Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday - End of Semester Checklist

It's that time of year!

End of semester is upon us.

This week's video tutorial, by Nadine Edwards, is a reminder of the things we need to remember to do at the end of each semester.

  • Grade Deadline?
  • Grade Book Correct?
  • Final Grades Submitted to WebXpress
  • When To Turn Your Course Off?

*This time of year is very busy for us all so we will be taking a short hiatus and will return with more tech tips in January!  Have a great holiday season everyone!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday - SafeAssign Part 3 - Reading the SafeAssign Report

In this final post in our series on SafeAssign we will talk about how to interpret the SafeAssign Report.

Whether you do Part 1: Direct Submit or Part 2: SafeAssignments the report you get back will look the same.  If using SafeAssignments, the report both the student and instructor see are also both the same. 
*Remember in Direct Submit the students don't see anything.

Our previous posts that led up to this point were:
A SafeAssign Report provides a lot of detailed information about the sources used in the submitted paper.  Remember it is checked against computer driven databases not humans so there is still a decent amount of investigation and interpretation that needs to be done on the viewer's part.  

So let's first examine what the report looks like as a whole:
Click the image to enlarge.

You can see from the sample report there are three different parts to pay attention to in the SafeAssign Report: Paper Information, Suspected Sources and Paper Text.

Paper Information: This section lists details about the paper that was submitted, for example, author, title, percentage matching, what date and time it was submitted and the options to save, print, or give someone else a link to take a look at it.
  • Matching Percentage:  This indicates the percentage of the submitted paper that matches existing sources.  This is ONLY a guide and you should look in more detail at the paper.  For example, sometimes the report includes the references as a matching source, but in fact those were cited correctly and should not be considered plagiarism.
  • Sharing Options:  
  1. Save a report to disk allows you to view the report offline *Note: This may not work with some versions of Firefox.  
  2. Print Version allows you to do just that. 
  3. Direct link allows you to send the report to someone via a weblink but there are really two options you can select.  Click the envelope icon and it will open your default email or click the words 'direct link' and it will change the web address to an address that can be shared (you can then copy this address and paste it in an email to someone else).  The link is only valid for seven days, so if you need to review this information past the seven day period, you will need to click the Direct Link envelope again to get a new link.
Suspected Sources:  This is where you will find the list of sources that have text that matches text in the submitted paper.  You are also able to click on any of the links contained in the report to take you to that outside web source to continue your investigation.  The numbers associated with each source corresponds with the same number in the Paper Text section.  Clicking the magnifying glass at the end of a source it will highlight the suspected text in the paper for easier viewing.

Paper Text:  This area shows the submitted paper with the formatting stripped out.  All matching texts will have a corresponding number in the Suspected Sources section.  

What is very important to remember here is to not think that 'SafeAssign said it was plagiarized so it must be so!'  Remember SafeAssign is a tool to help you and your student decide.  Frequently SafeAssign will pick up common phrases and a suspected source.

The other thing to remember here is to click on the suspected phrases in the paper text section.  This won't link you to the source like the suspected sources section will.  Instead it provides you with MORE information, including another percentage matching specifically for that source.

Click to image to enlarge

You can see from the image above that when the selected text is clicked it is not a 100% match AND it is a common phrase, probably not plagiarized.

How SafeAssign Matching Percentages are Computed
Sentence matching scores indicate the probability that two phrases have the same meaning and potentially the same source.  

For example, a score of 74%, as in the example above, indicates that there is a 74% probability that these two phrases are the same and a 26% chance probability that they are similar by chance.

I hope the series on SafeAssign helps clear up any confusion, or gives you another great tool to add to your teaching arsenal.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday - SafeAssign Part 2 - SafeAssignments

To continue our series on SafeAssign...we will talk this week about SafeAssignments.

Last week we talked about Direct Submit - which is where instructors can submit papers or groups of papers to SafeAssign for plagiarism checking or just to submit them to the database.  Students do not see a SafeAssign report this way, only instructors do.  Last week's post can be found here.

The other option for submitting items to SafeAssign is by setting up SafeAssignments within your Blackboard course and let the students submit their own work for plagiarism checking.  Each different writing assignment what you wish to use SafeAssign for needs it's own SafeAssignment.

