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Required Content in Course Shells

Required Content in Course Shells

Introduction and Purpose

Blackboard® is the primary learning management system (LMS) of Forsyth Technical Community College (hereafter referred to as “Forsyth Tech”). The system is used for traditional, blended, hybrid, and online classes. To improve persistence, retention, and student success, faculty (full- and part-time) are required to use Blackboard in traditional courses. The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) defines traditional courses as “College curriculum or continuing education course in which 100% of the instruction is delivered face to face with the instructor and student not separated by distance.” The NCCCS further describes the format of traditional classes, stating that “this is true even when some instructional activities are conducted using web‐based technology.”

The purpose of this document is to introduce and define the required content to be included in all Blackboard course shells. To ensure compliance of these requirements, courses will be audited through a two-step process: 1) a self-evaluation that is conducted by the Instructor of Record and 2) the supervisor of the Instructor of Record. The Dean of the Center for Transformative Learning (CTL) will also assign a staff member, the Online Course Accessibility Specialist, to support both parties as part of the auditing process.

The required content to include in Blackboard course shells are listed in this section along with definitions for each requirement. This section is subject to change as more requirements may be included each semester or year. It is also important to note that all courses will be available to students for access on the first day of the semester. Therefore, it is a requirement to have all items in place by the course start date. Please contact the Learning Management Team in the CTL if there are questions about a particular requirement(s).

  1. A positive welcome message is present in the Announcements tool area in Blackboard by the course start date. Please note that this is an evolved statement from the standard welcome message used in the past. A positive welcome message is meant to create an open and welcoming learning environment. It is designed to make students feel invited. An example of a positive welcome message is as follows:

Every student brings something unique to our learning community, and I’m excited about getting to know you during the weeks ahead. I encourage you to think through your personal learning goals for this course, and I want you to know that I am your ally in achieving them!  If you have questions, concerns, or if you need assistance, please let me know! I am available, and I am happy to help! I am all in to help you succeed, and I look forward to seeing where your own effort and hard work will take you.

Welcome, and let’s get started!

  1. The course-specific syllabus is present in the Course Information content area in Blackboard by the course start date.
  2. The link to the Forsyth Tech Universal Course Policies and Procedures Web page,, is present in the Course Information content area directly under the course-specific syllabus by the course start date. The following message should precede the link to the course policies: “Click on the link to read additional information that is part of the syllabus. It must be read in conjunction with the course-specific syllabus.
  3. Instructor contact information is present under the Instructor tool area in Blackboard by the course start date. Although contact information is present in the course-specific syllabus, it is required to include contact information in the Instructor tool area as well.
  4. An assignment that requires submission into Blackboard is present by the course start date. The assignment must be created in a way that requires students to upload documents or interact with Blackboard for completion with a due date no later than the course census date. For example, use of features such as the test, survey, discussion board, assignment/safe assignment, and blog/journal function are Blackboard-driven tools that create grade columns in the Grade Center.
  5. The Grade Center is set up and ready to collect and accurately report grades in a running-total format by the course start date. To calculate grades as a running total, make sure that “Calculate as a Running Total” is set to YES. Example scenarios for what it means to “collect and report” grades are listed below. Due to the diverse ways that faculty collect grades, all methods are not included. If you need assistance with any of the following, please contact the Support Center to receive assistance or submit a ticket by visiting To view a series about the Grade Center from, click here to view.
    1. For faculty that use a weighted grade column, it must be set up with correct percentages based on categories or single assignments. The weighted column must also be set as an external grade for it to be captured by Starfish. Click here to learn about the Faculty Starfish Guidelines. You maybe asked to login to TechLink.
    2. For faculty that use the total grade column for point value, it must be set as the external grade for it to be captured by Starfish.
    3. If your grading method is not captured in Method A or B, please consult with the CTL to select the best possible method to ensure compliance in this area.

This section outlines the process to ensure compliance for including all required content within Blackboard course shells. A representative of the CTL, the Online Course Accessibility Specialist, will support program coordinators, department chairs, and directors (Health Technologies) during this process.

  1. Faculty will use the Blackboard Requirements form to certify completion of course requirements. Faculty are to include the email address of the person responsible for auditing the course to send the certified form to them.
  2. The person responsible for auditing the course will evaluate a random selection of courses to ensure compliance in collaboration with the Online Course Accessibility Specialist (if necessary).
  3. If corrections are required, the person responsible for auditing the course will work with faculty to make to make the appropriate corrections.