Author Archives: Cynthia Bowers

Blackboard Grade Center Best Practices


The Grade Center in Blackboard is an online grading tool. Instructors can record grade data, track student work, create reports, and add private comments and feedback with students throughout the semester. The grade center is integrated with gradable items or assessments such as quizzes, assignment file uploads, discussion forums, blogs, journals, and wikis. Specialized calculations, such as weighting grades, are set up in a Weighted Total column. The gradebook can be downloaded to Excel, and uploaded back into the gradebook with grade changes.

When the grade center is not calculating grades correctly, we look for clues and a few examples are below:

Common reasons that lead to miscalculation of grades for students:

  1. For students who do not participate in any gradable assessment, be sure to manually add a zero (0) to their grade cell or they will not be penalized for missing any assignment, test, or any assessment with points. The double hyphen (–) in a student’s grade center means “null,” and the each student’s grade cell for each assignment needs a manually added score of zero for non-participation. Type 0 in the grade cell, then Enter. It will replace the double hyphen.
  2. Typo or error on gradebook column values (e.g., assignment is worth 100 points, but the instructor manually adds 10 to the grade cell).
  3. Incorrect use of categories within a weighted grade column.
  4. In a weighted grade column, the “calculate as running total” option should be left on (the default setting). “Calculate as running total” means the student will see her or his “grade so far.”
  5. Hidden columns (hidden from instructor, but not from student). Hidden columns are included in the running total (whether or not you use a weighted total). When instructors do a course copy from semester to semester, it is common for hidden columns to grow in quantity.
    1. Look for hidden columns, especially if you had hidden columns in a previous semester and did a course copy to the current semester.
    2. Previous wording in Blackboard’s Grade Center was “Hide Column,” which meant the column would be hidden from the instructor and not the student. The current terminology, when you look at the dropdown menu for each column is “Hide from Students On/Off” and “Hide from Instructor View.”
    3. Go to Manage > Column Organization, and if you see grayed out columns, they are hidden from you and possibly from students. You won’t know until you “Show Selected Column” and Submit. A column name with a circle and red line means it is hidden from students.
    4. If you do want to hide a column(s) from students, you can do that two ways: Click the dropdown menu for the column and choose “Hide from Student View.” Or, click the dropdown menu for the column, choose “Edit the Column Information,” and then choose “No” for “Show This Column to Students” at the bottom of the page.

Best Practices for the Grade Center

  1. Let the Grade Center Create the Columns. You do not have to create a column for assessments created in the content area, such as assignments, quizzes, discussion/journal/blog/wiki posts because once you add points to the gradable item, the column appears in the gradebook. There are exceptions, and a common reason for choosing Create Column in the gradebook is for a column such as “Participation,” “Attendance,” or “Extra Credit.”
  2. Consistent Column Names. Use column names that are consistent with the naming convention in the course site.
    1. Grade Center Columns should match exactly what the activity, assignment, or assessment is named in the content area.
    2. If you have a long assessment name, you can use the Grade Center “display name” to abbreviate the name for your use for easy recognition while grading.
    3. Do not change points for assignments/quizzes in the Content area after they have been created or deployed. In the case of an exam that has an answer choice that has been updated/corrected because of an error, Blackboard will ask you if you want to change the points for all students who have taken the exam (choose Yes).
  3. Column Organization. Organize columns in a logical order, such as sequential due date or category.
    1. By default, new columns are added to the far right of the Grade Center. To reorder, go Manage > Column Organization and slide the rows up or down by sliding the “handles” on the left side of assessment name. Submit.
    2. Column Organization is a great place to look at your gradebook from a “bird’s eye view.” You can check on points for each column, change categories, reorder columns, check for hidden columns, etc. To get there: Manage > Column Organization.
  4. Delete unused/unwanted columns. Delete any unused columns to prevent confusion for you and your students. If there is no delete option, and you do not plan to use that assessment for the current semester, you need to find the assessment in the content area and delete it from that location. Hint: If you do not know where to find a test located in a content area (common with a course copy when outdated tests are added from multiple course copies), look under the Control Panel > Course Tools > Tests, Surveys, Pools > look at the Deployed column.
  5. Weighted Total Column. Many instructors like to weight grades. Example: Assignments are worth 40%, Tests are worth 40%, Discussions are worth 20%, equaling 100%. It’s easy to set up a Weighted Total column ahead of time, using categories (you can create categories in addition to the default categories by going to Full Grade Center > Manage > Categories). Then, any new assessment you add is assigned a category – a default category unless you choose another. At that point, Blackboard’s Weighted Total column does the calculations whether you add 5 or 15 assessments throughout the semester. One reason we like the Weighted Total column is because you can assign grade weights by columns, category or both. Finally, “Calculate as running total” is the default setting and for the student, this means “This is my grade so far.” Ask for our PDF tutorial.
  6. Back up your grades. We recommend a gradebook backup to Excel on a semi-regular basis. From the Full Grade Center, choose Work Offline > Export (use the default settings) and your gradebook will be saved to an Excel file. You can also import your saved Excel file back into Blackboard if you’ve been working in Excel. Learn more about downloading and uploading your gradebook here.
  7. Extra Credit. If you are interested in adding an extra credit column to your gradebook, look at these instructions for a simple way to add an extra credit column (giving it 0 points possible).
  8. Progress Report. If you ever want a printable “report” for students, you can create one from the Full Grade Center > Report > Create a Report. Give the report a name (e.g., the date or the student’s name) and then you’ll be able to choose which student or all students, and which column or all columns. You can print or save the report (“Save As” from your browser). Here are further instructions for creating a progress report from the Full Grade Center.

