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Instructional Technology

September 24, 2013

Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 11 – New Features
Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 2:47 pm

We upgraded to Blackboard to version 9.1 Service Pack 11 in May. With this upgrade came a number of changes. The most noticeable but in some ways the most superficial,  is the interface. Blackboard has modernized the interface and created a cleaner look. Yes, there are social aspects to the interface that are new but some of the most powerful changes are more than interface-deep.

Discussion Board – General improvements such as displaying all posts on one page. Profile images (if the user updates) are posted with individual posts, personalizing the discussion experience. Draft messages are flagged as such and listed with other posts, making it easier for students to see what messages they have saved and which have actually been submitted.

Inline Grading - Inline grading represents an improvement in the grading workflow for Assignments in Blackboard. You can still download, grade, and post comments as in the past or you can add comments to the documents the students post right in the Blackboard interface. Instructors have commenting tools, highlighters, drawing tools and text entry tools available to annotate students submissions, without having to download any files. Students can view comments via the My Grades tool.

Retention Center - Instructors have a dashboard on which to see whether students are missing deadlines, under-participating, not logging in, or are performing poorly. This tool is the old “Early Warning System” upgraded to have default rules that instructors can modify to better suit their needs.

Testing System improvements – Better adaptive release of tests. In past versions test option applied to all students. With the current release, instructors can tweak the options for individual student needs. For example, if you have one or more students with accommodations of extra time on an exam, the affected students can take the same exam as everyone else, except the time limit can be set to a different limit than for the rest of the class. No need to create multiple exams with multiple grade center columns. Another feature of interest, test regrading. If you’ve ever had the experience of misidentifying the correct answer on a Blackboard test question and then had to manually regrade an entire classes tests you’ll know how useful this feature is. With test regrading, you can make corrections to the test answers and the system will automatically apply the corrections to already completed tests.

Item Analysis – The testing system now has item analysis available. Item analysis provides instructors with information on how well individual test questions discriminate student performance. Using this information, instructors can improve questions in tests and test pools to improve future tests.

New Calendar - Blackboard has a new calendar that better integrates with the system and which has the option to be viewed in other applications. So, items in your Blackboard calendar can display in your Outlook calendar. In addition, due dates that are set in a course automatically populate in the course calendar. Instructors no longer have to double enter information.

New text box editor - The new editor allows easy creation of formatted text and renders modern HTML so the content displays the way you want it. The new editor also supports copying and pasting from Word – it strips out extraneous code so the pasted contend displays properly and does not hinder the display of other content on the page (common in earlier versions). There are also some new mashups available, allowing users to embed video and other content in Blackboard. In addition, there is an improved math editor that supports MathML.

May 10, 2013

Learn about the New Blackboard – Version 9.1 Service Pack 11
Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 11:16 am
Training on Blackboard version 9.1 Service Pack 11
All sessions will be held in IT 223
Thursday, May 16th (6-7 PM) Blackboard Upgrade Changes with trainer from Blackboard, Inc. (This session will be recorded). IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
Saturday, May 18th (10-11 AM)  Blackboard Upgrade Changes – replay of recording from May 16th with Blackboard trainer. IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
Monday May 20th (10-11 AM) Blackboard Upgrade Changes – replay of recording from May 16th with Blackboard trainer. IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
Tuesday May 21st (1-2 PM)  Inline assignment grading – New way to grade assignments from the Grade Center. No downloading necessary.
Wednesday May 22nd (1-2 PM) Blackboard Upgrade Changes – replay of recording from May 16th with Blackboard trainer. IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
Thursday May 23rd (10-11 AM) Blogs and Wikis and Journals, oh my! – Reflective and collaborative writing tools in Blackboard.
Training on Blackboard version 9.1 Service Pack 11
All sessions will be held in IT 223
  • Thursday, May 16th (6-7 PM) Blackboard Upgrade Changes with trainer from Blackboard, Inc. (This session will be recorded). IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
  • Saturday, May 18th (10-11 AM)  Blackboard Upgrade Changes – replay of recording from May 16th with Blackboard trainer. IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
  • Monday May 20th (10-11 AM) Blackboard Upgrade Changes – replay of recording from May 16th with Blackboard trainer. IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
  • Tuesday May 21st (1-2 PM)  Inline assignment grading – New way to grade assignments from the Grade Center. No downloading necessary.
  • Wednesday May 22nd (1-2 PM) Blackboard Upgrade Changes – replay of recording from May 16th with Blackboard trainer. IT staff available to assist and answer questions.
  • Thursday May 23rd (10-11 AM) Blogs and Wikis and Journals, oh my! – Reflective and collaborative writing tools in Blackboard.

