How to Create a Visual Entry Point (Landing Page) for Blackboard
A "Course Entry" or "Landing Page" is the first view that a visitor "lands" upon, when entering a Blackboard course. This article describes how an instructor can make an attractive and visual Course Entry page for a course. It will explain how to create a new page, embed a chosen image as the content of that page, and finally, set that content as the Course Entry point.
Would you like to make an attractive visual Course Entry or "Landing" page for your Blackboard course such as the one shown below? If YES, then read on...
In the Appendices, a number of image examples are provided to inspire and fire up your imagination. Various image editors were used to create the images. Many of these editors have easily modifiable templates already available. In addition, a selected (but not definitive) list of image editor/creator software is provided (examples from both free and premium packages). So bring that imagination, and let us begin!
"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will." - George Bernard Shaw
What is a Course Entry/Landing Page?
A "Course Entry" point is the first page/content item that users will experience when enter. In Blackboard, it may also be referred to as the "Course Entry" page. By default, and unless previously customised, Blackboard sets the Announcements page as the Course Entry page. The Course Entry/Landing page can be customised to reflect whichever page/content you wish.
Benefits to using a Visual Course Entry Page
Purposeful visual content when paired with relevant text can have a dramatic impact on communicating a meaning/context.
- Have you ever heard the saying "A Picture Paints a Thousand Words"?
- Humans are visual by nature; process visual information prior to text information.
- Can assist with initial impressions, and enhance the Course site.
- Course site appears more 'professional', welcoming, and up-to-date.
- Incorporate School/College branding/style/colours/tone
Consider that your School/College may already have a graphic designed page from the prospectus or course leaflet which could be adapted for this purpose.
To be able to create a new page, editing permission within a Blackboard Learn course is required. This is typically provided via the Instructor or Teaching Assistant role. The customisations discussed in this article do not require System Administrator access and are designed to be non-technical, and requiring little or no coding experience.
Graphic design skills are not essential to producing a quality visual course entry page! Many software tools come pre-loaded with adaptable templates for a range of design requirements.
Image Dimensions, and Format
The following are suggestions for Blackboard Course Entry page image dimensions and format:
- The image can be created in any image editor.
- The exported format should be either .JPEG, .PNG (larger than JPEG files, but of higher quality, and the background is also transparent).
- The image can be in landscape or portrait format.
- Blackboard recommends ~800 px as the maximum width for the Content Area (for viewing on variety of devices).
- Image resolution should be 150 ppi/dpi (for web-only images).
- The final filesize should be no greater than 2MB (to help with download speeds).
- Enable a Compress File Size if your chosen image editor allows.
When placed, and if necessary, the chosen image can be manually reduced to fit the page Content Area.
At any time, if you wish to view what the student will see, select Enter Student Preview, or turn "Edit Mode" to Off .
When Edit Mode is "OFF", you may see a reference to Alignments appear at the top of the new page. If you do not wish to have the page associated with an Alignments goal, you can simply ignore this option. The Alignments option has no effect when not associated with Goals. In this instance, the Alignments option will not be visible to students.
To keep your Blackboard course files organised, you may choose to upload the image that you are going to use on your landing page, to your course "Files" folder. You may prefer to keep all your image files under a folder called "Images".
Create a New Blank Page
Create a new page to "house" your landing page. Name it as per your requirements (e.g. Syllabus, Course Overview, etc). For the purpose of this article, the new page is going to house the "Syllabus" content.
- Add a new page by selecting the "Plus" (+) icon on the Blackboard course menu.
- From the dropdown, select Blank Page.
- Name your new page (e.g. New Content Area, Syllabus etc)
- Tick the Available to Users box, to ensure students can view your new page, and click Submit.
Add Chosen Image to the New Page
- Scroll down the page until you get to the CONTENT section.
- To add your image, and using the text editor area, click the Add Content (+) icon.
- On the Add Content menu that opens choose:
Insert Local Files if you have NOT Preloaded your image.
- Browse your local computer files, select your chosen image, and click Open.
Insert Course Files if you HAVE Preloaded your image
- Browse the Content Collection, select your chosen image, and click Submit.
- Insert Local Files if you have NOT Preloaded your image.
- Your image should now be visible in the text editor area. To manually adjust the image size, use the handles on the corners of the image and drag inwards until you achieve a preferred size.