Remember, you can grade student submissions right from the gradebook, if you created assessments from the content area and added points. Each student’s grade cell has a dropdown menu option where you will see View Grade Details, Exempt Grade, and View Attempt. View Grade Details is a fast place to clear an attempt, if you want the student to have another chance at a new attempt. View Attempt will get you to the student’s submission whether it is an assignment, a test attempt, a discussion post, etc. Exempt Grade – do not use unless you want the student totally exempted from an assessment, i.e., the student is not required to complete the assessment.

Grade Center Icons

  • The exclamation point (!) icon in a student’s grade cell means the attempt needs your attention – either a grade or the student submitted an assessment late.
  • The round clock icon in a student’s grade cell means there is an attempt in progress by the student.
  • The double hyphen (–) means the student has not yet made an attempt. Be sure to manually add a zero (0) if the student misses the assessment – assuming you want the student’s grade to be zero for missing the assessment.

Blackboard Training

The Blackboard Team offers training sessions on the Grade Center. Please look in ECU’s Cornerstone calendar to sign up for a session.

Matt Long

Cindy Bowers

Adam Brewer

Allen Dennis


Submit a Help Ticket

Known Issue: Needs Grading

Instructors: The Needs Grading feature in Blackboard is not working as designed or expected.

Behavior: From Needs Grading, you may be returned back to the Full Grade Center after posting a grade, rather than moving on to the next student. Your work-around is to grade from the Full Grade Center until Needs Grading is fixed.

The Fix: We are awaiting a solution from Blackboard Learn.

Questions? Please send one of us an email at:

Email Sent From Blackboard

If you are a student who thinks you do not receive all emails from instructors, sent from Blackboard, OR if you are an instructor who hears from a student who says she/he does not receive all of your emails sent from Blackboard (including Announcements), please note:

The message from Blackboard is delivered successfully all the way to the student’s inbox, but may get automatically moved into the “clutter” folder, which is a feature that Microsoft turns on.  The clutter feature learns how the student interacts with messages and moves them automatically. This is something that can be turned off by the student in the Options area of the mailbox

This settings change is for the student email Office 365 only.



Spring 2016 Extra Things


As you prepare for the start of the semester, we have some helpful info about the Section Merge Tool, adding a TA to your course, FYI’s about Course Copy and Section Merge, and making your course available to students.

Did your Section Merge Tool option disappear? After some updates over the holiday break, we found that module reverted back to an optional, rather than permanent module. Simply choose “Add Module” from your Blackboard landing page. Then search for “Section Merge” on the left hand side of the page to add it back…

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How to Add a TA (or User) to Your Course

Students are populated from feeds we get from Banner, so we’ll take care of adding students.  Adds and drops are also managed when we update the enrollment feeds. Do you need to add a TA (or a Course Reviewer or another role) to your course? The two screenshots below show how that is done. Occasionally, it still does not work for instructors so please do not hesitate to ask one of us to add the user for you – we’re happy to do so.

