Author Archives: longm

2014 Spring Semester Checklist

Hello Everyone -

Welcome back from the summer break!  Below you will find all of the different tutorials to make the start of your Spring 2014 a smashing success.  Good luck and please let us know if we help you with your Blackboard needs.

Blackboard SP13 Pilot Information

This blog post is for members of the Blackboard Service Pack 13 Pilot Group for Spring 2014.

In anticipation of your Spring ’14 course(s) having a home on the SP13 pilot server, you may be wondering  how you will notify your students of their course site(s). We have a couple of choices for you, which are quick and easy!

  • Create a permanent announcement in your course shell on the regular production server ( Write a sentence or two explaining that students need to click a link to the pilot server ( for the entire semester. Make this course available!
  • Send an email to your students, explaining that they need to click a link to “go here” ( for the entire semester.
  • Or, do both … it won’t take long for your students to get in the groove of SP13.

Reminder: Make your course available on the SP13 pilot server – when you want students to enter your course site. How? Control Panel > Customization > Properties > Course Availability > Click Yes > Submit.
We have created a Resource List for the SP13 Pilot. Many of the new features and tools are listed. You will find tutorials in either PDFs, quick videos, or Blackboard’s On-Demand web pages. We will add more tutorials to this blog post, so check back often.

Matt Long, Cindy Bowers, Allen Dennis


SP 10 & 11 Help Page

SP 12 & 13 Help Page

Take a look at Allen’s Faculty Intro/Overview Video (6 min)

What’s new for SP13:


SP 10 & 11 Help Page

SP 12 & 13 Help Page

Take a look at Allen’s Student Intro/Overview Video (3 min)


What’s New in Blackboard Learn? – Short Video and Slides

Blackboard On Demand Learning Center – Bookmark this page

Blackboard course purge – 2011 Summer and 2011 Fall courses

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  October 23rd, 2013  <<<<< 

  • 2011 Summer #1 semester 2011 Summer #2 semester
  • 2011 Full Term Summer semester
  • 2011 Fall 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

9/20 Emergency Downtime: Blackboard

Emergency Downtime: Blackboard

When: Friday, Sept. 20 / 3:00pm

Blackboard will be unavailable beginning at 3:00pm today, Friday Sept 20, while we perform emergency maintenance to address an issue with the system. We expect the downtime to be brief, and will notify campus when service is restored.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank for your patience as we work to resolve the issue.


Firefox 23 Mixed Content Blocking

Bulletin/Advisory Information: Mozilla introduced Mixed Content Blocking in the latest version of Firefox (23).  Intended as a security response to “man in the middle” attacks, this feature blocks mixed content by default unless  specifically allowed during each page visit.  This specifically impacts non-https content loaded into a https page.  For more information about this security feature, please visit following Mozilla support article:

While other browsers like Chrome and Internet Explorer implement Mixed Content Blocking in similar fashions, in most cases they allow the user to add exceptions or permanently allow access to mixed content from a particular page.  Firefox 23 requires this content to be allowed on each page visit without a method to permanently allow content within that page only.

In Bb , content “link” types load within an Bb frame (even when set to open in a new window).  Bb  does this purposely so that when user tracking is enabled, it is possible to run activity reports on which students access those links, as opposed to a straight href external link where Bb cannot track any of that.  Therefore, Bb customers using SSL and linking to non-SSL content will see this manifested most often in blank frames with the “grey shield” icon represented in the browser’s address bar as described in the Mozilla post, although this could impact other application areas as well.

The solution if you are linking to non SSL content from within Bb is to add the link and ask Bb to “open in a new window”.

Course Copy Slowness

Update: Blackboard Course Copy delays
When: Friday, Aug 23rd / 3:30pm

As reported yesterday, the course copy process in Blackboard is still experiencing a long delay between submission and completion.  Our Blackboard administrators are working diligently with the company to resolve this issue, but currently the lag time is approximately 9 hours.

If you have already gone through the content copy process and are still waiting for the content to show up please just check your email inbox.  Blackboard automatically sends an email out once a course copy is complete.

The confirmation email will contain the following message:

  • The following Course Copy process has completed: Source XXXXXXXXXX  | Destination XXXXXXXXXXX
  • The results of the process are shown below.
  • Operation successful.

Blackboard Assessments – Auto Submit Feature

As you all know, Blackboard has an “auto submit” feature available to choose on any Bb assessment/exam.  Any test will save and submit the users work automatically when the time expires – if this feature is enabled.

It has come to our attention through a vendor support ticket that this feature SHOULD NOT be used in conjunction with the “force completion” exam option.  You should use one or the other but not both.  In some cases, using these tools together causes exams to not submit normally to the gradebook.  Secondly, it’s normal that the Auto Submit timer vs the actual exam window be a little different.  Bb has stated that a 5 minute buffer is added to this tool.

For example, if an exam is available from 1pm – 2pm in the gradebook you may see Auto Submits as late at 2:05pm.

If you have any questions please let us know.

Matt Long /
Cindy Bowers /
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

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