I am happy to report that the upgraded version of Blackboard has made great strides in improving the discussion board features. These features should save you time, create more options for you and your students, enable remote notification of new content, simplify grading (if needed), and help you better analyze the success of your discussion forums. Here are 10 new features in the Blackboard discussion board that you should really like:
- Reading discussion forum posts are a lot easier. You can view all posts in the Forum view, which lists all of your unread posts. A forum title in bold indicates that there are unread posts. Quite handy, huh?
- Grading! Yes, it is official. You can now grade forums or threads. Once you set up grading in a forum or thread, an entry in the gradebook (column) is automatically created for you. And when you are ready to grade each student’s work, the posts are listed below the grading feature. That is very handy too.
- Rating of posts: Students can rate each other’s posts, with all of the ratings averaged, up to 5 stars. It’s an informal way of saying whether a post is good or not and might even help you in deciding upon a score for your graded forums or threads.
- Setting dates of forums: Get organized ahead of time! By being able to set up all discussion forums and then setting the dates when they will begin and end, you can be on top of your course discussion forums. Now, students won’t be sending you those reminder emails about a discussion forum that isn’t posted that is listed on your syllabus. No egg on your face anymore!
- Let your students subscribe to forums: You can enable subscription of either a link to a new forum posting or the content of the posting to a student’s email. The student can decide by clicking a “subscribe” button and unsubscribe at any time. You might tell your students who “forget” to visit your course site that they can select this feature to remind them when new stuff is posted. (You will need to enable the subscription function when you set up the discussion forum.)
- Search feature: Yes, you can now search for any content on your discussion forums. This is a welcome feature.
- Tagging: You can create your custom tags for discussion forums. This is another powerful feature that allows you to then search for your tags. For instance, if you wanted to tag a post as “excellent,” (and this would only show up for you, not for the post writer), you could always search for this tag later on. Students can also construct their personal tagging system. (Tags are just another word for “keyword” or category, a way that you can index your stuff. I put tags on this blog, for instance. See the tag cloud on the right-hand navigation bar? Those are tags that I created. One of the tags for this posting is “Blackboard TechTips.” Clever, I know.)
- Group forums: Now, when you create a group in Blackboard and enable discussion forums for that group, they are automatically created in the course site. That saves you even more time.
- Draft option: If you click “Save” instead of “Submit,” your post is saved as a draft. Others can’t read it until you submit it. You and your students could be working on a post online, but not be quite ready to submit it. This option helps students stay on top of their work and encourages them to come back to submit their post.
- Copy forums: You can easily copy a forum from one of your courses to another. Another time saver.
So there you have it . . . 10 new features in the Blackboard discussion board that you and your students should like.