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If you know the exact user ID, you can add it to the Username whitebox area. If not, or you are not sure, click the Browse button as in the screenshot below.







Important Reminders When You Course Copy and/or Section Merge

  1. Course Copy
    1. Try to do it once; avoid multiple course copies or repeating the process. Course copying in pieces can result in problems (duplicate content, gradebook issues such as orphan columns that cannot be removed). Contact us with questions or issues.
    2. Here’s an “ideal” course copy, if you want all content and assessments/assignments included: Select All. UN-check Announcements. Choose the second radio button for Discussion Board (if you use the DB). Submit. That’s it.
    3. P.S. Your destination course ID should end in 201630, meaning Spring of 2016.
  2. Section Merge
    1. Your destination course ID should end in 201630, meaning Spring of 2016.
    2. If you found you merged the incorrect sections, do not choose Remove to make the change! It will remove/wipe out your course completely. Choose Modify, then dissociate or un-merge. Or, contact one of us and we’ll sure help.

Make Your Course Available to Students

We do not automatically turn your course on for students because you may want the course available one or two weeks before class starts, or you may want to wait until the first day of the semester. It’s the most common question we get from students pre-semester: “Why don’t I see my course in Blackboard?”

To make your course available, go to your course > Control Panel > Customization > Properties > SET AVAILABILITY > Make Course Available > Yes. And please go back to your Fall 2015 courses and choose No for availability.

make course available image

Your Blackboard Team…

Matt Long

Cindy Bowers

Adam Brewer

Summer 2016 Things to Do

Instructors: Prepping for Summer 2016

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The 6 Most Commonly Asked Questions from Instructors > Pre-Semester

  1. How do I make my course available to students?
    • Control Panel > Customization > Properties > Set Availability > Yes
  2. How do I log into Blackboard? I get a message that my username or password is incorrect.
    • Please submit a help ticket asking for assistance, and include your Banner number and your username.
  3. How do I copy my course from one semester to the next? Go here.
  4. How do I merge (or collapse) two or more course sections? Go here.
  5. How do I add another instructor or a TA to the course?
    • Control Panel > Users and Groups > User > Find User to Enroll > Browse (type username only in the box), click Go > when you see the username, click the box and then Submit.
    • If that does not work, please send an email to with the username and role (TA or instructor). The Blackboard team will add your TA or instructor.
  6. How do I add Tegrity to my Blackboard course?
    • Visit and log in. On the right side, under Online Forms, you will find Tegrity Course Request.
  7. New!! (1/16/16):
    1. If you notice the SafeAssign green-check icon is missing in your 2016 courses, there is nothing wrong. SafeAssign is a submission option when creating an actual assignment, and after our last building block update the green icon is a thing of the past. The assignment icon is the same for a SafeAssignment and regular Assignment.
  8. Drops & Adds – How does that work? We update the Blackboard feeds frequently at the beginning of the semester, syncing data with Banner. The drops and adds are updated from Banner – you do not need to remove or add students.

For any technology-related questions, please submit a help ticket or call the Help Desk @ 328-9866.

To search for Blackboard training sessions, please log into ECU’s Cornerstone Portal for training. If you do not see what you need, please contact one of us for a desk-side or small group departmental training session.

Blackboard Support Team

Roles in Blackboard

Now and then we get asked about the roles in ECU’s Blackboard and the permissions that go along with the roles. The Faculty Senate Manual also has a section on standard operating procedures for access to Blackboard. Here is a list to provide an explanation:


Instructors have access to all areas in the Course Control Panel. This role is assigned to the person developing, teaching or facilitating the class. If a course is unavailable to students, the Instructor may still access the course. The Instructor can add and remove guests from the course. An instructor should not modify student enrollments, which are controlled through Banner, and added to Blackboard by ITCS.

TA (Teaching Assistant)

Same as Instructor with the exception of: The TA cannot enroll or remove users from the course. TA’s cannot bulk delete or copy content. TA’s cannot elevate another user’s privileges/permissions or add other users.

