Blackboard: To Merge or not to Merge your Courses

Faculty Course Merger Considerations: There are some advantages and disadvantages to merging courses in Blackboard. For online or hybrid courses, GVSU's Online Education Council recommends class sizes of 20 - 30 to ensure effective student-to-faculty contact and to provide high-touch and a personalized experience for students. For a course that is mainly focused on data or file repository merging works very well. If faculty intend to use assignment and grading features, alongside communication tools (such as discussion boards, journals, wikis, and groups) they find the combined sections to be difficult to manage.

Reasons to Keep Course Sections Separate

  • Very Large Gradebooks 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 grade book more complex and challenging. Creating a 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 to use due dates. Reminders are included in Blackboard and also push notifications are available to students using the Blackboard mobile app.
    • Due dates may be challenging to set if multiple sections are combined into a single course site, reducing the ability for students to rely on due dates. In other words, if the merged sections meet on different dates at different times, organizing tests or assignment due dates may not be possible. Without extra effort on your part, students will see due dates for all the different sections of your course and that may prove very confusing for them.
  • Navigating Discussion Boards can be Challenging – For courses that are merged, navigating large discussion boards can be complex and complicated due to the large number of students participating. Whenever possible, consider using small groups (discussion board tool) for large enrollments.  You can also use the group’s email function to email specific students.
  • 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 work, and grades will not follow back to the original unmerged course.
  • 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.
  • Managing Unique Content for each Section is more Complex – If your site has multiple items with information (such as due dates) that should only be seen by one section to prevent student confusion, you may need to make multiple copies of items and use advanced Blackboard features such as “adaptive release.” Doing this may end up being just as much work as maintaining separate Blackboard course sites for each section.

Tips for Managing Content and Communication without Merging Courses

Qwickly

In your MyBb portal page you have a feature called Qwickly.  It will probably be near the bottom of one of your columns.  This excellent tool allows you to Post Announcements and send Email to multiple sections at a time without having them merged.  Faculty may also use Needs Grading from this tool.

How to copy a Test during the Semester to Multiple Sections

If you want to create tests closer to the time they will be taken, you do not need to recreate that test in each of your sections. To move a test that is created in one section to another you use the Import Export option 

How to copy Content during the Semester to Multiple Sections 

Once the semester has begun you may still copy single Files and Folders to other sections This makes it easier for you to replace/redo files and folders as the semester progresses.

Quickly menu showing Course Availability, Post Announcements, Send Email, Email Instructors, and Needs Grading

Reasons to Merge Blackboard Courses

Some instructors prefer to combine multiple course sites into a single merged Blackboard course. This allows them to post materials only once for all enrolled students to see, rather than posting to each separate course site. 

Please use this form to request a course merge.

 

More Help

Please feel free to contact our eLearning Team to discuss further if merging is right for you!