Yearly Archives: 2013

Course Copy Process

With the recent upgrade from Service Pack 7 to 9, one of the new features pertaining to the Course Copy process is a message to instructors, letting you know that the copy process is in the works or “waiting.” Please see the screenshot below. This is normal, and you will see this message before you get the email saying the course copy process is complete. At the beginning of the semester when many instructors are building their courses and doing course copies at the same time, expect a delay. Importantly, do not repeat the copy process or you will duplicate content and that will require cleanup to delete redundant content items. Log out/log in or refresh your course now and then to watch for the content to appear. Or, wait until you receive the email telling you the copy process is complete.



The Course Copy tool is available under the Control Panel in Blackboard. Go into your source (or past) course to Packages and Utilities > Course Copy. From there, you will choose your destination (or current) course and be able to choose all of the content areas and tools to be included in the copy. (Do not include Enrollments at the bottom of the page – those are enrollments from the past course.)

Do you need instructions for doing your own course copy and /or section merge? Video or PDF instructions 

Questions? Please contact: Matt Long, Cindy Bowers, or Allen Dennis

Blackboard Upgrade

Hello ECU Faculty, Staff and Students – [Blackboard is back up as of 5/13/2013, 4 pm]

You have been redirected to this page because ECU’s Blackboard system is currently down for a small upgrade.  The planned downtime window is from 5/11/13 (12:30pm) through 5/13/13 (5pm).  During this downtime anyone who attempts to access will be re directed to this blog post.

The upgrade will be a minor one for faculty and students.  To learn about the new features that you will see after the upgrade is complete  please visit this blog post. 

If you have any questions at all regarding the downtime feel free to email .  If you have any general Bb questions or other questions I would encourage you to enter a helpdesk ticket at

Summary Information

  • Blackboard will be down from 5/11 (12:30pm) – 5/13 (5pm)
  • New Service Pack 9 features are HERE
  • Questions or concerns about the upgrade?  Email


– Blackboard Support Team

Sample Blackboard Quiz Available for Use

For your use – a generic sample 5-question quiz

  • If you are interested in adding a short quiz to your Blackboard course at the beginning of the semester to determine if students can successfully take an exam in Blackboard, we have created a 5-question generic quiz. You can use the quiz “as is,” or you can edit the questions.
    • Send an email with the full Course ID to Cindy, Matt, or Allen and we’ll gladly add that quiz to your course. Once you determine if the questions are satisfactory for your purposes, then deploy/add the quiz to the appropriate content area in your course.
  • If you use LockDown Browser to give quizzes and would like a sample quiz, please follow the instructions above. (If you are unfamiliar with LockDown Browser, please see below.)

As a reminder, we offer training in Blackboard, plus we have many instructional materials for the tools and features in Blackboard.

Safe Assignment Tool

To ECU Faculty who use SafeAssign in Blackboard –

On April 8th some Blackboard customers submitted helpdesk tickets stating  that the Safe Assignment tool was slow to check student submissions.  I have done some local testing today (April 9th) and the tool seems to be working normally with speedy file checks.  Keep in mind that Safe Assignment  is a Blackboard hosted and managed tool so if submission checks do slow down we need to contact the vendor to see what can be done to fix this problem.   At times in the past Safe Assignment has slowed down during midterm and finals because of the amount of files being submitted and checked by all of Bb customers.  In recent semesters this has not been an issue.

Note: Once or twice during the semester, please check if you need to Synchronize SafeAssignment. It’s very quick: Control Panel > Course Tools > SafeAssign > SafeAssignments > if you see a yellow bar to the right of your screen that says Synchronize this Course, please do so. It simply synchronizes the papers in the course with the SafeAssign central database, ensuring the correct associations exist between the course and the central database. This is especially pertinent to courses that have been copied from semester to semester. SafeAssign is a building block added to Blackboard.

If you do notice any slowness this semester, please contact the ECU  helpdesk ASAP at or call 252-328-9866 .

