Course Development

Course Tips


Welcome Your Students

We all like to feel welcome and comfortable. A simple but sincere welcome letter or video can start your students off feeling great about the course and their professor. In your welcome information, include a comfortable amount of personal information about yourself. You might include family details, hobbies, or pets. Also, consider sharing professional information such as degrees, experience, and why you love teaching the course.

If you are making a video, don't try to make it perfect or feel it must be highly produced. Often the most simple and impromptu videos are the best received. If you need help with creating and sharing a video, contact Online@JSU for assistance.

Welcome Letter Tips

Create a Start Here Module

When your students first enter your course in Blackboard, it may not be as clear to them where to begin as it is to you. A common (and increasingly expected) practice is to create a Start Here Module. This module may contain all sorts of course information, but it at least contains the most important first steps for your students to take in your course. Other ideas to stress in a Start Here Module include: course policies, navigation and organization, course schedule, and your syllabus. Feel free to adopt or adapt the following samples of typical Start Here Module information. Be sure to locate your Start Here Module Prominently within the left navigation menu within Blackboard.

Sample Start Here Module Information

Accessibility Statement

Attendance Verification Requirements

Communication Statement

Course Delivery Statement

Course Time Line

Getting Help Information

Grading Information

Office Hours and Contact Information

Required Technology Statement

Technology Policies

Welcome Letter Tips

Create Pathways

As the instructor and designer of a course, you know details, understand goals and plans, and have a good sense of the big picture. Your students, however, come to your course with very little knowledge of the content and the directions you want them to take. Consider how you might create clear pathways through your course to enhance student learning and success. Any two courses may have entirely different pathways. The appropriate way to approach creating pathways is a function of the content, your students, and your own needs as the instructor. The most important thing for you to do in creating pathways is to take on the personae of your students and imagine their experience the first day they enter your course. Your course should be built such that it leads the students to the right places. In Blackboard, you have many options to customize your course pathways to better suit your needs.

Related Blackboard Tutorials

Content Areas and Course Menu

Course Tool Availability

Create Course Areas for Content

Create Content in a Course Area

Edit and Manage Course Areas and Content

Link to Tools in a Course Area

Turn Off Unneeded Tools

Other Resources

Five Tips for Better Online Course Navigation

How Five Web Design Principles Boost Student Learning in an Online Course

Organizing Your Online Course (How should I name my modules?)

White Space – A perfect Option For Improving Usability In Web Designs

Adhere to Accessibility Standards

Federal guidelines require that all online content be accessible to all students upon publication. Creating full accessible content can be a challenge, but you can take basic initial steps to greatly improve the accessibility of your online content. One area to be careful with is color and contrast for your text and backgrounds. Proper contrast and color choices will improve the aesthetic look and the readability of your content for users with low visibility. Another important area to focus upon is creating tagging for your written content. These tags enable users using screen readers to more efficiently navigate your content.

Accessibility Resources

Check list for Visual and Organizational Design

Contrast checker

National Standards for Quality Online Courses

W3C Standards at a Glance (ADA compliance)

Proper Standards-Compliant Color Use in Web Design

Going Online or Blended

Online Course Design, Review, & Evaluation - (NOTE:  This process is under revision as part of our transition from Blackboard to Canvas.  New information will be provided soon.  Meanwhile, please see our Canvas Up page for ongoing information regarding our LMS transition.)  Suspended Process For Reference Only - As requested by faculty, an Instructional Designer is enrolled in Blackboard courses to review instructional techniques and activities, and provide structured feedback to the instructor. These reviews are based on the standards outlined in the Standards for Exemplary Distance Education Courses policy and use the Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric. The course review form is available for download and use by individual faculty, colleges, and departments.  Alternatively, and also by faculty request, an Instructional Designer attends an on-campus class meeting(s) to review instructional techniques and activities, and to provide structured feedback to the instructor; this may be especially helpful when planning to place a program/course online.

Moving Traditional Courses or Programs Online - As requested by departments that are considering placing new courses or an entire program online, consultation and/or training designed to meet departmental needs is available.

General Checklist for Teaching Online - General outline for preparing to teach online, as well as a to-do list for managing courses.

Teaching Blended Courses - Provides a brief overview, examples, and benefits of supplementing traditional courses with educational technology.

Course Capture & Podcasting - Capturing, production, and/or distribution of original content is offered to JSU's faculty as an instructional supplement to both traditional and fully online courses. Helpful coaching, tips, and best practices for recording are provided to faculty by Online@JSU staff prior to a recording session. The recorded video/audio is then edited, if necessary, by Online@JSU staff and can be made available to students through a variety of distribution methods.

Assistance with Development of Materials - Our staff are skilled in the use of a variety of development tools/resources and are here to assist.

Course Procedures

Blackboard Course Enrollment Merge - Faculty often have multiple sections of the same course, or cross-listed courses, but prefer to only manage those sections in one Blackboard course. Online@JSU can configure Blackboard courses for this purpose prior to terms beginning.

Blackboard Course Copy - Re-use of certain content from term to term is part of the typical course preparation process for faculty. These step-by-step instructions provide important details for instructors wanting to complete this process themselves. Included are instructions for requesting assistance from Online@JSU.

Blackboard Quotas - Contractual obligations require us to maintain reasonable storage limitations on course directories and other content areas.

Faculty Beginning of Term Procedures for Blackboard Courses - A few important steps to ensure courses are ready for students.

Faculty End of Term Procedures for Blackboard Courses - Closing out a term involves some important steps.  Some faculty may also need to accommodate special circumstances related to students receiving Incomplete grades.

Exam Proctoring - There are numerous options for enhancing overall test security in online courses. In addition to assessment design considerations and the use of various testing options in Blackboard, instructors might wish to use a proctoring service.

Instructional Tools

Use this index to help find a free or low cost tool to fit your need. The suggestions here are those known to be effective and reliable, but other options may exist too. If none of these tools fit your need, give us a call or email for more assistance.




DVD Conversion


Image Editing


PowerPoint Conversion for Online

PowerPoint Alternatives


Sound Editing

Screen Sharing

Streaming/Storing Multimedia


Saving Time and Energy

Screen Capture (images)

Screen Recording

Testing and Assessments

Video Conversion

Video Lectures

Video Editing




Certified Online Instructor Course (COI)

JSU offers two tracks to earn JSU certification in online teaching. Track 1 is for instructors new to, or inexperienced with, teaching online. Track 2 is for instructors with experience in teaching online.

To find out more information and to apply, please go to the JSU Certified Online Instructor page.

Faculty Development

To further enhance teaching and learning at JSU, the Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology offers numerous faculty-development opportunities through the Faculty Commons, JSU’s new center for exceptional teaching and learning. Whether teaching in the traditional classroom or online, the Faculty Commons assists faculty members in planning and implementing the latest, most engaging, student-centered educational strategies and associated technologies.