Direct Submit and SafeAssignments are generally not BOTH done, you choose one or the other.

SafeAssignment Pros:
  • Students submit the paper themselves
  • Both students and instructors see the report to make it a learning experience.
  • Becomes a gradable item in the grade book (or just make it worth zero, complete/incomplete)
SafeAssignment Cons: 
  • Students opting out of submitting their paper to the Global Reference Database (their paper still get's checked but papers in the future will not be checked against theirs)
  • Students only get one chance to submit to SafeAssign unless the instructor manually gives them another chance.  Directions on how to give them another chance can be found here.
  • The only way students are able to use SafeAssign is if the course has SafeAssignment submission links set up in it.  If you do not use SafeAssignments then students have no access to use SafeAssign.
Many instructors like to set up SafeAssignments within their course and use it as a learning tool.  Some instructors have students submit to SafeAssign first through the SafeAssignment link, make corrections if necessary BEFORE submitting their paper to the instructor for a grade.  

Other instructors like to have students submit their final paper through a SafeAssignment link as their final gradable paper and take the SafeAssign Report into consideration as part of the paper grade.

To set up a SafeAssignment and review SafeAssign Reports in your course follow this tutorial.

To see what a SafeAssignment looks like in student view click here.

Note: If you have a course that is copied out to you semester after semester and has SafeAssignments already set up in it, SafeAssign in your course needs to be SYNCED every time you get your new course or it will not work.  Directions on how to do that can be found here.

Next Week: Part 3 - Reading and Interpreting A SafeAssign Report

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday - SafeAssign Part 1 - Direct Submit

We have had many questions, all of a sudden, regarding SafeAssign, what it is and how to use it.

First to note, it is a computer generated plagiarism detection tool.  It should be viewed as a learning tool and not necessarily a punishment tool.

The report that submitting a paper will generate is up for interpretation and is not the end all be all.

You can read in more detail about SafeAssign and how reports are generated here.

There are two ways to use SafeAssign.
  1. Submitting a paper as an instructor that you suspect for plagiarism.
  2. Creating SafeAssignments within your modules where students submit their papers.
Part 1 in our series on SafeAssign is the Direct Submit.  

Direct Submit is what only instructors can do if they have a suspect paper.


  • Instructor control
  • Can submit one at a time or several at once to add to the Institutional Database
  • Papers uploaded through Direct Submit are only added to the Institutional Database - there is no option to add them to the Global Reference Database since students have to opt in on a paper by paper basis.
  • No Grade book Integration
  • It is not recommended that files be deleted from Direct Submit, as this will remove them from the Institutional Database.

    Directions of How to Direct Submit A Paper: (Video Tutorial on how to Direct Submit)
    1. From the control panel, click SafeAssign under Course Tools.
    2. Click the Direct Submit Link
    3. A list of folders and papers may appear.  This list includes papers already uploaded through Direct Submit on your account.
    4. Click Submit Papers.
    5. Select Upload File and browse for the file.  You can also copy and paste a paper in the given box
    6. Other Options:
    • Submit as Draft: A SafeAssign report will be generated however the paper will not be added to the institutional database and will not be used to check other papers.
    • Skip Plagiarism Checking: Adds the papers to the Institutional Database without checking for content copied from other sources.  This is useful if the Instructor wants to upload papers from an earlier course to ensure that current students are not reusing work.

    • Papers with over 5000 sentences or that are more than 10 MB in size cannot be submitted.
    • If papers being submitted include images, the images must not exceed 2 MB or the submission may fail.
    Types of Files Formats Accepted:
    • Microsoft Word Document: .doc
    • Rich Text Format: .rtf
    • HTML: .htm or .html
    • Text: .txt
    • PDF: .pdf
    • Zip compressed: .ZIP used to upload multiple files
    Next Week: Part 2 - Creating SafeAssignments
    Following Week: Part 3 - Reading the SafeAssign Report

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Introduction to Jing

    Many of you have asked what I use to make these video tutorials for you.

    There are many screen capture products out there but here we like to use a free product called Jing.

