What is a course cartridge? To understand the answer to this question, we should first probably make sure you know what the term “Blackboard” means. No, I’m not referring to that large, rectangular-shaped board that Instructors utilize in class. I am referring to the web-based course management software that Pace uses to facilitate on-line teaching. Many faculty are now utilizing “Blackboard” as a means of putting their course content online, either as a supplement to their “Face-to Face” classes or as a completely virtual experience where student and professor interact, but never physically meet each other.
So how is this all done? First, an Instructor contacts the CIT department and requests a course “shell”. This “shell” is where all the course content (document, assignments, communication, etc.) will reside. Once a shell is created, the Instructor is free to upload any material to the shell they please. Many faculty have pre-existing material, such as Word documents, HTML files, and relevant web links that they incorporate into their course shells. In addition to their own material, there are other resources available to them for use. This is where we learn about Course Cartridges.
Course Cartridges are comprehensive collections of publisher-created content available for import into Blackboard 5 Instructor-designed course shells. Content in Course Cartridges includes slides, documents, quiz banks, lists of relevant links, and other materials. Although some of these materials are currently available via CD-ROM and diskette, Course Cartridges place all the material in one easily accessed, already Web-enabled location.
By using Course Cartridges, instructors gain access to complete sets of teaching tools provided by academic publishers. In one central location, instructors can find relevant, publisher-created materials. Once the materials are downloaded to the Blackboard course Web site, instructors are free to customize the content by adding and deleting materials as needed to correlate with specific topics covered in the classroom. Course cartridges are not intended, nor should they be used to "drive" a course. Instructors should use them as a supplement to their courses and as a resource similar to that of a textbook. Course Cartridges can serve as supplements to already existing online courses or provide an excellent starting point for faculty who are just beginning to develop online teaching strategies.
Instructors download Course Cartridges from the Course Cartridge Repository and install cartridges into their Blackboard course shells during the course creation process. After the instructor enters the "Access Key" provided by the publisher of the Course Cartridge, the Blackboard 5 software automatically downloads and installs the Course Cartridge into the course Web site. Please be advised that Course Cartridges must be purchased through the respective publishing company, and not through the University or Blackboard.
Course Cartridges include tools to help students prepare for class and do outside research like syllabi, study guides, quiz banks, and links to relevant Web sites. Supplementing traditional texts and lectures with Course Cartridge materials offers students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the course material by employing a variety of pedagogical styles.
In all fairness to my findings on Course Cartridges, I did encounter some negative feedback which I feel obliged to pass on. One individual who attempted to use a course cartridge claims to have encountered a series of miscommunications and countless misguided procedures in order to implement a course cartridge in Blackboard. Without all the facts concerning this particular situation, keep in mind that this may have been an isolated incident.
Finally, I have included some links below that may be beneficial for those interested in learning more about Course Cartridges. Feel free to contact me, Joe Seijo, at firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions about Course Cartridges or Blackboard, and I also welcome any feedback you may have on these products as well.
Blackboard Course Cartridge Catalog
Frequently Asked Questions
Course Cartridge Demos(Go here, click on "courses" and then select a discipline)