Creating Content in Blackboard Learn
In this scenario, you will
- Log in to Blackboard Learn
- Navigate to the correct course
- Configure Blackboard Learn for editing
- Create a Blank Page
- Create a URL
- Create a Content Folder
- Link to a File
- Add Links to Course Menu
Advanced File Management
- Import Externally Created HTML Content
- by File Upload
- by Drag and Drop
- by DreamWeaver
- Convert an HTML File to an HTML Object
Although Blackboard Learn offers a number of options to choose from when you create course content, the steps listed in this scenario address only a few of the most commonly used methods. You are encouraged to explore the other options on your own.
To log in to Blackboard Learn (if you are not already logged in), follow these steps:
- Go to bblearn.nau.edu.
- Click the Log in to Bb Learn button.
- On the Central Authentication Service (CAS) page, in the UserID field type your NAU login ID, and in the Password field, type your password.
(NOTE: If you have already authenticated through CAS from some other campus website, you might not have to complete this step or the next. Instead, you automatically will be routed to the Blackboard Learn My Institution tab.)
- Click the Login button.
After you have logged in, make sure you are on the My Institution tab, and then from the My Courses block, select a listed course.
Near the upper right corner of the window, make sure the Edit Mode is button is set to ON. You click the button to toggle between ON and OFF.
- In the left navigation menu, click the Content link.
- From the Build Content menu, under New Page, select Blank Page. Note: With Blank Page, the page title appears in the content list and when you click on the title, a new page opens with that page's content. In contrast, an Item's content appears directly in the content list. People sometimes use the Item to put a block of instructional text above a folder, for example.
- In the Create Blank Page window, type "Course Welcome Page" in the field marked with an orange asterisk. That will be the title of your new page.
- In the Content field, type a welcome message to your students. You can use the Visual Editor to format your message with all the standard tools you'd find in a Word Processor. If you need to look at the HTML code, click on the < > button. If you move the pointer over an icon in the toolbar, a tool tip will appear. You can copy/paste content into the visual editor from Word or DreamWeaver, or you can create it here.
- Try each of the following content creation examples:
- Create a title and center it. (Type a title, highlight it, use the pull-down menu to change Normal text to Heading 1, and click the Align Center tool)
- Type some text. Select the text first, then click on the Font Color tool to change the text color.
- Create a Numbered List or a Bulleted List
- Use the Indent Right tool to create sub-list items
- Create a Table , or paste one in from Microsoft Word
- Add a graphic using the Attach Image tool. You can center the graphic with the Align Center tool. (Hint: You can download a graphic from almost any web page by simply right-clicking on the image and choosing "Save Image As..." (or similar wording) and saving the file to your computer.)
- Add a Hyperlink (be sure to check the "open link in new window" option, and Submit (save) the page before you test the link in Student View.)
- To paste text copied from Microsoft Word, use the Paste from Word mashup tool. (A direct copy/paste will embed lots of nasty Microsoft formatting code, but taking this short additional step strips out much of the bad code, makes your pages leaner and faster to load.)
- If you want this new page to appear in the Content Collection, you can check the box at the bottom left of the editor window that saves it as a Reusable Object. We strongly recommend you leave it unchecked for now, but if you ever need to get your internally created content out of Blackboard, this is how you will do it. See more about Reusable HTML Objects below.
- Click the Submit button.
After you Submit, Bb Learn saves your work and takes you to the Content page, where you will see your new Course Welcome Page added to the bottom of the list of content items.
Note: Submit is the same as Save. On many pages in Blackboard, there are Submit buttons at both the top and the bottom of the page. They both work. Blackboard did this for your convenience to minimize scrolling. You will note that after you Submit, your work is saved but you will exit from the page you were editing. Unfortunately, there is no option to Save and Continue Editing. Blackboard always puts newly created content at the bottom of the list. If you have a lot of content, you'll need to scroll down to see this new item. To continue editing, click on the newly created document's icon.
- You can now rearrange items on the page by dragging the item you wish to move to its new location using the drag tab to the left of the icon. Once you move it, the icon stays where you put it. Future edits to the page don't put it at the bottom of the list.
Minor Problems: The visual HTML editor is pretty good, but it does have a few minor bugs. For example, sometimes the cursor disappears. It's still there, but it's not visible. If this happens, it's best to Submit the page to save changes and then get back in and start editing again. Also, sometimes spaces between lines are removed when you Submit. To force a space to appear between two lines of text, you may need to go into HTML code view and insert a break <br/> manually. You can only modify tables and re-size images in Firefox. Hyperlinks won't work in Internet Explorer unless the "Open in New Window" option is selected. Blackboard is aware of these issues and promises fixes.
Tip: Don't turn the visual editor off accidentally or you can lose your unsaved work! There is no good reason to turn off the Visual Editor. The Visual Editor On/Off button looks just like the Edit Mode On/Off button above it, and we see that people commonly make this mistake, especially when they have scrolled down so that the Edit Mode button is hidden from view.
- On the Content page, from the Build Content menu select URL.
- On the Create URL page, scroll to the URL Information section, and in the Name field, type CNN. In the URL field type http://www.cnn.com
Tip: 1) You need to put in the full address, including the http://www or the link won't work. 2) We strongly recommend that when you are linking to external websites, you select the option to Open Link in New Window. That way, when they are done with the website, they can just close the window and their course is still there waiting for them.
