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Archive for the ‘Blackboard 9.1 Transition’ Category

IMPORTANT Changes to Blackboard Course Site Access and Retention

Over the next few weeks, there will be two noticeable changes to Blackboard:

  1. Students will no longer be able to access courses that took place during previous semesters. However, instructors can still grant access to individual students for special cases such as finishing an incomplete.
  2. Courses taught during or before the 2011 Fall semester will be removed from the server.  PLEASE REMEMBER TO RETAIN BACKUPS OF YOUR COURSES IN CASE YOU NEED TO ACCESS THEM IN THE FUTURE.

Starting with the 2013 Spring Semester, student access to courses will end approximately 2 weeks after a semester ends.  Instructors have the ability to give access back to students as needed for situations such as finishing an incomplete.  All course sites on Blackboard will remain accessible to faculty for 1 year + 1 full semester before being archived and removed from our servers. For example, a course offered in Fall Semester 2012 will remain accessible to the instructor(s) for that course until the end of Spring Semester 2014. During this time, students can be given access to a course to finish any incompletes and faculty can easily access past materials to use in current or future courses.

Please note that these changes will affect courses that run on a standard semester schedule.  Customized sites will not be affected by this change.

If you have any comments or concerns, please send them to UTLV@utoledo.edu.

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 (and how to go back to Luminus Course Tools)

Our extension of Blackboard 9 to all courses at UT was designed to make the process of getting students and faculty into the system much easier than it was in the past. For the last ten years, faculty have had to request a Blackboard site for their courses, leading to some delays and confusion about who to call and how to get started. This is no longer the case.

The decision to implement Blackboard for all courses followed weeks of discussion in Learning Ventures and we decided that the benefits outweighed any confusion the move might cause. Among the benefits:

  • We now have Blackboard IM, a powerful chat software that allows students and faculty to engage in live video, text, and voice chat, to share a screen, and to share a virtual whiteboard. Faculty can even hold virtual “office hours,” with a queue and the ability to invite students into a group discussion.
  • The new Blackboard system provides new tools that go beyond what is available in the Luminus course tools. For example, a blog feature allows students to post short essays and then open those essays to peer assessment, all of which can be graded with the grades recorded automatically in the online gradebook.
  • All the features of the Luminus course tools are available in Blackboard and they are relatively easy to use. Email, announcements, content folders, and discussion boards are all features of Blackboard and all easily incorporated into a simple Blackboard layout.

If, however, you have already populated your Luminus course tools with course materials and do not have time to move them, or if you simply do not have the time at this point to acquaint yourself with Blackboard, then you will want to go to the MyUT portal and repair the link and restore student access to the Luminus course site. Here’s how to do that. But if you do change the link, please send a quick note to Lance Stoll to report that you are changing to Luminus. This will ensure that your preferences are preserved as we synchronize Blackboard and Banner throughout the semester:

  1. Log in to MyUT and go to “My Courses” in the faculty tab.
  2. Find the course you want to edit and click the “slash” next to the course name. (The “slash” is in the little box to the left of the course name).
  3. This is the course list as it appears in MyUT

    This is the course list as it appears in MyUT

  4. Click on “Luminus Platform” and then go to the bottom of the page and “Save Changes”
  5. Buttons you can use to change the link in MyCourses

    Buttons you can use to change the link in MyCourses

You and your students will now be taken to the Luminus course tools instead of Blackboard.

Blackboard 9 in ALL UT Courses

One of the more important changes this summer involves the presence of a Blackboard site for every course at the University of Toledo. Faculty will no longer be asked to request a Blackboard site, saving us all time and worry at a busy time of the semester.

