UT Online

Archive for the ‘Blackboard Tips & Tricks’ Category

Effective strategies to prevent cheating in distance learning courses

Here’s a friendly reminder to register for the upcoming Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series (BITS) Lunch ‘N Learn webinar entitled:

Effective strategies to prevent cheating in distance learning courses

February 9, 2017 at 2:00 pm EST

Presented by Schoolcraft College (MI) Instructional Designers:

No one really knows when the first teacher gave the first group of students the first assessment, but we can guarantee you this – somebody cheated on it. That’s how old this problem is. And as teaching, students, classrooms, and technology have evolved, cheating has remained a prevalent problem.

Today, there’s a concern that cheating is more common in distance learning courses, when in fact there are several studies indicating the percentage of students who cheat online is about the same as it is face-to-face – although the ways in which students cheat do vary. Because of that, there are a lot of tools available for us to catch students cheating in distance learning courses, but this session will focus on three ways that we can prevent it from happening in the first place.

This is a must-attend webinar for higher education professionals, including:

  • Professor, Instructor, Lecturer
  • Instructional Designers
  • Academic Technologist


Tips for Taking Tests in Blackboard

Before Taking a Test

  • Install a preferred web browser. Learning Ventures highly recommends the use of Google Chrome (Download Chrome) when taking online tests in Blackboard. We highly recommend AGAINST using Internet Explorer as your web browser when working in Blackboard. If your instructor requires that you use Respondus Lockdown Browser, please make sure to read the section Note Regarding Respondus Lockdown Browser below.
  • It is also advisable that students clear their cache prior to testing. (Click here for instructions)
  • Please use a wired Ethernet connection when taking tests, if possible.  Avoid public WiFi connections that may not be available for extended times.
  • Blackboard maintenance is performed each morning from 4:00 am to 5:00 am. During this time, Blackboard will be unavailable. Please plan your Blackboard activities accordingly and avoid starting exams close to this time period.

Notes about test settings:

There are various settings in Blackboard that may be applied to the test you are taking.  You will see a list of the settings that are applied to a specific test once you click on the link to the test.  Below are in-depth descriptions of what those settings mean for you:

  • 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 this 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.  Therefore, if you leave the test for five minutes, those five minutes would be removed from the timer.  It is not possible to “pause” a blackboard test, so you should plan to take the test in one sitting.
  • 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.  Your responses will save automatically.
  • 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 utdl@utoledo.edu 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.

Taking an Online Test

  1. Close all programs (browsers, Word etc.).
  2. Launch Firefox or Chrome 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 system to 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. Use the scroll bars on the right side of the window to scroll, and click outside where the answer choices are prior to scrolling to the next question. Scrolling using the mouse wheel or the arrow keys may change your answer selections.
  9. Use the navigation buttons within the test window to navigate between questions.  Do not click the Black, Forward, or Refresh/Reload buttons in your browser toolbar.
  10. Please verify that you have answered all questions prior to submitting your test.
  11. Click the Save and Submit button at the bottom of the page when finished.

Note Regarding Respondus Lockdown Browser

Some instructors may require students to take tests using Respondus Lockdown Browser, which is a special browser intended only for taking tests.  In order to take tests that require Respondus Lockdown Browser, students must first download the program and install it on their computers.  Then students will need to launch Lockdown Browser in order to take exams that require it.  Exams that require Lockdown Browser cannot be launched in a regular browser. The Lockdown browser can be downloaded from our downloads and plugins page.  Respondus Lockdown Browser is based off Internet Explorer, so some settings may need to be changed in Internet Explorer in order to ensure optimal performance when taking tests.

Instructions for taking exams in Lockdown Browser:

  1. Click on the LockDown Browser icon on your computer’s desktop or locate within your computer’s program list.
  2. The Choose a Server window will pop open, prompting you to choose an eLearning system. Select Blackboard from the drop?down menu and then click OK.
  3. If prompted to close a blocked program (Instant Messenger, Skype, etc.), choose Yes or Kill These Applications.
  4. The Blackboard login screen will appear. Login to your course.
  5. Enter your course, click on the name of the test and click the Begin button.
  6. A new window will pop open asking whether the instructor has required a password for the test. If the instructor has provided a password, select Yes and enter the password and then click Continue to begin the exam.
  7. If the instructor did not provide a password, select No and click Continue. Respondus LockDown Browser will automatically fill in a special password on the next screen. This password should not be modified.
  8. Submit your answers and then click the Submit button when finished to complete your test.

