Using Digital Media with Blackboard
This advice document aims to introduce the Blackboard virtual learning environment (VLE) and how you can use digital media to support your Blackboard course design, content, and delivery. We will be referring to the term digital media as: still images, moving image and audio. Each may be used in conjunction with written learning material.
Blackboard is a proprietary Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) widely used by further and higher education (FE/HE) institutions across the globe. As a VLE it was conceived to enable and support online learning. It consists of manageable areas for structuring course content, administration and tools to support asynchronous and synchronous learning. It requires the internet and is used for:
- Face-to-face learning Production of material / activities to be used during face-to-face teaching sessions.
- Blended learning Material and/or activities from Blackboard are integrated into the face-to-face sessions and vice-versa.
- Distance learning Where teaching is only conducted via the internet using online tools such as Blackboard and other web services.
To ensure everything within Blackboard is secure it uses authenticated access to a course based on various permissions set by staff administrators. It has a comprehensive set of tools that facilitate learning using a range of learning modes including communication, discussion, access to content and assessment. Many of these tools support the three digital media this document is concerned with.
Detailed information about VLE’s in general can be found in our Use of VLEs with Digital Media advice document.
Using digital media in Blackboard
Blackboard acts as a secure shell that supports different types of content and course management. Digital media learning objects can be embedded and/or linked to, enabling the enhancement of course content.
Understanding how digital media fits into your course is as much about understanding what you are trying to achieve (learning objectives) as it is about the actual file type. The digital media itself may form core activities that support a range of learning including peer review, demonstrations and submission or it may provide additional learning objectives.
ntil fairly recently most VLE content was predominately text-based. However, this is now changing due to a number of factors:
- Increase in availability of affordable hardware to capture still image, moving image and audio
- Increase in the use of a blended learning approach
- Digital media is now widely recognised as having benefits to learning
- User-generated content is rapidly growing and available for re-use
- Learner engagement can be increased by appealing to different learning styles within the student cohort
- It is now easier than ever to embed content (for example Media players for audio/video, APIs and RSS to push/pull content)
- Web-based software/services are constantly emerging which provide powerful features/tools that are often free, that support the use and re-use of digital media
- Increase in availability of access (increase of broadband internet / mobile devices)
- Experimentation with digital media is more common
- Demand from the learner community has shifted how teaching can/should be carried out using digital media resources.
These factors have led many course designers to believe that a shift for course design towards a more learner-centred approach is essential. Many course designers are facilitating different techniques, technology and media to enable learning in new ways. The learner is able to use different media to support their learning at a time that suits them with tailored learning material best suited to the situation.
Learners themselves are frequently creators and users of digital media. This has led some teaching staff to experiment with the potential benefits of using digital media in conjunction with Blackboard to support formal/informal learning.
Digital media can be used to add engagement as part of an activity. Depending on the task, a suitable media type can be chosen and an action carried out that best suits the media and activity.
Some types of learning and possible learner behaviour are:
- Formal learning (face to face dissemination, critique and sharing)
- Informal learning (learner may share ideas, make associations)
- Group activity (Create, evaluate)
- Individual reflection (Gain understanding, testing, evaluation)
Each media type can be used in the learning situations given above, this demonstrates that there is more than one way to plan and execute activities that use digital media and the need for careful planning.
How digital media can be used
The Still image
Still images have been used for many years and their continued popularity can be explained by:
- Ease of creation – Either conversion to digital or self-produced
- Availability - If you do not have existing images many outlets produce free/cheap to use images
- Ease of use – simple to embed, position and alter.
Still images are a great way to visually represent key concepts support text-based material.
Here are some ways you can choose to use images in an online environment:
- A well sized image that supports text-based content around it (visual explanation)
- Add a link to a larger/higher quality version if necessary (file may be stored elsewhere on page or externally)
- Create small thumbnails of images to link to a larger version (file may be stored elsewhere on page or externally)
- Add a descriptive title or description so that it is immediately contextualised for learners
- Add ALT tag (alternative information) for an image to support accessibility
- Create an image with clickable parts (an image map) to access different information (requires HTML knowledge)
Video can be used in a number of ways for a diverse set of reasons in order to create motivating, memorable and inclusive learning experiences. However, watching a video can also be a passive experience and so teaching methods must be used which instead turn it into a springboard for learner action and interaction. Using embedded video, so that the video is within the page, reduces barriers to accessing the content. See our advice document Using Video in Teaching and Learning.