There are a few things to be aware of:

  • The Luminus Portal is still active and available to all faculty who prefer a few simple folders and rudimentary discussion board and announcement tools. Though Blackboard has the identical features (and more), and is relatively easy to use if you are only using a few tools, and though Blackboard’s additional features can be extremely useful (testing, gradebook, IM and virtual office hours, etc.), some faculty may wish to stay with the Luminus portal. If you do not wish to use Blackboard, pleaseclick here to send us a message and we’ll create an “exception” that will undo the Blackboard link. (Learning Ventures does not support courses taught in the Luminus course tools and we did not “migrate” any courses from Luminus to Blackboard as part of this change).
  • WebCT is no longer active. We began the transition from WebCT in March of 2010 and pulled the plug on WebCT after the second summer session. Learning Ventures has helped faculty move from WebCT to Blackboard. If you have an old course from WebCT and would like to have it adapted to Blackboard, send a note to UTLV@utoledo.edu with the course number and the semester you taught it. We’ll try to get it ready ASAP. Please be aware that LV’s instructional designers are overloaded at the moment and new requests may not be addressed right away.
  • Questions and concerns about Blackboard can be addressed to Learning Ventures. We are keeping track of frequently asked questions and uploading tutorials as necessary. Check our web site for more information.

WebCT –> Blackboard, Urgent Message


After consulting with faculty and assessing our options last spring, Learning Ventures began the transition from WebCT to Blackboard (Bb) 9 in March of 2010. If you are still using WebCT for online or web-assisted teaching, the time to switch is now.

The GOOD news is Bb 9 has some great tools for engaging students online:

  • The Blog (web log) tool is a great way to encourage the development of an online community.
  • The Discussion Board is easier to grade and easier to track student posts and replies.
  • The Journal tool offers a private way to communicate with your students while tracking their individual reflections.
  • The Wiki tool allows a group of students to collaborate on a collective document.
  • The SafeAssign tool helps students cite their writing properly.
  • The Assignment drop box allows you to submit multiple documents at once.
  • You can drag and drop files to the course.

Bb 9 is a very different experience for the faculty and the instructional designer; therefore, you will need time and assistance to create a maximally learning-centered experience for your students. Learning Ventures offers extensive, hands-on support for faculty who use Bb 9. In addition to our regularly scheduled workshops (schedule available here: https://utdl.edu/DL_training), we invite your department or program to schedule an instructional session at your convenience.

To get more information about Bb 9, or to make an important connection with an instructional designer, contact LV:

Email: UTLV@utoledo.edu
Phone: 419.530.8835
Chat: utoledo.edu/dl, use our chat window

For more updates on the transition, follow us on Twitter (@UTLV) and check our blog (feed available on the “Teaching” pane in the UT Portal. Also: http://wordpress.utoledo.edu/learningventures).

Using Force Completion in Online Tests or Not

Blackboard 9.1 provides a test delivery option known as “Force Completion.”  Like many other security settings, there is a correlation between ease of accessibility and security.  The Force Completion option provides an added layer of security in that the student cannot access the test, close out of the test, and then reenter the test.  While the option forces students to submit the first attempt they start, students are not able to resume their test in the event that the student makes a user error or encounters a technical problem.  In this case, the student will receive an error message saying that the test is already in progress, and the student must contact the instructor to have his/her attempt reset.  Therefore, it is important to realize that each individual student will be taking their exams in different environments.  There is an endless variety of operating systems, web browsers, internet service providers, and connection types that may contribute to a student being kicked out of his/her test.  For example, a student could be taking a test from a laptop that is on a mobile broadband connection (from a cellular provider), and the laptop drops the signal, the student would then be kicked out and not be able to get back in. 

If an instructor is wishing to maximize test accessibility, then the use of “force completion” and other test presentation settings should be evaluated.  The instructor may want to consider delivering all the questions at once, and creating a test that does not use “force completion”.  If an instructor is concerned about academic honesty, then the instructor can use random blocks to pull questions from a large test bank, using Respondus LockDown Browser, or using proctored exams.

Blackboard 9.1 Tips: Resetting a Student’s Test

When a student encounters an error message early in a test, all hope is not lost.  With a few clicks of your mouse, you can clear the student’s attempt so that the student can retake the test from the very beginning:

  1. Find the Grade Center on your Control Panel and click the Smart View for Tests.

    Smart View for Tests located under the Grade Center

    Smart View for Tests located under the Grade Center

  2. An “In Progress” icon will appear in the test cell to the right of the student’s name.  Use your mouse to hover over the cell.

    An "In Progress" icon in a Grade Center cell

    An "In Progress" icon

  3. A chevron context menu will appear in the right side of the cell.  Click the chevron and select the Attempt Date to view the attempt details.

