May the Course Be With You

Blog Post created by mtalalay on Sep 30, 2019

Making Blackboard Training Fun for Teaching Assistants


Each year at Johns Hopkins, we have a training day for graduate teaching assistants.  In 30 minutes, always right before lunch, my presentation is meant to capture all things Blackboard for this group of more than 300 students.  They have disparate backgrounds, experience, and interest in using Blackboard; the instructors determine how much interaction each one will have with the online course content.  Some will be grading and only grading.  Others create and deliver content.  Just for fun, the timing is just days before the courses start, making it challenging to manage at a very hectic time.


I have always been a proponent of 'use it or lose it' when it comes to all skills, so I decided to set up two Blackboard organization sites to provide a pre-training experience for the TAs as well as a place where they can try out their skills in a safe space where there are no undergraduates populated into the Blackboard site.


I wanted to make the sight engaging and fun, and also modular so the TAs and their instructors could determine which parts they would need.  We have a natural fit with some pop culture because our IDs at Johns Hopkins are called JHED IDs (JH Enterprise Directory).  Hello, Star Wars!  All things are directed to the JHEDIs in training with the goal to become JHEDI masters.  Some students really embraced the theme and others had some pretty clear disdain.  The students who completed the training were overwhelmingly positive.




I added other social media (twitter feeds, a Star Wars Spotify playlist, and other social media feeds) to keep it interesting.  The students made their way through the appropriate modules for their course role and completed quizzes to demonstrate acumen.  In the next evolution of this training, I plan to make a more rigorous certificate to demonstrate higher-level skills; this cert would be portable but likely within JHU only.


Just to mention, the grad students were enrolled in the main training site as participants but I created a second training site (called the JHEDI Dojo) where they were all enrolled as leaders so they could practice their skills. 


I'd love to see how you tackle tricky training challenges!