Tips for using Lockdown Browser:

  • Use the Lockdown Browser for all exams that require the browser
  • Download the Lockdown Browser directly from UT.  Do not search the internet to find a download link for the browser, as each institution’s version of the browser is unique to that institution, and you will be taken to that institution’s login page, and not to the login page for UT.
  • On Windows, be sure to have the latest updates or Internet Explorer installed, even if you do not use Internet Explorer
  • Please set Internet Explorer (for Windows users) to the Medium security setting under Safety>Internet Options
  • Add “lockdown.exe” (Windows) or “LockDown Browser.app” (Macintosh) as a “trusted application” and https://blackboard.utdl.edu address as a “trusted site” in any security software.
  • Turn off any “private browsing” features in Internet Explorer.

Recorded Webinar: Setting Up Your Course Without a Template

Templates make it easy for faculty to get a jump start on course design and to ensure that students experience a consistent learning environment across courses. But what if you’re flying without one? In this previously recorded webinar, viewers will learn strategies and best practices for setting up a course in Blackboard Learn without a template, and discover embedded resources for design and technical support.

Setting Up Your Course in Blackboard Without a Template
Presenter: Phoebe J. Ballard, UT Learning Ventures

 This webinar is part of the Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series (BITS). To learn more, visit www.blackboard.com/BITS.

Join the Blackboard Exemplary Course Cohort (7/22 – 8/12)

Using the Blackboard Exemplary Course (ECP) Rubric as a guide, Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Cohort will provide theoretical concepts and practical tools for instructors to recognize, organize, and build online courses for both blended and online learners. Over the course of four weeks, ECP Directors and 2013 Exemplary Course Winners will expand upon each element of the rubric. This program is most beneficial to educators and designers who are new to online learning.

The cohort will not have weekly assignments, and there is no cost to participate. Live sessions will be held each Monday at 11 AM EDT and will run from July 22 until August 12. All sessions will be recorded and posted online.

To register and learn more, visit: http://learn.blackboard.com/ecpcohort

Instructions for uploading your syllabus to Blackboard for public viewing

Save your syllabus in .pdf or word format on your desktop or other place where you can find it later.

Go to Blackboard:  https://blackboard.utdl.edu.

Sign in with your utad name and password.

You should see a list of your courses on the right.

Click on the title of your Fall 2012 course.

Click “Public Area” on the left.

Click “Build Content” and then “File” on the drop down menu.

Next to “Find File” click “Browse My Computer”.

Locate your syllabus file and choose it.

Enter the course number and name in the “Name” field.

Be sure that “yes” is chosen next to “Permit Users to View this Content”.

Click the “Submit” button.

Enabling Public View/Guest Access for Course Files

If instructors have deleted the “public area” link in their course, or wish to make other links available, instructors can follow the instructions below to make a content area in Blackboard available to course guests and the general public.

Enabling Guest Access on a Content Area

These instructions will demonstrate how to make a content area in Blackboard available to course guests and the general public.

To enable guest access, log into your blackboard course, and locate the content area in the course menu you wish to make available to the public. Click the chevron next to the link and choose Permit Guests. All content posted on the link is now publicly available.

Step 1 Image

Enabling Guest Access for the Course, Part 1

If you do not have the option to permit guests as shown in the step above, you will need to allow guest access to the course. To allow guest access, go to the control panel, and click on Customization. Select Guest and Observer Access.

Step 2 Image

Enabling Guest Access for the Course, Part 2

  1. Locate the item labeled Allow Guests and select Yes.
  2. When you are finished, press Submit.

Step 3 Image

You will now be able to specify which content areas you wish to make available to guests.



FYE Course Sites

The blackboard site for your orientation section should now be available with the template for all orientation courses at UT. All required modules should already be uploaded, along with additional resources and information. Click this link for what is inlcuded in my course and this link for instructions on how to upload optional modules into your section.

Grade Average Calculations

Several instructors have just brought to our attention the fact that when they calculate students’ grade averages using both a “Total Column” and and “Average Column” (when both are set to display a percentage), the results are numerically different.