    Besides this blog post you can learn more about Jing on our Faculty Help page in Blackboard.

    Jing allows you to easily capture ANYTHING that is on your computer, whether it's a web page, Blackboard, document etc.  It is a great way to give visual tutorials to those that need a little extra help or to really provide more clear directions to something.

    The only limitation to Jing is the recording time per video is limited to 5 minutes.  Most people don't need more than that because it can become too long and boring.  If you do need more than that you can:
    • upgrade to the pay version of Jing called Snagit (use your edu powers and get it cheaper)
    • or chunk you video topic into smaller (less than 5 minutes) sections
    The other nice part of Jing is the ability to use another free TechSmith product called Screencast to share your videos with anyone just by giving them your link.

    In order to record your voice you do need a microphone built into your computer or an external one you can plug in to use.  I have one built into my computer but I find I get better voice quality (even though no one likes the sound of their own voice :) ) using an external one the plugs into a USB port.  I like my little 'American Bandstand' looking microphone I got off Amazon for around $30.  I am very fancy by propping it up on a Kleenex box. 

    My Fancy Office Setup

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Mixed Content Blocker (Firefox)

    As we navigate through the issues that may arise with these updated and more secure web browsers we have come across another potential issue known as 'mixed content blocking.'

    This issue may not affect everyone but if you see multimedia items (YouTube videos, SafeAssign etc) not loading it may not be a broken link but your web browser that is blocking the content.

    This weeks video tutorial, by Nadine Edwards, gives a quick overview on how to override the Firefox default settings to allow multimedia items to work properly in Blackboard.

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Discussion Board Update

    With the many web browser security issues we had in 8 week 1 we ran into many issues, mostly with the Discussion Board.  I am pleased to report that many of these issues have been resolved! (Kermit the Frog YAY!!)

    This week's tech tip, by Nadine Edwards, shows some updated tips and tricks and best practices with the Discussion Board.

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Blackboard Calendar

    One of the new(ish) features in Blackboard is the Blackboard Calendar.  This isn't a widely used feature (yet) as it does take some time to set up.  However, I'm sure you can see the benefits of having a well organized and well defined course.

    This week's video tutorial shows you how to:

    • Get to the calendar
    • Create a calendar tool link in your course
    • Add events 
    • What it looks like to the students.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Finding What Textbooks are Used For Different Courses

    Often at the beginning of a semester or when courses are ready to flip over to a new session instructors and students inquire about what textbook courses are using.

    Students, especially new ones, are anxious and can't wait for their online course to open or for the syllabus to be shared.  Students can't see the syllabus or announcements from instructors until the course has been made available to them.  However, students have been told in various orientations how to find out their textbook information BEFORE a course opens via WebExpress or the Library Website.

    Instructors and students can also follow the steps in this week's simple video tutorial.

    *NOTE: Remember, if you share this video with students please share just the video link, not the blog post.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - What If You Suspect Blackboard Is Down?

    Sometimes things just don't work.

    Blackboard is not immune.  For many reasons, Blackboard might go out of service for a while without notice.

    So what do you do if you or your students suspect Blackboard might be down?  This week's Tech Tip Tuesday Video Tutorial, by Nadine Edwards, answers just that!

    Note: If there is a scheduled outage of Blackboard you WOULD be notified (probably many many times! :) )

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Discounted Software Through the SU Cloud

    Is your home computer ready for an upgrade?  Need a newer version of Windows or Microsoft Office?  Purchasing software through the SU Cloud can be a great option as well as save you a lot of money!

    Stevenson has partnered with some companies to package popular software for purchase at a discounted rate for faculty and staff for home and personal use.  

    To find out how to take advantage of this great deal view this week's Tech Tip Video.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - What Does The Grade Center Look Like To Students?

    With our upgraded Blackboard and awesome new inline grading feature there are many more ways to give students feedback on their submitted assignments.

    Whatever way you choose to do it, it's important to understand what your students will see when they log in to check their grades.  Their view has also changed with the upgrade.

    This video tutorial, by Nadine Edwards, shows you, as the instructor, your options for grading and feedback as well as what your students will see when they log into to their grade center.

