Update from Committee A–Your Blackboard Site May Be Viewable

Amanda forwarded an update from FC4 Secretary Julius Nadas about the most recent Committee A meeting (for anyone who doesn’t know–FC4 is the abbreviation for the full name of the District Wide Faculty Council (there are 4 C’s in it) and Committee A is the Curriculum/Academics committee of FC4.).

Someone on the committee noticed that there is a new area that shows up when you log into Blackboard. It is in different places depending on whether you are looking at the “Course” page or the “My Blackboard” page, but either way the space is called “Catalog” and you’ll see it on the top of the right side column or down toward the bottom on the left. There you’ll see a listing of the different colleges, Center for Distance Learning, District Office (sorry Art–they need a reminder about the Central Office thing), and one for Faculty Council (FC4), too. (The FC4 site has their minutes and Constitution and Presidential addresses to the board and information about syllabi development and more. Check it out when you get the chance. Julius did a really nice job of putting together helpful (and historical) information going back years.)

If you click on the link for Harold Washington College, a list of every course offered comes up. Upon clicking on any of them, you are able to see the Announcements for the course and they Syllabus (at minimum, it seems). The rest of the viewability is dependent on whether and what you made your course available for viewing by guests when you set it up. I usually click on the “Make available to Guests” button when I’m setting it up because I figured the only people who would be poking around (and know how to) were either instructors or administrators and I had no problem with either of them seeing what I was doing. Now, though, I need to rethink that.

For example, if you were to click on one of my classes, you’d be able to see my students discussion boards, where they introduce themselves and argue philosophical positions and the like. I don’t want those available for viewing to other students for all kinds of reasons, and so, I’m going to reset those right now.

You might want to check or change yours, too.

Option A: If you’d like to cut off all access to your course, go to the your course and click on Control Panel. Down toward the bottom, you’ll find a button that says “Settings.” Click on that and you’ll see a menu–the third listing is “Guest Access.” Click on that and choose “No” and your course will show up on the list but not be viewable. You should know, though, that I think we are now required by academic policy to make our syllabi (at minimum) available. Maybe not, though. We are definitely required to POST them, but I’m not sure what the policy says about being required to make it viewable. Caveat emptor.

Option B): If you’d like to leave parts of your course viewable, but not others, then you should go the Control Panel for each of your courses and click on “Manage Course Menu.” You’ll see a listing of items–Announcements, Discussion Board, etc. Click on “Modify” to check the settings for each and check or uncheck the box for Guest (and Observer) access as you prefer.

For now, I’m just going to make all of mine unavailable (Option A) until I have a chance to go through them section by section (Option B). With that said, I think it’s important to remember–A) these are available for perusal to people who can log into Blackboard, not the general public, so don’t completely freak out; B) it’s a little surprising that there was no notice given of this; C) I don’t think it’s a terrible thing from the standpoint of pedagogy and peer review and the rest that our syllabi be available for viewing and review to each other and prospective students. I know that last one will be somewhat controversial, but I kind of like it, frankly.

And you can bet I’ll be spending some time looking at the syllabi for the CDL philosophy courses and the reading lists and approaches taken at other schools for the classes I’m teaching at HW…just as soon as I get my Midterm grading done, that is…so December.

5 thoughts on “Update from Committee A–Your Blackboard Site May Be Viewable

  1. Thanks for the info. Even though I got the email, I didn’t really think about it until your post. One point: I don’t think I’ve ever played around with the guest access settings, and when I checked the status for my courses, it seems guests were allowed to view the course. Based on my experience, I think the default setting is to allow guests to view the course. In other words, it’s not opt-in to make your class viewable, it might be opt-out. I chose to remove guest access, but I’m open to suggestions on why it’s a good idea to make this more accessible.

    One big reason I closed off access: I post homework solutions on BB. For obvious reasons, I’d like to (and am obligated to) keep that as restricted material.

  2. Now that I’ve actually tried what PhiloDave describes, I think I overreacted. Turning off guest access to my entire course meant that my course did NOT appear in the course catalog list. So it seems that guest access is on by default, which allows your course to appear and your announcements and syllabi to be viewed. However, you have to opt-in to make other sections of your course viewable. Since I never changed my guest settings, the only areas that are available to view are the Announcements and Syllabi. The concerns I had with the other areas being visible was unfounded.

    In short, if you read what PhiloDave describes carefully (which I did not), you shouldn’t have to change anything, unless you a) have specified guests can view portions of your course that they could not by default or b) don’t want anyone to be able to view your announcements and syllabi as a guest.

    I agree about the notice, however. Kind of like these three manila envelopes that appeared on my chair today!

  3. Last point and then I’ll leave this post alone forever. I don’t think you can see your own courses when browsing the course catalog, which is why I did not see my courses. It wasn’t because I had turned off guest access, I think it was because I was the instructor for the course. As for why I needed to make three comments on this post on a Friday afternoon when my grading is still a work in progress, I don’t have an answer for that.

    • You can see them, alchemist. For example, I just looked up mine to make sure (click Harold Washington and then go to #175-200 and look for class 61534 (or just search for it) and you’ll see mine (as I did). Turning off guest access makes it un-visitable, even to me, via the catalog. As for the rest of the stuff, I think that’s managed by default so most people are probably unaffected (except for maybe the surprise and any announcements that they did not intend for any and all students to view.

      Unless I’ve misread what you wrote and don’t understand what you mean.

      I have no comment on the triple comment Friday afternoon, though. That’s on you.

  4. For the first time ever(and I frequently look at this catalog course option that PhiloD mentions) I can see 668 courses at HWC. For most of them I can access announcements and syllabi. Take the advice. A switch has been flipped somewhere.
    Be proactive.

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