Recently I was asked by PACKT Publishing to review the book ‘Blackboard Essentials for Teachers’ by William Rice. After four years supporting university lecturers with Blackboard I thought this was a good opportunity as I am frequently asked if there are any useful books about Blackboard available. I was interested to see how this book would deal with the complex, multifaceted nature of Blackboard and guide users to get the most out of the software.
As the book’s title suggests, it describes the essential features you need to teach and deliver a course in Blackboard. The book is set out in a logical series of chapters that walk you through Blackboard’s many features, from organizing pages in your course, through to adding content and using discussion boards to assess students.
- Chapter 1: The Blackboard Experience
- Chapter 2: Organizing a Course with Pages and Learning Modules
- Chapter 3: Adding Static Material to a Course
- Chapter 4: Discussion Boards
- Chapter 5: Blogs and Wikis
- Chapter 6: Assignments
- Chapter 7: Testing Students
- Chapter 8: Working with Groups
- Chapter 9: Communicating with Students Using E-mails, Messages and Announcements
- Chapter 10: Using Collaborate/CourseSites Live
- Chapter 11: Grading Students
The book does a fantastic job of covering a wide range of Blackboard features in a clear logical manner. There are many helpful screenshots and useful tips scattered throughout. Whole chapters are dedicated to using Discussion Boards and Blogs and Wikis to get students engaged with a course and contributing their thoughts and ideas. However, I felt the chapter on the Grade Centre could have been more in-depth as the Grade Centre is one of the key features of Blackboard, in my opinion.
William Rice has included a chapter explaining Blackboard Collaborate, Blackboard’s Web Conferencing solution (very similar to Otago Connect). Blackboard Collaborate is not used at the University of Otago, which means I’m not able to comment in any depth.
Published in July 2012 this book appears to focus on Blackboard version 9.1 Service Pack 7/8. Since then Blackboard has had a couple of updates which have introduced new features that are not covered in this edition, but much of the information is still relevant.
Who should read this book?
I recommend this book to anyone just starting out with Blackboard who needs a clear and straightforward overview for many of the key features of the platform. It would be nice to see a future edition of book for the ‘power users’ of Blackboard featuring more on the Grade Centre and advanced content management.
Reviewed by: Kimberley Johnston and Matthew Smart