    An "In Progress" Attempt

    Select the "Attempt Date" to view the student's attempt

  4. Click the Test Information link near the top of the screen.

    The "Test Information" link

    The "Test Information" link

  5. Click the Clear Attempt button.

    The "Clear Attempt" button

    The "Clear Attempt" button

  6. A confirmation window will pop open.  Click OK.

    The confirmation window.  Click "OK" to clear the student's attempt.

    The confirmation window. Click "OK" to clear the student's attempt.

Please note: once a student’s attempt has been cleared, all data affiliated with that attempt will be permanently deleted.

If you would like to walk through this or other options with someone in LV, or if you would like to share a screen with your student to confirm the error, log in to Wimba Pronto (using “Add A Tool,” choose Wimba Pronto, download the software, set up an account) and invite the student or LV staff to a chat session. Screen sharing will only work if you are not using “Lockdown Browser.”

Blackboard 9.1 Tip: Rearrange the order and appearance of courses in “My Courses” in Blackboard

Unlike WebCT that had a separate server for each semester, courses on the Blackboard 9.1 server are all listed together in the same window regardless of the semester. Courses are now loaded into the Blackboard server for spring, which means that next semesters courses are now listed along with this semester’s courses.   If you do not wish to see your spring courses at this point you can customize your list and have only the fall 10 courses display in your course list. Here’s how:

  1. Login to Bb 9.1
  2. On the My Institution tab, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the My Courses module.
  3. Select the courses you want to display by checking the box to the left of the course names.
  4. Click the Submit button to secure your changes.

Only the selected courses will be listed on My Course tab. You can also drag and drop a course in the list to rearrange them. To see a screen capture of the “gear” icon and how to rearrange your list, click here: http://screencast.com/t/Yjc4NDU0

Blackboard 9.1 Update: Quiz Function

Students and faculty are reporting problems with the quiz function in Blackboard 9.1. We introduced a “patch” that we think will take care of many of the issues, so if you’ve had trouble with a quiz in the last few days, consider trying it again now. However, there are a number of rules that we strongly recommend you ask your students to follow. You can publicize these rules on your course site or send students to this post.

We recommend that all BB9.1 users use the Firefox browser 3.6 (free download) when taking tests rather than Internet Explorer, Safari or other browsers. Some browsers are only “compatible” but not “certified” for use with some operating systems. You can check the optimal combination of browser and operating system at Blackboard’s help site. If a student has an operating system with no corresponding certified browser, the student should use a UT computer or the “Virtual Lab.”

Before starting your quiz or test, it is important to follow a few guidelines to better ensure that you will not experience technical problems that might cause your assessment to “lock.”

  • Close all windows on the computer and then launch a new window to login to the learning management system.
  • Close other applications before taking the quiz/test (including chat programs).
  • If there is a specific start time for the test, login 10-15 minutes early to test the connection.
  • After opening the test, scroll to the bottom of the page to be sure the save and submit buttons are available.
  • Only click “Save and Submit” AFTER you have completed the exam.
  • Do not use any of the browser navigation buttons (i.e. Back, Forward, Home, etc.) during the quiz/test. Only use the buttons in the quiz itself.
  • Do not leave the assessment page without completing the assessment and clicking the “Save and Submit” button at the end (if it is a forced completion test).
  • Do not click the Refresh or Reload buttons in your browser while taking the quiz/test.
  • No other browser windows or applications should be running on your computer while taking a quiz/test. Shut everything else down before you start.
  • Do not click on buttons in the Blackboard navigation while taking a quiz/test.
  • If you are only able to answer one question at a time (questions present themselves on separate pages), make sure you only single-click the “Next” button to move forward.
  • It is recommended you take a practice test on your course site or the practice test available on LV’s “Guide to UT Online Learning” or “A Web Assisted Guide to UT Online Learning.” Be sure to use the computer that you will use to take tests.

    Many of these rules apply to other kinds of “secure” web sites and are worth remembering in any event. Please contact UTLV if you have any questions or concerns about the assessment tool in BB9.1 or if you would like help with online exams.

    (Tips reprinted with permission from Cape Fear CC).
    (Updated 10/4/10)