Blackboard offers several tools to encourage discussion and assess communications between your students. There are four main tools: discussion boards, wikis, blogs and journals. The first decision is which one to choose. They are all very similar but offer slightly different functionality.
Here is a quick overview:
- Blog – a shared online diary for use in class. Quick, simple, easy and open. Great for measuring participation. Useful for feedback (eg. What was the clearest / muddiest topic in today’s class?)
- Wiki – a collaborative space where all students can view, contribute and edit content. Great for group projects. The only Blackboard tool that allows multiple students to work within the same text area.
- Journal – a personal writing space for self-reflection and one-on-one communications with the instructor. Students can reflect on personal growth, document clinical experiences, etc.
- Discussion board – online for discussions that are organized in forums, threads and replies. Been around for a long time. Lots of features (e.g. students can rate posts.)
Once you have decided on which one best fits your needs for the task at hand, you can access them from either the Course Tools menu on the left side or from the Tools dropdown menu when Edit Mode is on.
► Setting Up a Wiki
Setting up each tool is very similar but each has a few differences. As an example, we will go through setting up a Wiki.
You can think of a Wiki as a folder. Within the Wiki are Wiki Pages. Think of these as files within a folder. Wikis are excellent tools for group projects. Each group can build a wiki collaboratively. As the instructor you can see and evaluate individual contributions. Each participant is able to add content or comment. You can even include a rubric to assist in evaluating participation.
When you first open the Wiki tool, you will see a decision window.
- Selecting Link to the Wikis Page gives your students a menu of wikis to choose from.
- Selecting Link to a Wiki allows you to create a connection to an existing wiki.
- Creating a new Wiki builds a new wiki on the wiki page.
To get a better understanding of how wikis operate, you can log in to your course as a demo student. Each department may have a different demo student, so check with a colleague to learn the username and password.
Once you log in, you will be able to see your wiki from your student’s perspective. You will see their choices and options. Test the wiki – put in some content and add a comment.
You can review all comments by clicking the “Comments:” link in the lower left. Clicking “My Contribution” opens a page listing all the contributions made by the student:
Return to your instructor login and review the student input. You should see the student’s content and comments.