Blackboard 101: The Basics of Online Courses

Throughout the past four years, I have taken around twenty, give or take a few, online courses.  My first two years of college, I took one or two online courses per semester.  These past two years, I have taken all online courses, except for two courses I took this past fall here at Northern as a transient student.


There’s a lot to keep in mind when considering online classes.  Online classes are great for people with busy schedules, who may be unable to meet on campus on certain dates and times. Most online instructors supply students with a syllabus or some sort of weekly schedule, so in my experience, I have known what to expect and what is due weeks in advance. Due dates for assignments vary, but most courses I take have the due date set at the end of the week (or Sunday) around midnight.

There are also negative aspects concerning the flexibility of online classes.  This may seem crazy, but it can be very easy to “forget” a course.  As with all other courses, I highly recommend keeping a planner or some sort of written reminder near by to write down assignment information.  If you take one online course, it can be very easy to forget it amongst all of the on-campus work.  And if you take all online courses, without having set meeting times, it can be easy to look over a course or two while focusing too much attention on other courses.

It’s also important to be prepared for the type of assignments you will be completing, as well as how you will be completing them.  A big part of all online courses is the online discussion. Most instructors will post a discussion topic/question at some point during the week, and students have a week to post their responses, as well as respond to each other. Most discussions are worth 5-10 points per week; the points definitely do add up.

As with any other course, there are tests in online courses.  The types of tests vary. Some instructors will require essay questions answered in Word.  You are usually then required to submit the test via an “Assignments” link or else through Blackboard e-mail. Other tests will be completely on Blackboard through some sort of “Assessments” link.  These tests can be anything from multiple choice to essay questions.

Here at Northern, I’ve taken online courses that require students to complete tests in the LRC.  This way what you bring into the LRC is monitored, and instructors can be sure that you will not be able to sneak any textbooks or notes in.

Online courses require responsibility, as with any other course.  The difference is that no one tells you when to “attend” class, so you have to set these times for yourself.

And as for maneuvering Blackboard, my best advice would be to take time to get to know the site.  Don’t be afraid to click links on the course home page; do a bit of exploring.  If you have issues with the site or accessing your course, ask for help.  E-mail your instructor through regular (non Blackboard) e-mail, or even look online for possible solutions.  If you Google “Blackboard for coursework” or some similar phrase, there are thousands upon thousands of links available to you.

Do not forget that when first logging into Blackboard, you will have to use your campus e-mail as the username, and your password will be your student number!



  1. This is wonderful blog. I love it.

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