Blackboard Blitz this Friday if you’re around

Blackboard Blitz
Friday November 11, 2011
Harold Washington College – Room 407

1. 9:00 – 10:00
Topics covered include:
– managing the environment
-creating announcements
-posting documents, videos, external links, and more
-accessing Control Panel functions
2. 10:00 – 11:00
Topics covered include Basic Grade Center features:
-customizing the view
-posting grades and student comments
-weighting grades
– generating reports
-downloading the Grade Center
3. 11:00 –12:00
Topics covered include:
-Communications Features (email, discussion board, internal messages)
– Digital Assignment Function (plagiarism detection software)
Lunch (on your own)

4. 1:00 – 2:30
Blackboard Open Lab – Practice: Work on your spring courses.

Click on the link below to reserve your seat. (max. 25)
Response Deadline – noon Thursday November 10

Think, Know, Prove–New Version of Blackboard

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

We have a new version of Blackboard, you know. My students seem to be navigating it without difficulty, so far; mostly the same is true for me, in no small part thanks to Ephrem’s screencast videos. Issues remain, though.

I have heard that there is an issue with the email function; don’t know if that has been fixed yet. My three biggest problems so far have been 1) student difficulties opening and printing .pdfs; 2) the fact that when I post an External Link to specific YouTube video, it initially goes to the video, but then redirects to the home site before the video loads; and 3) when I tried to solve that problem by posting the video under the “Mashup” column (in a strange use of that word, it seems), I get only an error message.

The first one is solved easily enough with a link to Adobe Reader and a brief explanation (and demonstration) that students should print from the .pdf frame rather than the browser. The second and third is resolved by having students right click on the link and open it in a new window. Still, something about that isn’t right.

Mathissexy likes the new Gradebook much better than the old one, and I agree except for the fact that the frame is so tiny that I can only see 8 or so names at a time and the thing scrolls like walking zombie (as in not smooth).I like the Journal function, too, and suggested that students use it as a place to record their learning as we go (I might even require that next semester; not sure, though), but I haven’t made use of the Blog or some of the other new tools.

Surely that is not all anyone has to say about it. What do you like? What do you despise? What should they fix?

What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?

Blackboard Changes and Help

Ephrem has, as always, been a busy little beaver over the last month or two, while some significant and important changes to Blackboard have occurred.

At the very least, you should take a few minutes, if you haven’t already, to check out his videos about what is new in the new version of Blackboard (9.1).

You can see them by clicking:

~ HERE for the Guide to the Opening Screen;

~ HERE for an explanation of where you can find the Old Stuff in the New Version, and;

~ HERE for a guide to the new features available in the upgraded CMS.

Also, be sure to consider (and hopefully sign up for), the STARFISH early warning alert tool (a.k.a., S.O.A.R) by clicking on THIS LINK and providing the information required. (I’d also encourage anyone who was part of the pilot to tell the rest of us what you thought of it in the comments. Thanks!).

Ephrem also sent along some links to Blackboard-created Tutorials here, here, here, and (one for your students) here. Might want to show that last one to them in your first or second class. Or at least make it available.

Finally, don’t forget that you can get the latest and greatest in all things Blackboard on Ephrem’s Blog.

Give the man some love; he’s earned it!

Update to “Your Blackboard Site May be Viewable”

This October 22nd Lounge post informed us that our course sites are now viewable to anyone logged-in to Blackboard, unless the settings have been changed to not allow guess access. For comparison’s sake and because I can be nosy about certain things, I spent some time poking around the syllabi from different campuses. I did the same for CDL syllabi. Guess what I found in the CDL syllabus for one of the courses I teach at HWC? An entire section of my syllabus pasted into theirs–390 of my words, verbatim, that explain the different types of assignments students complete in the course.

After seeing this, I remembered a phone call I received from a CDL instructional designer early last year. He explained that they were updating the syllabus for this class because the textbook they had been using had gone out of print. He then asked me if I would email him my course materials–syllabus, assignments, rubrics, everything I had. I said no, explaining that CDL course design or redesign is something faculty are paid for. A few days later, I received an email from one of the deans at CDL, asking if I would be interested in redesigning the course for a stipend. I respectfully declined. And that was the last I heard about it, until last week when I took a peep at the syllabus on Blackboard and saw that imitation–I mean duplication–is apparently the sincerest form of flattery.

I guess the moral of this scene from Bizarro World is this: don’t ask for what should be offered; just take it.

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.