Creating a course in Blackboard Learn LMS - a guide

Evgeniya Ioffe - December 18th 2023 - 6 minutes read

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital education, the ability to craft immersive and impactful online courses is paramount. Blackboard Learn stands as a beacon for educators striving to elevate learning experiences, yet mastering its complexities can seem a daunting endeavor. Join us as we navigate the intricate terrains of Blackboard Learn's LMS, from shaping vibrant content that resonates with the modern learner to harnessing powerful tools that spark collaboration and drive success. Whether you're a seasoned educator or stepping into the digital realm for the first time, our comprehensive guide will unveil transformative practices that promise not only to enlighten but also to inspire excellence in your virtual classroom.

Understanding Blackboard Learn's Course Environment

Blackboard Learn's LMS is characterized by its dual-course views: the Original Course View and the Ultra Experience. The Original Course View offers a traditional layout with a folder-based structure, allowing educators to organize content into various sections and folders neatly. Content areas in this view are central to course organization and can include a range of materials such as assignments, learning modules, and even external links. Course menu customization is a significant feature of the Original Course View; educators can tailor the menu according to the course's needs, adding or hiding sections and renaming them for clarity. This flexibility supports unique course designs and can accommodate varying teaching styles and subject matter.

Transitioning to the Ultra Experience brings a modernized interface that prioritizes simplicity and streamlined navigation. This approach changes the way content areas are structured, favoring a more fluid design that encourages continuous scrolling, akin to a social media feed, over the use of folders. The course menu becomes less about customization and more about efficiency, with fewer options that are designed to be more intuitive for both instructors and learners. The Ultra Experience is responsive and adaptive, making it more suitable for mobile access. Interface elements are larger, with prominent buttons and reduced clutter, promoting a user-friendly environment for all users.

Regardless of the course view chosen, both environments support the core components necessary for course creation, including areas for assignments, discussions, grading, and analytics. While the Original Course View caters to educators desiring intricate control over course content presentation, the Ultra Experience appeals to those seeking a clean, straightforward, and modern course interface. Understanding the contrasting architectures of both views allows educators to select the environment that best accommodates their pedagogical approach and fosters an engaging learning experience for their students.

Developing Engaging Content and Materials

When developing content within Blackboard Learn, strategic organization and material engagement are key. It's essential to categorize your course content logically, considering how students will navigate through materials. Utilize the content management functions to create a coherent learning path, organizing modules by topic or week. Include a variety of multimedia content by uploading documents, images, and linking to web resources, keeping in mind they should serve the educational objectives. To facilitate a richer learning experience, integrate third-party applications like Panopto for seamless video lectures or Kaltura MyMedia for audiovisual materials. Always ensure multimedia content supports accessibility standards, providing captions or transcripts where necessary.

Microlearning modules within Blackboard Learn foster student engagement through short, focused bursts of content that make learning manageable and retainable. When creating these modules, focus on one concept or skill and structure them to include a mix of different content types such as text, video, and interactive activities. The goal is to deliver comprehensive knowledge in bite-sized pieces that keep learners engaged and motivated. Consider the use of Blackboard's integrated assessment tools to embed quizzes or surveys within these modules, which can provide immediate feedback and reinforce learning.

Assessment tools in Blackboard Learn not only gauge students' understanding but also enhance the learning process when used effectively. Optimize the use of Blackboard assignments by leveraging the Blackboard Annotate feature, which allows for in-depth feedback on student submissions. Tests and surveys in Blackboard can be designed to be automatically graded, offering efficiency in evaluation. For a more varied assessment strategy, consider interpretive tools outside of Blackboard like PearDeck or H5P that offer interactive presentation and assessment options. Furthermore, apply settings for availability and submission attempts to manage student access and expectations. Lastly, the adaptive release feature can personalize the learning journey by making content available based on specific criteria, such as quiz scores or activity completion.

Maximizing Student Interaction and Collaboration Tools

Blackboard Learn offers dynamic features to enhance student interaction and collaboration, making the virtual environment more conducive to active learning. Discussion boards are central to this interactive experience, providing a platform for threaded conversations where students can post and reply to each other’s thoughts on a particular topic. For instructors, the challenge lies in crafting engaging prompts that inspire meaningful dialogue and then managing the discussions to ensure constructive and respectful exchanges. The benefits, however, are substantial; discussion boards can lead to deeper understanding as students articulate their ideas and questions, engage in interactive problem-solving, and share diverse perspectives.

The platform also bolsters group projects, allowing for the creation of collaborative spaces where students can work together on shared assignments. The instructor's role is to facilitate these projects by setting clear expectations, roles, and deadlines, and by providing the groups with the necessary tools and permissions within Blackboard. While managing group dynamics and ensuring equal participation from all members can be challenging, the benefits of learning to work as part of a team are invaluable. Students gain experience in collaboration, communication, and project management—skills that are highly prized in the workforce.

Another feature designed to foster collaboration is the peer-review assignment option, where students are tasked with providing feedback on each other's work. This feature encourages critical thinking and self-reflection as students assess their peers' contributions. Implementing peer reviews can require meticulous organization to ensure anonymity and fairness and to manage the quality of feedback provided. Despite these challenges, peer-review assignments can significantly enhance learning by involving students in the evaluative process, thereby providing them with a broader understanding of subject matter through multiple lenses.

Evaluating Learner Success and Providing Feedback

Blackboard Learn LMS houses a robust Grade Center that functions as a pivot for evaluating learner success. Instructors can harness the power of cumulative and calculated columns to customize grading schemas that reflect the complexity of their assessment strategies, such as weighted averages or total points. What's more, categories can prove invaluable in organizing similar assignment types and streamlining the grade calculation process. This centralized grading system facilitates not just accurate score tabulation but also the transparent communication of performance to students. Feedback provision is also enhanced through the suite's capacity for inline grading. With Blackboard Annotate, instructors can embed specific comments, highlight texts, and even draw directly on student submissions. This interactivity in the feedback process serves to clarify the instructor's insights, thereby fostering a more tangible improvement in future assignments.

The platform's analytics goes beyond mere number-crunching; it delves into actionable insights regarding student engagement and content interaction. This data-driven approach allows for real-time monitoring of student progress, offering a snapshot of class performance at large and on an individual basis. Such information can be used to preemptively address areas of difficulty, tailor support to struggling students, or even adjust pedagogical methods to enhance the overall learning journey. The analytics serve as a feedback loop not only for students but also for faculty in terms of instructional design and course delivery effectiveness.

Understanding the implications of these assessments tools on learner success, the thoughtful application of the Grade Center, and analytics can create a learning environment rich with opportunities for timely intervention and individualized learning pathways. Embedding digital assessments like Blackboard Tests further expands the capacity to gauge learner understanding, while Turnitin integration upholds academic integrity and rewards original thought. Used judiciously, these tools collectively empower educators to realize a holistic picture of classroom achievement, paving the way for students to reach their academic potential within the framework of Blackboard Learn.


This comprehensive guide explores the intricacies of creating a course in Blackboard Learn LMS, including the benefits and differences between the Original Course View and the Ultra Experience. It provides insights and best practices for developing engaging content, utilizing assessment tools effectively, maximizing student interaction and collaboration, and evaluating learner success through the Grade Center and analytics. Key takeaways include the importance of strategic organization, the use of microlearning modules, the value of student interaction and collaboration tools, and the power of analytics in enhancing the learning experience.