Collaborating in Blackboard

Collaborating with others on group projects and study sessions creates a way for you to expand your thought processes and share other points of view.

How is all that accomplished online when you might never meet the people in your class? How is your contribution to group work evaluated?

The units in this section will teach you how to access and utilise Blackboard's collaboration tools. To explore any of the topics here in more detail, click on the unit title. Use the Table of Contents or the next and back arrows to move forward and backward through the material. When finished, use the breadcrumb trail or the Course Menu to return to the desired area.

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Working in Groups

All about Groups

The My Groups panel provides direct links to the Group space for each Group you belong to. The My Groups panel can be expanded to reveal all the tools that are available for the Group to use.

Accessing Groups

Groups

You can only access a Group from within a course. To access the Group area, click Tools on the Course Menu, then click Groups. Some instructors put a Groups link directly on the Course Menu. Once you are a member of one or more Groups, they will appear in a panel called My Groups under the Course Menu.  ‌‌

Blackboard makes working in groups simple. The system provides your group with an area to exchange files, tools to privately discuss the project, as well as a group email list. Click on Working in Groups to learn how to access a Blackboard Group and the included tools.

Entering your Groups

The Group area opens to a Module page. If your tutor permits, this page can be customised by adding a banner and selecting a colour scheme. Members can also add Personal Modules to the page. Access to the Group Tools and Group Members occurs here.

Group Tools

Once inside your Group, you will find the tools your teacher has made available to you. Your teacher may not turn on all the available tools. Be sure to ask about any tools you want to use but do not find on your Groups page. Review any instructions provided by your teacher on how to utilize these tools to complete group work.

  • Group Discussion Board: Discuss topics with only group members.Grouptools
  • Collaboration: Meet classmates and moderators for real-time discussion or class lessons.
  • File Exchange: Share files with Group members.
  • Send Email: Send email to one or all of their group members.
  • Group Blog: Create Blog entries that are shared with your Group members.
  • Group Journal: Keep a Journal about your Group activities that the teacher can review.
  • Group Tasks: Keep track of Group tasks.
  • Group Wiki: Build out shared content in the form of linked Web pages.
Building a Wiki

Wikis are an easy way to swap ideas and information on projects, research, and applications all in one place. Anyone can contribute and see all the contributions of others. Click Building a Wiki to find out how to access and use this fun collaboration tool.

All about Wikis

A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows you to contribute and modify one or more pages of course related materials, providing a means of sharing and collaboration. The most well known wiki is Wikipedia, with over 3 million articles, authored and edited by almost 12 million registered users and administrators.

Blackboard wiki pages can be created and edited quickly, tracking changes and additions, allowing for dynamic collaboration among multiple writers. Your tutor creates one or more wikis for all course members to contribute to and wikis for specific Groups to use to collaborate. Your course wiki is also a fun way to increase social interaction with other members of the class. As you share and build knowledge, you can see the history of how it happened over the duration of the class. To encourage participation, your tutor may assign a grade to your contributions.

Accessing WikisWikitools

You can only access the Wikis tool from within a course. To access the Wikis tool to make an entry or read or edit pages, click on the Tools link on the Course Menu, then click Wikis. Your tutor may also include a link to the Wikis tool on the Course Menu.

Creating Wiki Page

Only your tutor can create wiki topics. The wiki topics appear in alphabetical order on the Wikis listing page. On the listing page you can see information about the wiki and tell whether the wiki is for the course or for a Group.‌

Follow these steps to create a wiki page:

  1. On the Wikis listing page, select a wiki title.
  2. On the Wiki’s topic page, click Create Wiki Page.
  3. On the Create Wiki Page, type a Name for the Wiki page.
  4. Type text in the Content text box. Format the text and add images, links, multimedia, Mashups, and attachments using the functions in the Text Editor. Attachments added using the Text Editor can be launched in a new window and have alternate text added to describe the attachment.
  5. Click Submit.

Commenting on Wiki pages

Because a wiki is meant to be a collaboration tool, you can comment on other students' course wiki pages. Group wikis can be read by all course members (unless your tutor restricts access to just the Group) but you cannot comment on the Group wiki unless you are a member of the Group.

To leave a comment, click Comment and type your remarks. Spell check your entry. Click Add to post your comment to the page. Comments are limited to 2,000 characters and you will receive a pop-up message if you go over that limit advising you to edit your comment.

To read comments on a page, click the Comments: link at the bottom. Comments will open up at the bottom of the page. You can delete your own comments if the teacher has given you permission to do so. 

