Review: CourseSites by Blackboard

Tim Wagner, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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CourseSites by Blackboard is a free course management system (CMS) that is very similar to the institutional Blackboard commonly found in universities. Individual teachers can have up to five active CourseSites at any time. Teachers create an account with CourseSites and then build a course. Templates and tutorials are available for a number of different course types and content tools, or a teacher can create their own course from scratch. All courses are password protected and teachers can invite students via email or enroll them directly into the course on their own.


The usability of Coursesites is probably best described in relation to other free learning management systems. Creating and running a course in CourseSites is more involved than in the popular Edmodo CMS. However, there are more tools available in CourseSites and, where the format of Edmodo is primarily social; CourseSites allows for courses to be structured in a number of different ways. At the other end of the free CMS spectrum, CourseSites does not have the same functionality or storage space (each CourseSite is restricted to 500MB total storage) as Moodle, but it also does not require as much computer skill or need to be installed on a server. CourseSites is completely web-based.

The 500MB per course storage limit is a possible limitation of CourseSites. CourseSites allows users to upload almost any file type for use in a course. However, with larger video or audio files the 500 MB limit is quickly reached. This is especially true if courses are structured to last for an entire semester or an academic year. At present there is no option to buy additional storage space.

One way to create courses in CourseSites that utilize a wide range of media, but stay under the rather small 500 MB limit, is to store the media outside of CourseSites in places like Google Drive, Dropbox or Youtube and then insert links within CoureSites to the outside content. This process makes the initial course setup a bit more tedious, but it allows for media rich courses that are under the 500 MB CourseSites storage limit. The look of the course is no different whether the media is directly uploaded to CourseSites or linked to outside storage. Once the course is created and all of the links are inserted, CouseSites has a tool that lets users check to make sure all of the links to outside content are active.

Possible Applications

I am currently using CourseSites for a professional development course in sheltered English instruction with a group of teachers in Vietnam. So far the course has been going very well and there haven’t been any major concerns with usability by the teachers. Being able to interact with students and teachers on the other side of the planet is a fantastic application for CourseSites. Additionally, CourseSites provides a great way to experiment with online teaching and learning and it could be used to integrate technology into classroom-based courses.
Tim Wagner is a doctoral student in Workforce Education and Development at Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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