Course Shell Preparation

Online Faculty Tutorial
Preparing Your Blackboard Course Shell
Preparing your Blackboard course shell is one of the most crucial tasks to master when teaching online.
Properly preparing your Blackboard course shell is akin to ensuring a successful first day of class in the
physical classroom. Research indicates that the first day often sets the classroom dynamic for the
remainder of the course. This concept is no different in the online learning environment, and as such,
proper course preparation is key to your success as an online educator and key to your students’
comfort within the course.
Using Course Copy
Course Copy is a way to move content from one Blackboard course shell to another. While Course
Copy is very useful, there are very specific settings that are required in order for a course to be copied
correctly and to minimize the work involved with course preparation.
NOTE: If this is your first time teaching a particular online course with CMU, or if the course was
recently revised, the content of your Blackboard shell has been or will soon be copied on your behalf. If
this is the case, proceed to Post Course Copy Cleanup. If you are not sure, please contact your CMU
Online representative. After the first time a newly developed or revised course is taught, however,
instructors are responsible for performing the course copy each term.
Preparing the Destination Shell
Prior to copying course content, it is best to
prepare the destination shell to minimize the
amount of cleanup work that is necessary
following the course copy.
NOTE: The steps below presuppose that the
destination course is empty. Do not perform the
actions listed below if content is already present
in the course.
1. Enter the destination shell (the shell for the
upcoming course) by clicking it on your My
Courses list.
2. Enable Edit Mode in the upper right-hand
corner, if it is not already.
NOTE: The following action should only be
taken if the course is empty. Removing a
content area that contains contents will
render everything therein permanently
inaccessible and unrecoverable.
3. In the course menu on the left, start by
removing the bottom-most menu item (likely
“Library”). Remove the item by clicking on its
Action Menu and selecting Delete.
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4. Click OK.
5. Continue removing all of the items on the course menu, with the exception of Announcements.
Copying Content
Once the destination shell is properly prepared, the content of the source course (the previous shell
that you taught with) can be copied into the destination shell (the upcoming course).
NOTE: The steps below presuppose that content from another shell is available to be copied. If this is
your first time teaching a particular online course with CMU, or if the course was recently revised, the
content of your Blackboard shell has been or will soon be copied on your behalf. If this is the case,
proceed to Post Course Copy Cleanup.
1. Enter the course which contains the materials to be copied.
2. From the Control Panel, click Packages and Utilities followed by Course Copy.
3. Click Browse to search for a course. When the correct course is found and verified, click the radio
button to the left of the course name and click Submit.
4. Next, click Select All. If desired, Announcements may be unchecked to avoid announcement
cleanup in the destination shell.
5. Ignore and leave unchecked any boxes that were not checked as a result of clicking Select All.
6. Ignore the Course Files area.
7. DO NOT check the Enrollments box, as this will result in the copying of enrollments from the prior
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8. Click the Submit button to send the copy request to the Blackboard system. Copy requests are
held and processed by the system as soon as possible. An email confirmation will be sent to your email when the process is complete. In some cases, the email confirmation may arrive
before the entire copy process has completed. If this happens, close your browser and re-check the
course in 20 minutes. DO NOT REPEAT the copy process. If for any reason, the copy appears not
to have completed properly, seek technical support.
To: Joe Instructor
The following Course Copy process has completed: Source ENG101-13300221xxxxx | Destination ENG101-13500-221xxxxx
The results of the process are shown below.
Operation successful.
Post Course Copy Cleanup
Managing the Course Menu
Once a course has been copied, certain items in the course menu may need to be addressed.
 Remove any duplicate menu items. If you completed the steps outlined above, this should only
amount to removing an extra Announcements link. If you did not prepare the destination course
in advance, however, this may mean additional cleanup work is necessary. Caution should be
taken, however, as removing a menu item that contains content will render anything therein
permanently inaccessible. Note: A small gray square following the menu name indicates that
area is empty. Although empty areas are automatically hidden from students, it’s good practice
to delete empty areas altogether if they are not being used.
 Ensure that the Online Course Info page is present in the course menu. This link provides
critical information for online students about their course(s), such as information about proctor
designation (if applicable), information about drop/add, contact information for their CMU Online
representative as well as the OIT Help Desk. If it is not present, it should be added as follows:
1. Click on the + button
and click Web Link.
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2. On the pop-up window, for Name, enter Online Course Info
3. For URL, enter or copy and paste the following link:
4. Check the box to make the link Available to Users and click Submit.
 Ensure that the Tools link is present and available to students in the Course Menu. The Tools
area provides access to important course tools, such as Email, Wimba, Groups, and more.
If the link is present, but indicated as hidden
menu and selecting Show Link.
If the link is not present:
1. Click on the + button
, unhide it by clicking on the link’s action
and click Tool Link.
