Building a Mobile-Friendly Blackboard Course: Part 1

As we discussed in our introduction to the Blackboard mobile app, this app is a resource that students and instructors can choose to purchase to gain access to many Blackboard features and tools from their mobile devices.

Key Questions
Before building or altering your course so that it is mobile-friendly, you may want to start by considering the following key questions:

  • What content and resources are your students most likely to want to access from their mobile devices?
  • Will your expectations for formatting, grammar, or typos change if student content is composed from a mobile device?
  • Are there types of content that you do not think students should access from their devices, such as tests, demonstrations, or complex discussion questions?

Once you have decided what components should be mobile-friendly, there are few design strategies that will help with building these components in your course. This post will cover a few recommendations.  We will provide additional pointers about displaying multimedia and building mobile-friendly tests in Part 2 of this blog post.

Adding Your Syllabus and Other Files
It can be helpful for students to have access to your syllabus from wherever they are.  The best file format for posting your syllabus is as a PDF attachment. This will allow it to be opened by a variety of devices and apps.

Use the Item tool under the Build Content menu to add your syllabus. This allows you to add instructions about what you want students to pay attention to.

Then, you can attach the PDF by scrolling down to the Attachments area and clicking on the button called Browse My Computer.

When your students view the syllabus using the app, they will be able to read your instructions and open the syllabus as an attachment.

All files that students need to read or review should be attached this way if you want them to be accessible from mobile devices. However, documents that students need to edit or add to should be kept in the original file format.

Organizing Content
If you want students to be able to easily locate their course content using the mobile app, it’s best to use Blackboard’s Content Folders (shown below with the folder icon). To help keep everything organized, these folders can be created for each week or by topic.

Use descriptive names for folders, since students will not be able to see any of the informational text you include underneath the folder when they access the course from the app. Descriptive names should also be used for items and file attachments to help students find what they need.

Content folders viewed from an Internet browser.
Content folders viewed from the Blackboard Mobile App.

If your courses have previously incorporated Lesson Plans to organize your content (indicated by the icon to the left), these tools will not allow students to view some of your key content when using the app.

Blackboard Learning Modules (indicated by the icon to the left) restrict students’ navigation when they access course materials from their Internet browsers. Watch the video below for a tour of how Learning Modules appear to students.

If you already have content in either Lesson Plans or Learning Modules, you can create Content Folders and use the Move option to move existing content into the Content Folders instead. This will create a better experience for students.

Communication Tools
No additional steps are needed to make discussion forums, blogs, or journals accessible from the Blackboard Mobile App. Students will be able to access and contribute to any discussion forums, blogs, or journals you set up in your course when using the app on their devices.

At this time, students cannot view or contribute to wikis using the Blackboard Mobile App.

Communicate Expectations
Once you have a clear idea of your expectations when it comes to mobile access and you have built these components into your course, you may want to communicate this information as part of your instructions to students so that they can plan how and when they want to use the mobile app for your course.

An example of how you can communicate your expectations to students about posting from a mobile device.

Need Help?
Contact a member of the Instructional Design team if you need help making parts of your course mobile-friendly or if you have any general questions about the steps described in this post!

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