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Instructional Technology

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.

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.

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.

May 19, 2009

Upgrading tomorrow…
Filed under: Blackboard — Lynn Cooke @ 2:52 pm

We’re all set for the upgrade tomorrow. I’ve finished revising the instructor documentation. I’ll finish the student documentation over the summer. Most of the changes are in the instructor interface and students should not see much more than cosmetic differences.

We’ll start the upgrade tomorrow at 9 AM and while that runs, will update the IT/Bb web pages to reflect the changes – mainly the version 9 documentation will be accessible from the instructor documentation page rather than a link deeper and the version 8 documentation will be removed.

Today I’m playing with the sign up feature in groups. After reading on the Blackboard listserv that the sign up tool is not going to be revised for version 9 because the group sign up tool offers similar functionality, I’ve been checking that out. One difference in the groups feature that I noticed today, groups are defaulted to unavailable. In version 8 the default was available. Must note that in the FAQs.

April 28, 2009

Wimba Instant Messaging
Filed under: Blackboard — Tags: — Lynn Cooke @ 10:19 am

I’m testing a new Building Block for Blackboard, Wimba Pronto Basic, on our test system. It’s an instant messaging tool that has an audio component, something I’m asked about with increasing frequency lately.

So far it looks interesting. You can open a group chat by selecting users and inviting them to a group text chat. Once in the chat you can opt to use voice over IP (VoIP) to open an audio conference call with your class. On initial look, this building block seems to fill a void currently lacking in the collaboration tools built-in to Blackboard.

More testing before our “go live” date for upgrade to Blackboard 9, and some pilot testing during the summer will tell us whether this is the answer to some of our synchronous online course communication needs.

April 23, 2009

What's new in Blackboard 9?
Filed under: Blackboard — Lynn Cooke @ 3:23 pm

We’ve been discussing if and when to upgrade to the new version of Blackboard, Blackboard Learn 9. We are presently planning an upgrade for May 20th. The new version will be available for Summer I courses.

See the postings under What’s New? to read about the improvements in release 9.0.