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Create a User-Friendly Course

A user-friendly course is not only engaging but intuitive, as well. Students receive need-to-know information and then apply their newly acquired skills to various activities, assessments and, ultimately, the real world. All course elements - whether the overall course structure, documents, videos, hyperlinks, etc. - should promote practicality, accessibility, and navigability. 

There are several factors to consider when designing a user-friendly course site, the following suggestions should help you get started.

Make the most of Blackboard Ally

Blackboard Ally is a tool that aids in providing a more inclusive and equitable learning environment for both faculty and students.

Ally provides the following benefits for faculty:

  • Scans files uploaded into Blackboard and searches for common accessibility issues.
  • Provides feedback on course accessibility as well as guidance on how to fix identified accessibility issues.
  • Allows for student choice given the generated alternatives: supporting the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

For more information on accessing and utilizing Ally, please click the button below.

Ally Overview

Be succinct

Excessive text and lengthy materials can sometimes contribute to cognitive overload, which diminishes the value of a course. Content should be succinct, well-organized, and intentional. In general:

  • avoid excessive scrolling by keeping text blocks short and succinct
  • offer the need-to-know information
  • incorporate headings and subheadings to organize information
  • embed visual cues (eg., relevant images and videos) to illustrate key concepts and break up the monotony of text 
  • organize cotent topically instead of by file or activity types to help reduce clicks and make studying more intuitive. 

Create a "Start Here" content area

You may want to consider creating a "Start Here" content area toward the top of your course menu. The "Start Here" area is an effective way of outlining the course navigation, expectations, first steps, and important materials to get started in the course. Items might include: 

  • a welcome message & video walking through the course layout
  • syllabus & course schedule
  • where important items are located (eg., contact information, tests & quizzes, where to turn in assignments, how to access each week/module/or unit folder, etc.)
  • a course link to the first week's materials.

Use Student Preview Mode

Whether you have created an item or an entire course in Blackboard, you have the ability to view your work using "Student Preview Mode." In this mode, you will review the course from a student's persepctive and check ease of access. You can also validate course behaviors, such as the conditional release of content and how grades appear.

Student preview is different from Edit Mode. While Edit Mode hides your edit controls and content under certain conditions, student preview allows you to experience your course as your students will.

Ask for Student Feedback

The above suggestions provide a great starting point for designing a user-friendly course site. However, instructors do not have the same perspectives, experiences, or technology as a diverse group of students. Ultimately, students are those on the receiving end of course design and can be the best assessors of practicality, accessibility, and navigability.

Whether in the form of an anonymous survey, class discussion, or email, asking for student feedback let's students know you are invested in their learning and is an important step in creating a user-friendly course site.

If you have any questions or would like to partner with CITL to create your user-friendly course site, please contact us using the button below.

Contact Us

Tip 1

Make the most of Blackboard Ally. Use the Ally feature to check course accessibility as well as make necessary improvements to your course.

Tip 2

Be succinct. Avoid excessive scrolling and clicking in Blackboard. Content and materials should be well organized and to-the-point.

Tip 3

Create a "Start Here" content area in Blackboard to outline course navigation, expectations, first steps, and important materials to get started in the course.

Tip 4

Enter "Student Preview Mode" to see the course and materials exactly as the student would.

Tip 5

Ask for student feedback for a true assessment of course accessibility and navigability.



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 Last Modified 8/3/20