Editing a Wiki pageCoursetool_Wiki

Any course member can edit a course wiki page and any Group member can edit a Group wiki page, unless your tutor has disabled this function. When a Wiki page is being edited by one person, it is locked to prevent others from editing the same page. If you try to edit a page someone else is editing, you are informed that the page is currently being edited by another user.

The wiki keeps a history, available from the page's contextual menu, that records all the changes to a page. You can view any version of the page and compare side by side any two versions. It is a good idea to compare versions of a page before making any changes to ensure you are not covering information that has been changed or deleted.

Linking to other Wiki pages

Linking wiki pages together creates a cohesive body of work. You can link to other pages when creating or editing a wiki page by using the Link to Wiki page function in the Text Editor.

Follow these steps to link two wiki pages together:

  1. Open the wiki you want to contribute to.
  2. On the Create Wiki page or Edit Wiki page, position your mouse pointer where you want to add a link to another wiki page.
  3. Click the Link to Wiki page function in the Text Editor, represented by an icon with several sheets of paper. If there is only one page in the Wiki, this function is disabled.
  4. In the pop-up window, select the wiki page to link to from the drop-down list.
  5. Optionally, type a name for the link in the Rename Wiki Page Link text box.  If you do not rename the link, th eoriginal page title is used as the link.
  6. Click Submit. The link appears in the Text Editor.
  7. Click Submit. The new page with the link is added to the wiki.

Viewing my contribution to the Wiki

On any wiki page, click My Contribution to see what your participation rates are compared with the other class members. You can view a list of all the pages and versions that you have contributed to or modified. Your tutor can use this information to determine if proper effort was made and grade your efforts if the wiki has been set for a grade.

Keeping a Journal

Journals in Blackboard are a way for you to communicate your personal thoughts and reflections with your tutor. Keeping a journal can help you track your progress and give you a way to see how much you have learned. It can also help you decide where you need to concentrate more. Click on Keeping a Journal to learn how to access and use a Journal.

All about Journals

Journals are a personal space for you to communicate privately with your tutor. You can also use a journal as a self-reflective tool to post your opinions, ideas, and concerns about the course, or discuss and analyse course related materials.  For example, you can describe problems faced and how you solved them. Your tutor can direct journal entries to be more formal in nature and narrower in focus by listing topics for discussion.

Your tutor can choose to make journal entries public, allowing all course members to view all entries. One example of making entries public might be if your tutor wants opinions on how to improve the evaluation process. You can read what other students wrote and build upon those ideas.

When used in the Group area, members of a Group can view and comment on each other’s entries for a Group journal. The Group can communicate with the tutor as a whole and all members can benefit from the comments made.

Journal entries can be assigned a grade or can be used solely for communication. In either instance, you can make multiple entries for one journal topic.

Accessing Journals

You can only access the Journals tool from within a course. To access the Journals tool to make an entry or read other blogs, click on Course Tools on the Course Menu, then click Journals. Alternatively your tutor may also include a link to the Journal tool on the Course Menu.

Creating a JournalJournal

A list of journals appears on the Journal list page. You can see if your entries are private, between you and your tutor, or public, meaning the other students can read your entries.

Your tutor will create journal topics that you will use to make entries. The Journal topic page is divided into two main sections. You can view the Instructions in the content frame. Click the X to collapse the field. In the side panel, you can view information about the Journal. Any entries saved as drafts can be accessed by clicking View Drafts on the Action Bar.

Follow these steps to add a new journal entry:

  1. Click on a Journal title to open the journal.
  2. On the Journal’s topic page, click Create Journal Entry.
  3. Type text in the Entry Message text box. You can format the text and add images, links, multimedia, Mashups, and attachments using the functions in the Text Editor. Attachments added using the Text Editor can be launched in a new window and have alternate text added to describe the attachment.
  4. You can also attach files using the Attach File function.
  5. Click Post Entry to submit the Journal entry or click Save Entry as Draft to post the entry later.

If allowed by your institution, you can add avatars which will appear in the Journals tool. To add an avatar, go to My Places in the header > Personal Information > Personalize My Places > Browse My Computer and upload an image.

Commenting on Journal Entries

Journaling is an interaction between you and your tutor. You can build rapport and can create a vibrant intellectual exchange with your teacher by sharing a journal. You can make a comment after your tutor comments on an entry to continue the conversation.

You cannot make comments on another student’s journal entry, even if the journal has been made public. Students can only comment on another student’s entry when they are members of a Group. For Group Journals, all Group members and the teacher are allowed to make comments on individual entries.