Safe Assignment Links:


Blackboard 9 Service Pack 9

Upgrade Date: 5/11/2013

What you need to know: On May 11th we will be moving from Service Pack 7 to Service Pack 9. This new version of Bb affords us a small amount of new features. Blackboard will simply be down for 6-8 hours while this happens. Then, the Blackboard team will do our testing before we make Bb available for everyone. During the downtime you will be redirected to a blog post about the upgrade and the upcoming features.

Reminder:  Bb will be down on 5/11/13( Saturday)  through 5/13/13 (Monday).  Please do as much course development before the upgrade date so you are ready for the start of summer on 5/14/13.

What’s New Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 9: Blackboard Learn, Version 9.1, Service Pack 9 (SP9) includes a new look and feel that will enhance the experience for instructors, students, and administrators. Users already familiar with Bb 9.1 will be pleased with the additional functionality that SP9 offers. Download the PDF with new features.

  • New features affect Bb’s user interface, which is now more in line with today’s Web 2.0 experience.
  • Workflow functionality is improved, including course navigation, course structure, and course theme enhancements.
  • Grading features are improved to better support instructor’s efficiency in the grading process.

To learn more about a specific feature click on its corresponding link from the list provided below.

:::Vendor Support Resources:::

The next four links will take you to the Blackboard Tutorial Center on the vendor’s website: Look for SP8 or SP9 – those are the new tutorials and they pertain to the May 2013 upgrade, or are tools/features you currently use. Please disregard all “SP10″ tutorials.

>>>Working in the Course Environment

Course Environment Tutorials – Building content, Setting Permissions , Course Reports

>>>Communicating and Collaborating

Tutorials for Discussion Board, Managing Groups, Blogs, Journals, Wikis, Announcements, Scheduling

>>>Assessing Learners

The Grade Center, Tests/Surveys/Pools, The Assessment Tool, Student Performance

>>>Blackboard Instructor User Manual

:::New Features with accompanying video and/or PDF or screenshot:::

screenshotNew Action Bar Functions in

Content Area Have Been Renamed:Instead of adding tool links from the Build Content button, you can now add these links from a new action button called “TOOLS.” All tools are available. Please see the screenshot.

Simplified Options in the “Create Navigation” (+ icon) area: Simplified options now include the following: Content Area, Blank Page, Tool Link, Web Link, Course Link, Subheader and Divider.screenshot Please see the screenshot.

Course-to-Course Navigation: TUTORIALS > (VIDEO)
SP9 allows users to jump from a page or tool in one course to that same page or tool in another course! For example, instructors are able to jump from the Grade

Center of one course to another course’s Grade Center, or the Discussion Board of one course to the DB of another course. As well, students can jump from one course’s Announcements page to another. Please see the screenshot.


Course Structures: TUTORIALS > (VIDEO) (PDF)
In SP9, you can choose between a wide variety of pre-built course structures. These course structures have a predefined navigation setup, such as menu tool links and content area. They “add” to your course and never overwrite anything (e.g. a menu item you created). Basically, they will help you improve your navigation and course design setup depending on the purpose of your course. You’ll go to Control Panel / Customization / Teaching Style.

Negative Marking: TUTORIALS > (VIDEO)
Negative marking allows instructors to apply negative point values for wrong answers on test questions. This allows them to prevent (by penalty) guessing or the selection of egregiously wrong answers.

Automated Regrading: TUTORIALS > (VIDEO) (PDF)
Instructors can now fix problematic questions by simply editing the invalid question directly and having all necessary updates flow automatically to the Grade Center. For any given question, Blackboard now allows instructors to drop, give full credit, change point value, or change the correct answer. After the question has been updated, Blackboard recalculates the score of all submitted assessments that included the updated question, reflects the updates in the Grade Center, and provides notification to both the instructor and optionally to the student for all impacted submissions. Note: Instructors have the option of saving as new when editing a question in a pool. Please see the screenshot.

Needs Grading Tool Enhancement: TUTORIALS > (PDF)
Discussion Board activity can appear in Needs Grading status in the Grade Center and on the Needs Grading page. Instructors will choose how many interactions will place the item in Needs Grading status.

