5 Steps to Prepare your Online Course for Spring Semester

Hello USM Faculty! Spring semester is almost upon us and I’m here to help you get those shiny, new Blackboard course shells ready for your throngs of knowledge-hungry students! The checklist below will save you the time of searching for that one email from last year that tells you what to click on, or wracking your brain for the amorphous “other thing” you’re supposed to do before the semester starts. If all else fails, your faithful Learning Designers at CTEL are ready to point you in the right direction. Just send us an email at ctelhelp at maine dot edu.

1. Get your Course Content ready

For courses you’ve taught before, Copy your content from the last time you taught this course using the Course Copy instructions from our Blackboard Quick Guide. There’s a handy video demo there, too.

If this is a brand new course you haven’t had on Blackboard before… you must by the type of person that thrives on the rush of doing things “just-in-time!” Fortunately, CTEL has you covered. Our First-Time Course Setup Guide will give you the basics you need to get your course up-and-running in Blackboard. The guide walks you through setting things up to make it easy for students to get to your material and ultimately save you tons of time. You can also reach out to set up a consultation with one of us to help you fill in any missing blanks.

2. “Walk” through your course

Start at the top of your course menu and check all of your content looking for typos, broken links, outdated information, etc. In particular, some things to watch out for:

  • Update the availability and due dates of assignments, exams, folders, etc.
  • Update your syllabus.
  • Make sure any course e-reserves are set up.
  • Check for broken links to outside content, such as YouTube.
  • Make sure connections to third-party content services, such as textbook publishers, are working.

Blackboard’s Student Preview tool is invaluable for for troubleshooting your course before it goes live. It will help you ensure your students have a hassle-free time acclimating themselves. Here are some quick instructions on using Student Preview.

3. Make your Course Available to Students

By default, all courses in Blackboard are invisible to students until the instructor has explicitly set the Course Availability option. Even though Spring semester does not officially start until January 22nd, you should make your course available at least one-week before the first day of classes. That means you should make your Blackboard courses available by January 16th.

We have text instructions for making your courses available which includes a very brief demonstration video.

4. Wait for students to be added to your Course.

Making your course available also tells the system that you are ready to have students added to your course. It takes 24-hours for this to happen, so don’t panic if there are no students in your course the morning after making the course available the previous evening. Any late registrations will also be added on a 24-hour cycle.

You can check if students have been added to your course in Blackboard by going to the Control Panel >> Users and Groups >> and selecting Users.

5. Send your first Course Announcement

Once you’ve confirmed that your students have been added to your course, it’s time to send your first announcement to your students. If you haven’t used the announcements tool before, you can follow this link for instructions on sending group announcements to your students via Blackboard.


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