Author Archives: Sheila Tefft

Course clarity

“ I don’t use Blackboard. The students don’t like it.” How many times have I heard faculty say that?


That refrain was on my mind as I spent some time with the online course design rubrics and gained insight into my own teaching. I focused particularly on the rubric by Blackboard because I am most familiar with that tool. Blackboard use provides flexibility because the semester schedule often shifts in journalism courses. But only in thinking about Blackboard as the centerpiece for an online course have I started to view it as more than a syllabus device. Why don’t students like Blackboard? They complain that it is disjointed and annoying to use. Part of the blame lies with me, since I feel my courses have lacked clarity and I have failed to see Blackboard as a means to develop a learning community.


The online rubrics highlight a holistic approach that fuses content and presentation, learner interaction and engagement, technology use, and measurable assessment and outcomes. This week we have gained tools to start building our courses toward the goal of an online course community. We may go only part of the way through selective use of blended learning techniques. But I can see how these techniques can add clarity to my courses and help the students feel more invested in the environment and effort. I always tell my students that writing is the purest form of thinking because one needs to discern the main points to write succinctly. The same is true for writing courses. Clarity is essential to learning. Course design sets out the road ahead so students can pursue it with understanding and purpose.