Linking and embedding your syllabus to the LMS (Blackboard)

In a previous post about creating syllabi with Google Docs, we reviewed some of the immediate benefits, such as automatic updates to the LMS and universal compatibility across devices. Today, I want to talk more about the value of linking and embedding dynamic Google files directly into your course shell. We'll use Blackboard as a model.

Typically, I see some variation of this type of static file upload used for the syllabus:

In Blackboard, this is the result of clicking "Build Content" and selecting "File", then uploading a static Microsoft Word file from your hard drive. It is the worst possible way to post a syllabus (or any file, for that matter).

When students click this type of upload, they get the infamous pop-up bar on the bottom of the screen and a message that says: "Your download will start shortly. If it does not, click here."

Not only is this inefficient, disruptive and time-consuming, it marries you and the student to the exact version of the syllabus you posted and opens the door for all kinds of technical complaints (real or imagined):
"It wouldn't download."
"My computer can't open the file."
"My version of Word can't read the syllabus. It came out all garbled."
A Google Doc, on the other hand, is technically a website with a specific URL (think of URLs as "addresses"). The most recently edited version auto-saves and is always the version you and students see. Google Docs do not require senseless, inconvenient downloads and are compatible across all device types and browsers so long as the user has an internet connection.

You can post a Google Doc syllabus by creating a Web Link in Blackboard. Then use the HTML box within that Web Link to simultaneously embed the document into the course shell.

Here is what it looks like when you use embedded, dynamic Google Docs instead of static MS Word file uploads:

How beautiful is that?! The Table of Contents actually works, by the way. Students can click it directly within the window and jump to whatever section they need, helping to make your syllabus ADA compliant as an extra bonus.  (We'll talk about how to do that in the next syllabus post!)

Like what you see? Give it a try!

Click here to access the tutorial in a separate tab with images attached.


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