To add a comment follow these steps:

  1. On the Journal topic page, select the journal entry to view by selecting the user’s name in the side panel under More Journals. The Journal entry opens in the content frame.
  2. Click Comment following the user’s entry. The Comment text box appears.
  3. Type your comments in the Comment text box.
  4. Click Spell Check at the bottom of the Comment box to check the spelling of the content before continuing.
  5. Click Add.


Blogging

The word "blog" is a contraction of the term "Web log". A blog is a web-based publication created by a person to share ideas, opinions, and news. Blogs have regular entries that include commentary, descriptions of events, photos, videos, and links. You can use your personal blog as a online diary to share your thoughts, observations, and reflections with the class. Other class members can read your blog and post comments on your entries. Reading blog posts is a great way to get to know the other students in your class!

Your tutor may assign a grade to your blog and the comments you post after reading other students' blogs as a way to evaluate participation and your contributions to class.

Your tutor may also set up a class blog where everyone can contribute their reflections about the class and comment on the entries. Click Blogging to learn how to post blog entries and add comments to other blog posts.

All about Blogs

blog is your personal online journal.  Each blog entry you make can include any combination of text, images, links, multimedia, Mashups, and attachments. Use your blog to express your ideas and share them with the class.

As the owner of a blog, you will want to create multiple entries over a period of time. Your tutor and course members can then add comments. A blog can also be owned by the course or a Group. In the Group area, all members of a Group can create entries for the same blog, building upon one another. Any course member can read and comment on a Group Blog, but cannot make entries if not a member of the group.

Accessing Blogs

You can only access the Blogs tool from within a course. 

Blog_pageTo access the Blogs tool to make an entry or read other blogs, click on the Tools link on the Course Menu, then click Blogs.

Creating a Blog Entry

Only your tutor can create a blog, but once created, you can create entries. The blog topics appear in alphabetical order on the Blogs listing page. On the Blogs listing page, under each Blog title, you can see if the blog belongs to a group, the course, or to individual students.

The Blog topic page is divided into two main sections. You can view the Instructions in the content frame. Click the X to collapse the field. In the side panel, you can view information about the blog. You can expand and collapse sections in the side panel using the double arrows.

Any entries saved as drafts can be accessed by clicking View Drafts on the Action Bar.

If allowed by your institution, you can add an avatar which will appear with Individual Blogs. To add an avatar, go to My Places in the header > Personal Information > Personalize My Places > Browse My Computer and upload an image.

Commenting on Blog Entries

Because blogs are meant to be read by others, you can comment on one another’s blog entries, whether they belong to an individual, the course, or a Group. Your tutor determines if comments can be made anonymously or deleted. Follow these steps to add a comment to a blog:

  1. On the Blogs list page select a blog title
  2. Select the user's name in the side panel under View Entries by
  3. Click Comment following the user's entry
  4. Type your comments in the Comment Box
  5. Click Check Spelling to run a spell check
  6. Click Add
  7. Click the Comments link below the entry to view your comment

Viewing Blog Grades

Once Blog entries have been graded, students can view the grade in two places. The grading information appears on the Blog topic page and in the My Grades tool. Any feedback and the date the grade was assigned also appear in these areas.

Discussions

Have you ever been at home at night thinking about one of the day's lessons and had a thought that would have been great to share with others? Or, maybe you'd like to remember what someone said in class, but weren't able to write it down. Well, that's exactly how the Blackboard Discussion Board can help. It's meant to enhance communication between everyone when used along with a traditional course, and can replace a class discussion for full distance learning courses. 

Online Discussions: An Overview

During your course, you may be asked to use the Discussion Board to introduce yourself, to respond to teacher questions and reply to others, to formulate answers to case studies, or as part of a peer writing and review process. You may even be asked to lead a discussion.

Online discussions provide you with the opportunity to "think before you speak." You have time to reflect on what you want to say before you enter your response in the system. You are also able to view the responses and perspectives of all your classmates, which is not easily accomplished in a real classroom setting.

You can access the Discussion Board through the Tools link on the Course Menu. Some teachers place a link to the Discussion Board directly on the Course Menu. Other times there may be a Course Link inside a Learning Module or on a content page that leads to the Discussion Board.

All about Discussion Forums

The main Discussion Board page displays a list of available discussion Forums. A Discussion Board can contain one or more Forums. A Forum is an area where a topic or a group of related topics are discussed. For each Forum, the page displays the total number of posts, the number of unread posts, and the total number of participants.

Click on the Forum Name to enter it so that you can read the posts and make posts of your own.Discussions

Different ways to view a Forum

A forum can be viewed in one of two contexts: Tree View or List View. This choice remains in effect until you change it, and it can be changed at any time. These choices are available at the top of the Forum page.

The List View presents the list of posts in the forum, called Threads, in a tabular format. The Threads can be sorted by clicking the carat at the top of each column.