    If you do find that your students are confused by the view change or aren't seeing what you know you put in for their grades, this video, made by Blackboard, might help.  ***Please feel free to put a link to the Blackboard made student video in an announcement if necessary, DO NOT link to this blog.  This information is also found in their student help tab when they log into Blackboard.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Adding Content To The Discussion Boards (Student Tutorial)

    This week's tip focuses on teaching our students how to correctly add content into discussion boards without adding any extra code that could blank out any replies down the road.  This is a very frustrating issue we've been dealing with in the past month or so.  We hope the internet gods come up with a solution soon but in the meantime...

    If you plan to share this post with your students please DO NOT share this blog post (this blog is for faculty not students) but just copy the info below into an announcement.

    "If this past semester you've seen discussion board replies being 'blanked' out then this tutorial will help you troubleshoot what is happening to prevent it in the future.  We all know how frustrating the discussion boards can be when extra code has been accidentally added in.  This actually isn't a Blackboard issue it's an internet browser issue and more specifically a security issue.  The government has recently cracked down on internet browsers to prevent plagiarism of websites.  Since you, as an online learning student, are trying to create content online this hits us especially hard.

    We see this most frequently when students and instructors are replying to an initial discussion board post.  The replies are submitted but then nothing shows up.  It actually isn't the people replying that have 'bad code' but the person that initially started the thread.  The bad part is students can't edit their post to fix it so once the damage has been done it becomes a trickle down effect.

    We still require students to use Firefox.  We also would like to require users at this time to use a real internet browser for discussion board posts not a tablet or mobile browser.  Even on Windows 8 make sure you are not using the 'tile mode browser' but the real windows browser until this gets straightened out.  Please view this video tutorial.  It will help you double check your discussion board posts before you submit.  

    If you need help please submit a ticket to tech connection."

    Tuesday, September 3, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Inline Grading in Blackboard

    One of the features I was most excited about with our Summer 2013 Blackboard update is something called Inline Grading.

    This feature takes a lot of those annoying steps out of grading student papers and now allows you to do them all right within Blackboard.  No longer do you have to download their word documents, mark them up, upload them again..etc.etc.etc.  Inline grading now eases the pain a bit.

    This week's Tech Tip video tutorial is all about Inline Grading - what is is and how to use it.  I hope you find it helpful and a time saver!

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Creating and Troubleshooting Web Links in Blackboard

    Often times we like to share outside websites or YouTube videos with our classes to further their understanding of the subject matter.

    Whether you are an Internet Explorer, Firefox (you all should be using Firefox with Blackboard!), Chrome or Safari user the new browser security issues and browser updates have altered the way we now need to share links.  Some of our old habits will have to die hard in order to properly make sure our links are working.

    This is true when sharing an item that is a web link or if you are adding a website to your instructions or announcements.  View this weeks video tutorial by Nadine Edwards to learn the best ways to go about adding web links.

    *The video is a little grainy but you will still be able to follow along.

    Wednesday, August 21, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Discussion Board Tips and Tricks

    One of the items that had significant and helpful changes with the summer update of Blackboard is the Discussion Boards.

    Nadine Edwards has created a wonderfully detailed video tutorial for this week's Tech Tip Tuesday (I know it's really Wednesday, long day yesterday :) )

    In this tutorial she goes through all the features, bells and whistles of the Discussion Board as well as some 'snags' people have run into that have to do with copy and paste.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Communicating with Students When Course is Unavailable

    Many instructors wish to communicate a short message with students before the course is made available.  Many think by posting an announcement when a course is unavailable (even when they check the button to email the announcement) that is goes to their students.  This isn't always true.

    The best way to communicate to students when the course has not been turned on yet is through the Blackboard email system.  The other great benefit to this is the fact that you can also add an attachment, like the syllabus.

    View this weeks video tutorial to learn how to do this.

    Note: In your email message do remember to communicate to your students that they will not be able to access the course until such a such date.

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Grading with a Rubric (updated)

    Rubrics can be a wonderful thing!  They are not appropriate for every grading situation but they do help give the instructor and student a clear picture of expectations and can make grading more consistent.