Activity Reports: TUTORIALS > (VIDEO)
Two new course report formats are added into the Course Reports under Evaluation on Control Panel in each Bb course site: Course Activity Overview and Student Overview for Single Course. The Course Activity Overview displays overall activity within a single course, sorted by student and date. Data includes the total and average time spent per user and the total amount of activity the user had in the course. The Student Overview for Single Course report displays an individual student’s activity within a course, sorted by date. Data includes the total overall time the student spent in the course as well as detailed information about the student’s activity.

screenshotPaste from Word Mashup:

Microsoft Office products use a proprietary form of mark up (code) that for the most part, only MS Office understands :-). As many of you know, it does not play well with Blackboard. We have installed a new “mashup” called “Paste from Word” that changes all WORD code to standard HTML. No more formatting nightmares! The Paste From Word mashup tool is accessed from the Bb textbox editor. This can be used when creating content, announcements, etc. The last button in the third row of the textbox editor contains the mashup tools. Please see the screenshot. Note: You need to make this feature available by going to Control Panel > Customization > Tool Availability > Word > Click the box to turn it on.

Adding a Textbook information to your Course: TUTORIAL > (VIDEO)
Add the ISBN number, search by title or author to provide your students with the textbook(s) you plan to use in the course. Students CANNOT purchase books thru this option. It’s only intended for informational purposes.







Additional Resources


Blackboard Course Purge from 2009,2010,2011

Every year we purge old Blackboard courses. We do so to stay within our storage goals and business policy of keeping only two years of Blackboard sites in our production system.  In a few short weeks, we will be purging the following courses (all of them) unless you submit a request to have your courses saved.

>>>>>The purge date is  March 18th, 2013  <<<<<

  • 2009 Fall semester
  • 2010 Spring semester 
  • 2010 Summer #1 semester
  • 2010 Summer #2 semester
  • 2010 Full Term Summer semester
  • 2010 Fall semester
  • 2011 Spring semester

You have 2 choices for saving your course site.

1 - Request us to save your Bb sites in Blackboard. If you choose this option you will need to list all FULL COURSE ID’s in your request submission. Here is the link to submission site

2 – Export or Archive your Bb courses offline.  This is a suggested best practices for all used Blackboard courses at the end of every semester. Make sure you save all exported or archived sites on your ECU Piratedrive.

If you’d like to export or archive your own courses, it is easy.

Export: Only course content
Archive: All course content, student interactions and gradebook data

In both an export or an archive you will be saving a .zip offline for your records. Please save these files in a secure location like Piratedrive.

  1. Go to the Control Panel in your Blackboard course, click Properties and Utilities.
  2. Click Archive course.
  3. Include Grade Center History if you want to save student work.
  4. Click Submit.
  5. Wait for an email confirming the archive process.
  6. Once you receive the email, go back to Export/Archive Course under the Control Panel. Click to download to a secure location (e.g., Pirate Drive).

Please download the one-page PDF, How to Archive Your Course for further details, including FERPA and HIPAA regulations regarding privacy. Note: The .zip file is only useful once uploaded to the Blackboard environment.

Questions? Contact Matt, Cindy, or Allen or or

Blackboard Support Email:

Blackboard Planned downtime 2/13/03 6:00am-6:15am

Downtime: Blackboard, Piratedrive and Medical Images through Centricity
: Wednesday, February 13  /  6:00am – 6:15am


The following systems will be unavailable on Wednesday morning from 6:00am till 6:15am while we perform necessary maintenance:

-Medical Images through Centricity

To check the authenticity of this e-mail:

Visit, and click on the “Help Desk” link under the “MyLinks” section on the right-hand side. This will take you to the ECU IT Help Desk page where you can review our “Announcements” section.

