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Archive for October, 2011

Bb System Messages & Force Completion

When a test is administered in Blackboard, a set of system-generated instructions are displayed to students based on the Test Options established by the instructor. Faculty have reported that these automated instructions have caused confusion for a few students.

To aid student understanding, faculty are encouraged to 1) direct students to ignore the system-generated instruction and 2) copy and paste the one of the following sets of test instructions under the Description area of Test Options according to the test settings you choose.

Version #1: (display all questions, force completion Off, auto-submit On)

“The test is timed and you only have {time allowed for the test} minutes to complete the test. The timer will continue to run even if you exit the test page.  After{time allowed for the test} minutes the test will automatically submit.   Please read each question carefully and single click a choice to make your selection. Do not click the “Save Answer” button. At the completion of the test, click the “Save and Submit” button. If you experience technical problems please take a screenshot of the page and inform LV Support (419 530 8835) and your instructor immediately. 

Version #2: (display one question at a time, force completion Off, auto-submit On)

“The test is timed and you only have {time allowed for the test} minutes to complete the test. The timer will continue to run even if you exit the test page.  After {time allowed for the test}minutes the test will automatically submit. Please read each question carefully and single click a choice to make your selection. Do not click the “Save Answer” button. Click the > button to proceed to next question. At the completion of the test, click the “Save and Submit” button. If you experience technical problems please take a screenshot of the page and inform LV Support (419 530 8835) and your instructor immediately. 

Version #3: (display all questions, force completion ON, auto-submit On)

“The test is timed and you only have {time allowed for the test}  minutes to complete the test. This test will prohibit you from reentering the test if you navigate away from the test without clicking Save and Submit.  After {time allowed for the test} minutes the test will automatically submit. Please read each question carefully and single click a choice to make your selection. Do not click the “Save Answer” button. Click the > button to proceed to next question. At the completion of the test, click the “Save and Submit” button. If you experience technical problems please take a screenshot of the page and inform LV Support (419 530 8835) and your instructor immediately. 

Version #4: (display one question at a time, force completion ON, auto-submit On)

“The test is timed and you only have {time allowed for the test} minutes to complete the test. This test will prohibit you from reentering the test if you navigate away from the test without clicking Save and Submit. After {time allowed for the test} minutes the test will automatically submit. Please read each question carefully and single click a choice to make your selection. Do not click the “Save Answer” button. Click the > button to proceed to next question. At the completion of the test, click the “Save and Submit” button. If you experience technical problems please take a screenshot of the page and inform LV Support (419 530 8835) and your instructor immediately. 

Version #5: (display all questions, force completion ON, auto-submit Off)

“The test is timed and you only have {time allowed for the test} minutes to complete the test. This test will prohibit you from reentering the test if you navigate away from the test without clicking “Save and Submit”.  Please read each question carefully and single click a choice to make your selection. Do not click the “Save Answer” button. At the completion of the test, click the “Save and Submit” button. If you experience technical problems please take a screenshot of the computer screen and inform LV Support (419 530 8835) and your instructor immediately. 

Version #6: (display one question at a time, force completion ON, auto-submit off)

“The test is timed and you only have 20 minutes to complete the test. This test will prohibit you from reentering the test if you navigate away from the test without clicking Save and Submit.. Please read each question carefully and single click a choice to make your selection. Do not click the “Save Answer” button. Click the > button to proceed to next question. At the completion of the test, click the “Save and Submit” button. If you experience technical problems please take a screenshot of the page and inform LV Support (419 530 8835) and your instructor immediately. 

Version #7: (Prohibit Backtracking option enabled)

This test prevents you from going back to review previous questions. Do not “skim” through the questions.  Please read each question carefully and single click a choice to make your selection. Do not click the “Save Answer” button. Click the > button to proceed to next question only after you have provided a response AND you are completely confident in your response. At the completion of the test, click the “Save and Submit” button. If you experience technical problems please take a screenshot of the page and inform LV Support (419 530 8835) and your instructor immediately. 

For assistance, please contact the Online Learning Help Desk at 419-530-8835 or utlv@utoledo.edu.


Running Totals in Blackboard

When setting up grade columns in Blackboard, instructors have noticed the option to “calculate as a running total” in the properties for total and weighted total columns.  The “running total” option tells Blackboard how to include blank cells in grade calculations.  When the running total is enabled, blackboard will only include scored attempts in grade center calculations, and items without any attempts will be ignored.  This option can be beneficial in the case of a course that has multiple versions of tests for students to take, such as make up tests, or extended time tests.  When calculating the total grade, Blackboard will only include the item the student attempted in the grade calculations.  Additionally, if the course is just starting out, and students have only submitted a few assignments, the total score will reflect the students’ performance on the items only.  For example, a student who has earned an A on the first assignment will have a total grade of A.