    In the past, I wrote a blog post about grading items, like a discussion board, with a rubric in Blackboard.  I felt I needed to update everyone with a new video tutorial that is more in line with some new features that came with the Blackboard upgrade.

    So without further adieu, I present the updated 'How To Grade With A Rubric' video tutorial.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Copy and Paste

    We wanted to bring to your attention an issue that many are facing in their courses.  While the timing is perfect, with the recent BlackBoard update, it actually isn't a BlackBoard issue.  Many of us (including myself) have developed the bad habit of copying and pasting into Blackboard.  In the past this hasn't been a big deal, with the exception of occasional crazy formatting and characters it would give us.

    The government is trying to crack down on plagiarism and copy write issues by having web browsers lock down their copy and paste ability.  Firefox, our preferred browser, is especially taking steps to prevent this.  We have seen issues with this mainly in the discussion board area so far.  

    Some issues we have seen:
    • The initial discussion board post is copied in and looks fine but any responses are 'blank' even though they typed something
    • A discussion board response is pasted in and becomes 'blank' when saved
    This weeks video tutorial, by Nadine Edwards, explains how to correctly insert text into Blackboard to avoid this issue.

    If you have already fallen victim to this issue then you are able to fix it yourself with these steps.
    1. When you hover over a 'blank' discussion board post you will see the options to 'Reply, Quote, Edit and Delete' 
    2. Click 'Edit'  *NOTE: Student's, for good reason, do not have the ability to edit a post, only instructors
    3. Copy the post and paste it into Word or an external source
    4. Using the steps in the video tutorial above use the html button in the content editor to paste back in the content
    Please feel free to share this with other instructors and your students.  We all need to follow best practices when it comes to copy and paste.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Upgraded Blackboard Tour - Help Tabs

    The upgraded Blackboard has many new features. In the next few weeks the Tech Tip Tuesday will be devoted to giving you a tour of many of these new features. Like anything new, it does take some time to get used to but remember things are upgraded to ultimately provide a better experience for all.

    This weeks video tutorial is devoted to the new 'home' interface including the upgraded faculty and student help tabs.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    Blackboard Newbie

    This is my first Blackboard World conference and I must say I haven't had a moment to pause yet and reflect on my experience here so far until now.  I am also less than a year into my first job as an instructional designer so the amount I wish to accomplish in my position and this conference is vast.  Everything is so new!  I have found myself to be a much more successful micro blogger on Twitter then I am as a full fledged blogger.  Follow me @kellymedu

    The highlight of the conference for me, so far, has been the session on integrating library resources in Blackboard with Joe Russo.  This has been a resent discussion with our team and the librarians.  We (and they) feel they are being underutilized but could potentially be a huge help in Bb courses if instructors would let them in PROPERLY to help guide research and citation and take that off the plate of the instructors.

    Mr. Russo had a great open discussion with us about how his institution used template variables to seamlessly integrate LibGuides into courses.  What a great team effort they have there.

    "For every course specific LibGuide in a Bb course saves an instructor at least 25 hours of training time per semester." - Joe Russo

    After the keynote we met with our Blackboard Representative to talk about all the exciting new ideas and product potential for Stevenson.  This was followed by a vendor reception and a trip down to Fremont Street with the crew. 


    Monday, June 17, 2013

    Stop Boring Your Students

    Here is a cheesy but cute video discussing the top three ways to NOT bore your students!

    Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Short Hiatus

    I will be taking a short hiatus from Tech Tip Tuesday for various reasons.

    1. I was told things slow down around here in the summer...totally not true! :)  Things are a little hectic right now.
    2. I will be taking some vacation in the upcoming weeks and traveling for a conference.  I will be blogging on here during Blackboard World so stay tuned for that!
    3. As you all know, we will be upgrading Blackboard during the 4th of July holiday week.  I will be working on creating some awesome new Tech Tip Tuesday's based on some of the exciting new features we will be getting.  (I'm very excited and I hope you are too!)
    So please bare with me!

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Benefits of the Instructor Only Area

    Many of you hear your program coordinator or instructional designer mention the 'Instructor Only Area' in Blackboard but might not fully know what it is or how to use it.

