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Blackboard Aesthetics and Customization

Blackboard is a great education tool. It allows instructors to place course content online for student to access at any place and any time with the proper internet connection.  Many online courses have been developed and the idea of a college education changed because students no longer need to be in a physical location. Online courses have developed from a self-paced online course where students are presented readings, assignments, and maybe multimedia and are expected to follow the syllabus in order to be successful.  This idea is basically a face-to-face course without the face-to-face.  Now, courses are developed to take into account interaction with both the instructor and fellow classmates.  This idea gets at a constructivist argument to online learning where knowledge is constructed and negotiated between people rather than the banking transaction from book to memory. However, one issue that has always bugged me on some level is how the course looked. So in today’s post, I want to take about aesthetics.

Aesthetics are important in an online context. How important are they? If you took an advertising approach, you realize that you only have a few moments to captures someone’s attention before they move on – despite whether your site has good information on it. If there is not any motivation to stay on the site, then people will move on to what they believe “bigger, and better things”.  How a website looks is just as important as what is in the website. It conveys a type of credibility that is not immediately acknowledged.

Some things to think about your Blackboard site are:

  • Font Type and Size
  • Uses of Image
  • Adding Video
  • Modifying icons
  • Color
  • Etc.

For example, how many of you are frustrated with how the font looks on your Blackboard site? Whether you think the font is too small or there is not enough space in between each line and paragraph, this easily changed by adding some styling to your HTML.

Proper Paragraph Spacing in Blackboard

Here is a brief tutorial on how you can change your course site:

Let’s say you have these paragraphs:

Welcome to Communication Studies 110, Fundamentals of Effective Speaking and Listening. This is a course in basic public speaking. Our course is somewhat different because it is an online course. This means that we will not meet in class, your lectures are online, and you will perform your speech using a webcam. The course is divided in week-by-week segments. Please check your Blackboard site every couple days. I will try to send announcements each week to help you keep on target in the class. Listen to each chapter lecture and read the assigned chapters in the book. If you have questions or concerns e-mail me, call me, or just stop by the office to visit.

In our first speaking assignment I hope to learn something about each of you, so I will tell you something about me.

I have been teaching at UMKC for 17 years. I teach courses in

  • Public Speaking
  • Advanced Public Speaking
  • Public Speaking for Professionals

Additionally, I have taught Communication Theory, Organizational Communication and Interpersonal Communication. I also serve as the Principal Undergraduate Advisor for the Department of Communication Studies.

I am originally from Texas. I attended the University of Texas, Baylor University, and the University of Kansas.

My passion is my dogs. I have two dogs, Max and Abigail. Max is a sheepdog and is also a therapy animal and Abigail is a little Maltese. Because Max is a therapy animal sometimes he comes to school with me. In fact, he was in a research study to see if the presence of a therapy animal can help to reduce moderate to severe anxiety in the basic public speaking class.

For those of you with high speech anxiety, try having your pet in the same room when you give your speech. It may help calm you down.

I hope each of you will enjoy this class, have fun and learn something about public speaking. Please allow me to help you and be your public speaking coach.

Here is what it looks like without proper formatting:

02

 

In editing mode, here are the steps you take to better format your paragraphs:

01

Once in HTML mode, the text background will be yellow. You will also see lots of code that you may or may not understand. The HTML that you see helps format the look of the text. For example:

<b>HTML</b>

Will turn HTML into:

HTML

In order to modify the look of your paragraph, add the following script to the top of the textbox:

<script>

p {

margin-bottom: 1em !important;

}

</script>

03

Let me explain the different parts so it makes a little more sense. The <script> </script> acts as a box to hold your text formatting. It will not be seen on screen, and we do not want people to see this. It just tells the web browser to make my paragraph look like this.

The next is the p. The p represents paragraph. So when you have a paragraph, you would use this tag to mark it as a paragraph in HTML. Whatever is in the curly braces { } will tell the web browser to format the paragraph base on these specifications.

The only modification I have is margin-bottom. Pretend that there is an invisible box around the paragraph. Outside the box’s border is called the margin. Space can be added around the border. There is a top, left, right, and bottom. Margin-bottom tells the web browser to add space at the bottom of each paragraph.

The value I am using is 1em. You can use different labels including px (pixels), cm (centimeters), % (percent), etc. The reason why I use em is because that is the default size of the font on the screen. So when I say 1 em, I am telling the computer to add 1 em of space in between my paragraph.

Finally I have the !important, which tells the computer to privilege this style over others. If you do not have the !important, than it will not work.

Finally end the modification with a semi-colon (;). That way, you may add more modifications after it if you wish. It separates the modifications from each other.

Look at it once you modify the CSS:

02

Looks much better, doesn’t it?

Go explore the web for more styling tips and stay tune for more helpful tutorials on how you can modify your Blackboard course site.

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