Since the running total does not include items that do not have recorded attempts, students who have missed an assignment, but have otherwise done well on other course materials, will appear to have a higher percentage grade than what the student has actually earned.  Therefore, when calculating grades using a running total, missing assignments should be manually marked with a grade of 0 (or failing criteria) to ensure that the grading is accurate. 

If the running total is disabled, then Blackboard will count any assignment without an attempt as a zero, and it would not be necessary to mark missed assignments.  However, if the course includes grade columns that not all students are going to use, for example extended time tests, then the instructor must mark the items that are not taken by students as exempt.  To mark an item as exempt, hover over a cell in the grade center and click the chevron that appears in the cell.  Choose Exempt Grade.  An exempted grade will be marked by a blue square with white shading.  Exempting a particular item tells blackboard to not include the item in the total points calculation.  Also, if students have only taken the first assignment in a course with many assessments, then the student will end up with a low total grade, even if the student performed well on the assignment. 

Both options carry their own risks and benefits.  However, the instructor should periodically review the grade center to ensure that all values are correct, as incorrect values can be triggered by the running total setting if items with no attempts are not properly accounted for when entering grades.


Downloading the gradebook from Blackboard

Instructors can download Blackboard gradebook as a spreadsheet and store it on their local drive for safekeeping. This is highly recommended after students took an exam or an assignment grades are posted on Blackboard.  Please follow the steps below to download the gradebook.

  1. Under the control panel, click on Grade center and select Full Grade Center
    grade01
  2. In the upper right hand corner, there is a button labeled Work Offline.
    grade02
  3. Hover over this button and select Download.
    grade03
  4. On the next screen, select the grade center information that you want to download, and choose tab or comma delimiters, and my computer for download location. Click Submit.
    grade04
  5. On the next screen click download to save a spreadsheet copy of the grade center to your computer.
    grade05
  6. Click Save on the dialogue box to save the file on your local drive.
    grade06

Update: Blackboard Assessment Tool Headaches

Academic Support has installed a software patch that appears to have resolved the issue with students being locked out of quizzes mid-way through. We are still receiving some reports of failures and we are following up on those reports to see whether there is an underlying cause not related to the main problem, but the number of reports is very small and shrinking. Therefore, we believe it is safe to begin using the quiz tool without the  “force completion” setting. Please be aware of the following:

  1. Students who encounter technical troubles should contact LV for support. Students may use the chat window on our web page or call our student support desk (Toll Free: 866.886.5336 | Local: 419.530.8835). Services are available from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8-6 on Friday, and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday and 6 – 10 p.m. on Sunday. Our support staff will help resolve technical difficulties and will help facilitate all contacts with faculty should we be unable to help. In LV, we share information throughout the unit so that we can learn from and respond quickly to reports of problems, but the reports have to come from our faculty and students.
  2. If only a few students in a course are having troubles, there may be causes that are not related to Blackboard. A large number of problems may indicate a system error. All failures are important, but not all are systemic in nature. Please be aware that some variation is to be expected, and we try to keep technology “out of the way” as much as possible, but there are some things that we can’t prevent.
  3. Faculty are strongly encouraged to avoid the “Force Completion” option in quiz settings whenever possible, since this is the setting that seems to give our systems the most trouble. A “Timed” exam with “Auto-submit” turned on is an option that is less risky and still effective.
  4. Students are reminded to clear the browser cache before opening an exam, and to ensure that they are using the correct browser on a computer with a supported configuration.
  5. Some students have reported difficulties with wireless access. Because some wireless contacts are timed, users can be dropped from the network, interrupting any test in progress. Students are encouraged to avoid commercial or campus-based wireless networks when a professor has constructed a quiz as “forced completion.”  Use a wired connection if there are doubts.
  6. Students with continued problems or who are unsure of browser configuration, etc., may wish to use UT’s “Virtual Labs.” Instructions and FAQ’s are posted here.

As always, we are eager to hear about issues you encounter and we are prepared to help resolve problems for faculty and students in our online courses. We are very glad to hear that some faculty have given tests without a single problem. We thank you for your patience and understanding, and wish you the best as we plunge into mid-terms!

(Updated, 10/3/11, 5:41))