2. From the drop-down menu, select Tools Area.
3. Check the box to make the link Available to Users and click Submit.
4. Re-order menu items so they follow a logical flow. Not all of the following items
may be present, but the recommended order is:
Syllabus or Syllabus/Schedule
Instructor Info
Course Materials
8. Discussion Board
9. Wimba Classroom
10. Tools
11. Course Grades or My Grades
12. Library or Library Services
13. Online Course Info
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Removing Old Discussion Board Posts
If Discussion Board forums are present in the course, posts from the previous course’s students will
likely be present in the destination course following a course copy. It is important to remove these
before the course is made available, both to limit confusion for your students and to make cleanup of
them much easier to accomplish. To remove them:
1. Enter the Discussion Board area by accessing Course Tools in the Control Panel followed by
Discussion Board.
2. Click on the linked Course ID to enter the Discussion Board area.
3. Click on a forum title to enter the first forum in which old discussion board posts appear.
4. Click on the Select All check box to the left of the red flag icon.
5. Once all of the boxes are selected, click Delete.
6. Proceed back to the Discussion Board area by clicking on the link in the breadcrumb.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 until all discussion board posts have been removed.
Reconfiguring Availability Dates
When a course is copied, any pre-configured availability dates will be copied exactly as they exist in the
source course. This could potentially impact timed-release exams, content items, assignments, and the
like. Availability dates, if present, should be updated following the new term’s calendar and to reduce
student confusion.
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Removing Duplicate Grade Center Columns
Each course, by default, contains a “Total” column in the Grade Center. When a course is copied and
“Grade Center Columns and Settings” is checked (which is recommended), the “Total” column from the
source course is copied into the destination course, where a “Total” column already exists. As such, it is
best to remove any duplicate columns, which helps to keep the Grade Center area clean and limit and
potential confusion. To do this:
1. In the Control Panel, expand the Grade Center group and click on Full Grade Center.
2. Locate a Total, Running Total, or Weighted Total column to be removed. Click on the column’s
Action Menu
and then click Delete Column.
NOTE: At least one Total column should remain in the course, but all others should be removed.
Synchronizing SafeAssign
If SafeAssignments are used within a course, the destination course should be synchronized with
SafeAssign following course copy. This action does not need to be performed if SafeAssign is not used.
To synchronize a course:
1. In the Control Panel of the destination course, expand Course Tools and select SafeAssign.
2. Click SafeAssignments.
3. Near the upper-right, click Synchronize this course.
Adding Link to SBT Syllabus
Global Campus instructors are required to use CMU’s Syllabus Build Tool (SBT) when creating the
course syllabus. The SBT provides an electronic template which instructors complete and submit for
approval. Following approval, a link to the completed syllabus should be added within Blackboard.
1. Ensure Edit Mode is ON and select the Content Area (Syllabus, Course
Info, Course Materials, etc.) where the SBT link should appear.
2. From the top toolbar, click on Build Content and select Web Link.
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NOTE: If an existing SBT link from a previous semester already appears in the course, you can edit the
existing link and update the EPN and term to match your course, following the directions in step 4.
3. Enter a name, such as Course Syllabus in the Name field.
4. Enter, where epn in the 8-digit section number of
your course. For example, if a course’s EPN is 22212345, then the SBT link would be
5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Submit.
6. The external link to the syllabus will be added to the content area. Test the link to be sure it is
working correctly.
Adding/Updating Instructor Information
The Instructor Info. area within a Blackboard course shell is designed to hold instructor contact
information for easy student access.
Adding New Instructor Information
1. In the course shell in which contact information is to be added, expand the Course Tools area of
the Control Panel and click on Contacts.
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2. Enable Edit Mode by clicking on the button in the upper right.
3. Click on Create Contact.
4. Fill in the profile information (title, first name, last name, email address, work phone number, and
office location). More information can be written in the Notes section.
5. Under the Options area, select Yes to Make the Profile available.
6. To add a photo (150x150 pixels is the recommended size), click Browse, locate the photo on your
computer and click Open to attach it.
7. Enter the URL to a personal web site if desired.
8. Click Submit to finish or Cancel to quit without saving.
Modifying Existing Contact Information
1. Click on the Contacts link under the Course Tools section of the Control Panel and enable Edit
2. Click on the Action Link (double-arrows) next to the existing contact and select Edit.
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3. Make the needed changes to title, name, email address, office phone number, office location, office
hours or notes.
4. If necessary, modify the photo or change the personal website URL.
4.1. To change the image, click on the box next to “Remove this image” or browse for the new
image to upload.
4.2. To change a personal link, delete the current URL and enter a new URL.
5. Click Submit at the top or bottom of the page.
NOTE: If the Instructor Info. link in not present within the Course Menu, it should be added. To do this,
click on the + button
, select Tool Link, enter a name for the tool (e.g. Instructor Info.), select
Contacts from the drop-down, check the Available to Users box, and click submit.
Removing Announcements from Prior Term
It is recommended that new announcements be posted within a course from term to term, rather than
recycling old announcements. While the content of an announcement can certainly be recycled from
term to term, recycling physical announcements by manipulating availability dates is not recommended,
as the time and date stamp of the announcements will reflect a date and time of a prior term and
possibly create confusion among students.