Click the Submit button.
- The Content page will be displayed, and you will see CNN added to the bottom of the list of content items.
- As your add more items to your content page, you will want to start creating folders for organization. On your Content page, choose the Build Content button, and select Content Folder. As above, give it a name, click Submit, and your new content folder will appear at the bottom of your list.
- Next, find a previously created item and move it into your new folder by selecting the Action Link next to the item, and selecting Move from the pull down menu.
- Click the Browse button and then click on the folder where you want to move the item.
- Click Submit, and the item is now moved inside the folder.
- Tip: Since moving files into folders is a bit cumbersome, you can always create the folder first, click into it, and then create the blank page, item, or URL inside the folder.
- To make a file of any type (PDF, Word doc, PowerPoint doc, HTML file, etc.) available on your course content page, go to the Content page and select Build Content/File. What happens when a student clicks on the file depends on the file type, and on how the student's computer and browser are configured. Files that the browser can't display will download to the student's computer and can be opened if the student has a program installed that can open files of that type. Please consider that HTML is the native language of the web, and files of this type are the most easily viewed by your students. If in doubt, convert your documents to HTML.
- Browse to the file's location either on your Computer or in Bb Learn's Content Collection for the course.
- Select the file you want to make available, and it will appear at the bottom of the list on the content page.
You can customize your Course Menu to make it easier for your students to find the important things in your class. With Edit Mode "On," click on the blue "+" button at the top left of the Course Menu.
- Create Tool Link: This will create a pointer to a particular Bb Learn tool (this link will only work if the tool is turned on in the course, under Customization/Tool Availability), such as the My Grades tool, the Discussions tool, the Messages tool, etc.
- Create Course Link: This will create a pointer to a piece of course content, such as your Syllabus, your Getting Started Folder, your Chapter 1 Readings, your first Test or Assignment, etc. You must check the "Available to Users" checkbox if you want the students to see this link.
There are many ways to get your externally created content into Bb Learn, but you'll have to make a choice: Do you prefer to edit your content with an external tool like DreamWeaver or Microsoft Word, and upload the changes to Bb Learn each time, or do you prefer to work within Bb Learn and make the changes directly? The catch is that at present, you can only edit externally created files with an external editor, and you can only edit internally created files with the internal editor. There is one exception (see HTML Object below) but it's complicated.
If you prefer to continue using an external editor as you did with Vista, you will use the Content Collection as a repository for these externally created files. Any content we migrated from Vista will be in the content collection. If you want to shift over to the internal editor, use the instructions above for creating Blank Pages.
- Go to the Control Panel and click on Content Collection.
- Select the first item in the sub-menu; this is the "public" (accessible by all course members) area of the content collection. The next item in the list, which contains your NAU user id, is your private file storage space.
- The Content Collection window will open.
- Depending on your preference, you can use any of the following three methods to get files created externally into Bb Learn's content collection:
- File Upload: To upload one or more files from your computer to Bb Learn, you can use the Upload button, select Upload Files from the submenu, and browse for the file you want to upload.
- Drag and Drop: To drag and drop multiple files directly from your computer into Bb Learn's content collection, click on the yellow button on the top right. On Windows computers, this button will be called Set Up Web Folder.
On Macs, this button will be called Set Up Shared Location.
- Follow the instructions for your OS (for example, Windows XP, Windows 7, MacOS X, etc.) to create the connection between your computer and Bb Learn's Content Collection.
- Drag and drop your pre-built content directly into Bb Learn's Content Collection via the "web folder" you just created on your computer.
- DreamWeaver: You could also set up DreamWeaver with a WebDAV connection, as you did in Vista. This allows direct editing of files in the content collection from your own computer.
- Use the Link to File instructions above to add this content to your Content page in the Course Menu.
Note: Pages created with Bb Learn's internal Visual Editor can be edited with the Visual Editor but they do not appear in the Content Collection and cannot be edited with an external HTML editor like DreamWeaver. Likewise, files created outside Bb Learn and dropped into the Content Collection can continue to be edited by your external HTML editor but not by the internal Visual Editor. There is one exception: If you use the Create HTML Object button (see below) in the Content Collection, you can copy/paste your content into the HTML Object file. Such files can be edited by both internal and external editors. In addition to the flexibility HTML Objects provide for editing, you also keep your course content in a place where you can directly access your files. The concept of File Management was a popular feature in Vista but is new to Blackboard users. We expect to see enhancements from Blackboard in this area in the future.
- In the Content Collection window, click on the Create HTML Object button.
- After you click Submit, the new file you created is an HTML object and has this icon:
- To edit the content of the HTML object with the internal Visual Editor, don't select Edit. Select "Overwrite Reusable Object Content" from the file's Action Menu. Note that this menu option is only available in the Content Collection area and not from other locations in Bb Learn.
- Now copy and paste your externally created content (or click on the < > button and paste the HTML code) into the editor and you have converted your plain HTML file into an HTML object that you can, in future, update both with internal and external editors. One cautionary note: Blackboard's internal editor can add artifacts such as breaks <br/> and DIV tags <DIV> which insert undesirable spaces to your clean externally produced HTML files. Blackboard is working on a fix.