Blackboard Facts, Tips and Tricks SotL in 10 Minutes

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to teach totally online in order to use Blackboard?

No. The majority of courses offered on Blackboard at JU are blended courses (hybrid), or classes that meet regularly in the traditional classroom but offer materials for online access.

How will teaching with Blackboard change my course(s)?

Blackboard tools are flexible, so you can customize the online component of your class to fit your teaching style and instructional needs. You can also teach a complete distance learning course using Blackboard, or use only the discussion or assessment tools. You decide which Blackboard components best meet your instructional objectives. Using Blackboard @ JU can reduce the need to make paper copies of handouts and tests, and it also offers faculty the opportunity to incorporate multimedia content into their lessons.

You can contact Dee Thornton ( our Academic Technology director, who can assist you on your Blackboard issues as well as discussing any eLearning project and or instructional technology issue you may have.

Combining Multiple Course Sections on Blackboard

Do you teach multiple sections of the same course on Blackboard? Are you tired of uploading the same announcements and documents over and over to each and every one of your course sections? Do you wish you could combine them into one and make your life a little simpler? Then this SoTL in 10 Minutes is for you.

Faculty who teach multiple sections of the same course in a given academic term have the option of consolidating these course sections in Blackboard into one master course (sometimes known as a Mega Course).

After submitting a request to Dee Thornton for a master course and selecting which course sections to combine, the courses will appear in the list of My Courses in Blackboard. Student rosters will be automatically populated into the master section from all sections being consolidated. Drops and additions will be automatically maintained in the master section with daily feeds from the WebAdvisor database. Both the master and related sections will appear in your Blackboard course list. You only need to add new content to the master section and set that one to be available to students. You do not need to do anything with the related sections.

Please take into consideration that the merge of your courses should be solicited prior to any student activity in the courses, that is, active courses (courses with student submissions) should never be made into a child course of a merge course relationship because all course grade information and student submissions is going to get lost during the merge.

Reversing a Master Course Relationship

While it is possible to reverse a master course relationship and therefore undo the combination of multiple sections in Blackboard, it is highly recommended to NOT reverse a master course relationship after the semester has started and students have been using it. If it is necessary to do so for some reason, the faculty member should consider downloading the Grade Center and possibly an archive of the course first. Whatever student records (discussion posts, assignments, tests, grades) are in the master course will NOT be moved to the related section(s) when the relationship is removed and will be disabled in the master section (except for the students actually enrolled in the section that was the master.)

Please note: Separate requests are necessary each academic term!

Best Practice: Reduce Your Course Size on Blackboard

Be mindful of the sizes of the courses you create - your Blackboard administrator will REALLY appreciate it! Minimizing uploaded file sizes as you create content will help us maintain our Blackboard storage space available. The following recommendations can help you do your part to conserve disk space on Blackboard @ JU.


Link to videos rather than uploading video files to a course. Instead, upload your videos to YouTube, Vimeo, or a separate media server on campus and then link to them within a course. You can upload a video on YouTube and have it unlisted, that way only students who have the direct link to your video will see it and it will not be visible from those who search on YouTube. Be mindful of intellectual property rules. For example, it might not be legal to host a video from National Geographic on Vimeo, even if you licensed it to use in a course.

Use Mashups

Upload slide decks to SlideShare, video to YouTube, or images to Flickr. You can easily embed these elements in your course with the Blackboard Learn Mashups tool. To learn more, see How to Create Mashups.

Course Files

Look for large file sizes and unused files and folders that you can delete.

Reduce File Sizes — before uploading, reduce file sizes for:

  • Microsoft Office Files - Use the tools available in Microsoft Office to reduce file size for PowerPoint and Word files. The Reduce File Size option is located in the File menu. You can also save files as PDFs before uploading, which often makes smaller, read-only versions of the files.
  • Images - Use a graphics program to resize images for screen viewing before uploading. You can also use an online service such as or
  • Audio - Use software to resample or trim audio files to reduce their size.

Using the Retention Center on Blackboard

The Retention Center provides an easy way for you to discover which students in your course on Blackboard are at risk. Based on preconfigured rules and rules you create, students’ engagement and participation are visually displayed, quickly alerting you to potential risk. From the Retention Center, you can communicate with struggling students and help them take immediate action for improvement.

You can begin using the Retention Center features immediately—no setup required.

Watch a brief video highlighting this Blackboard tool:

The Retention Center in Action

Get early insight into student performance. Check the overall academic health of your class in the main table and see who is struggling. With just a glance, find out who needs your help and drill in to see their specific areas of difficulty. Contact the most at-risk students immediately and flag those you want to monitor closely. As you observe their progress and send emails, you can also keep track of this correspondence and make notes about each student right in the Retention Center.

Tailor the default rules to suit your teaching methodologies. For example, you can:

  • Change the threshold for due dates to be more lenient.
  • Create two or three new rules to track specific items that are good indicators of risk.
  • Create rules to let you know which students are in the top five percent of your class and reward their work. You can use this information to discover student mentors, assign group membership, or find teaching assistants.

Use your course activity information to prioritize which areas of your course to attend to first.

The earlier you can discover and remedy problems, the more successful students become. They are more likely to finish your course and continue the program through to graduation—the ultimate retention goal for an institution!

Watch a tutorial: