Archive for the ‘Course Management System’ Category

Help Your Students Help Themselves

Friday, January 7th, 2011

It’s a new semester with new students. There are few things you can do to help students succeed in their online courses:

  • Remind them about the Blackboard student tutorial. This course appears in every student’s list of courses and they can enter it at any time. This tutorial provides students with activities they can complete to familiarize themselves with Blackboard. There are a number of tutorials and guidelines they should follow when taking online courses.
  • Request that students read the Distance Learning Basics: Skills for being a successful online student (pdf), which is included in the Blackboard Student Tutorial (available to all students in Blackboard). Some instructors include the reading as one of the introduction activities to the course.
  • Provide a thorough introduction to the course, along with your expectations (see CFCC Course Essentials)
  • Let students know which file types you will accept for assignments (be aware that some students might not have MS Office, etc. so provide ways for them to save files in an acceptable format) and how to properly name files. See this Filenaming and File Types document (part of the student tutorial) for some information and suggestions.
  • Provide students with information about taking quizzes and tests in Blackboard. This document is included in the student tutorial.
  • Advise students about two important help sites:

Are Your Courses Ready For Spring 2011?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Instructors are likely in the process of building courses at this time, in preparation for the spring 2011 semester.  The following documents will help you determine if your courses are ready for the first day of class. Items include content, design, and support items. The first document, the Course Readiness Checklist, provides you with an interactive form to help you document the status of your course(s). The other documents support the Course Readiness Checklist.

  • Use the Course Readiness Checklist (pdf) to help ensure that your course is ready to launch.
  • Check the Grade Center to ensure that all activities were copied and are correct; that the correct grading schema is being used; and that items are correctly categorized. Refer to Grade Center Check document (pdf).
  • If you are revising your course, consult the CFCC course essentials checklist (doc).This document identifies 25 standards that should be addressed in online courses. You can use the rubric (doc) with these standards if you want to take notes as you review your course.

If you have any questions, please contact the DL Instructional Technologist, Liz Stover at

Have a great holiday season!


What’s Working? What’s New?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

There’s good news for CFCC DL faculty. The course copy and course reports features are now working! You can find information on how to use both on the DL Faculty Procedures and Guidelines page.

There’s a new feature available that will make your lives easier. Under the Control Panel in Course Tools, you will see a link for “Add Test Student”. This tool allows you to add your own test student, which enables you to login in with a different username to view your course content from a student’s point of view. Remember, the course must be made available to allow viewing (you can make it unavailable after you are finished if the course is not live yet). Please see Add Test Student in Courses for information on how to use this feature.

Prepare Your Spring Course

Monday, November 1st, 2010

It’s that time of the semester when you should be preparing your Spring 2011 courses. Below are a few reminders and tips:

  • Use Course Copy to copy previous courses into your new course shell.
  • Please make sure you do not copy items more than once.
  • Make sure you include an Enrollment Verification discussion thread, which will be used to verify a student’s participation by the census date.
  • Take a look at the Course Essentials Checklist and rubric to ensure that your courses meet these standards. The Department of Distance Learning offers an online resource for this, Best Practices for Teaching Online, and Course Essentials workshops to help you apply these standards. See Module 4 in the Bb101 course in Blackboard for instructions on self-enrolling in the Best Practices course. Refer to the DL Training Schedule for upcoming workshops.
  • Remove all discussion posts by students from the previous semester.
  • Remove old announcements.
  • Check the Grade Center to ensure that all graded items are included.
  • Check links in the course to ensure that they work properly (includes internal and external links).
  • Review content for validity.
  • Build into your course reminders to students about the Blackboard Student Tutorial and Distance Learning Basics manual.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Department of Distance Learning if you have questions or need assistance.

Blackboard Updates

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The Distance Learning Department would like to advise instructors of some updates on issues with Blackboard:


Links in Content Areas to Bb Tools

When creating a link in the content area to a tool in Blackboard (discussion forum, send email, etc.), the link was breaking if that link information was edited (or simply entered and re-submitted). This resulted in the need to re-link these items.

This issue has been resolved and the tool links work properly.


Menu Link to External Website

When creating a link to a Website in the Blackboard course menu, and setting it to open in a new window, the link does not work properly (might work the first time and later fail). If the option to set the site to NOT open in a new window is not an desired, you can work around this error by adding a question mark to the end the URL (web address) for that site.  This will result in the link working properly.

Please refer to the Blackboard FAQ page for more information.

Pending Issues

We are working with Blackboard in an attempt to resolve the other remaining issues. Please check the Blackboard FAQ’s page for answers to frequently asked questions, to our Teaching with Blackboard 9 page for tutorials and tips to help your students work in Blackboard, and to the Faculty Resources section for other information about training, procedures, guidelines and course development issues.

We will continue to keep you posted on new developments.

July and August Blackboard Training

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

If you will be teaching on Blackboard this Fall, please make sure to complete the Bb 101 course on the new Blackboard 9.1 server. All instructors are enrolled in this course, so it will appear on your list of courses after you login to Blackboard.

After completing Bb 101, you can attend a face-to-face workshop, which will introduce you to the Bb 9.1 course management system. You will also be enrolled in a Sandbox course as an instructor. You can use this area to practice using Blackboard tools.

To view a list of workshops being offered , select the “DL Training for Instructors” link on this blog.

Blackboard 9.1 : 30-day FAQs

Monday, June 14th, 2010

We’ve been using Blackboard 9.1 for approximately one month now and DL wants to provide a little report of some recurring issues/questions:

Where can I find Blackboard Tutorials?

How do I resolve text display and html error messages?

These items are generally related to bad code carried over from the old Blackboard. The new Blackboard is stricter, which alerts people to some underlying problems. While pesky, these problems can generally be resolved. Refer to two documents on the Teaching with Blackboard 9 page:

How do I weight grades?

You can set up weighted grades in two ways, individual columns or by assigning categories (most common).

See the tutorial on our Teaching with Blackboard 9 page: Grade Center: Weighting Grades (movie cc) or refer to the NC Community Colleges help article: Grade Center > Columns-Calculated Grades > Calculating Grades: Explain how grade weighting works.

How do I view assignments or quizzes that have been submitted?

You will go to the Grade Center in the Control Panel. Select “Full Grade Center”, where you will see rows with students’ names and columns with items and graded activities. The NC Community Colleges help site has tutorials for viewing and grading submissions (Bb Support: Instructors > Grade Center ) .

How do I use a quiz/test from one course in another?

The easiest way to reuse tests and quizzes is when an entire course is copied. This will retain the course structure and any assessments.

Move all tests, surveys, and pools

You can use the Course Copy feature under Packages and Utilities in the Control Panel to copy all of your tests, surveys, and pools from one course to another (you cannot select to copy individual quizzes). This will push them all into the Test Manager. You can then deploy them in the course where needed. In the Course Copy feature, you will select just “Tests, Surveys, and Pools”. Do not select other content or you will have duplicates of these other items in your course. In summary:

  1. Use Course Copy to copy the item into the course.
  2. Deploy the test (or survey) in course.

Move just one or some tests, surveys, or pools

However, you might be in a situation where you just need to move just some quizzes or tests (you might not need or want all tests, surveys, and pools moved). This is a three step process:

  1. Export the test from the old course.
  2. Import the test to the new course.
  3. Deploy the test in the new course.

The NC Community College Online Support Center provides tutorials for exporting, importing, and deploying quizzes/tests (select Bb Support: Instructors > Tests, Surveys, Pools > Reuse/Find Questions).

Refer to the tutorial for doing the same with Pools if you are using test pools.

Why can’t I email students my announcements?

The new feature (notifications) is not working correctly so this has been disabled until the problem is resolved. In the meantime, the easiest way to do this is to copy the content of the announcement and use the Send Email feature in Blackboard. Select to send to all students.

How do I get rid of all the extra columns in my Grade Center?

Next to each column heading in the Grade Center, there is a set of chevron arrows. Click this to select “Delete Column”. Keep in mind that if the column is linked to an activity in the course, you cannot delete it.

What is the easiest way to see if all of my activities are in the Grade Center?

In the Grade Center, select Manage > Column Organization.
Scroll to your graded activities. This will show you the list of items in the grade center, their points, and other information. You can reorder the columns here by dragging and dropping the four-headed arrows on the left of each.

Why isn’t my button to an external link working?

Some of you include a menu button to an external website. If you set it to open in a new window, it is likely broken. This is a bug that has been reported to Blackboard. We are requesting that you open items in the same window until this is fixed.

