Ideas from the Blackboard Class
While at times it was tedious, I think we all learned a lot and were impressed with the instructors. Part of what a person gets out of this kind of class is an awareness of what can be done and that there are several ways of doing some of these things. The details can always be looked up in the manual later.
A nice bonus was that each person met individually with someone to discuss how best to arrange specific courses on Blackboard. The Intro to Modern and American Art courses I'll be teaching in the fall are relatively similar in style--both are introductory lecture courses that rely heavily on Powerpoint presentations of the works of art--but we decided that since Intro to Modern (in this iteration) is a once-a-week course (last time I taught it, it met three times a week!), the materials could be divided by week, whereas since American Art is twice a week and divided into units, the materials would be posted by unit rather than week. This would matter more if I had more online readings for American Art, but as it happens, most of the supplemental readings are in two anthologies that will be available at the bookstore.
The Blackboard training definitely gave me some new ideas. Last time I used Blackboard, I didn't use the grading function. Now that I know how it works, I will. More excitingly, there are possibilities for more effective teaching.
Both of these courses (neither being a large lecture) will have the students divide into two groups and each group present readings to the other group. In the past, the groups discussed their readings briefly in class before presenting. This took up class time and I had only a general idea which people were contributing more to the discussion. Blackboard offers online discussion groups, however. This means my groups can do most of their discussion in advance, I can read over their contributions and assign participation credit, and in class they should only need a few minutes together before presenting orally.
Blackboard also has built-in blogs and wikis. I don't see myself using these for my fall courses, but if I get to teach Czech Modernism in the spring, I think I'll have the students create a wiki. The Czech Modernism course would probably be done as one of our upper-division courses that stresses learning to write research papers, and as there are far fewer resources on Czech modernism than on something like Impressionism, having the students incrementally put their findings on a wiki throughout the semester would not only document the progress of their paper research for me, but would strengthen the entire class's knowledge of the topic because they would be building a group resource with citations to their sources. A student preparing a paper on the architect Otakar Novotný would benefit from sources located by a student working on Jan Kotěra, and vice versa. Each student would do his or her own project, yet benefit from the entire group's research.