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Maxine Armstrong's Design Narrative: workshop to demonstrate how to set-up a Blackboard module

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Maxine Armstrong
31 March 2013


I am a Distance Learning Designer with a University supporting postgraduate and continuing professional development courses. My role in this activity was as an instructor and demonstrator.


The programme leader asked for my help in assisting her team to become more familiar with Blackboard, the virtual learning environment (VLE)  that my university has used for a number of years. Previously I had been responsible for setting up all the Blackboard shells to retain a measure of consistency between them. I suggested we use my office, which has got 4 workstations and an interactive whiteboard, to hold a workshop and we agreed a time which was convenient for everyone involved. The academic team consisted of five module leaders and I was familiar with all of them as I have supported them for a couple of years.


I was trying to ensure that each module leader could independently set-up their own module shells as had been requested. My success would depend on how confident they were in setting up their own modules.


The session was to last an hour, so for the first 20 minutes I demonstrated the Blackboard shell on the whiteboard and went through each stage while they made notes and referred to a set of guidelines that I had produced. They then used the workstations for the remaining time to set-up their owns shells and I was able to answer their questions. For the last 10 minutes I returned to the whiteboard to demonstrate how to make their modules available to the students.

Although I was aware of how anxious they were in using the VLE technology I was surprised how little they knew as we have been using it a number of years. I had to explain in very simple terms and ensure that each stage was explicitly demonstrated.


As expected each of the team members who attended the workshop were able to set up all their modules for the current cohort therefore my objectives were met initially. I sent the guidelines to the team members who did not attend and saw them at a later date to cover the specific points that they had difficulty with.

I was surprised though that by the following cohort they had forgotten much and I saw them all individually to go remind them about certain points.


I was made aware how shallow learning can be without reinforcement.

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CompendiumLD learning design

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Dave Martin
9:22am 2 April 2013

Fascinating Maxine, both your conclusion and also where you write 'I was surprised how little they knew as we have been using it a number of years. I had to explain in very simple terms and ensure that each stage was explicitly demonstrated.'

I think this last is a very important consideration for any group of learners, that we must not assume they have achieved the necessary level of competence with a frequently used technology that is required to go further. It can be easy as a teacher or trainer to forget how far we personally have come with our use of a particular technology or way of working.

Avril sweeney
4:09pm 2 April 2013

HI Maxine, I read your design narrative and I can understand where you are coming from.  I like your idea of setting up a workshop to help learners become familiar with blackboard and to discuss requirements and get engagement.  I find at work even the most experienced person using technology is nervous about learning something new using technology.  . I agree with your reflection point 'I was made aware how 'shallow learning' can be without reinforcement'.  I found with my IM design narrative that you have to show  people  the benefit to them of using the  technology and spend time with them to make sure that they understand how useful it can be if they spend the time to get to know something new about the technology like I did?

Joe Monaghan
3:41am 6 April 2013

Hi Maxine, I like this narrative as you painted a very vivid picture of the training event. I like also how it is clear you have taken stock of the learners' anxieties/perspectives. Joe

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