Removing Individual Announcements
1. Make sure the Edit Mode button is switched to ON and select the Announcements link under the
Course Tools section of the Control Panel.
2. Click the Action Link next to the announcement title and select Delete. Click OK to confirm
Removing All Announcements
NOTE: This process will permanently remove all announcements in the course.
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1. In the Control Panel, expand Packages and Utilities and select Bulk Delete.
2. Under Select Other Materials to Delete, check Announcements.
3. Before confirming the Bulk Delete process, ensure that no other options are checked.
4. Under Confirmation, type Delete into the box and click Submit.
HELPFUL HINT: To recycle announcements from term to term, compose them in a word document
and save the document to your computer. Then, follow the directions in this tutorial to safely copy and
paste them into Blackboard as needed.
Posting a Welcome Announcement
A welcome announcement is an ideal way to “greet” students as they enter the course. Suggested
content for the welcome message includes:
 A general welcome
 Course start and end dates
 Your contact information (or directions for accessing your information in the syllabus or
Instructor Info area).
 Guidance on where to focus when viewing the course for the first time (e.g. the Introduction
area, or the Syllabus area).
 Required pre-class assignments
 Contact information for the OIT Help Desk
To post an announcement:
1. In the course menu, click on Announcements.
2. Enable Edit Mode by clicking on the button in the upper right.
3. Click the Create Announcement link.
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4. The Create Announcement page will appear. In the Subject field, enter a Subject for the
announcement. This will appear as the title of the announcement.
5. Type the announcement directly within the Message box.
6. Under the Web Announcement Options area, select Not Date Restricted to have the
announcement persist in the course indefinitely. Announcements that are not date restricted will
appear immediately and will remain visible until removed or hidden.
7. Otherwise, to have the announcement appear for a specific period of time, select Date Restricted.
Place a checkmark in the Display After box and enter the date and time the announcement should
appear. To have the announcement stop appearing at a later date, place a checkmark in the
Display Until box and enter the desired stop date and time.
8. Click Submit to complete the announcement.
9. The new announcement will appear below the repositionable bar.
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Enhancing Exam Security
When working with online assessments in Blackboard, it is important to consider exam security and to
make every effort to remove opportunities for academic dishonesty. Careful use of Blackboard’s test
options and other security mechanisms can help to reduce cheating opportunities.
For more information, see the following tutorials:
 Enhancing Security for Online Exams
 Respondus LockDown Browser
Making the Course Available
By default, courses on the system are unavailable to students. It’s a good idea to keep a course
unavailable throughout the preparation process. Once a course is ready, however, the course must be
made available in order for students to access the shell. To do this:
1. From the Control Panel, expand the Customization menu and select Properties.
2. Under section three, Make Course Available, select Yes.
3. Click Submit.
NOTE: CMU Online staff requests that all course shells be made available to students at least three
weeks prior to a course’s start date.
Modifying the Course Title
By default, course titles in Blackboard reflect a course’s EPN and course name as it exists in the
university database. Course titles can easily be modified to include additional information, such as a
course’s term date.
To modify a course title:
1. Enter the course and make sure Edit Mode is ON.
2. In the Control Panel, click Customization and then Properties.
3. When the Properties screen appears, make the desired changes to the Course Name and/or
Description fields.
NOTE: A recommend formula for the course title is: Course Designator, Term, and EPN. It is strongly
recommended that the course EPN be included in the course title.
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EXAMPLE: ENG101 Summer 1 2011 Online 22100000
4. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click Submit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. I am teaching multiple sections of the same course within the same term. Is there something
I can do to better manage and/or combine my courses?
A1. Yes. A combined site can be created, which will combine the enrollments of all of your sections into
one Blackboard shell. To have one created, contact the OIT Help Desk at (989) 774-3662,
[email protected], or After requesting one, the CMU Online staff
requests that you inform them of this, providing them with the appropriate combined course ID
(C100xxxxx). This ID will appear in the shell once it is listed in Blackboard.
Q2. Why do I have to enter the destination shell before the copy to remove existing menu items?
This seems like a lot of work to me.
A2. Removing menu items in the destination shell is optional, but it does help to alleviate additional
work following the course copy. Often times, menu items become duplicated in the destination course
following a Course Copy. Removing this possibility ahead of time helps to eliminate the redundancy
and any potential confusion that it may cause.
Q3. Where can I go for additional Blackboard technical support?
A3. The OIT Help Desk will likely be one of the best resources at your disposal. They are reachable at
(989) 774-3662, [email protected], or Also, the Blackboard resources
page is available 24/7 and is located at This page is complete with
faculty and student tutorials, system status updates, system policy documents, and other helpful
Q4. How do I know when to contact the OIT Help Desk versus my CMU Online representative?
A4. The OIT Help Desk should be contacted for technical questions (e.g. how do I make my course
available? How do I download assignments that my students have submitted? Etc.). Your CMU Online
representative should be contacted for administrative questions (e.g. where do students purchase their
textbook? Will my course be revised? How can students drop/add my class? Etc.)
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