April 10, 2013

Blackboard upgrade – May 14, 2013
Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 1:54 pm

Blackboard is changing…

On May 14, 2013 we will be updating Blackboard to Blackboard Learn version 9.1, Service Pack 11. This means change, big change…

Blackboard has revamped the look, feel, and functionality of Blackboard in response to user feedback. The interface has been given a new modern look and while many of the tools work the way they always have how you access the menus and options has undergone some changes. In addition there are a few new features…

November 30, 2012

Learn More About Blackboard Changes Coming in May 2013
Filed under: Blackboard — Lynn Cooke @ 3:35 pm

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Blackboard is changing…

In May 2013 we will be upgrading Blackboard from version 9.1 Service Pack 6 to one of the new service packs. We’re hedging on the exact service pack release because Blackboard has recently changed the release schedule. There are at least two more service packs that will be released before we make a final determination about which service pack to install.

We do know that we will upgrade to at least service pack 8. We are currently evaluating service pack 10 and that is a promising candidate. Service pack 11 will be released in December and the early buzz is that a new calendar tool with much greater functionality will be integrated into that release. and we will be carefully evaluating that release when it becomes available. Service pack 12 is expected in February. That will be the last service pack we will have time to test before making a decision about which release to install in May.

What does this mean for the Assumption community? Starting with Service Pack 8 Blackboard has committed to making very significant changes in the user interface. The new releases have a cleaner more modern look and feel. Some users will immediately adapt to the new interface, others will need some time to adjust. There are more navigation options that can streamline user’s workflows. Course themes bring an updated look to your course sites with coordinated color schemes and backgrounds. The content editor has been rewritten and allows users to paste text from Word documents once again without bringing along unwanted formatting codes.

There are also some new features being released. My Blackboard provides a quick stop navigation and communication hub. Users can quickly link to posts, grades, and announcements. In My Posts users can see new posts across the discussion boards, blogs, and wikis of all their active courses. My grades updates the student gradebook interface, permitting students to see a listing of all new grade activity or to view grades course by course. Finally, course can be grouped by “Terms” in the My Courses module and the Courses tab. This new feature is especially useful for faculty who often teach the same course each year or semester.

New Tools for instructors include automatic regrading, negative grading, new quick setup guide for new users, course menu options to reflect different pedagogical approaches, optional sample content, and item analysis for tests. The automatic regrading feature permits instructors the ability to correct a problem in a test that impacts grading. Once the item has been edited Blackboard will recalculate all the grades of the students who have completed the assessment. Instructors no longer have to manually update all the grades. Negative grading allows instructors to assign negative point values to incorrect responses thus discouraging students from guessing when they are uncertain of the correct answer. The new quick setup guide helps instructors new to Blackboard to set up their course site. A wizard guides new instructors through the process of selecting a menu structure to reflect how they teach their course and also provides optional sample content to suggest what to include in a Blackboard site. Finally, Blackboard has introduced item analysis in the testing system. Now instructors can analyse any Blackboard test and determine whether any questions need revision for future use and to see how difficult each question is.

As we evaluate the new service packs we’ll post more information about new features or changes in the system.