The Tree View presents the first post, or Thread, and all related responses. The initial Thread and related posts can be expanded and collapsed by using the plus (+) and minus (-) icon next to each message. Unread Threads and posts are displayed in bold type. 

(Note: If an initial Thread has unread responses, then the initial Thread is displayed in bold when collapsed.)

All about Threads

Within a Forum, a list of posts called Threads is displayed either in Tree View or List View. (List View is pictured here.) To enter a Thread to review related responses, click on the Thread name. To create a new Thread, click Create Thread. To manage which Threads you see, make a selection from  the action menu of the Display button.

  • Date: The date that the Thread was created.
  • Thread: The name of the Thread.
  • Author: The person who created the Thread.
  • Status: The status of a Thread determines whether is can be seen, read, or replied to. Instructors set the Thread status (except draft), but students can select which kind of Threads to display. Use the Display action menu to select which types of Threads to display.
    • Published - other people can read and respond to the Thread.
    • Hidden - the Thread is hidden from view, usually to make room for the most recent posts in an active forum. Hidden Threads can be read but not replied to.
    • Locked - the posts can be read, but not replied to.
    • Draft - The Thread has not been published, but saved so that it can be edited in the future.
  • Unread posts: Number of posts in the forum that you have not yet accessed.
  • Total posts: Includes both read and unread posts.

Creating a new threadDiss_Thread

Forums have many settings that control who can post, and what other types of actions users can take, such as editing their own Threads, posting anonymously, or rating posts. Depending on which forum settings your teacher has selected, you may be allowed to create a new Thread. To create a Thread, access the forum.
  1. Click Create Thread.
  2. Enter a Subject and Message.
  3. Attach a file if desired and if the attachment setting has been turned on.
  4. Click Submit.

If you are not ready to post your Thread, click Save Draft. A copy of your Thread will be saved. To go back and edit it, select Drafts Only from the action menu of the Display button. Click the message subject, and then click Edit.

Inside a Thread

After you've posted your initial Thread, you will most likely reply to others in your course, as you would during a regular classroom conversation. Let's take a look at the Thread Detail page, and then we will discuss how to reply to your fellow participants and classmates.

The Thread Details page can be viewed in several different ways. Use the Collapse All/Expand All on the right side of the screen to display the page the way you want to see it.

The Thread Details page has different ways you can mark and classify your messages. Use the check boxes to select messages. Next, use the Message Actions action menu to set messages as "Read", causing messages to appear in normal font. You can set messages as "Unread", causing messages to appear in bold font. You can also "Set Flag" as a way of marking the message for action, and "Clear Flag" to delete the flag.

Replying to a Thread and Post 

Once you've accessed a forum and have entered the Thread, you can reply to anyone who has posted to that Thread to carry an online discussion. To reply to a post, follow the steps outlined here.

  1. Click the post to which you want to reply. It will open in a page.
  2. Click Reply.
  3. Enter a new Subject, or leave unchanged. Then enter your reply in the Message area. Include attachments if allowed and desired.
  4. Click Submit.
Diss_reply Diss_reply2

How to include a quote in a reply

When responding, click Quote (if enabled) to include the item to which you are responding. The text of the item to which you are responding will automatically appear in your reply. The quote will be indicated with a line to the left.

Organising Discussion Board Posts

Collecting Threads gathers their posts into a printable, sortable format. Collections are a good way to organize posts for quick reading. Once collected, you may notice that the teacher or Discussion Board Manager has "tagged" items. When tags are being used, they will appear at the bottom of the posts. Posts can be filtered and sorted using these tags.

Check the boxes next to the Threads to include in a collection, then click Collect. You can see what the Threads will look like printed by clicking Print Preview. Sort the Threads by date in ascending or descending order. Use the Filter button to open search criteria to locate specific messages.

Best Practices Using Discussions Boards

Now that you've learned how to use the tools within the Discussion Board, let's review a few best practices. Communicating online is different than communicating in person. For instance, you cannot see the other person's facial expressions or hear the inflection in their voice. As such, we must rely on the conventions of the written word to relay our message and to understand what other people are saying. In addition to any requirements your teacher may publish, below are some helpful considerations when participating:

  1. Treat others and their points of view with respect.
  2. Use proper grammar, spelling and complete sentences.
  3. Avoid using ALL CAPITALS. That can signify you are yelling.
  4. Avoid using shortcuts such as "cu l8tr" for "see you later."
  5. Think before you type. Provide thorough and thoughtful responses.

Further Blackboard Help & Videos

 

 

Blackboard Videos

Watch the videos on Collaboration tools....