My university uses a virtual learning and course management system called Blackboard, which houses all of the assignments and information about my classes, whether they meet virtually or in-person. While it’s great to have all of the information I could possibly need to access all in one place, it can get overwhelming to look at or difficult to find things, so I prefer to customize Blackboard so that I can easily access what I need and not have to worry about staring at a wall of text. Here are nine ways that I customize Blackboard as a student with low vision.
After I log in, I’m taken to the Blackboard homepage where there is lots of university information organized into modules. However, some of the ways that modules are arranged make no sense to me, or put information that I don’t need at the top of the screen. As a result, I prefer to reorder and rearrange modules on the Blackboard homepage so that my most-used modules are towards the top and take up a large portion of the screen. While select modules are locked from being moved (such as announcements), users can click and drag different modules around the screen to move them to a new location, or use the keyboard accessible reordering menu to move modules to different rows or columns, which is located next to the “Personalize Page” option.
One of my favorite ways that I customize my Blackboard homepage is by adding relevant modules that I use often. Many of my friends are often surprised to find out that they can get a notepad module for writing quick notes, or that there’s a way to get updates on campus construction. The exact modules that Blackboard offers vary from college to college.
Some cool modules that I use include:
It’s easy to get carried away with adding new modules and to forget the original goal of making Blackboard less cluttered and easier to see. Luckily, most modules can be collapsed or removed with no issues!
To collapse a module, click on the small triangle next to the module name, which should say something like “collapse notes module.” Once that button is clicked, the module name will only be visible, and not the content inside. The module can be reopened at any time by clicking on the same small triangle. I tend to collapse modules that I can’t remove, but don’t necessarily need to look at.
While not all modules can be closed or removed, users can close a module and remove it from the screen by hovering over the module title and clicking the X button, which is next to the “open in new window” option. However, this does not permanently delete a module, so any information saved there can be accessed again by adding the module to the homepage again.
Instead of having a bunch of modules on one page, I prefer to use the MyTab page as a place for additional modules that I can customize further. For me, MyTab currently has a notepad, calculator, and research links so I can easily access information for my assignments. I also used to have a virtual bookshelf for when I had lab textbooks that were difficult to access, but I don’t use that anymore.
While it’s great to have access to previous term and class websites, most of the time my professors close/delete the course websites at the end of the semester, leaving a link I can’t access. I’ve also had a small handful of professors who don’t use Blackboard at all. Students can configure what classes show up in their dashboard by clicking the settings button within the Course List module and checking/unchecking the course and term names.
Within the Course List module, I can add up to 5 custom website links for accessing courses that are hosted on another website, or websites I visit often for my classes. For example, I have a link to my favorite online IDE so that I can easily open it in a new tab and work with code alongside the view of my course. Users can add links by going to the settings for the Course List module (which is done by clicking the settings button within the module) and scrolling down to “Edit list of courses on other systems.”
One of my professors loved to put a ton of information in the course menu, which I found somewhat difficult to read with large text. Instead of trying to magnify a relatively small amount of information on the page, I prefer to open the course menu in a new window, so that all of the information fits on the screen and is easier to magnify. It’s worth noting that whatever is selected will open within the new window as well.
To display the course menu in a new window, click the folder icon at the top of the sidebar, which should say something like “Display course menu in a window.”
Did you know that you can change your Blackboard homepage to have a custom color palette? I use the Summer palette since the light orange color goes well with the black bold text of the modules. Users can choose a custom color palette by selecting the “Personalize page” option on the home screen and choosing a color palette, though this will not change the color palette for courses- that’s set by professors.
People who use high contrast displays or inverted screens may benefit from adding high contrast settings that override the custom Blackboard color palettes. High contrast settings can be enabled in Blackboard by clicking on the student name at the top of the screen, clicking settings, and then clicking “High contrast setting.” I found that this makes Blackboard a bit easier to see when I am using the Windows 10 high contrast setting.
I love the fact that I am able to customize Blackboard for my own needs as a student with low vision who takes a large amount of virtual classes. While I can’t say that Blackboard is my all-time favorite website, it is definitely one that I access several times a day, so being able to find relevant information quickly is very important so that I can stay on top of my classes. I hope that these tips for ways to customize Blackboard for students are helpful for other college students as well!
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated September 2023; original post published January 2020.
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