Please join us for an information session about the upgrades and get a sneak peek at the new version. We’ll be announcing sessions starting in February.

October 23, 2012

Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 8+
Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 12:52 pm
Learn More about Blackboard Learn - Service Pack 8

New Features:

  1. Term sorted course list in My Courses
  2. Modernized interface elements
  3. Direct course to course navigation
  4. Task based navigation
  5. Negative grading
  6. Automatic regrading
  7. Optional quick setup wizard for new users
  8. Course menus structured to reflect pedagogy
  9. Optional sample content
  10. Course Themes – coordinated colors and backgrounds

More details to follow….

August 31, 2012

Blackboard Course Templates
Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 10:31 am

In the recent past instructors seeking to reuse content from an old course simply copied the content or exported and imported content to a new Blackboard course site. That seems like a simple process and for many worked well over the years. This summer, however, when we moved to a new environment for our production system we discovered some problems with this practice. When we archived spring semester courses from the old production system and restored them to the new environment, errors were generated in the restored sites. Course sites where content had been imported from an old course had broken links to course content. The import process creates content folders that are nested when the content is copied. Over time the nested folders can become deep enough that the path to the content exceeds the limits set by the operating system and the link to the content is broken.
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We are now recommending that faculty who wish to reuse course content in Blackboard request template sites for each course they teach. Maintaining a template site and copying from the template each semester a course is taught, minimizes the nested folders. Template sites can be created from scratch or by importing or copying content from old courses. Template sites created by importing old course content will need some processing to ensure the integrity of the content. We will be posting documentation on best practices for template sites, including how to process template sites that have been created by course copy or import.

1wx5hBlankRequesting Course Template Sites

Send an e-mail to lcooke@assumption.edu with “Template Course Site Request” as the subject and in the body of the message list which course templates you would like and the Course ID from the old system of any course that should be exported/imported. Template sites will be created on an ongoing basis. We do anticipate that the old production system will finally become unavailable to all as of October 1st. We will archive all courses off the old system and will have archives of courses that could be imported to new templates; however there will be no live system to reference so there may be delays while we identify who taught which course sections. We will also create empty templates for you to populate and copy to future courses. All that is needed for these templates is the Registrar’s course number.

July 16, 2012

Blackboard move to virtual environment
Filed under: Blackboard — Tags: — Lynn Cooke @ 4:43 pm

Each May, between Spring and Summer semesters we complete major changes in our Blackboard system. This year was no different in that regard except that the changes were not so major for the end users of the system. In the past, we made significant upgrades to the version of the software so that users saw new features or had new tools available. This year the change was in the environment in which Blackboard runs.
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We have been running Blackboard on the same operating system with the same database system for about 6 years. Both the operating system and database system have been upgraded and would soon no longer be supported. We had to make a change. Over the past academic year we tried a test migration to the new operating system and database system that retained all the old courses and content. We ran into many problems with this strategy. In the end we were forced to rethink our plan and decided that a clean installation of the system and restoration of only one semester’s courses was our best option.
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In addition to the change in operating system and database, we also shifted to a virtualized environment. In a virtualized environment, software emulates the physical machine. Multiple systems can be run on the same server, allowing consolidation of hardware. One of the advantages of server virtualization is disaster recovery. In the event of a catastrophic event affecting our servers, we can recover the system rapidly on another server in a different location.

November 30, 2011

Faculty Lab Update
Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 4:00 pm

sandcastle At the beginning of the semester we announced a face lift for the Faculty Computer Lab. Those changes are nearing completion.

The first and probably most noticeable change is that the lab is no longer serving as office space. Lynn Cooke’s office has been moved to Fuller 108, just down the hall next to Joe Horgos’ office. Both Lynn and Joe can assist you with access to the lab or in using the equipment in the lab. In the next few weeks, you’ll probably see both of them in the lab, learning to use the new interactive whiteboard systems.

