Internal Training for Staff for Blackboard Content System Management

person using laptop
  • Responsibilities: Instructional Design, Educational Technology
  • Target Audience: Staff
  • Tools Used: Zoom
  • Budget: N/A, internal project
  • Client: University of Illinois College of Medicine
  • Year: 2021

Overview

At the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), we use the learning management system, Blackboard. The university pays for storage space. I am on the LMS Governance Board for the university and we have deduced that many people across the university do not know how to use the content system that is built into Blackboard. I completed a comprehensive and systematic review of all of the courses for the college of medicine to determine overall course file size. Unfortunately, the college of med courses were some of the largest at the university. It turned out that many coordinators and faculty did not understand or know that there is a content system within Blackboard. What they would do is re-upload documents over and over, which ultimately made the course sites massive in file size. There were situations also when they assumed when the unlinked a document within the system, it was deleted from the back end, which is not how it works.

Process

The file linked below will give you a visual representation of the process of selecting files within the Blackboard content system to recycle. It is in .tiff format. Therefore, the size of the file is around 7 mb and scales up and down more efficiently.

Action Map

Initially, I worked with the UIC Teaching Solutions group to determine the amount of space the content in our college tends to use. Once we had a good idea of how much space each course used, I went through each one and used the 360º tool within Blackboard, to remove files that has been duplicated (sometimes many times) to reduce the size of our courses. In turn, this helped the university keep overall costs down.

I did some training sessions for our staff at UIC College of Medicine (UICOM) in spring 2021 on how to use the content storage system within Blackboard more effectively. By doing this, they are able to help us keep our sizes down to an acceptable limit. This ~45 minute meeting recording explains how we took action to reduce our storage to a more manageable level.

Results and Takeaways

Even after doing this training with our coordinators, it is still up to me in my role as director of instructional design for the college to ensure we are maintaining a reasonable content system size. The staff is overwhelmed and we are chronically understaffed. Otherwise I would have requested that they keep up with the content system and weeding unused files. After sharing with Technology Solutions what we have been doing to reduce the size of our courses, they were very appreciative.

This project is important for a lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is to help the university keep costs low and to help our internal staff understand how to use the content system so they avoid re-uploading content which causes bloat.

Redesigning UICOM Phase 2 Curriculum

The University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM) is currently underway in redesigning the curriculum from the ground up. Phase 2 of the curriculum at UICOM involves what is typically known as the 3rd year of medical school (M3) and required / optional clerkships to complete.

  • Responsibilities: Instructional Design, Educational Technology
  • Target Audience: Staff (and ultimate students)
  • Tools Used: LucidChart, Blackboard
  • Budget: N/A, internal project
  • Client: University of Illinois College of Medicine
  • Year: 2019-ongoing

The clerkships on each campus have typically run very independent of each other in many ways. For example, the Peoria campus clerkships had not previously used Blackboard, the learning management system (LMS) at UICOM, while the Chicago and Rockford campus clerkships use it. Another example, each clerkship on the Rockford and Chicago campuses used a separate Blackboard shell to house content. In keeping with the style and design of Phase 1 where all curricular content is housed within one Blackboard shell, there are three shells for Phase 2, one for each of the campuses, and all clerkships are housed within it. This is a departure from how it has been done in the past, and a presented some challenges to organize content.

Prototype

Here are some examples of how I used a product called Lucidchart to diagram the existing curriculum layout in Blackboard for each clerkship, and how it might look in the new design.

LucidChart for Ob/Gyn Clerkship in Chicago

The beige boxes represent the existing curriculum and specific items that are visible to students.

The coral colored boxes represent the existing curriculum and specific items that are not visible to students.

The blue boxes represent the proposed curriculum layout.

Chicago Campus
Here are some of the mockups used in redesigning the Chicago campus clerkships.

Results and Takeaways

The final product was put into production. This project is an example of systematic instructional design. I used the systematic action mapping approach with a focus on the actions that staff need to perform to create content for clerkship students. By using a systematic instructional design, I helped to promote better decision making for our staff and ease of use for students.