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Using Common Blackboard Tools in Non-Traditional Ways

The Blackboard Learning Management system offers a variety of tools that help instructors manage the process of delivering instruction within an online course.  Some of these functions are more commonly used such as discussion boards, groups, and the assignment feature, but what about the rest?  What other functionality do some of the other Blackboard tools offer and what are some ways it which they can be used?  Within this article we will explore the use of one of these tools, the Journal tool, and offer a few ways in which it can be used within your online course in non-traditional ways.

Blackboard Journal Tool: What is it and how does it work?

The Blackboard Journal tool offers the ability for students to self reflect or communicate privately with their course instructor.  It can be used as a way for students to gather their thoughts, progress, notes, and observations of the course material.  This tool allows the instructor to have the ability to keep student journals as “private” or made to be “public” for others to view and comment.  Journals can also be graded or solely used as another means of communication between the student and instructor.

Traditional Uses of the Blackboard Journal Tool

Some traditional uses of the Journal Tool have been used for individual student projects such as writing assignment revisions with direct instructor feedback or student input/opinion on the revision of an assessment or project evaluation.  From a student’s standpoint,  the tool has also been used as a place in which they can create and store their notes on course material from week to week.

Using the Blackboard Journal Tool in Non Traditional Ways

There are many benefits of the traditional uses of the Blackboard Journal tool for both the instructor and student but how can this tool also be utilized in other ways that offer a slight twist from it’s original design?  Below are a few unique ways in which the Journal Tool could be used within your online course:

Ticket Out the Door

Objective:  To evaluate and reflect on weekly course content/material.

  1. The instructor creates a Journal page for each week titled “Ticket Out the Door.”
  2. Be sure to choose the option to “permit course users to view journal” so that each weekly “Ticket Out the Door” journal page is public and all students have the ability to view and comment.
  3. At the end of each week students are instructed to participate in a quick 3-2-1 end of the week evaluation.  The evaluation questions that students are asked to respond to consist of the following:
    • Name 3 things you have learned from this week/unit’s content
    • List 2 things that were muddled or you did not quite understand
    • Share 1 “A-ha” moment you experienced during this week/unit

Student Created “Questions for Further Thought”

Objective:  To construct reflective questions based on weekly course content/material.

  1. Near the end of each week ask students to create 1 problem based question that was derived from the content covered during that week.
  2. From each submitted question the instructor chooses 1 to post on the course “Journal Page” at the beginning of the upcoming week.
  3. This serves as the “Questions for further thought” for students to continue to reflect upon, share their thoughts, comments, and connect previous course material to the upcoming week’s content.

Human Scavenger Hunt  

Objective:  To introduce peers amongst each other and encourage the sharing of information.

  1. During the first week of the course the instructor places students into 3 groups and assigns ⅓ to Journal 1, ⅓ to Journal 2, and ⅓ to Journal 3 (click here to view example questions for Scavenger Hunt Journals 1, 2, & 3).
  2. Post each set of Journal questions as a “Scavenger Hunt – Journal” page in which students can then review their assigned “Scavenger Hunt” questions and respond to the each that apply to them by writing their name and any additional information they would like to share with the class.
  3. Be sure to “permit course users to view journal” for each “Scavenger Hunt – Journal” page so that they are accessible to the entire class and students can freely view all scavenger hunt questions and peer responses.
  4. Near the end of the course’s first week create a class “Scavenger Hunt Journal – Reflection” page. This allows students to have an opportunity to reflect on the activity as a whole and share any additional thoughtful remarks about what they have learned or connection they have made with their peers.


Best Practice: Benefits of Reflective Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2015.

Gibbs, J. (2001). Tribes: A new way of learning and being together. Windsor, CA: Center Source Systems.