How To Embed
The concept of content embedding is simple - you take content that is hosted on one website and let the users interact with it on your site. It is important to understand that the content is not hosted on your site, so you won't need to worry about hosting the content with a webserver.
The power of embedding content in an LMS is that it broadens the student experience well beyond what the LMS can offer. Embedding allows:
- Richer, interactive content
- The ability to change content once and have that change pushed out to multiple courses
- Collaboration in content that most learning management systems don't offer
- Better editing functions
- Life beyond the semester
To better understand the process of embedding in Blackboard (though the philsophy is LMS agnostic), consider the following exercises.
TASK 1: Understand "Item" versus "Blank Page"
An "Item" in Blackboard displays the content on the screen that it's in whereas a "Blank Page" requires the learner to click on it before they can see the content.
The distinction is small, but has two big implications:
- With an "Item", all content - embedded or not - is visible to the instructor from all the views (Edit On, Edit Off, and Student View). This is very helpful for navigating through the course without interruptions.
- Also with an "Item", embedded content can be directly edited by the instructor.
- In your Blackboard course, create an "Item". Insert an image and some text. Before clicking "Submit", copy all the content you just created.
- Next, create a "Blank Page", and paste in the content, then hit "Submit".
- Notice the differences between the two.
TASK 2: "Add Test Student" tool
Though not part of the standard Blackboard instance, the "Add Test Student" building block is prevalent in many instances. The advantages to using the "Add Test Student" are:
- Educators can be logged in twice - once as a student, once as an instructor, and test easily.
- The "Student View" and "Edit Off" perspectives are not exactly identical (or easy to use) as the actual student perspective. Adding a test student will afford the instructor the ability to see and experience the course as a student does. Note that using this feature "Incognito" (see Task 5) makes for the best workflow.
- Go to "Course Tools" and click on "Add Test Student".
- Click the button for "Enroll Test Student".
- If asked, provide a password.
- Test the account!
TASK 3: Granular Links to Course - Targeted Email
In Blackboard, the email system is not very robust - in fact, it can be very confusing for students as it is unlike most email systems. However, there is a work-around that permits a link that will spawn an email directly to the instructor (instead of having the student scroll through the options of who to email):
- The default options for emailing are very confusing (and unnecessary) for students
- This method wil provide a direct link for emailing the course instructor(s)
- In the Course Menu, try to add a "Course Link" and click "Browse".
- In the pop-up window, scroll down to the bottom and notice if you can make a link to send email to the "Instructor Users".
- If you can, click on it - you're done!
- If you cannot, cancel the operation.
- In the Course Menu, add a Tool and select "Tools Area" - it does not matter what it is named or if it is available to students; this will be deleted in a moment.
- In the Course Menu, add a "Course Link" and click "Browse".
- In the pop-up window, scroll down to the bottom and click on "Instructor Users".
- Delete the temporary link to Tools Area.
TASK 4: Embedding Content
Embedding content is a phenomenal way to increase the interactive nature of a course. It is easy to do, requires no special equipment (like servers), and will work with almost any platform (including most instances of Blackboard, Canvas, and other learning management systems).
Many sites have content that can be embedded - just look for the "Share" or "Embed" functions. The symbols often look like this:
- Go to YouTube and find a video that is useful in a course you teach.
- Click on the "Share" button, and then look for "Embed".
- Copy the embed code.
- In Blackboard, go to the HTML view of any content (a Content Folder, an Item, a Blank Page) and paste the code in. You will most likely see a big yellow rectangle instead of the YouTube video - that's OK.
- Click "Submit" and then view the content as a student (or better yet, as a Test Student, incognito - see below).
TASK 5: Incognito
"Incognito" mode (in Chrome) is also known as "Private Browsing" or "In Private" in other browsers. It is a way for users to visit websites without remembering the history, the cache, or any logins. For instance, if a user is logged in to Blackboard in Chrome and then opens a browsing window "Incognito", they will not be logged in to Blackboard.
This is especially useful for testing:
- The Test Student account
- Any content that is embedded
- Log in to Blackboard in a normal browsing session.
- Open a browser "Incognito" by going to the menu in the browser and opening up a "New incognito window" (or "In Private" or "Private Browsing", depending on the browser.
- Log in to Blackboard with the Test Student account.
- It is possible to test the visibility/interactivity of content using this method, too - not just Blackboard
- Compare both browsing sessions.