Course Builder

The Course Builder has access to most areas of the Course Control Panel. This role is appropriate for a research assistant or to an assistant who has limited responsibilities, but should not have access to student grades.

Note: If the course is unavailable to Students, a Course Builder can still access the course. A Course Builder cannot remove an Instructor from a Course.


The Grader has limited access to the Course Control Panel. A Grader would assist the Instructor in the creation, management, delivery, and grading of Assessments and Surveys. A Grader may also assist the Instructor with adding manual entries to the Online Gradebook.

Note: If a course is unavailable to students, the course will appear in the My Courses module and Course list for a user with the role of Grader, but the Grader will not be able to enter the course until the course is available.

Course Reviewer

The course reviewer has full access to review all course content, tool areas and gradebook data. But, this role cannot delete any course content.  The purpose of this role is for internal unit or program review.

Outside Course Reviewer

The Outside course reviewer has full access to review all course content in the available mode or unavailable mode.   But, this role cannot delete course content, view the gradebook or look up users.  The purpose of this role is for an external review of a unit or program focusing purely on course content.


Users with the role of Guest have no access to the Course Control Panel, Grade Center, or any Content area that has a gradable item. If Guest access is enabled by the System Administrator, an Instructor can make areas within a course accessible to Guests*. For external accounts or non-ECU guests, please see the note below.

* If an instructor desires a Guest in the course, there is a setting that needs changed for the Guest to see the course: Control Panel > Customization > Course and Observer Access > change No to Yes for Guest Access.

Note: External accounts for guests with Instructor, TA, Course Builder, or Grader access are only created by Matt Long, ITCS Blackboard Administrator. In order to request an External user account for a guest, the instructor of record must complete the Blackboard External Access Request form within the Online Help Desk ticketing system (in the Online Access Forms area). The Office of the Registrar must approve all External Account Requests. Each external guest must complete and return a Statement of Confidentiality.


A user with the role of Student has no access to any areas on the Course Control Panel. The Student has access only to his or her gradebook and course content and assessments made available by the Instructor.

FERPA Note: An enrolled student in a course should not be switched to the role of TA because of access to the gradebook with all student data and access to personally identifiable information of other students. As well, the role of TA would allow the ability to view, revise and/or delete course content and gradable items, which may compromise the integrity of exams and other assessments.


Respondus LockDown Browser

New! 10/27/15 Update for students:  To make sure you have the latest version of LDB, use the “Check for Update” feature once logged into LDB (look for the ‘i’ icon, upper left corner) or re-install LDB. (Reminder: The URL link for the LDB download — PC or Mac — can always be found by clicking the Blackboard Support tab on the top of your Blackboard landing page.)

New! 10/27/15 Update for instructors:  We have the most recent version of the LockDown Browser building block installed in Blackboard, so if you are a user of LDB for exams, feel free to start using it again. (As always, if students contact you about any issues, encourage them to submit a Help Ticket or forward those messages to us at

New! 10/19/15 Update for students who use a Mac computer: LockDown Browser client for Mac, version, has been released. To obtain the latest version (, use the “Check for Update” feature once logged into LDB (look for the ‘i’ icon, upper left corner) or re-install LDB.

9/14/15 Update

The updated version of LockDown Browser (2.0) that was just recently released by the vendor has been giving some students problems. The fix for this issue is complex and a huge time drain for all involved – student, faculty and support.   Since we understand the time sensitive nature of exams we are NOT recommending the use Respondus LDB until the fix is released late this week (according to the vendor).

Here is how to remove Respondus Lockdown Browser from your exam.

  1. Go to COURSE TOOLS / Respondus Lockdown Browser
  2. Find the exam in questions and in the dropdown choose MODIFY SETTINGS
  3. Choose the bullet option that reads ” Don’t require Respondus LockDown Browser for this exam ” Click “Save and Close”

Here are some Bb Exam Settings you should consider instead of using Lockdown Browser.

