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Archive for September, 2011

eTutoring Services

The Ohio eTutoring Collaborative, in partnership with The University of Toledo, now provides online tutoring support for all UT students.  This resource is offered as an extension to the face-to-face resources offered through the Learning Enhancement Center (LEC) located in the lower level of Carlson Library, Room B0200.

eTutoring Services are offered in a wide array of subjects, including Writing, Math, Calculus, Statistics, Accounting, Biology, Chemistry, and Anatomy and Physiology.

All eTutoring takes place on-line via one of three different ways:

  1. Online Writing Lab allows students to submit a draft of a paper to a tutor, ask for specific feedback, and receive work back with the tutor’s response within 24 – 48 hours.
  2. Live Tutoring via eChat allows students to meet with a tutor in a one-on-one tutoring session in a fully interactive, virtual on-line environment.
  3. Offline Questions allows students to leave a specific question for an eTutor even when no live tutors are available for eChat.  Students can expect a response within 24 – 48 hours.

To access eTutoring, click on the link below; follow the directions as stated.


Blackboard Assessment Tools UPDATE

Following up on last week’s notice concerning a significant bug in Blackboard’s “quiz tool,” we are awaiting a patch that is now being tested at institutions using the same system that we are using. Once the patch has been tested and is thought to be successful, we will install it on our servers. Notice will be posted here once the patch is applied.

In the meantime, you might be interested in reading this from the online message boards. It reflects our experience at UT. Comments are welcome:

From: XXXX
Date: September 26, 2011 4:35:44 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Why Blackboard Learn S****s
Reply-To: blkbrd-l – A list for Blackboard course administrators and faculty

I’m a bit late to this thread of discussion, but having almost sent similar messages to this list on a few occasions this opportunity can’t be passed up. My personal, private citizen answers to the question Kevin poses.

1. Blackboard moved to Learn too fast. When Bb first acquired WebCT, the WebCT reps assured us two things would happen: 1) Blackboard wouldn’t leave WebCT customers out to dry – they would combine the best of both worlds. 2) The process for bringing the two systems together would be an orderly one.

They showed us a reasonable roadmap that had three versions of each separate LMS in the future before a single version would come out. That included WebCT 6, which had just been released. By my count, Bb is a version short on that roadmap, Learn 9 having come out instead of the separate versions we were told would be produced but have common APIs to prepare for the eventual merged product. Blackboard should have waited until it had a stable, smoothly operating product that would support as seamless a transition as possible. It feels like someone decided to gamble instead that they could get enough people to switch and commit to make up for dissatisfied customers who dropped the product because it didn’t meet the expectations they set.

Consequently, 9.1 was a rushed response when it turned out that there were far more in the dissatisfied camp than expected.

2. Blackboard pressures WebCT clients too much. Most of us in the WebCT world were used to WebCT telling us we needed to get on the Enterprise version, WebCT 4 wouldn’t be supported much longer, etc. so this isn’t necessarily alien to us. However, Blackboard’s initial assertion as to when the CE support would run out seemed clearly designed to get us on board and committed to a joint product as quickly as possible. The Learn product itself seemed designed more for that end then actually meeting the needs of former WebCT customers (and clearly Learn 9.0 was embarrassing deficient in many of the standard CE features).

The problem with such a strategy is that it gives the game away. It’s pretty standard practice now for software companies to bolster the adaptation of new products by discontinuing support for the older versions. However, most software companies with really good products don’t do this. Why? Because they wait until the new product is stable and improved enough to entice customers to move. If Blackboard Learn were a substantial improvement over the CE product, moving would be a natural transition for customers (especially as the licensing is the same). It may yet become that product, but only because the user community has returned the favor.

3. Not enough end-user focus. Blackboard seems to suffer from a lack of vision about end-users. “How will the product work for the intended audience?” should be a question that every software manufacturer answers comprehensively before a product is released. No one expects a perfect product. Software of this kind is too large and complex to not have some deficiencies. However, customers expect the product to work in ways that make sense and do not require them to recreate work. Too many bugs, and the notorious “work as designed” issues left users with the daunting task of redoing work. I had at least one instructor drop out of our pilot because of the Test question image resource bug. He had well over a hundred questions with images.

The course copy issues were especially daunting. I just about feel out of my chair the first time I copied content from a course, got to the new course, looked in Files and found… nothing.

There are just too many instances where users are left asking the overused catchphrase, “Really?” Instead of rushing a version out and patching it up, Bb needed to commit to more extensive testing and making sure that deal breakers for any new version would include bugs or errors that caused their customers to do more work.

What Now?

Obviously, we’re past the point of no return as far as Learn 9.1 is concerned. There are some things Blackboard could do though that would help their customer base:

1. Commit to supporting current versions of CE and Bb classic until Learn 9.1 is far more stable and developed. Bb has pushed deadlines back before. They need to go another 6 to 12 months or longer. Let the improvements in Learn draw customers to it, instead of pushing them over (or away entirely).

