easier for students to view the recording and does not require them to use PowerPoint to open the slide show.   however, this is a multistep process and might not be suitable for all users. 

Step 3: Adding Content

Adding an Item (Entry Level)

This is one of the most versatile ways to add content to your lesson:

  • Use the item's text editor to add text, images, or links
  • Attach files to the item for students to download 

Items can be used to add many different types of content; here are some examples:

  • The syllabus
  • PowerPoint files
  • Documents you have created
  • PDF's of articles
  • Images

Adding a Web Link (Entry Level)

You can use web links (also known as hyperlinks) to utilize content on the web.  Some examples of linked content might include:

  • YouTube Videos
  • TedTalks
  • Publisher Content
  • Websites
  • Library Databases  

Learn how to add a web link to Blackboard.

Adding a Video from Ensemble (Advanced Level: Requires Prior Multimedia Knowledge)

If you have created a video and posted it to Ensemble, it is easy to add it to your lesson from Blackboard using the Ensemble Mashup Tool.  This tool embeds the video into the lesson so students can watch it right in the course.  If you prefer to link the video, you can can follow the documentation in the above Web Link section.  Learn how to use the Ensemble Mashup Tool.  

Step 4: Adding Assignments

There are many ways to collect assignments through Blackboard; this guidance will cover three primary methods. 

Blackboard Assignments (Entry Level)

Blackboard Assignments are a quick way to collect student work.  When you create a Blackboard Assignment, a corresponding column in the grade center is opened, which will allow you to review and grade the work.  Many different types of files can be received by a Blackboard Assignment, though documents and PDF's are probably the most typical.  These types of files will display in the browser and will allow you to use the grading tools to leave comments.  Other types of files, such as video files, audio files, PowerPoint files, or Excel files can be received, but you will need to download these files and open them in an appropriate program to view them.  Learn how to create Blackboard Assignments.  

Turnitin Assignments (Entry Level)

Turnitin Assignments work in a similar way to Blackboard Assignments, but they have the added feature of also checking the file for plagiarism.  Unlike Blackboard Assignments, Turnitin is more limited on the file types it can receive: Word Docs, Google Docs, PDFs, PowerPoints and Excel files.  Turnitin does not accept audio or video files.  Learn how to create and manage Turnitin Assignments   

Discussion Boards (Entry Level)

Discussion boards can serve a number of different purposes:

  • Post prompts or questions to have students participate in asynchronous discussions
  • Have students attach work, projects, or documents for peer review, commentary, critique, etc

When you create a discussion board, you can opt to make it graded; if you choose, this option it will automatically create a column in the grade center.  Learn how to create a discussion board.

Step 5: Adding Assessments

If you need to conduct assessments remotely, you may need to reconsider how you would normally offer the test.  Here are a few options to consider.

"Take Home" Assessments (Entry Level)

For assessments that could be considered "take home" or "open book" consider using the Blackboard Assignment feature (see guidance above).  For example, you can post a document with questions that students can download, add their answers, and upload to the assignment area.            

Blackboard Tests (Advanced Level)

If you are not familiar with creating a test in Blackboard, be aware that there is some degree of complexity to creating and deploying tests that might be a barrier to some faculty without additional training.  However, a Blackboard test will give you the greatest amount of options to limit the possibility of cheating or looking up answers.  When setting up a Blackboard test you can:

  • Set time limits
  • Selecting windows of time for taking the test
  • Randomize questions and answers on multiple choice tests     



Article ID: 100508
Tue 3/10/20 11:53 AM
Mon 3/30/20 8:59 AM