I use Blackboard, every semester, with the following format (i.e. the tabs on the left side of screen):
Announcements: post information about political science events, news, and class changes / reminders.
Syllabus: post the syllabus by itself. Reopen it at every class to point out the schedule. Online classes or hybrids (half online and half face-to-face) should have a tab below syllabus which shows weekly activities (i.e. readings, quizzes, videos, Wimba lectures, etc.). Be sure syllabus is saved as a “pdf” or saved as “rtf” (rich text format). Students that do not have Word may have a difficult time opening Word documents.
Class Chat: [i.e. Discussion Board] Create weekly threads for the students to comment on at will. Treads may be about current events, major speeches, class lecture topics “to be continued,” etc. This provides an outlet opportunity for “chatters” (i.e., the students who always have something to say).
Content: Post the primary documents, when possible, that you talk about in lecture (for further reading), especially the documents which are part of the in-class cooperative learning workshops (see “Cooperative Learning” Method link on Teaching Tab).
Essay Guidelines: Provide the rubric you will use to grade their essays. See my “Sample Syllabus” for an example of a rubric for the essays. Indeed, remember to analyze all of the essays yourself (create a 1-2 page answer) and make them available to the students after the essay deadline has passed. Conversely, you do not use “your analysis” to grade them, rather the rules of the rubric; but you do instruct students to compare your analysis to what they wrote–as a teaching / learning device.
Turn in Essay: Students must turn-in essay assignments to “Safe Assign” (in Blackboard). This program: (1) checks for plagiarism (provides content analysis with links to plagiarism source), (2) allows me to download and read the document, (3) allows me to post comments in the grade center, (4) allows me to post their grade, (5) makes downloading all grades to Excel easy.
Take Quiz: My students take 10 quizzes over the semester (20 questions). Students have 2-3 days to complete the quiz; recommend 2-unlimited attempts. The content of the quiz is taken from (1) the books, but mainly from the (2) lectures. Indeed, the last 2-3 questions could be reminders, important class notes, or even humor. For instance, I might have the following True / False questions: Since your final essay is due next week, you should take the prof. up on his “I will review your essay” session this Wednesday at the local coffee shop.” Or, “If your do not turn in the VAIL completion sheet with your essay, you will be docked 20 / 100 points.” And, “it’s probably a good idea to take your paper to the writing center a week before your essay is due.”
Take Final Exam: If you copy and paste questions from the textbook’s test bank, I recommend copying and pasting into Notepad, and then copying and pasting into Blackboard. This will strip the copy of all the extra baggage, and your test will look professional. For example, I might use the best 10 questions from every quiz (with respect to what I focused on in class). In Blackboard, it’s easy to create a “Final Exam” by simply choosing 100 questions from your 200 “Take Quiz” bank of questions!
PowerPoints: 1/3rd are the take-away “bullet points” with thesis in title, 1/3rd of the slides are images (relating the idea–even cartoons, 1/3rd with review / idea expansion / real world example. This last 1/3rd may also use primary source examples. Post all your presentations for the students.