    If you ever wish you could make notes while teaching a course or have reminders to look at then this is a great place to 'store' that information and keep it out of the eyes of the students.  

    This area can serve many purposes, depending on how your program uses it.  In turn, if you don't have an instructor only area and would like one, contact your Instructional Designer for help in how to get it going.

    Click here to get a video overview of what the 'Instructor Only Area' is and how to use it and add to it.

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Adding NBC Learn Content

    Many times, especially in announcements, instructors like to add relative articles and news stories that make the topic of their course connect with the real world.

    Here at Stevenson University we have purchased the access and rights to use a content collection called NBC Learn.  It is exactly what it sounds like.  It is video news stories from NBC that span a wide range of topics.

    This weeks Tech Tip Tuesday video tutorial shows you how to add this content to your courses, especially in the announcement area.

    The only downside I have found to adding this to an announcement is when the announcement is emailed out you can't view the NBC Learn content in the email but you can see it is there.  Only when the announcement is read within Blackboard can you also view the video.

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Moving Items Around in Blackboard

    When you inherit a course for a certain semester at Stevenson you are actually (usually) getting a copy of a master course in Blackboard.  Any changes you make to your course will not change the master course.  So you are pretty free to make your course your own etc within whatever guidelines the program manager gives you.

    There are situations that arise that may make it necessary for you to move items around within your course.  There are a few ways to do this depending on your situation and where you are trying to move it to.

    View this weeks video tutorial to learn how to move items around in Blackboard.

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Never Fear, Blackboard is Here!

    Sometimes we wish to move items around in modules, or change and update the directions and items attached.  This is not a bad thing and change is good.

    You may have noticed though that Blackboard does not have the wonderful 'undo' button as does a Word document or most email systems.

    Never fear!  If you delete an attachment in an item it is not necessary gone forever.  Now in Blackboard this only works with attachments, there is not a way to recover a whole module or the wording you had in a module.

    Here is a video tutorial that shows where these documents and attachments are stored.

    Remember, if you do change an attachment it has only been changed in your course for that semester, not the master course.

    Monday, May 6, 2013

    Simplicity is Best!

    I saw this quote today by Albert Einstein and wanted to share.

    This is so very true in our online courses.  Less can be SO MUCH MORE!  If your students constantly have a ton of questions about an assignment or project then the directions or communication are probably not written well.  Throwing more and more at them does not solve any problem, just creates a MUCH bigger one.  So if you can't explain to your students what you wish for them to accomplish then maybe you don't understand it well enough yourself.  

    Tuesday, April 30, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Creating Groups & Allow Only One Group Member to Submit the Final Product

    Creating groups in Blackboard is a great feature but is one of those tools that isn't as obvious in terms of setting it up as most things.

    Many courses like to incorporate group projects.  As a group, they create one paper or PowerPoint etc.  Usually you only need one person from that group to submit and then the entire group gets the same grade.

    This is a two step process in Blackboard and MUST be set up manually by the instructor every time you get a new course. This also MUST be done prior to your groups beginning work since this is a feature that can't be changed once work has begun.

    To see this process step by step check out this week's video tutorial.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Backing Up Files

    With the spring semester winding down it is important to remind your students (and yourself) to back up any Blackboard files that may be lingering out there.  Very soon after a course ends students and instructors will lose access.

    As An Instructor:
    • It may be wise to get a copy of your grade book downloaded into your own personal files in case there is anyone that challenges a grade down the road.  A post made a few weeks ago will show you how to do that.

    • It would also be very nice of you, as an instructor, to add an announcement to your course reminding students to download final copies of any papers, etc (if they don't already have them) that they may need in the future, especially for portfolio use.

    As A Student:
    • It would be very wise to download any papers you do not have final copies of and keep them in a safe place.  Many capstone courses or job interviews will require some sort of portfolio or work samples.

    • Courses will soon become unavailable to students after the term ends.

    • GRADUATES: Your account will be deleted THREE WEEKS after you graduate and you will no longer be able to log in.

