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Good practices for large enrolment courses (fundamental courses)  ?

Question asked by yoleneors on Apr 26, 2017
Latest reply on Nov 7, 2018 by rh22333


I think the use case is quite common : a professor teaches (or is head of) a course which has several hundreds of students enrolled (and then although the fundamental topic lectures are with large enrollments it may or may not be complemented with smaller group classes). Usually they figure out through experience the tips and tweaks to use Blackboard and make it more practical in this context. I'd like to leverage the power of this Community to gather good practices so that we can all save time by learning from each others.

So please contribute by commenting this post, and I'll edit this initial post to update it with your tips.

You may also comment by telling the challenges that you meet in this context and we can try to figure out workarounds for those.


And I'll give it a head start now :



Grade Center

  • To make it easier to find a particular student

One issue is the Grade center shows 50 lines max (and this can't be increased because it would impact too much performance), so when looking for a particular student one ends up playing guessing games regarding on which page they'll find him.

A good practice is to have SmartViews set up to have one view per first letter of the first name. Thus it will filter the grade center. Here is a video showing how to do it (I created a smartview for students with last name starting with S : SmartView alphabet

Now I can hear you saying you don't want to do this for the 26 letters and in each of your course. The good news is, this can be implemented in the template (even when no students are enrolled) and then any course created from that template will have those smartviews pre-created. Anytime users are enrolled they'll also be added in the right smartviews.


  • To help students stay on track

When you have several hundreds students you feel you can't spend time checking on them making sure they don't fall off the wagon. The retention center is a great tool but it's tailored for VIP approach, and doesn't enable bulk actions.

One way to "industrialize"  this is create a smartview with criterias based on performance and interaction. The great thing is you can combine criterias (using the "custom" type), and thus for example you could have a filtered view of your students showing thus who didn't connect after a certain date AND have performed less than average on the mid term test : they may dropping out.

From the smartview, you can then select all (top of the column) and send an email to encourage them to connect to the LMS or reach out if they need support.


  • To spot and act on students who are underperforming

In the Grade center click the button "Manage" in the top tool bar and then grading color code : thus you'll be able to choose a color for cells where the grade is lower than the passing grade for example, and easily target those student to email them from the Grade center.


  • To Grade easily open questions in Tests

A good way to assess a large group is deploying a Test in Blackboard because it will automatically grade your 200 student's submissions. However Professors are often reluctant to having a 100% automated assessment (some aspects of learning require more than a multiple choice question). The good news is you can mix in a Test "automated" questions and open questions, thus having the best of both worlds, and an even better news is Blackboard facilitates the grading of open questions.

In the Grade center go on the contextual menu of the test and select grade questions (NOT grade attempts) then in front of your question click on the number of answers : you'll then see all answers to that question one below the other and can quickly grade each answer and give feedback. It's a great way to grade relatively to others on the same question.


  • To help Teaching Assistants grading

Create groups associated with each teaching assistant, then create smartviews using "Category and Status" types of viewes : you can select the group and "needs grading" status, so each TA will have a filtered grade center for what he has to grade.



  • Avoid student spamming each other

If you made the email tool available for students, make sure you set it so "all students" is removed, in order to avoid students spamming each other.


  • Have students helps out in Discussion Boards (and reward them)

Set a "Q&A" discussion board where students can ask questions. Enable grading so that you can see who has posted frequently, and offer extra credit for posting a set number of (helpful) responses. Students can be your first line of support for questions on material or assignments.

Also, if you have discussion boards worth points and you aren't using the Graded Discussion feature, it is well worth it!


  • Give clear guidelines for discussion board etiquette and naming

Set required guidelines for what students should write as a subject line so that discussions are easier to manage (instead of 10's or 100's of threads with the same discussion subject). Also explain them how to use the search function so they search for a similar discussion before creating a new one.


  • Manage group discussion boards without having a mess in the Grade Center

Groups make for more manageable discussions in a large class, but you unfortunately end up with duplicate columns if you have a single discussion board topic set up in multiple groups. If you use Groups for discussions, you can hide the columns from your view and create a Total column that you leave visible to add up the grades from all of the groups. Each student will only have one grade per topic, and you will only have to see one column instead of all of the hash marked columns.

You may also create a smartview dedicated to discussion board grades, so that those columns don't clutter your overall grade center (you keep only the total there) but you can have access to details in the smartview.


  • Consider if an external communication tool may be better suited to your usecases and integrated in Learn.

Axelle from Universite Paris Dauphine advises Piazza's discussion board (connected with a LTI) ( Piazza • Ask. Answer. Explore. Whenever. ) : good tool to follow questions and anwsers, to get some stats on which students are the most active and it's very easy to do some search.




  • Take advantage of item analysis insights on your Tests, even more valuable with a large number of students having taken the test

Use the Item Analysis tool to review tests for potential issues on questions. With a larger data set in a large class, this report becomes very useful and adept at finding questions where too many students got it wrong, or where the discrimination was inverted (students who did well overall missed a question). Then, use the regrading options on the test to give full credit, make a question extra credit, or accept more than one answer.


Group work

  • See which group they're part of, in the Grade Center

There are two approaches to this, one is to create a smart view for each group, thus you have access to filtered versions on the grade center for each group. The other approach is to be able to see directly in the grade center all the students and their corresponding group (this works if you don't have multiple groupe sets). The trick is that you can create columns in the grade center and put there any information you want. So once the groups' composition/enrollments is done, you must follow this process :

From the groups management page : export group memberships

From the grade center page : work offline > download ; which will export the grade center.

Then take the grade center export and add a column called "group" were you past the data fro the group membership export (make sure you have the same sort order in both files to not mix up) , you may replace the group code by the real group name (probably more practical).

Then import in the grade center (work offline > upload) . Voilà you now have a column with the group name.

You can use manage>column organization to place it where you want.




Merged courses


Facilitating Teaching Assistants' work

  • You may create course spaces dedicated to each TA (on top of the general one gathering the 100s of students)

In this course space the TA can have various degrees of autonomy. (course space created from template or not, main professor enrolled or not, role given to TA : it may be a custom role where they can add content but not remove content and the course is preloaded with general content, etc ...)


  • Specific TA roles in the main course

You can create a custom role in the main course for TAs and decide what they can do, for example a common role repartition is that TA can see hidden content, can see the grade center, but cannot add or remove content.


  • To help Teaching Assistants grading

Create groups associated with each teaching assistant, then create smartviews using "Category and Status" types of viewes : you can select the group and "needs grading" status, so each TA will have a filtered grade center for what he has to grade.


Ce message a été modifié par : Yolene ORS 8th of May