Author Archives: Cynthia Bowers

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 http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/registrar/FERPA.cfm 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 http://www.ecu.edu/itcs/clickers/ 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, southworthj@ecu.edu or see the resource list below.

RESOURCES:

Course Copy and/or Collapse for Spring ’13 Courses

In anticipation of Spring 2013, you may want to copy your Fall course content into your Spring course shell. Or you might want a course merge (also known as collapse). Go to our Course Copy-Section Merge web page to learn how to copy content yourself, merge multiple sections, or submit a request. For instructions, you can watch a mini-video or view a PDF – your choice. It’s quite easy to do your own course copy from one semester to the next and you decide what should be copied.

Things to remember about course copy and course merge:

  • By doing your own course copy, you decide what should be copied. The actual process of you going through through the steps takes 1-2 minutes at the most.
  • When you do your own course copy, remember that depending on the amount of content in your course or the Bb “traffic” (1-2 weeks before the semester when many instructors are doing the course copy process at the same time, your content might take longer to show up. Normally it is 15 minutes or less. It is important that you do not get impatient and repeat the process, or your content will duplicate and you’ll have lots of cleanup to do. Watch for a COURSE COPY RECEIPT in your email inbox after you click Submit. Do not panic if it is not instant; the content will show up.
  • If you want a section merge AND course copy, which comes first? The section merge, then do your course copy.
  • If you do a section merge of two sections (e.g., 001 and 601), your student enrollments for each section will merge into your “parent” section.

Questions? Matt Long longm@ecu.edu, 328-9074 OR Cindy Bowers bowersc@ecu.edu, 328-9167

Notice: Purging Old Courses | How to Archive Your Course(s)

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 Summer 2009 and Spring 2010. The purge date is October 5th, 2012.

To save any courses from Summer 2009 or Spring 2010, please fill out the following survey – please do this before 10/05/12:

https://ecu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_bdSRsefePVe5YzO

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

longm@ecu.edu or bowersc@ecu.edu or dennisa@ecu.edu

Blackboard Support Email: ecublackboard@ecu.edu

Browser Compatibility

Compatible Browsers (as of 4/9/2012): Blackboard 9 (service pack 7) is best viewed in Mozilla Firefox. Firefox is recommended for the Mac as well. Also, Google Chrome is now a certified browser. Reported and frequent problems with the use of IE: Students may not be able to download Word documents, view images, and they may experience issues with test taking and submission of tests. Instructors may have issues with the interface or functionality of tools and features (including the Grade Center) with Internet Explorer.

Click HERE to see a list of officially supported browser. This page is maintained by Blackboard.

Known Issues

See below for some known errors and work-arounds, which may affect your Blackboard course(s):

  • Chat/Collaboration Tools in Blackboard are not working properly: We are working with advanced support/Blackboard in D.C.  This tool has been down since mid-March and we apologize for the delay and inconvenience. Please consider using another web conferencing tool as an alternative, such as Centra.
  • Error messages when grading through the Blackboard Grade Center: If you are getting error messages when grading assessments through the Grade Center, it likely a browser issue. This behavior is consistent with Internet Explorer. Please switch to Firefox as your browser (the latest version is fine). Send an email to Blackboard Support with any questions at all.
  • See the blog post about browser compatibility.
  • Grade Center Scroll Bar is Missing in Firefox:  See the PDF for simple instructions.

 

FERPA – Student Records > Blackboard Gradebook > Downloading to Spreadsheet

From the Office of East Carolina University’s IT Security, please read the following scenario and solution(s):

  • Activity: Download Gradebook from Blackboard to a spreadsheet
  • Issue: Student (Course) Gradebook is downloaded from Blackboard onto desktops, laptops, personal home computers, and other unencrypted devices. A lost or compromised device could result in unauthorized release of student records.
  • Solution: Users should change the default location when downloading the gradebook to Excel or other formats. Select Save Target As or Save As and change the location to your personal or departmental Pirate Drive. To further minimize the threat of release of student records, delete downloaded course gradebook once the information is no longer needed.

Chat / Collaboration Tools Not Working

The Chat / Collaboration tools in Blackboard are not working properly. We are working with advanced support with Blackboard Support in D.C.  We will post another announcement as soon as the tools are working correctly. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience.

Update: 3/23/2012: Chat Tool still not working, but this issue is a priority and we are still working with Bb Support in D.C. on the problem. If you would like to consider using Centra as a secondary plan, please look here.