2. Do a better job of publicizing their patches. People know that the SPs are coming out but that has a counterproductive effect of saying “your problem won’t get fixed until…” Blackboard needs to be upfront about doing and distributing patches for problems, especially problems that directly affect the work of faculty and students. Given the condition of Learn, Bb’s customer focus should be support. Like the power company after an outage, it should be “we’re coming to the rescue as fast as we can,” instead of “we’ve got a plan and it will all work out.” Timeliness and prioritization are what we’re interested in. I realize there are a lot of new features that need to be added to Learn, but if some of the more fundamental problems are still occurring, it won’t matter.

3. Eliminate the defensive approach. People don’t want to hear “it’s working as designed.” That only undermines confidence (as in, “Why on earth would you design it that way?”) It’s a “bug” or a “flaw” or even a “mistake.” If we hear that we know (or assume) Bb is working to correct it.

4. Involve users as much as humanly possible. Not in the hokey, incredulous “I designed Winows 7” way, but in a way that addressed not only changes, but testing and release. The average end user would have spotted a lot of things that are now headaches for the company. Bb is getting there but needs more commitment. For example, instead of telling people, “Join the bug squad,” how about this: “That’s a good point and I will personally forward that to…”

Blackboard Learn 9.1 could still be a good, even great product (and it has some real strengths). SP 6 has made some improvements on key problems. Right now though, it still feels like a work in progress, which is the last thing in which people want to conduct their business.


Blackboard 9 known issues and workarounds

Blackboard 9 has some known issues. The links listed below contain some of the Bb9 known issues and solutions or workarounds.

Blackboard 9.1 assessment tool flaw

At 4:30 a.m. on Friday, September 16th, a patch was applied to Blackboard to correct a problem with the quiz tool.  Unfortunately, we are still receiving reports of students experiencing problems with Blackboard quizzes.  The issue has been acknowledged by several universities and Blackboard is currently working on a resolution.  We ask that faculty please be understanding with students who experience issues with quizzes during this time.  We would also like to remind students to clear their browser cache before attempting another quiz and to follow the test taking procedures outlined in the Learning Ventures Blog link below.

How to clear cache:


Test taking tips:


Reset Tests

There are two major processes associated with clearing or resetting a student’s attempt.  If the test is currently available for students to take, only the steps for the first procedure (A) are required.  If the test is no longer available to students, then the instructor must complete the first procedure, and reopen the test availability following the steps for the second procedure (B).  The second session is also applicable to allowing access for makeup tests.

A.  Resetting (clearing) a student’s attempt from the grade center:

  1. Locate the test column and the student’s row in the Full Grade Center (Control panel > Grade Center > Full Grade Center).  An incomplete attempt will be denoted by a pencil and paper icon.
  2. Hover in the student’s cell and click the chevron that appears.
  3. A list of options will appear.  Click on the listed attempt in the format Attempt (Date). This will allow the student’s attempt to be viewed.
  4. Click on Test Information in the bar at the top to expand the test information window.
  5. Click the Clear Attempt Button to remove the student’s attempt.
  6. A dialog box will appear, asking to confirm clearing the attempt. Click OK

The student’s attempt has now been reset.  If the test is still available to students, the student can simply click the test link to retake the test.  If the test link is not available anymore, then the test availability must be extended.

B. Extending Test Availability and Using Adaptive Release to release the test to students.

Part I: Extending the Test Availability

  1. Go to the content area where the test is located and locate the test to be reset.
  2. Click the chevron button next to the test title and choose Edit the Test Options.
  3. Click on Edit the Test Options
  4. Under section 2, change the test availability dates to when the student is to take the makeup session.
  5. Click Submit at the bottom of the page to save the changes, and go back to the test content area.

Part II: Using Adaptive Release

  1. Adaptive Release is used to release an item to select students.
  2. Click the chevron next to the test and choose Adaptive Release.
  3. Set the availability dates under Adaptive Release.  This date should fall within the date specified under Edit the Test Options.  Otherwise the student would not be able to access the test.
  4. Enter the student’s username in the box provided or click Browse to search for the user to release the item to.  To verify the test availability, add the student view account and log in as a student once the settings are entered.
  5. For “Select a Grade Center Column,” leave this option as None.  Otherwise, the student may not be able to access the test.  DO NOT set this option as the current test.
  6. Click Submit when finished.  The test has now been released to the student.

Blackboard Test-Taking Tips

Some students have encountered technical problems when taking online tests. The best way to avoid these issues is to use Firefox 3.6 or later to take online tests in Blackboard. It is also advisable that students clear their cache prior to testing. ( click here for instructions) Please review the following carefully before taking
online tests.

  1. Close all programs (browsers, Word etc.).
  2. Launch Firefox and log onto your Blackboard course site.
  3. Access the test page.
  4. Click the test you want to take. Single click on the link only. Double clicking the link will open the link twice, which may cause the systemto act like you have already taken the test.
  5. Read the instructions carefully.
  6. Click the Begin button.
  7. Select a correct answer (single click) or enter your answer for short answer and essay questions. You do NOT need to click “Save answer” for each question.
  8. Please verify that you have answered all questions prior to submitting your test.
  9. Click the Save and Submit button at the bottom of the page when finished.