We see one of the functions of the Faculty Computer Lab as a testing lab (AKA “sandbox”) for new technologies that you may want to try in the classroom. To that end we have installed two interactive white board systems that we have been piloting on campus, an Epson projector and a Mimio system. The Mimio system includes the Mimio bar, a document camera, and a Mimio pad.  Both systems have their benefits but both require a bit of practice before you’ll be comfortable using them in the classroom. Since classroom access can be at a premium, having the Faculty Lab as a practice space will allow you to get comfortable before facing a classroom of students. We also have clicker systems that can be tested and checked out for use in the classroom. This summer we replaced our hard-to-use PRS systems with easier to use Turning Technologies clickers.  As with the classroom response systems, the clickers may take some getting used to and practice in an environment similar to a classroom can help.

We also have other technologies you may be interested in exploring. We have web cameras and microphones for use in recording instructional video and audio from your laptop or desktop computers. We have some small video cameras similar to flip cameras that you might want to use in the classroom for a variety of activities. These devices are available so you can experiment with them without having to purchase a device that you may end up not using or which might not be quite right for your instructional situation.

In addition to these devices, we still have a document scanner and slide scanner for those who need to create electronic versions of documents or who are converting 35 mm slides to digital format. A wireless digitizing tablet is available if you need to draw or modify images. We have installed ArcView Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software on the 3 available computers.

August 26, 2011

Blackboard changes for 2011-2012
Filed under: Blackboard — Lynn Cooke @ 12:28 pm

We updated Blackboard to version 9.1 Service Pack 6 on August 16th. While this update does not change much in the way things work, it corrects some errors that we’ve noticed. For most users the changes will be invisible.

Students who have timed tests in Blackboard may notice that there is now an autosubmit option that instructors can select that will save and submit a test after a specified time. In previous versions, students could continue to work and Blackboard would record start and end times for instructors to determine if students completed the test in the alloted time.  With the autosubmit feature, an instructor can require that students stop work when time runs out – Blackboard will save the test answers and submit without the students intervention.

For instructors there are a few minor changes. In addition to the autosubmit feature, the attempt details list the amount of time used for tests – you no longer have to calculate the amount of time a student exceeded the time limit if you choose not to use autosubmit. If you grade discussion boards, wikis, blogs, and journals, you can indicate how many posts must be submitted before you are notified that an item needs grading. Finally, rubrics can be created and linked to assignments, blogs, wikis, and journals. Any gradable content type will have an option to create or select a rubric once the grading option has been selected. Rubrics can be made available to students any time or only after the item has been graded.

Course Creation

As with Spring semester, we created a Blackboard site for every course offered by the College. We accomplishing this by feeding data from our institutional database system, Datatel, and importing the information (course number, name, instructor, and student enrollments) into Blackboard. We are employing an automated process so that enrollments and changes in courses are updated daily. Although a site is created for every course offered by the College, this does not mean that you have to use Blackboard for your courses. The decision to use Blackboard for any course remains with the instructor.

Combining Sections or Courses

If you have multiple sections of a course or cross-listed courses that you want to combine into a single site you can combine them using the Course Enrollment Merge tool. The instructions for merging course enrollments are posted on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/documents/CourseMergeTool.pdf

Removing Unused Sites from My Courses

The Course Enrollment Merge tool will make the course you are using as the combined course available, but make the other course sites unavailable. If you don’t want to see these unused sites in your list of courses in the My Courses module in Blackboard you can choose not to display them. The instructions for changing which courses appear under My Courses are also posted on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/documents/MyCoursesQG.pdf

Copying Content

In the past we have copied content from old courses to new, however, with the increased number of courses using Blackboard this has become unmanageable. Blackboard does have tools available to course instructors that permit copying content from one course to another. The course copy tool is one option but a somewhat better option seems to be the Export/Import tool set. The instructions for using the Export/Import tools are available on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is at: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/documents/CourseExportImport.pdf