Need Help?
If you experience any difficulties in relation to this announcement or have any questions, please contact the ECU IT Help Desk by phone at 252-328-9866 or via the Web at

ITCS Notifications:

Computing Systems Maintenance Schedule
Please keep in mind that regular maintenance on all computing systems is performed on Sundays between the hours of 5:00 am – 12:00 pm. If there are other times that systems will be down, notification will be sent through ITCS Notifications.

Illegally downloading music, movies, and other copyrighted material via file-sharing programs can cost you your network access. You may even be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense.

University employees who violate university computer-use policies will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Student violations are misconduct under the applicable student disciplinary code. Sanctions may include revocation of access privileges in addition to other sanctions available under the regular disciplinary procedures. Visit for more information.

Follow ECU’s Student Code of Conduct, computing-use policies, copyright policies, and federal copyright laws. University Attorney Statement on Copyright:


Assessment Creation Best Practices and Information

Hello Everyone -

Below you will see a list of tutorials and best practices for both building and taking Blackboard exams.  If you ever experience any issues with students taking your Blackboard exams please report these problems asap to either Matt Long (, Cindy Bowers (, or Allen Dennis (  When reporting these issues please include the following:

  • Course ID
  • Test location and name
  • Student email ID
  • Symptoms (behavior/details, browser, PC or Mac)
If we cannot figure out the exact reason of your exam failure we will report this issue to Blackboard for more investigation and troubleshooting.

Keep in mind exam failures can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as wireless network, local computer problems, third party software running in the background, exam content (rare but does happen sometimes), and/or exam settings (see below for more information).

Test Creation Information and Best Practices

  • Assignment Tool (creates link for students) – download the PDF
  • Creating and Deploying Tests – download the PDF
  • Creating a Test From a Pool – download the PDF
  • Test-Taking Troubleshooting Tips for Instructors – download the PDF
  • Test-Taking Tips for Students – Share with Students — download the PDF
  • Respondus LockDown Browser – read the blog post for information
  • Rubrics with Assessments – download the PDF

Browser Info: Reminder: Blackboard works best using Firefox as the browser (for Macs also); please remind your students. The gradebook is especially noticeable (slow, not working properly) if you are using IE instead of Firefox. See Blackboard’s recommended browsers.

Blackboard Test/Exam Failure Avoidance: Best Practices

The suggestions below come directly from Blackboard technical support. Exams with a high rate of failure may have some of the following characteristics:

  • Avoid creating large exams involving many and/or complex questions and presented all at once.
    • 50 questions is a lot of questions.  SOLUTION – break up larger exams into smaller exams taken in a sequence vs. one large exam.
    • Large exams also create much more server load when submitting the final exam, which can lead to failures due to application overload when groups of users submit at the same time. SOLUTION – Stagger exam submission times when possible.
  • Train users to save their attempt every 10-15 minutes (but avoid too-frequent saves, which may overload the application). SOLUTION – train student to use the “SAVE ALL” option during an exam every 5-7 minutes if they are in the middle of working on a problem.
  • *Avoid randomized display order for exams using question-by-question (one at a time) display. SOLUTION – None.  Only use this feature if you believe it is needed for the test being given.
  • *When using random selection of questions from pools, keep the overall exam especially short. SOLUTION – None. Only use this feature if you believe it is needed for the exam being given.
*Regarding pools and randomizing questions:  If you are using a Random Block of questions for a given exam be sure NOT to use the “Randomize Display” option.  This is not helpful and definitely puts unwanted strain on the Blackboard assessment engine.
In summary, the above suggestions are a best-practices roadmap to making better and more reliable exams.  All of these features have been used by hundreds of ECU faculty for many years. With confidence, we can say that the large majority of Blackboard exams are submitted/completed without incident. The suggestions listed will be most helpful for those that are having consistent issues with student test completions.


As always, if you have any questions please call or email Matt Long, Cindy Bowers, or Allen Dennis. / 328-9074 / 328-9167 / 328-2841

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.


Fall 2013 Kickoff Information

Hello Everyone –

Welcome back from the summer break!  Below you will find all of the different tutorials to make the start of your Fall 2013 a smashing success.  Good luck and please let us know if we help you with your Blackboard needs.