    • As a student you can get your paper samples by going to "TOOLS" then "MY GRADES"

    For saving any files "in the cloud" and make them available anywhere, Dropbox is a great option!  Dropbox keeps files safe and secure, even if your computer crashes.  You can also get your files anywhere you have an internet connection.  *If you would like more help with Dropbox leave a comment below and I'll dedicate a Tech Tip Tuesday to this great tool!*

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Creating Your Faculty Information Area In Blackboard

    Whenever you inherit a new course in Blackboard some default tabs will appear in the column on the left.  One of those tabs is called 'Faculty Information'.

    It is pretty self explanatory what this tab is for.  It is a one click portal for your student to all your contact information, information about you, photo (optional but nice to have).

    However, there are some tips and tricks that faculty need to be aware of to avoid the common mistakes that we see.  For example, when you fill out your faculty information it is hidden from student view by default unless you remember to make it available.

    To avoid some of the most common pitfalls when adding your 'Faculty Information' view this short video tutorial on Creating Your Faculty Information Area in Blackboard.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Creating A Test Student

    -Did you ever wonder what your course looks like to your students?
    -Do you ever get emails from students saying they can't see something or find something but you know it's there?
    -Do you ever add something to your course and want to make sure it works?

    As an instructor your view can be very different from the student view.

    You can easily check the student view by creating a test student account and adding them to your course.

    This video tutorial explains how to do just that.

    Some key points to remember:
      1. Your test student password does not have to be the same as your Stevenson password.

      2. When you are asked to change your Stevenson password you DO NOT change this one.

      3. Make it a very simple password you can remember, like 'student'.

      4. Remember to take your test student in and out of your course since they will show up in the grade book etc.

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Course to Course Navigation

    Many of you teach more than one course each semester, or have more than one section of the same course going on at one time.  Other's may like to go back and look at the previous courses they taught to compare and refresh their memory on how certain assignments worked etc.

    In Blackboard there is a way to easily navigate from one course to another without having to go back and forth to the mySU or courses tab.  There are also some other nice features about course navigation in this week's video tutorial on course to course navigation.

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Download Your Grade Center for Offline Use

    Last week we covered how to download written assignments for easy offline grading.  There is also a way to download your grade center for easy offline grading.

    The two offline options together can be beneficial in many ways such as:
    • In case of inclement weather
    • Traveling as a passenger in a car or airplane without internet connection
    • On the beach with your favorite beverage :)
    Here is this week's video tutorial showing how to download your grade center for offline use.

    Note:  You do need to eventually enter these grades into the grade center manually or by uploading.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Download Files for Easy Grading

    Most online courses here at Stevenson have students turn in papers and assignments in Word Document form.  This requires the instructor to download the document to view and grade it.

    There is a way to do a 'bulk download' which allows the instructor to download all the student papers at once and into one folder for easy grading either offline or maybe on another device such as a tablet.  From here the instructor can grade and mark papers how they are used to doing it.

    This quick video tutorial show you how to do that.

    I don't want to ruin the surprise but I will say that with the new Blackboard update, that will take place this summer, there are many wonderful changes that will make grading easier.

    Stay tuned for more information on that and feel free to sign up for any of the EdTech Events we have scheduled.

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Spring Cleaning Your Blackboard Courses

    The weather is getting warmer, the sun is shining (except for ).  Time for spring cleaning!!!

    Did you know you can also spring clean your Blackboard courses, or at least what you view when you first log in?

    If you are like me you probably log into Blackboard and have a huge list of courses to scroll through until you find the one you need.  Most of the courses you see are ones you want access to but don't look at on a regular basis.

    While it would be wonderful if Blackboard would allow us to put courses into folders and customize the order etc, it just isn't there yet.  There is a little trick that can help you 'organize' a bit better.

    Here is this week's video tutorial on Spring Cleaning Your Blackboard Courses.

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Grade Center Tips and Tricks

    It's that busy time of year again for most of us with the ending of 8W1 courses, midterms and the beginning of 8W2.  You may have found yourself starring at your Blackboard Grade Center screen more than you hoped these past few days.  This gave me the idea to show you three tips that might help make your Blackboard Grade Center life easier.

