5/9/16 – 5/11/16 Blackboard Planned Maintenance

New Features:

Announcement Date Restriction Default – When creating an announcement, “Not Date Restricted” is now selected by default.

Escaping Special Characters – When a user uploads a file to Learn and the filename contains special characters (such as / \ : ? * ” < > | ), the system replaces the special character with an underscore ( _ ).

Reply-to Header – This release fixes an issue with email sent from Learn. Some email clients do not use the reply-to header of emails sent by BbLearn to populate the “To:” field when the user replies to an email. As a result, some students were confused when they received email from do-not-reply@<bblearn_domain> instead of their instructor’s email address.

Browser Support – Learn 9.1 now supports the Microsoft Edge browser. Some new browser releases no longer support NPAPI plugins. Without these plugins, some Learn features may not render correctly. More on browser support

HTML5 Support – The Content Editor now supports HTML5 Audio and Video playback in Chrome and Edge browsers.

Updates to Current Features

Discussion Threads  – Users can navigate from thread to thread without having to return to the main Discussions page. More info here.

Accessibility Updates

Discussion Boards – orum descriptions are read on the Create Thread page. This improves accessibility for users with screen reader technologies. More info here.

Assessments – When creating a hot spot question, an Image Alternate text box is now available. This improves accessibility for users. More info here.

Content Editor – The default heading size for all of the embedded headings has been increased so they are properly read in both the view and edit state in the Content Editor. More info here.

 

Course Structure Tool in Blackboard

See our blog post for the upcoming Blackboard updates (May 9-11).

Course Structure Tool in Blackboard

We’ve created some sample courses using the Course Structure tool in Blackboard. If you’re new to Blackboard or open to changing your course structure to give your course a facelift or new design, give this tool some consideration. You can access the sample courses as a guest, by clicking the link(s) below. You must be logged into Blackboard first, before you access the sample course. Simply open a new tab or window, log into Blackboard, then come back to this page and click the link(s) to view the sample course(s).

C O U R S E            Course Structure

Selecting a Course Structure:
Your Control Panel is where you will find the Course Structure Tool. Customization > Teaching Style. Also, please review this Course Structures on how to get started, and what you should know about Course Structures. Take a look at Blackboard’s Course Structure Help Page for an expanded description of course structures.

Following are very brief descriptions of the course structures used in the sample courses above:

CASE STUDY – focus on activity

Use the case study approach to engage students in critical thinking for real-world situations.

MODULE – focus on content

A module is an independent unit or lesson. Modules are usually self-contained and students can access them in any order, making them suitable for self-paced courses.

WEEKLY – focus on time

Organizing content by time can help students stay on track. You can make folders for future weeks unavailable until they are needed to keep students focused.

TRADITIONAL – focus on content

The traditional course structure organizes the online environment by content type or function. For example, there are course areas for assignments, tests, and your content.

SCIENCE-FOCUSED – focus on content

You can use the science-focused course structure to present information and lab materials to students and provide areas for reflection and collaboration.

GUIDED DISCUSSION – focus on communication

Guided discussion is an active learning technique that encourages students to reflect on their own experiences, explore alternative ways of thinking, connect to a topic, and improve analytical skills.

TOPIC – focus on content

Use the topic-based course structure to organize your course in self-contained segments. (This course has some information on the flipped classroom, but does not have the canned content from Blackboard.)

Notifications Issue

STUDENTS: There is an issue with the Notifications feature in the Global Navigation area of the Blackboard landing page (top right of screen once logged into Blackboard). Blackboard will be unavailable from 2:00 am to 3:00 am on Wednesday, April 27th for technicians to make critical updates to resolve this issue.

Issue: The student may see a little red box with a number. When that number is clicked, the student expects to see notifications for all Blackboard courses. Instead, no notifications will appear. Please go directly to your course to check for new announcements, gradebook updates, new assignments, etc.

Again, the issue will be resolved during a downtime, April 27th, from 2:00am to 3:00am.

Questions? ecublackboard@ecu.edu

Blackboard – Summer 2016 New Features

New Features:

Announcement Date Restriction Default – When creating an announcement, “Not Date Restricted” is now selected by default.

Escaping Special Characters – When a user uploads a file to Learn and the filename contains special characters (such as / \ : ? * ” < > | ), the system replaces the special character with an underscore ( _ ).

Reply-to Header – This release fixes an issue with email sent from Learn. Some email clients do not use the reply-to header of emails sent by BbLearn to populate the “To:” field when the user replies to an email. As a result, some students were confused when they received email from do-not-reply@<bblearn_domain> instead of their instructor’s email address.

Browser Support – Learn 9.1 now supports the Microsoft Edge browser. Some new browser releases no longer support NPAPI plugins. Without these plugins, some Learn features may not render correctly. More on browser support

HTML5 Support – The Content Editor now supports HTML5 Audio and Video playback in Chrome and Edge browsers.

Updates to Current Features

Discussion Threads  – Users can navigate from thread to thread without having to return to the main Discussions page. More info here.

Accessibility Updates

Discussion Boards – orum descriptions are read on the Create Thread page. This improves accessibility for users with screen reader technologies. More info here.

Assessments – When creating a hot spot question, an Image Alternate text box is now available. This improves accessibility for users. More info here.

Content Editor – The default heading size for all of the embedded headings has been increased so they are properly read in both the view and edit state in the Content Editor. More info here.

Bug Fixes

 

 

 

 

 

 

4/17 8am Blackboard Planned Downtime

System/Service: Blackboard

When: Sunday, April 17th, 8:00am – 10:00am

Description: Blackboard will be unavailable on Sunday, April 17th from 8:00am to 10:00am while our technicians perform maintenance on the site.

To check the authenticity of this e-mail:
Visit www.ecu.edu, and click on the “Help Desk” link under the “Quick Links” 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 www.help.ecu.edu.

ITCS Notifications: www.ecu.edu/cs-itcs/allnotices.cfm

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.

Notifications Issue

STUDENTS: There is an issue with the Notifications feature in the Global Navigation area of the Blackboard landing page (top right of screen once logged into Blackboard). Blackboard will be unavailable from 2:00 am to 3:00 am Tuesday, April 12th for technicians to make critical updates to resolve this issue.

Issue: The student may see a little red box with a number. When that number is clicked, the student expects to see notifications for all Blackboard courses. Instead, no notifications will appear. Please go directly to your course to check for new announcements, gradebook updates, new assignments, etc.

Again, the issue will be resolved during a downtime, April 12th, from 2:00am to 3:00am.

Questions? ecublackboard@ecu.edu

Blackboard Grade Center Best Practices

Summary

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

ecublackboard

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:

longm@ecu.edu

bowersc@ecu.edu

ecublackboard@ecu.edu

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.

Questions? ecublackboard@ecu.edu

 

Spring 2016 Extra Things

INSTRUCTORS

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…

add module image

 

 

 

 

 

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.

enroll user image

 

 

 

 

 

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.

adduser2

 

 

 

 

 

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 longm@ecu.edu

Cindy Bowers bowersc@ecu.edu

Adam Brewer brewera@ecu.edu

ecublackboard@ecu.edu