KonMari, by JuJu Sprinkles

KonMari, by JuJu Sprinkles

KonMari is the Japanese Art of decluttering and tidying up.

Taking Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up as a starting point, Business eLearning in UCD School of Business had an online event we called Blackboard KonMari 'The practice of safely backing-up, clearing-out and improving the layout of your Blackboard modules'.

It was delivered as part of UCD's 2017 EDTECx programme. The event was aimed at lecturing staff taking over modules which have already existed on Blackboard, and may have accumulated lots of material, not all of it well laid out or still relevant to the module being taught. We asked participants to look at their modules and ask of each content item present:

Does it give you joy?

Before making changes to the content and layout of your module it's always a good idea to carefully backup (or archive) your course, so we first discussed how to safely backup the existing module. (Safely archiving your module)

With the module safely backed up, we looked at one of the easily over-looked areas of a Blackboard module: the files area. The files area contains all the files uploaded by all administrative users of the module, including duplicates, revisions, images, slideshows, pdfs etc. It can get very crowed here, and is likely an unorganised mess. While it's worth having a look through the content here for useful resources for re-use (subject to the permission of the module co-ordinator), this can be a good place to start asking 'does it give me joy?' (Clearing out the Files area)

Over a few terms it's likely that many assignment upload links will have been created to capture student assignment submissions. Each time an upload link is created a corresponding column is created in Grade centre (Blackboard's in-line grading system). Deleting the assignment links won't delete the Grade Centre (GC) column, so there are often legacy columns in GC than could easily be removed to help simplify the layout. Multiple GC columns can be aggregated with a calculated column, so something complex like multiple offerings of a quiz deployed at different times for different cohorts could be represented tidily by one aggregate column in GC. Clearing out old assignment links, their related GC columns, and aggregating columns where possible can help to present a clear view of grading within a module. (Cleaning up Grade Center)

Content you create or choose to keep in the module can also be improved by the application of a number of tried and true visual communication principles. Awareness of how visual hierarchy works, and how scale, contrast, and colour work in a visual scene, can be a really effective way to get students to notice the most important information first. Scaling content for it's importance, creating effective signals for selective emphasis, and being careful in the use of colour as a signal are all very important to avoid overloading students with visual clutter. (Improving design)

Finally we took some time to talk about Universal Design Principles. Universal Design can be applied in a number of ways to help layout information. We talked about the need for information to be accessible to all, regardless of disability. That is should be made available in multiple formats, or through various methods of delivery. We talked about simplicity, legibility and readability. We talked about how to make a layout more intuitive, and describable to someone who hasn't seen it. For instance, when one student asks another where to find as assignment link can it be easily explained? (Universal Design principles)


The event was delivered as a virtual classroom using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

Niall Flaherty
Business eLearning Team, 2017