Better Blackboard Help: Where your users need it, when they want it.

Watch the "trailer" recorded live at TLC online


It has never been more important to provide localised, central, relevant, and up to date support and messaging within our Blackboard environments. This presentation is a practical guide to how you can use freely available tools to provide contextual, just in time support sign-posting staff and students to local support resources from within Blackboard Learn (original experience).

As Blackboard administrators, learning designers, technologists, programme leads, and support staff, we often wish we could be alongside our users to say, “well in these circumstances we recommend using the feature in this way”, or “you could use that tool, but there’s a much more effective tool over there”, right when the intervention would be most relevant and timely. In current times we may also wish to highlight newly provisioned services and tools such as Blackboard Collaborate.

Blackboard allows us to customise the language pack, but have you noticed that most users will just skim past plain text and get straight into clicking and submitting? Even when a user follows a help link, they may reach a generic help page rather than the bespoke institution-specific guidance that has been carefully curated to provide the most appropriate help, contextualised for an institution's Managed Learning Environment?

In this session I will demonstrate a new approach for the Original Blackboard Learn Experience to provide proactive assistance to staff and students at the right time and in the right place. At the University of Southampton, this method resulted in significantly higher engagement with institutional support resources and has the potential to reduce support calls and encourage better Blackboard usage.

I will show you how you can recreate this approach using free and open-source software. By the end of the session you will be eager to get back to work and start implementing the techniques I will show you.

Video of full presentation

I hope to create subtitles when I have time, apologies for the quality of the audio - I had to make do with the kit I have available to me at home.

Skip direct to different sections:

Welcome: 0:00
Agenda: 5:16
Supporting website: 5:41
About me: 6:25
In scope: 8:04
Background: 8:40
Difficulty with getting engagement with institutional support resources: 27:33
Feature requests that provided inspiration: 33:57
About JSHack: 38:49
Finding treasure: 41:32
"Better Blackboard Help" Examples: 46:14
European Language examples: 48:53
How to make "Better Blackboard Help" step by step: 51:12
URL Restriction: 1:06:00
Styling: 1:17:13
More uses of JSHack: 1:29:20
Results: 1:37:54
Conclusion: 1:40:30
Next Steps / Developments: 1:42:48
Thanks: 1:44:15
Final Thoughts and Goodbye: 1:45:57

View the slides on SlideShare

Presentation files

Useful Links

Useful files

  • help.png - the graphic I am using in my current help boxes.
  • YB.css - the small CSS file I have been using for my current help boxes.
  • BetterBbHelp-exampleHTML.txt - example HTML to edit and paste when making your own help boxes.

Example packages

JS Hack