Using Blackboard to engage students in practical tutorial assignments

Using Blackboard to engage
students in practical tutorial
Karen Clarke, Politics
Ian Fairweather, Social
The course
• Study skills/research methods course for
90+ 1st year social science students
• Weekly one hour lecture & fortnightly
• Tutorials involve exercises which students
upload and peer review
• Contribute 25% of final mark
Problems and Aims
Technical problems with uploading
Peer review on fortnightly basis too cumbersome
Time intensive for GTAs
Poor student engagement with lectures
Improve the design of the Blackboard site for the
tasks to make it more user-friendly (for both
students and GTAs)
Better integration of lecture, tutorial and
independent learning, incorporating more problem
based learning into the lecture time
• Redesign of aspects of the Blackboard site:
– Inclusion of guided tour to Blackboard
– Improved look and feel of pages: simpler and easier
to find way around
• Provision of Blackboard demonstrations
• Laptops for tutors’ use in tutorials
• Rethinking the tutorial exercises: individual
assignments with fortnightly feedback from tutor
• More interactive lectures, including guidance for
tutorial assignments
– Occasional use of classroom clickers
– Blackboard quizzes
Lessons so far
• Improved attendance and participation
• Keep it simple!
– avoid being tempted to use complex features of
Blackboard (e.g. selective release dates for different
– be aware of need for cut-off date at very end of
course to allow for excused late submissions
• Importance of keeping up with returning work to
• Use lectures to provide opportunities for
feedback from students
• Challenges
Longer term
– Developing the interactive aspect of the
– Providing useful content to students with a
wide range of backgrounds
• Possible Solutions
– Use principles of interactive, cooperative
learning in lectures to support students’
independent learning.
– Move to ‘enquiry based learning’
– Blogs and/or wikis to develop the
collaborative and problem based aspects of