- Optional Extra: Remove the Whitespace from the top of the Image
- Optional Extra: Hide the Title from the Blackboard Page
Attachments: Use the Browse Local Files or Browse Course Files buttons to upload attachments.
- In the final view, attachments to the page will appear above the image itself.
- Permit Users to View this Content: Select Yes to permit students to view this content.
- Track Number of Views: Select Yes to track the number of times that students have accessed the link.
- Select Date and Time Restrictions: Use the date selectors to specify a time period in which the item would be visible to students.
- When finished, click Submit to save the page.
Your final view of the [Syllabus] page should now look something like the images shown at the top of this article.
Make the [Syllabus] page the "Entry Point" of the Course
By default, the Blackboard Course Entry/Landing page (the first content that a visitor to your course will see) is set to Announcements. To make your new [Syllabus] page the Entry Point of your Blackboard course, review Setting the Course Entry Page.
In the text editor view, you may have noticed some whitespace between the top of your image and the editor toolbar. This can be easily removed if you wish.
- Ensuring the Blackboard Edit Mode is "ON", click your [Syllabus] page on the Course Menu. Scroll down to the Content section.
- On the text editor toolbar, click on the Source Code (< >) icon.
- Remove the following code from the front and end sections, only. Leave the "p" and "img" information. Click Save.
- On returning to the main Blackboard form, click Submit.
FRONT SECTION: <br /><br />, END SECTION: <br /><br />
Your page should now look something like the screenshot shown below:
As this title hack is not one of the Blackboard Learn’s tools, the code is subject to change. Blackboard may intermittently update its HTML settings. To avoid any errors in your display, ensure you are always using the latest JS code.
The grey title bar that appears at the top of each page takes up valuable page real-estate. It duplicates information that is also available from the breadcrumb trail that is located above it, and information contained within your image. Removing the title bar helps to declutter the Blackboard interface and removes any unnecessary gaps, enabling the content itself to be flush with the top of the content area.
Examples of Graphical Packages and Image Sites
There are many and varied graphical or graphic-enabled packages available; in both open-source and premium. Below are a list of examples of some of those. While this is not a definitive list, it might help to get you started.
- Canva is a graphic design platform that can help you create presentations, social media graphics, and visual content like posters, logos, and banners. There are Free and Premium options.
- Pixlr is a free online editor that is simple and easy-to use software for editing photos.
- PhotoScape is an all-in-one photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance images.
- Piktochart can help you create infographics, social media graphics, presentations, reports, flyers, and posters.
- Krita is a powerful vector graphics creator with a heavy focus on digital painting and illustration. It is mainly used to design comic books. It is free software with advanced templates and features.
- Gimp is an open-source graphics design and photo editing package. This tool is the same as Adobe Photoshop layout, and is considered an open-source counterpoint to Photoshop.
- Inkscape is much like Adobe Illustrator (and is considered a counterpoint) and Corel Draw. It is available free to everyone.
- Dia is similar to Inkscape and GIMP. It is mainly used to create electronic circuit type networks, flowcharts, etc.
- Pencil2D is a drawing and animation software; it is enabled to design hand-drawn animations using bitmap and vector graphics.
There are many suppliers of 'stock image' available online. However, most of these are commercial and require payment for use. However, in parallel to this, there are also sites that provide access to freely licensed (CC0 - or public domain) photographs/illustrations/multimedia design, whose contributing community use it as a means to showcase their designs, and provide the work free-for-use.
- Unsplash Over 2 million free high-resolution images brought to you by the worlds most generous community of photographers.
- Pixabay empowers creators and protects the creative community. All content on Pixabay can be used for free for commercial and noncommercial use across print and digital, except in the cases mentioned in "What is not allowed". Attribution is not required. You can make modifications to content from Pixabay.
- Pexels.com All photos and videos on Pexels are free to use. Attribution is not required. Giving credit to the photographer or Pexels is not necessary but always appreciated. You can modify the photos and videos from Pexels. Be creative and edit them as you like.
- Dan Harding: Learning Technology Officer, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Keele University
- Andrew Abhrahamson: Educational Technologies Engineer, Office of Educational Technology and Innovation, Boston University
- Dr Iain Mac Labhrainn: Director of CELT, NUI Galway, Ireland