Course Development Path to Success

Weekly Update~Summer 2014 Course Development

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March 24 -- March 30, 2014

Weekly Update #7: Personalize your Course

Over the past six weeks we have discussed course development strategies, including the construction of an effective syllabus, choosing course materials, and creating pedagogically sound assessments. In Week 3 we explored the subject of course design in terms of building a course structure that is logical and sequential. This week we will discuss some easy ways that you can customize and increase the visual appeal of your online course, strategies that pertain, largely, to course design. Next week we will discuss ways to personalize the delivery of the course, by incorporating a sense of “instructor presence.”

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Simple ways to personalize your online course


1. Customize your menu options: All UBlearns courses include a group of default menu items. The main course menu can be customized so that you are only utilizing items that are pertinent to your course. For easy navigation it is recommended that your menu be as streamlined as possible. Here is an image of GSE ONLINE's suggested course menu. To make changes to your course menu please see view the UBlearns directions for customizing the menu options for your course.


2. Select the Course Entry Point: The Course Entry Point is the first area users see upon entering your course. The default course entry point is the Home Page and contains modules that alert students to activity in your course. You can change the entry point by selecting an available area from the drop-down list. Available entry points are all the areas appearing on the course menu.

View these detailed directions for modifying the course entry point. GSE ONLINE recommends the use of the Announcements page for all online courses, so as to ensure consistency across our programs.


3. Create a custom banner: A course banner is Blackboard’s name for an image that appears at the top of the entry page (such as the Announcements Page), the first page students see in your course. Blackboard will accept any web-based image type (files with extensions .gif, .jpg, .png, etc.).


4. Make your presence known: It is important that your students know that a real person is teaching the course. The students should have opportunities to see your face and hear your voice. The extent to which this is done is up to the instructor, but a few basic items are suggested:

  • Post a brief biography and a photograph of yourself somewhere in the course (such as in an introduction, in an ice-breaker forum, or along with your contact information).
  • Include at least one video of yourself (a “welcome” video, an introduction to a new unit, etc.)
  • Provide multiple options for contact (email, virtual office hours, office phone number, etc.)


Each of these items will be discussed more thoroughly next week when we explore the characteristics of an effective online instructor.


If you need assistance with any of these options please contact GSE's instructional designer, Anne Reed (annereed@buffalo.edu/ 716-645-1357).

Further Reading

Faculty Focus: Seven Easy Ways to Personalize Your Online Course

Techniques to help you create a sense of social presence in her online courses.


Inside Higher Ed: Humanizing Your Online Class
A webinar that shares examples of what students identify as valuable characteristics of a "humanized" online class and identifies key tips and strategies for harnessing the potential of emerging technologies to make your online class personal, meaningful, and memorable.

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities

Workshop- Blackboard Collaborate: The Basics and Beyond
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 • 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
381 Baldy Hall, North Campus

Coffee Chat- What’s your Story? Planning your course through story-boarding and concept mapping
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 • 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
381Baldy Hall, North Campus
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Access all previous Path to Success e-Newsletters:

Weekly Update #1: Getting Started
Weekly Update #2: GSE Course Template and Syllabus
Weekly Update #3: Focus on Course Design
Weekly Update #4: Course Materials
Weekly Update #5: Assignments and Assessments
Weekly Update #6: Focus on Community

To opt out of these Weekly Updates please send an email to gseonline@buffalo.edu