Force Completion – If you select Force Completion, students must complete the test or survey when they launch it. Students may only access the test or survey ONE TIME. The Save function is available for students to save the questions as they work through them, but they may not exit and reenter the test or survey. In the instructions, Force Completion is noted and explained to students. If you do not enable Force Completion, students may save their progress, navigate away, and return to complete the test or survey.

If students accidentally close their browsers, leave the test or survey page, or lose power or their internet connections, they cannot continue. They must contact you to allow them to start over with a new attempt.

You may want to reserve the Force Completion option for when students are on campus taking a proctored test and connected to an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi. If issues occur, an instructor can be available to reset the test.

Alternatively, use the Set Timer options to reduce receiving emails from panicked students who accidentally left a test or survey with Force Completion enabled.

Set Timer – Set a time limit for finishing a test or survey. Type the amount of time in the hours and minutes boxes. During a timed test, the time elapsed is displayed to students. As students approach the time limit, a one-minute warning appears.

When an attempt is complete, student completion time is available in the Test Information section.

If a student saves and exits the test, the timer continues. For example, if he begins the test on Tuesday, saves and exits it, then completes it on Thursday, his completion time will be 48 hours.

Auto Submit – If you set the timer, turn on Auto-Submit to automatically save and submit a test or survey when time expires. Without enabling auto-submit, students have the option to continue after time expires. Tests and surveys are flagged as submitted after the timer expired. You have the option to adjust the grade based on the time.

You may find it advantageous to use the Set Timer options and not the Force Completion option. For example, if a student loses his internet connection for 10 minutes on a timed test, at least he can access the test again and continue. If you enabled the Forced Completion option, he cannot access the test again and must contact you to reset the test.

Password – You can require and type a password for students to use to access a test or survey. Passwords have a limit of 15 characters and are case sensitive.


This is not widespread, but the updated version of LockDown Browser Version 2.0 has been a little “buggy” with some students. Again, a very small percentage of students are affected. It’s not uncommon for products to have a bug, and usually there are work-around solutions until the issue is resolved. We are in contact with the Respondus Technical Support team. {Students: If you experience either of the issues below, please submit a help ticket to ITCS Help Desk with Respondus LockDown Browser in your details, with the Course ID and name of the quiz. And please send an email to your instructor that you submitted a help ticket. Thank you.}

  • Scenario: Students may stall at the “Enter Password” page. This is a recent known issue with LDB and the Respondus LDB developers are working on a fix.
    • Students may not be able get to the quiz even if they continue to deny the password.  For students who still have the “older” version from summer or spring semester, they may be able to access the quiz.
  • Scenario: Students may get an error message during the test indicating “the instructor’s settings need to be fixed.”
    • Advise students, when logged into Blackboard via LDB, to make sure they go to the Content area where the quiz is located, rather than using a shortcut such as a notifications link or a calendar link to the quiz.
    • An aside – the Force Completion option in Test Options is not recommended. If Force Completion is checked, the student will never be able to log back in to the exam if temporarily bumped out. Auto Submit and the use of the timer is a better option.
  • URL for LockDown Browser Download: Is always updated in the “Blackboard Support” tab at the top of the Blackboard page, once the user logs in.

Please let us do the troubleshooting. If you get emails from students, please have them contact us at ecublackboard or submit a help ticket at If you have questions, please let us know.

Cindy Bowers

Matt Long

Top FAQ’s for Students Fall 2015

Blackboard FAQ’s for Students

question mark

  1. When will my course show up? I do not see my course (or courses).
    • It is up to the instructor when to make the course available. Some instructors make the courses available early and some wait until the first day of the semester.
    • If the instructor has sent an email stating the course is available, and it is still not showing, please contact the instructor. Some instructors make the courses available early and some wait until the first day of the semester.
  2. How do I log into Blackboard? I get a message that my username or password is incorrect.
    • Please submit a help ticket asking for assistance, and include your Banner number and your username.
  3. Will you please remove my Blackboard courses from last semester?
    • It is up to the instructor to make the past course unavailable; however, until that is done, students can hide past courses.
    • To hide past courses, click the little gear icon on your My Courses box on your landing page. This will take you to the Personalize: My Courses page. Uncheck the box in the Course Name column that you do not want to display in your list of courses. Click submit.
  4. I dropped and/or added a course. When will I see the change on My Blackboard?
    • Within 24 hours (except for the weekend), you should see the change, after Banner and Blackboard files are updated.
  5. I am supposed to use Respondus LockDown Browser to take a quiz. What is the link to download LDB on my computer? Please see the “Blackboard Support” tab once you are logged in to Blackboard – you’ll find the link there. Please do a fresh install at the beginning of each semester. If you have any problems, please submit a help ticket.
  6. Can you reset my Blackboard quiz? I lost my internet connection or Blackboard disconnected me.
    • No, we do not reset quizzes for students. Please contact your instructor about your quiz attempt.

