Blackboard: Merging Courses

What is course merging?

Multiple course sections can be merged to create a single coursesite in Blackboard. After merging the courses, a new Blackboard site is created containing the enrollments from the separate sections. The new combined site that includes all student enrollments is called a "parent" course, and the sections that have been merged are called "child" courses. Child courses are made unavailable to students. 

There are DRAWBACKS and BENEFITS of merging courses together in Blackboard.

Request a Course Merge

To submit a request to have your courses merged, please complete the Blackboard Course Merge Request Form

  • Please Note: Requests to merge course sites should be made as early as possible and done before posting any assignments, grades, or materials to your courses.

Drawbacks - Reasons to Keep Course Sections Separate

  • Very Large Gradebooks can create Complexity – In recent surveys, students indicate a strong desire for more grade information to be available in Blackboard. If a course is merged, students from all merged sections will be listed in the Grade Center, making navigating the gradebook more complex and challenging. If a merged course is used, creating a Grade Center Smart View may help with this issue.
  • Managing Due Dates may not be Possible – One of the best ways to assist students in managing their course work and assignments across all of the courses they are enrolled in is for instructors to apply due dates to assignments, tests, and other graded activities. When due dates are used, reminders are automatically posted to students in Blackboard and also push notifications are available to students using the Blackboard mobile app, reminding them of deadlines. If sections have different due dates, using this feature is not possible, which can create frustration for students.
  • Navigating Discussion Boards can be Challenging – For courses that are merged, navigating large discussion boards can be complex and challenging due to the large number of students participating. In large merged courses, faculty may consider using small groups and the group discussion board tool.  You can also use the group’s email function to email specific student segments.
  • Communicating with Specific Sections can be Challenging – In a combined course, any announcements you make will be sent to all students. This can make it challenging to use this basic Blackboard feature to communicate with specific sections. An announcement following up on one particular class session or communicating due date changes to one particular section will be seen by all students, leading to possible confusion. In merged courses, if small groups have been set up for each section, the Blackboard group email function can be used to target message students.
  • Managing Unique Content for each Section can be more Complex – If your site has multiple items with unique information (such as due dates, class cancellations, or other particulars) that should only be seen by one section, instructors may need to make multiple copies of items, use separate folders, or use advanced Blackboard features such as “adaptive release” to help separate the content delivery.
  • Exiting a Merged Course with Grades can create Concern – Merged Blackboard courses can not be separated once course work has been submitted.  All course work, student assignment submissions, and grades will not follow back to the original un-merged course.

Benefits - The Value of Course Merges

  • One Site to Post Content - Some instructors prefer to combine multiple sections into a single merged Blackboard course for which to post content. Course materials need only be posted once for all enrolled students to see, rather than posting to each separate course site. 

    For a course that is mainly focused as a way to deliver content, or as file repository, merging works very well. If, however, instructors intend to use assignment, grading, and due date features, along with communication tools such as discussion boards, journals, wikis and groups, many instructors find merged courses to be challenging to manage. 

    As a general rule, GVSU's Online Education Council recommends online and hybrid class sizes of 20 - 30 students to ensure effective student-to-faculty contact and to provide high-touch and a personalized learner experience.
    • Tips for Managing Content in Multiple Sections - Instructors can also keep courses separate and not merged, leveraging Blackboard's built-in file and folder copy tool to quickly copy content to other sections. Tests and assignments can also be copied and there is an Export > Import tool that can be used to bring in content from other courses. In addition, a big time saver is a tool in Blackboard called Qwickly. Located on the instructor's MyBb portal page, this tool provides the ability to Post Announcements and send Email to multiple sections at a time without having them merged.
  • Staggered Hybrid/Banner Separated Sections - For courses due to COVID-19 that are staggered hybrid, that were also separated administratively in Banner, merging these sections (Section A and Section B) back into one single coursesite will result in a "typical" Blackboard course, whereby all students are together in a single.

Recording of Courses Notice - The Office of the Provost provides guidance for the recording of courses, including the following: "If students are part of any course-related recordings (voice and/or image), then a syllabus statement about the recording is required." It is good practice to inform students as the live session begins that the class session is being recorded.

FERPA Recording Content Form - Merged courses do not require consent if you record class meetings in Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom and want to share these recordings across the merged sections. However, student consent is necessary if the recording is going to be shared with students in other sections. GVSU faculty and staff can obtain consent to record class meetings by using the FERPA Recording Consent Form (located on the Registrar’s webpage under Student Forms). If the recording is instructor-only (and doesn't contain any student information such as name, voice, image) then student consent is not necessary and those recordings can be used in multiple sections.