Audio is now commonly used to supplement face to face sessions largely in part to the fact that simple to use software, affordable hardware and online support material are now available. There are opportunities for assessment that are beginning to show signs of taking off such as oral feedback. Common uses of audio include:
- Capturing the teaching session in its entirety
- Providing edited highlights of a teaching session
- Making a guest speaker’s (speeches/lecture/presentation) available
Less commonly used but with potential is recording for:
- Peer review: both teaching staff and learners may benefit from sharing recorded submissions
- Accessibility: recording audio will improve accessibility for some learners
- Assessment submission: some teaching staff are now allowing submission via recorded files and are also returning feedback in the same way.
See our advice document on Audio via Blackboard.
Our sister service JISC TechDIS has an accessibility and inclusion focus and have written their own advice on Using sound effectively.
Where media can be used in Blackboard
Digital media can be used within most of the tools and features of your course.
- Media can be uploaded as a stand-alone resource or organised into folders via the “edit view” of any section
- By attaching existing documents that contain media (e.g. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Adobe PDF)
- Throughout Blackboard including: Discussion Boards; the Virtual Classroom; Quizzes; Surveys and Assignments
- Anywhere in Blackboard where you use HTML
- Linked to or embedded from external sources (to Blackboard)
- Some versions/setups of Blackboard allow the use of RSS feeds that push content out to other areas of Blackboard or external services/devices such as podcasts
Content and file management considerations
How does Blackboard manage your media content?
When you have logged into Blackboard and have been granted ‘Instructor’ access to your course by your VLE administrator, you can begin structuring course content by adding course sections, tools, resources or uploading documents. There are two views when using Blackboard: Display view, which learners view and Edit view for administrators to add, edit and remove features.
Developing your course structure within Blackboard takes place by creating what Blackboard calls content areas.
A Blackboard content area contains a subset of content types such as folders and is therefore a way of organising content.
Folders are one of the most common ways used to organise files, and are often used to act as sections themselves. E.g. a folder called Module 1, 2 , 3 etc.
Media organisation tips
It is good practice to be organised with all your media so that you know where they all are! This means not only how you name a file, but being logical in your methods of storing resources on your local computer, as well as when uploading into Blackboard. For example, if you use a collection of audio files for module 1, then on your local computer also store these files in a folder called “module 1 audio”. A very common support call, for those who provide technical support in your Blackboard, relate to poorly organised modules and courses.
For those with the Blackboard Content Collection feature this is a very helpful tool for organising all of your media. One of its biggest strengths is that content stored here can be used in multiple locations in Blackboard and updating it once will update all instances.
Intellectual property right issues (IPR)
Copyright is an intellectual property right and arises automatically whenever a work is created. It gives the owner of the copyright the right to exploit their work or control its use.
If using other people’s digital media it is important to be aware of copyright issues and respect the creator’s view. Therefore when a piece of digital media is made available online or published through a VLE, you may need to clear copyright.
Here are a few pointers to consider when selecting digital media for use in a VLE:
- Copyright is something to take seriously but it need not be an obstacle
- When finding digital media online you will need permission to reproduce them in your materials, you should always carefully read the terms and conditions (if made explicit)
- If you make your own digital media to support your teaching your employer will almost certainly hold the copyright
- Some FE and HE institutions may be able to use a CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) scanning license to produce images.
- Asking permission seems like a chore but it may bring unexpected reward such as a higher quality version
- You must obtain clearance from the rights holder(s) of third party material that you use within your material.
If you have been granted permission to use a digital media resource it is advisable to put clear copyright information next it. It is also important that you keep a copy of the permission given.
Further information on copyright is in our advice documents Copyright and Digital Images and a href="http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/stillimages/advice/roles-and-responsibilities-building-digital-image-collections/">Roles and responsibilities building digital image collections
Blackboard provides the capacity to support the teaching and learning experience. The use of appropriate digital media can further enhance the learner experience by providing additional support mechanisms, interactive activities and engaging content. Digital media learning objects can be used in isolation or form part of a wider set of activities used in a range of ways.
It should be noted that in order to successfully utilise digital media within Blackboard it must be factored into the wider module/course plan. Too often there are attempts to use digital media as a magic bullet to increase uptake of the VLE and it fails. The pedagogical reasoning behind what and how learners are doing tasks surpasses everything and the use of the technology should feed into the plan not attempt to carry it. The usability of the course design also affects usage and you should seek to build a well designed course.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with ideas for supporting your learners with digital media in Blackboard. If you’re not sure where to start ask your learners what they think of your existing provision and work from there. As ever JISC Digital Media is available to support you through our helpdesk and online surgeries.