Online tools to engage learners Blackboard & beyond | Gerri Berendzen

Not everything you post on Blackboard will register with all your students.

Why? Because everyone learns differently.

What to do? Use multiple presentation methods to help mix it up.

Following are some of the ways everyone presents lessons on Blackboard, followed by some "beyond" ideas on how to present them:

1. Text-only presentation

Boring, right?

Students in the just-finished summer J302 class rated text-only presentation as the least suited to their learning style.

Save this for short items and assignment instruction.

2. Plain video

Doing a Quicktime screen recording of yourself narrating a slide show or recording yourself on Zoom is a simple process.

Students like videos, as long as they're not too lengthy. We tend to lose them after 20 minutes.

So let's go beyond these two traditional presentation methods.

3. Short whiteboard videos

Short is the key. Great for 2-5 minute tutorials but too much is, well, too much!

The beauty of available Whiteboard programs is you don't have to be an artist.

The ugly is some are pricey.

My J302 students said they liked Whiteboard videos because the information was in small pieces.

4. Mixed graphic presentation

I did this presentation using Adobe Spark. You can mix text, photos, videos, audio and links in a seamless presentation.

Canva is also an example of a free mixed graphic presentation tool.

In a poll, these were most often remembered by J302 students.

5. VoiceThread

VoiceThread ranked high with the summer J302 students because it was easy for them to pinpoint a specific spot in the video for review.

You can narrate slides or a video and allow students to record questions at selected points. It's fairly easy to learn.

Plus it integrates with Blackboard.

6. Poster

If you had to present the information for a class in one poster, how would you do it?

This poster was made with Adobe Illustrator. It takes students through a step-by-step process.

It's a good way to do a text-based lesson in a visual format and one that doesn't require audio.

7. Google Docs

It's easy to do a "living" assignment in an asynchronous environment by using a sharable Google Doc.

As students add their work on blank slides, you can comment for the full class to see.

Also, with a sharable Google Doc and chat system, students can do in-class group work at a social distance.

8. Text-style discussion board

I used Slack this summer, and had a lot more success with it than I had with the Blackboard Discussion Board last spring.

Start discussion threads.

Use direct message in Slack to make it easy for students to ask questions about lesson posts and assignments.

Other Beyond Blackboard ideas

Pop-up presentations: ThingLink let's you annotate photos with pop-up text and media. And it has a free option for teachers.

Games: Two of my students used Kahoot to make an interactive game that lets students review J302 material. Creating a game may take longer, but letting students create it keeps them engaged.

Polls: I did two non-scientific polls for my Summer 2020 class. One used a poll extension for Slack and one used Google Forms. Both allowed quick feedback.

Think about which presentation mode works best for which material. Also consider using presentation modes that are most easily edited for future reuse.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Student assessment

Some figures from my summer J302 survey:

Small survey, but these numbers say that, at least for this class, everyone does learn differently.
Created By
Gerri Berendzen


Title image by Sensay - "Education and reading concept - group of colorful books on the wooden table in the classroom, blackboard background"; Other images are screenshots of presentations created by Gerri Berendzen