Technology Survey Results from Fall 2012

Regarding our technology survey from September 2012,  we appreciate the instructors who took the time to respond to the two questions: (1) Are there any tools or features that you would like to see integrated with Black board, ECU’s Learning Management System? What additional support resources can we provide? (2) Please share any additional thoughts on how we can improve and enhance your overall Blackboard experience.

We value your comments, ideas, and suggestions and they are often the catalyst for our research of new technology products. The survey responses from faculty included many comments and questions about specific tools, features, and functionalities within Blackboard. It would be too lengthy to include a suggestion, solution, or comment to each response; however, since there were commonalities among the responses, we’ll mention a few areas, plus provide some resources where you will find instructions, and/or examples.

Blackboard’s Discussion Board

Some common questions about the discussion board included email notification, viewing all posts, and grading. When a discussion forum is created, there is a setting to “allow subscriptions.” If that box is checked, the instructor (and all users) will receive an email when a thread/post is added. Switching between list view and tree view provides a different look, as does choosing “Collect” to view specific forums and posts, plus print them (when desired). Regarding switching back and forth between the discussion board and the grade center, the most efficient solution is to add points to the discussion forum. Once points are added, instructors can grade all posts right from the Discussion Board. If you did not set it up that way, you can still “edit” the discussion forum and add points.

Blackboard’s Grade Center

The Grade Center, although not a Microsoft Excel product, is a rich tool with spreadsheet capabilities. Weighting grades at the beginning of the semester is a timesaver, thanks to categories that can be linked with assessments. That way, no matter how many assignments you add, as long as they are associated with a category already added to the weighted column, they are factored into the user’s weighted grade. We have a user-friendly instructional PDF on weighting grades on our Blackboard blog. Also on our blog, is a PDF on grade book housekeeping that is good to refer to when a total column does not add up, points or grade weighting looks “off,” or you can’t find a column that a student sees.

Creating a “My Grades” menu item gives students an alternate way to navigate to their grade center. It is a tool, so it can also be accessed through Course Tools. The grade center can be downloaded to Excel using the “Work Offline” button; however, please be cognizant of student data on your work or home computer. We have FERPA guidelines on our Blackboard blog. After you download your grade book to Excel and do some work, you can also upload that file back into the Bb grade book.

By adding gradable items (assignments, interactive tools), and assigning points to each item, a column is auto-created in the grade book. No need to manually create columns unless you are giving paper assignments or quizzes, or adding a column for participation, for example.

Blackboard’s Interface and General Functions

Blackboard’s interface allows users to format content from a rich WYSIWYG text box, e.g., font choices, sizes, colors, hyperlinks, images, lists, to name a few. The formatting text box is available for announcements, instructions, addition of content, etc. A user-friendly function is to create menu items/content areas from the front page, directly pointing to content and/or assessment areas, reducing the number of clicks. Course design/organization is discussed in our Blackboard Overview sessions.

Blackboard’s Integration with Turning Point

Audience response systems, or clickers, offer an option for student engagement and active learning. Clickers are designed to actively engage students, gauge students’ level of understanding of the material presented, and provide prompt feedback. Student responses are anonymous to other students. TurningPoint AnyWhere is for instructors who want to create instant polling questions from content on web pages, PDFs, Microsoft Office products, whiteboards, and more. For instructors who want to create and save quizzes and create interactive presentations in a PowerPoint format for current and future classes, they will use TurningPoint software. Once students have purchased and registered their TurningPoint clickers, instructors with TurningPoint software can easily upload grades from polled responses into their Blackboard courses.Both TurningPoint and TurningPoint AnyWhere downloads are free and compatible with PC or Mac. TurningTechnologies has an array of resources and videos to help decide which software is appropriate for different needs in higher education. Go to or see the list of resources below.

 Blackboard’s Integration with Joyner Library

ITCS and Joyner library are currently working collaboratively on both faculty and staff Blackboard modules.  These modules will highlight faculty and student support information and other timely information. Please see our list of resources below for more information.

Collaborate for Web Conferencing

In the fall of 2012, ITCS began to pilot a platform named Collaborate, which is a Blackboard building block.  Collaborate is a web-conferencing tool that directly integrates within the Blackboard interface.  Like Centra, Collaborate offers live video, chat, application sharing and playback of any recorded event. The pilot will continue in the spring of 2013 and slots are available along with group training sessions. If you are interested in learning more about this platform feel free to contact John Southworth, or see the resource list below.