See our Blackboard Blog page for Students.

For any technology-related questions, please submit a help ticket or call the Help Desk @ 328-9866.

Blackboard Support Team

Top Bb FAQ’s for Instructors Fall 2015

Prepping for Fall 2015

FAQ image




  1. How do I make my course available?
    • Control Panel > Customization > Properties > Set Availability > Yes
  2. How do I log into Blackboard? I get a message that my username or password is incorrect.
    • Please submit a help ticket asking for assistance, and include your Banner number and your username.
  3. How do I copy my course from one semester to the next? Go here.
  4. How do I merge (or collapse) two or more course sections? Go here.
  5. How do I add another instructor or a TA to the course?
    • Control Panel > Users and Groups > User > Find User to Enroll > Browse (type username only in the box), click Go > when you see the username, click the box and then Submit.
    • If that does not work, please send an email to with the username and role (TA or instructor). The Blackboard team will add your TA or instructor.
  6. How do I add Tegrity to my Blackboard course?
    • Visit and log in. On the right side, under Online Forms, you will find Tegrity Course Request.

For any technology-related questions, please submit a help ticket or call the Help Desk @ 328-9866.

Blackboard Support Team

LockDown Browser Tips for Instructors and Students

icon for LDB

LockDown Browser icon


LockDown Browser

Student Tips / Need to Know

The URL for downloading Respondus LockDown Browser is here: use this download link. Students must download LockDown Browser to their local computer. It is an easy install of a file that is not very large. If you get a suggestion to re-download LDB, there is no need to do an uninstall first; simply download LDB and follow the instructions on the screen. On the PC, you will see the LockDown Browser icon on your desktop. For Mac users, you will find LDB in your “Applications.”

To take an exam in LDB (whether on your personal computer or in an ECU computer lab), you will log into Blackboard via LockDown Browser. Go to the content area where your exam is located and click “Begin.”

  • The most common “error” for students: some students do not realize they need to enter Blackboard through LDB.
  • Students should do a fresh install at the beginning of each semester. There is no need to un-install LDB. Just re-install LDB.
  • LockDown Browser is installed on most campus lab computers.
  • You will see a “Check for Updates” option when you are logged into LDB. It is a always a good idea to click the option, and accept any update offered.

Instructor Tips / Need to Know

A recommended best practice is to include the download link to Respondus LockDown Browser in your course, or at least in an announcement. Share this blog post with students, too, so they have support resources.

Remind students to contact the Help Desk or Blackboard Support if they have any issues or questions. If you would like a sample quiz added to your course to give students a trial of using LDB, contact Cindy Bowers.

  • The most common “error” on the instructor’s side: Removing the LDB-created password under Test Options. Think of it as an invisible password, or the “lock” in LockDown Browser.
  • Do not share the LDB-generated password with students. If you want them to have a password for your exam, you can do that from the LDB tool under the Control Panel > Course Tools > Respondus LockDown Browser.
  • If any settings are changed (dates/times, number of attempts, any test settings at all), go back to the tool and look for a red “Fix It” error message. Control Panel > Course Tools > Respondus LockDown Browser. Simply click Fix It and the test will once again be available to students with the use of LDB.
  • If you do not see Respondus LockDown Browser in your course tools, go to Control Panel > Customization > Tool Availability. Check the Box next to Respondus LockDown Browser to make it available in your tools.
  • To get started using LDB for quizzes and exams, see instructions on our Blackboard Blog page for Faculty.

Support for LockDown Browser

Cindy Bowers

Matt Long

Help Desk 

Help Desk Phone 252-328-9866