Also, for links in course materials, sometimes the items open in a new window that minimizes to the student’s task bar and they think the item is not there. Selecting to open in the same window will resolve this problem.

How do I run Course Reports for attendance?

View the movie, Running a Report of User Activity. Use the first day of class as the start date and the day after the census date as the end date (to pick up all activity through the census date). You only need to print the page with the student names and dates, usually near the end of the report.

Note that this report does not include your course ID so make sure to include your name and the course ID on the document after printing.

Don’t Get Stung by the Blackboard Upgrade

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

prepare for the Blackboard 9 upgrade

CFCC will be upgrading from Blackboard 7.3 to Blackboard 9.1 starting on May 10. The system may be unavailable through May 13. Be forewarned that the new version of Blackboard is significantly different from the current version so it’s important that you complete Bb 101 and attend training as soon as possible to prepare for this new and exciting change.

Are you prepared for the upgrade?

  • Have you completed Blackboard 101 for Bb9?
  • Have you attended either a What’s New in Bb 9 workshop (current online instructors) or a Getting Started with Blackboard workshop (new instructors)? See training schedule.
  • Have you copied course content for your summer and/or fall courses?
  • Have you reviewed our Teaching with Blackboard 9 webpage?

The Department of Distance Learning is here to help you with this transition. Please contact us for further assistance with your courses and have a great summer!

North Campus Training

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The Department of Distance Learning will offer one final workshop before the end of the semeseter at the North on What’s New in Blackboard 9 on April 29. For more information and to sign up for this workshop, visit the DL Training page on this blog. 

This will be the last training opportunity at North campus before the summer semester. We will be upgrading the Blackboard server to the new version from May 10-13, so the system might be unavailable for those dates. You can continue to work on your courses in the current Blackboard system and make your course copies. We will move all content over during the upgrade.

What’s New in Bb 9 Training at North Campus

Friday, April 16th, 2010

If you are current online instructor at North Campus and have not yet attended a What’s New in Blackboard 9 workshop, the Department of Distance Learning is offering one just for you on April 19. For details, please visit our Training Page.

Free Your Files: Bb improves file management

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Are you tired of embedding and attaching files in Blackboard, only to try and recall all of the locations where you need to replace these for future revision?

Let me introduce you to the Blackboard 9 Course Files system. This will look familiar to those who have used Moodle or WebCT in the past. For those who prefer the old method, this will still be available, but now you can upload your files into a file manager and link to them when needed. This allows you to replace files as they need updates, without breaking the links, as long as you do so properly ;-). Sometimes, you have files that might be linked to several areas in your course (e.g. rubrics). This new system enables you to update the file in the storage area rather than require you to re-embed an instance of the file in each location. This saves you time and effort.

Are you interested in learning how this works? Check out Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center and a movie tutorial explaining this tool: View Course Files Tool tutorial. Learn how to upload and organize files and how to link content in your course.

There is one little viewing glitch with this movie; the full screen does not show when viewing at 100%from the link in the On Demand Learning Center, but if you open the link I provided above, you’ll see the tutorial in full-screen.  Happy filing.

It’s Course Copy Time!

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Course shells have been created for the summer session in Blackboard. It is now time to copy your course content from previous courses into the new shells. Please refer to DL’s faculty resource page to access the How to: Copying Course Content document.

We are also holding special drop-in days devoted to helping faculty with course copies on Mon., March 22 & Tues. March 23 in our S200 office, and at the North Campus Learning Lab on Tues. March 30 from 1 – 4pm.

Finally, please make sure to read our Upgrading to Blackboard 9 document, which will provide you with details about preparing for this change. Have a great Spring Break (although it’s not yet spring).

Blackboard 9 Cheat Sheet

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Many of you are awaiting the upgrade from Blackboard 7.3 (old school) to the new, bright and shiny Blackboard 9. The following document will provide you with a snapshot of some differences you can expect:

What’s New in Blackboard 9? (PDF) 

Remember, when you get access to our Blackboard 9 test server, do NOT count on building out your courses to be moved to the production server, since test servers do not have guaranteed stability. You can continue building out courses in our current Bb and these courses will be moved to the Bb 9 production server during upgrade.

Oh, while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out CFCC’s Course Essentials Checklist (.doc), conveniently also available in a rubric version, if you’d like to take notes while checking your course.