Notes about test settings:

  • Force Completion:
    When force completion is enabled, you will not be able to exit and return to your test. If you encounter problems or you get kicked off, your instructor will need to clear your test attempt-in which case you will need to retake the entire test. If force completion is not enabled, you can exit and reenter the test if you encounter technical problems.
  • Timer:
    The Blackboard timer will run continuously from the time you start the test, and will run until the time you click Submit. The timer will run even if you exit the test or log out of Blackboard
  • Auto Submit:
    After time expires, the test will automatically submit regardless of whether you are on the test page or not.
  • Prohibit Backtracking:
    You will not be able to review or make changes once you move to the next question. Be sure you have chosen your answer prior to advancing. Do not double click on the next question button, as this may cause you to skip questions.

During the test:

  • Do NOT try to navigate away from the test area of Blackboard or close the test window.
  • Do NOT click any button on the Browser navigation menu (such as back, next, refresh etc.).
  • Do NOT click the “Save answer” button for each question; you only need to click the “Save and Submit” button when you finish the test.
  • Do NOT “double click” on anything in the exam.
  • Click outside of the answer selection radio buttons before scrolling with the mouse wheel or arrow buttons. Otherwise, this will change the selected answer.
  • It will take 5-30 seconds for the system to update the “Save answer” button into “Saved” after selecting an answer. Do NOT panic.

If problems occur…

  • Don’t touch your keyboard or click on anything, wait for a few minutes to see if the problem resolves by itself.
  • If your test freezes, or you seem to no longer be able to advance or select answers, you will need to clear your cache and browsing history.
  • Call Learning Ventures Help Desk at 419-530-8835 or 1-866-886-5336 and let us know the problem you encountered. Be prepared to let us know both the operating system (Windows or Mac OS) and the browser (Firefox, IE, Safari, Chrome) you were using at the time the problem occurred. The
    more information you can provide, the easier it will be for us to help troubleshoot the problem.
  • Contact your instructor about the problem you encountered.
  • Capture a screenshot (if possible) and send it to UTLV@utoledo.edu or complete this form if you encounter a problem after our support hours. Make sure you include the course number and section number, name of the test, the platform you use (Mac or Windows), and the time you experienced the problem in the message.

Due dates not showing up in the To Do module

Learning Ventures Support has received inquiries from instructors regarding due dates not showing up in the “To Do” module on the Course News page.  Some instructors report that not all students can see the due dates, and not all items with due dates are listed, even if the due date is specified in the test, assignment or grade center column setup.  Blackboard is aware of these inconsistencies based on inquiries sent by other institutions.  However, there is not a specified release date for an official fix.  Therefore, Learning Ventures is recommending that instructors remove the To Do module from their course and either use the course calendar tool or create a schedule document in their course site that outlines the due dates for the course assignments.  Instructors can remove the To Do module by clicking the X in the top right corner of the module box (see the image below).  Instructors can contact Learning Ventures at utlv@utoledo.edu if they need any assistance with removing this module box, using the course calendar, or setting up a course schedule document.


Use Smart Views to manage student groups

For those who merged multiple sections or courses into one Blackboard course site, you may want to create a Smart View for each individual group (section or course). To create a Smart View:

  • Go to Control Panel—>Grade Center—>Full Grade Center.
  • From the Full Grade Center screen, click the Mange button and select Smart Views.


  • From the Smart Views screen, click the Create Smart View button.


  • From the Create Smart View screen, enter a name for the view (for example, Section #001) and next to Select Criteria, choose the group you’re creating the Smart View for.


  • Click the Submit button to create the Smart View.
  • You should now see the Smart Views screen with a listing of all available Smart Views.
  • You can now select the Smart View that you just created by clicking on its name.
  • You should nowsee the Full Grade Center filtered so that just the students belonging to that Group (section) are shown.

To view the entire listing of all students (from all sections), click the the Filter button (right next to the Work Offline button on the right side of the screen) and from the drop-down menu next to Current View, choose “Full Grade Center (default)”. You can use the Filter button from now on to switch from the Default View (all students) to one of your Groups (sections) and back again.


Lockdown Browser and Mac Lion OS X

Respondus Lockdown Browser, used by faculty to prevent online surfing or communication during online test sessions, is not yet updated for Mac OS 10.7, “Lion”.    Several institutions have reported the problem to Respondus. According to Respondus Tech Support, they have started the testing process with LockDown Browser on OS X Lion but no release date has been established for updates to LockDown Browser for Macintosh.  We will keep you updated as we learn about new releases.

A temporary solution for those who use OS X Lion is to use another system, such as  Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to take tests with LockDown Browser.  All main campus computers in the Information Commons and college labs should have a working copy of Respondus installed.   Unfortunately, Lockdown Browser will not operate on the UT Virtual Lab.  

Click this link http://www.respondus.com/lockdown/information.pl?ID=213815819 to download the program.