OTL Newsletter

2009 (01) February »

Jazz Up Your Blackboard Course

Author: Anne-Marie Armstrong

Blackboard can be a great tool, but its limited formatting options sometimes results in all courses looking the same. How can you set your Blackboard course site apart from others? Add some color, eliminate clutter, and provide information at your students’ fingertips! Simple changes in your Blackboard course will not only make it more appealing and user-friendly, but will also save instructional time and decrease the number of administrative-type questions from students. In this article, we’d like to show you examples of how other faculty have personalized their courses in Blackboard. Our colleague, Chen-Yuan Lee (Corey), recently shared some of his course designs and demonstrated new ways to incorporate graphics without learning HTML or any other programming skills.

Everyone has different preferences, but take a look at some parts of Corey’s course. Though the basic Blackboard structure is retained, the colors are coordinated and the navigation buttons have been customized. Graphics have been added to bring attention to important notices.


Next, the modules from Corey’s course are organized and available from the “Module” button in the course menu.



If you like this look, here are instructions for adding simple graphics to your Blackboard information boxes:

Step 1: Using the control panel, go to Content Areas and add an item to the appropriate area:

Step 2: Choose the Table tool from the tool bar in the Text box for the new item. Enter number of rows and columns, width in pixels. If you do not want a border to show, choose 0 for Border Thickness. For this example we wanted one row with two columns. The entire width of table is 575 pixels and the border is not visible. A typical web page is approximately 640 pixels (8.5 inches) wide and 75 pixels is about 4 inches.


Border Thickness will vary, 0 = no border, 1= single line, etc. Cell Padding lets you put in some space between the border and the text or image.

Step 3: Insert graphic using toolbar,


Resize image using the “Insert Image” screen. Small iconic images are usually 50-100 pixels in width and height. You can still adjust the images on the edit screen. Add Text to same row, but to second column.


Step 4: Hit Submit and review your item.


To see what the students will see, access your item as a student would—by clicking on the area from the main page (the first page you see when you enter your course before accessing the Control Panel).


Following are simple instructions for customizing your navigation. This allows you to change the name, add, or delete areas in the course:


This is a quick overview of the possibilities for customizing your course. If you’d like more detailed instructions or hands-on assistance, the OTL staff is always happy to help. Simply call 313.577.1980 or email us at otl@wayne.edu to set up an appointment.

Anne-Marie Armstrong, PhD
Instructional Designer, Office for Teaching & Learning

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