As an example, let’s say that you have two quizzes worth a maximum of 10 points each and two tests worth 100 points each. Let’s also assume that a particular student’s scores on these 4 items were 9, 8, 80, 70.

There are two ways to calculate a grade “average” in Blackboard depending on your intention:

(1) If you use a “Total Column” and set the Primary Display to Percentage–this will take the sum of the the total points earned and divide it by the sum of the total points possible.

The result for our example above would be (9 + 8 + 80 + 70)/(10 + 10 + 100 + 100) =  167/220 = 0.7591 = 75.91%

(2) If you use an “Average Column” with the Primary Display set to Percentage–this will take the total number of percentage points for each column, add them up and then divide by the total number of columns.

The result, once again using our original data, would be (90% + 80% + 80% +70%)/4 =  320%/4 = 80%

(In other words, this options treats each assessment as being of equal importance or weight regardless of how many total points the original assessment was worth.)

Whether you choose to use a “Total Column” or an “Average Column” to calculate your students’ “average” grades is strictly up to you as long as you are aware that your results will depend upon which type of column you choose to use.

Another potential source of confusion in using calculated columns (including Total or Average) involves deciding whether or not to check the radio button next to “Calculate as Running Total” during column setup. If the running total option is selected, any assignment or test for which a grade has not been entered will not be used in the calculation. You can, however, avoid this problem by either not checking this option or enter a “0” for any missed assignments or tests to force the system to include this grade in the calculation.

Hopefully, this will clarify how Blackboard calculates a grade “average” depending upon which type of column you choose. If you have any question or need any assistance with this, please contact UTLV@utoledo.edu or call 419-530-8835 for assistance.

Incorrect Course Instructors Listed in Blackboard

When Blackboard courses are created, the instructor listed in the course site is the instructor that is listed as the instructor of record in Banner.  When the instructor of record is changed in Banner after the Blackboard course is created, the new instructor is then given access to the course site, but there is no process to remove the old instructor (and their student account) from the course.  If you are the only instructor listed as the instructor of record, and there is another instructor listed, you can make the other instructor unavailable by following the steps listed below:

To make a user unavailable, go to the control panel and click on Users and Groups. Select Users. Locate the user you want to make unavailable, and click the chevron next to their username. Select Change Availability in Course. Set the availability to No and Click Submit. Please see the video tutorial at the link below for more details.


These steps can also be used to make the other instructor’s student account (the .s account) unavailable in the course site as well.

Learning Ventures and Academic Support are investigating alternate solutions for the future.  If you see a user listed in your course site, and you are not sure of their role, please feel free to contact Learning Ventures for assistance at utlv@utoledo.edu

Tech Blast: The Flipped Classroom

A lot of students go to class to hear a lecture about the topic for that day. But what do you think would happen if the students had to watch a lecture online before going to class, and then they spent class time on learning activities?

Please check out this video or continue reading for more information on flipped classrooms.


In traditional classes, students sit and listen to their instructors lecture about the topic of the day for nearly the entire class period. After the class period ends, students are then expected to work individually on homework assignments outside the class period. However, more often than not, students only retain a minimal amount of the lecture material, with students then having to “teach themselves” through their assigned homework. In traditional classrooms, technology is often seen as a distraction, with students on their phones texting and checking Facebook or playing games on their laptops, as students find other activities more appealing than listening to a lecture for over an hour.

Enter the flipped classroom, where technology is seen as a resource rather than as a distraction. Instead of spending hours completing homework assignments without any assistance or direction, students can read or watch online lectures at their own pace. Students can skip through what they already know, or revisit what they did not understand the first time. Students can formulate their own questions and take them to the classroom, which is now a collaborative learning environment.

In the classroom, students can apply what they learned from viewing online lectures, and can collaborate with other students on learning activities. With classroom time freed up, instructors can then use classroom time to assist students with questions and work individually with students at risk of falling behind. Course progress is then measured by active participation rather than static attendance. Students who miss a class period do not miss out on class lectures.

Please also visit the following links for more information on the flipped classroom.

Please share your experiences with flipped classrooms. Do you feel it is an effective teaching model or is just a passing fad? How would incorporating elements of the flipped classroom improve your teaching methods or encourage student learning? Please add your comments below or contact utlv@utoledo.edu if you are interested in using aspects of the flipped classroom in your classroom.