Course Availability

Another change in procedures is in making courses available to students. In the past we made all Blackboard courses available on the first day of classes. Instructors who wanted their courses available sooner had to do so themselves. Because we are creating Blackboard sites for all courses and because instructors are not required to use Blackboard we will not know who is using Blackboard and who is not. Additionaly, some instructors using Blackboard want students to have access to their sites in advance of the semester and others want to wait until the first class (or later) for students to access the sites. To accommodate these varying needs we will no longer make courses available. Instructors can at any time after a site is created make their Blackboard sites available to students. Instructions for making course sites available are posted on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Bb9CourseAvailabilityQG.pdf

December 2, 2010

Changes in Blackboard course site creation for Spring 2011
Filed under: Blackboard, Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 11:14 am

As you may have already noticed, Blackboard sites have been created for Spring 2010 courses. Going forward we will automatically create sites in Blackboard for all courses offered. Currently we are using a manual batch process but as spring semester progresses we anticipate switching to an automated system which will pull the course listings from Datatel and generate the sites in Blackboard. Although a site is created for every course offered by the College, this does not mean that you have to use Blackboard for your courses. The decision to use Blackboard for any course remains with the instructor.

Combining Sections or Courses

If you have multiple sections of a course or cross-listed courses that you want to combine into a single site you can combine them using the Course Enrollment Merge tool. The instructions for merging course enrollments are posted on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/documents/CourseMergeTool.pdf

Removing Unused Sites from My Courses

The Course Enrollment Merge tool will make the course you are using as the combined course available, but make the other course sites unavailable. If you don’t want to see these unused sites in your list of courses in the My Courses module in Blackboard you can choose not to display them. The instructions for changing which courses appear under My Courses are also posted on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/documents/MyCoursesQG.pdf

Copying Content

In the past we have copied content from old courses to new, however, with the increased number of courses using Blackboard this has become unmanageable. Blackboard does have tools available to course instructors that permit copying content from one course to another. The course copy tool is one option but a somewhat better option seems to be the Export/Import tool set. The instructions for using the Export/Import tools are available on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is at: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/documents/CourseExportImport.pdf

 Course Availability

Another change in procedures is in making courses available to students. In the past we made all Blackboard courses available on the first day of classes. Instructors who wanted their courses available sooner had to do so themselves. Because we are creating Blackboard sites for all courses and because instructors are not required to use Blackboard we will not know who is using Blackboard and who is not. Additionaly, some instructors using Blackboard want students to have access to their sites in advance of the semester and others want to wait until the first class (or later) for students to access the sites. To accommodate these varying needs we will no longer make courses available. Instructors can at any time after a site is created make their Blackboard sites available to students. Instructions for making course sites available are posted on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Bb9CourseAvailabilityQG.pdf

 Additional changes:

As we move forward with the integration of Blackboard with the Datatel system, we will be automating functions including creating course sites and enrollments. At present, we plan to implement the integration tools on the test system this spring. We will test the system and compare to the production system to determine whether the system is working properly. A number of instructors will be contacted to verify enrollments on the production system for comparison to the integration data on the test system. Our hope is that we will begin integration on the production system after registration for Fall 2011. As the project progresses we will provide updates on changes to procedures and timetables.

 

Currently, the process for adding students to courses for spring is to batch enroll. The first batch enrollment will take place the early the week of January 10th. In addition a second batch enrollment will occur after add/drop ends to pick up adds. Unfortunately the batch process does not remove students who drop the course. Removing students will be manual and we ask that instructors check their rosters in Blackboard after we process the second batch enrollment and remove students who have dropped. The instructions are posted on the Instructional Technology Blog. The direct link to the instructions is: http://www1.assumption.edu/blogs/support/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/addremove.pdf

 

If you have students who need to be added before the second enrollment update, you can add them using the instructions above (the instructions for removing students include instructions for adding as well). Alternatively, if you send students to IT, please tell them to bring proof of registration – a copy of their course schedule or a signed add/drop slip.

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