RSS or “Really Simple Syndication” is a means of having new and up-to-date news or information sent directly to you on a regular basis. Rather than you having to go to a website, the information is sent to you, when you ‘subscribe’ to an RSS feed. It’s like having your Sunday paper delivered to your letterbox instead of going to the newsagents to collect it.
How do RSS Feeds Work?
Many web sites today have RSS feeds – subscription links – which can send you information from the webpage instead of you having to visit it. You also display the results of an RSS feed on a web page or in Blackboard. This is like having a newspaper or journal delivered to the coffee area, where everyone can read it.
Using RSS Feeds in Blackboard
Because RSS feeds exist on many websites, it is almost certain that there will be something of use for your students. Adding a relevant RSS feed not only brings up-to-the-minute information to the students, but it also provides a dynamic area in your Blackboard module that requires no maintenance.
Find an RSS Feed
Many discipline-focussed websites such as the Engineer Source also have RSS feeds (http://www.theengineer.co.uk). Other academic feeds can be found on your HEA Subject Centre websites. However RSS feeds do not have to come from professional or commercial sources. They are also produced by blogs or other social media such as twitter streams and these may be by public bodies or private individuals (for example http://twitter.com/Schwarzenegger for management!). Because so many different types of websites produce RSS feeds, the possibilities are endless!
Simply browsing the web will probably find you some RSS feeds to start with. For instance the BBC has many news feeds, divided by topic, just click on the RSS icon on the news page to subscribe. A web site that has an RSS feed will typically display small –usually orange– icons saying RSS or XML or showing little waves—see images below.
Grab the Feed
Right-click on the feed icon/link, and Copy Shortcut (if you left-click by accident and see a screen full of junk, that’s ok, just copy the web address from your browser’s URL field. It will look like any other web address, except the last part may end in .xml, .rss, .rdf, .atom, or even other strange names).
To Add the RSS Feed to a Module in Blackboard
- Go to the module where you wish to add the RSS feed and ensure that Edit Mode is ON
- Select a content area e.g. Learning Materials
- Select RSS Feed from the Tools menu. It is possible to add an RSS link very quickly, using the pre-set defaults.
- Enter a Title and paste in the copied link.
- Expand the Advanced options to select how much information from the feed is shown in Blackboard and where the links open. See below for some explanations.
6. Expand Styling to choose a colour theme for the feed (you might colour-code different types of feed).
7. Click Submit.