Jump-Starting Course Development, Using the Lehman Online Course Template

What is the most efficient way to develop my course in Blackboard? How can I design a class site that looks professional and easy to navigate without spending too much time and effort? What is the most user-friendly course environment that can support my students’ learning? 

Developing a Blackboard class site, whether to complement a face to face course, or to provide for a fully online or hybrid course, can be a time-consuming and daunting project. It involves the careful selection of tools and features, some degree of design and technical expertise, and repetitive procedures to ensure consistency of layout. 

The Lehman Online Course Template is a simple means to dramatically streamline this development process and reduce the time needed to prepare class sites. The template provides a clear, visually pleasing, and consistent layout which can then be customized and tweaked to meet faculty and student preferences.

View the recording Jump-starting Course Development Using the Lehman Online Course Template webinar co-hosted by Kenneth Weisshaar, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy.

You can also view the webinar presentation slides and read the overview of the webinar below - prepared by Susan Ko, Faculty Development Consultant, Office of Online Education.

The Why

Time involved in developing a course is a major concern for faculty, and forethought and preparation are needed to devise a well integrated layout and to build out features in Blackboard. The benefits of using the Lehman Online Course Template not only include saving time on the otherwise repetitive processes involved in developing a course but also that it allows those without specialized instructional design expertise or those with basic Blackboard skills to more effectively create a coherent and easily navigable course site in Blackboard. The Lehman Online Course Template provides a consistent pattern and structure that is repeated throughout the course site, but one that can be customized to suit the needs of a particular course, allowing for the addition or elimination of elements and tools, for changes in naming conventions, and the reorganization or reordering of sections as desired.

The benefits for students are many. A consistent pattern from week to week and clearly navigable class site makes it easy from the very start of class to find everything needed for the course. Students are clear about expectations, and know what to do each week, and in which order to do it. The “overview” and “to do” summary portion of the template for each unit of the course allows students to quickly size up and proceed with each week’s tasks. Some departments have adopted a customized version of the template, and while the look and feel will still vary from class to class, students moving between courses that all use the template will discern a recognizable pattern, making it easier to get up and running in each new class.

The How

The Course Planning Document, available in both portrait and landscape (tabular) versions, is a flexible document that can be used for both online and hybrid courses, and to design either a new course or redesign an existing one. It can then serve as an outline for building out a course site in Blackboard.

Developed by Lehman’s Office of Online Education, and organized in modular format, the Lehman Online Course Template provides a learning roadmap for students, and ensures consistency throughout a course. A “Start Here” section clearly guides students through the introductory aspects of the course, ensuring a strong start and making sure students are on a firm footing. The modular structure which can be divided into modules, weeks, or units, is readily visible on the course site menu and the repeated pattern in each module makes it easy for students to find everything needed for a particular week--an overview of the week, all types of content, all categories of learning activities, and assignment links, quizzes, or other assessments.

The Faculty Experience

Dr. Kenneth Weisshaar, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy, shared his experience using the Lehman Online Course Template. His initial teaching assignment gave him a mere three weeks to develop two sections of his Business Ethics course, but after scoping out syllabi and textbooks, and some assistance from IT and the Office of Online Education, he began to outline his course, using the Course Planning Document to fill in the important details of his class plan.

A modular design via the Online Course Template followed and was key to an organized and coherent class site in Blackboard. Each unit of his class featured an Overview with learning objectives, a clear “Schedule of Activities” list, and content consisting of readings and his own recorded lectures, along with activities of case discussion and a quiz. He also provided a brief recorded module “wrap up” for each unit. Student feedback on his course showed that students appreciated the clarity of the course organization, along with the regular opportunities provided for interaction with others.


To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact the Office of Online Education at online.education@lehman.cuny.edu