    Tutorial Covers:

    1. Grade Center Short Link

    2. Data Mining Test/Quiz Results

    3. Grading Color Codes

    Here is the short video tutorial.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Important Blackboard Information for Students and Faculty

    There have been some issues in the past few days regarding the Java program that all computers need to run many different programs and websites - including Blackboard.  If you haven't already, you will be receiving an email from the university regarding this issue.

    Any older versions of Java are continually being blocked on different web browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari to protect and prevent users from experiencing any security issues.  This can cause your browser to freeze and/or shut down - including Blackboard.  Cyber security is a major US threat and the federal government and homeland security are also involved.

    To keep you protected and to keep Blackboard working properly Java has been updating very frequently.  Many of us are not used to having to update our computer manually but this is a frequent and crucial step we must take in the upcoming weeks until this issue has been sorted out.

    The purpose of this post is to give a tutorial walk-through to make sure you always have the most current Java update on your computer so there are no issues.

    Link to do a Java test.

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Creating Hyperlinks

    If you are a bit type 'A' like me you like your Blackboard announcements, emails and documents to look nice and neat.

    A great way to add external content, like websites, to any of these tools is through a hyperlink.  A hyperlink is where you see a word or phrase in text and are able to click on it and it brings up a webpage or YouTube video.  Hyperlinks not only look professional but they are also very easy to do once you know what you are looking for.

    This short video tutorial is not only an example of a hyperlink but shows you how to create hyperlinks in blackboard and word.

    If you are using hyperlinks be aware that you can link to a webpage from a source that requires a log in and password, however, your intended audience will not be able to view the content.  If it is a source they have log in access to it is better to link them to the homepage or log in page and give directions from there.  This includes most items here at Stevenson since most things require a log in to view.

    Happy Hyperlinking!

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday -

    This week I wanted to share with you a service that Stevenson has that I am not sure a lot of people know about or take advantage of. is an online training library that covers many different topics such as Blackboard, Microsoft, Windows, Apple, various other software, video, business, photography, web design etc.  Anyone can join for a fee but Stevenson pays for this service for us and as employees (or students) we allowed to take advantage of any of the 'courses' as much as we wish, even if it does not pertain to our profession.

    What is great about is it is designed to teach us these skills that we wish to know more about but also does a great job in dividing these 'courses' into chapters so we can skip around to what is really important.

    For students, we can 'assign' them a course and at the end they can print out a certificate to prove that they completed it.

    The tricky part about using through the University is how to get to it.
    1. Go to the Stevenson University website.

    2. In the drop down menu at the top, scroll down and select SU Cloud.

    3. Login as you would your SU Email or Blackboard

    4. In the bottom left hand side you will see a 'SU Cloud'.  Click the cloud and select and you are in!
    Play around and see what they offer.  There are courses about Blackboard and many of the tools we can use or incorporate into Blackboard.  Or you might find something you have interest in as a hobby.  Have fun! :)

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Blackboard On Demand Learning Center

    As Instructional Designers, one of our goals to to help instructors feel comfortable and gain independence when working with their online courses.  If you ever wanted to troubleshoot a simple Blackboard problem yourself or wanted to learn more about the different tools offered in Blackboard then check out the Blackboard On Demand Learning Center.

    This is a great resource to remember when you want to get an immediate answer and not have to wait for someone to get back to you.  There are also resources you can share with students who might need a little extra help navigating around your course.

    For a quick navigation of what benefits this site has to you as the instructor watch this short video.

    This is in no way meant to replace your instructional designer, but is still a good resource to have handy.  We need job security. :)

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - Avoiding the Freak Out!

    An assignment is due in four hours and you get the urgent email that the student isn't able to upload, or their internet connection isn't working properly and of course they waited until the the last minute.

    We've ALL been there!

    What to do?  What to do?

    Technology isn't perfect but there are more factors in human control that could be the culprit.

    Here are some steps to take if you or your students are having technology issues.

    1. Use the Firefox Internet Browser: Before shooting off an urgent e-mail to your instructional designer or submitting a ticket remind the student (or yourself) that you should be using Firefox as your internet browser.  Internet Explorer does not play well with Blackboard.  This can solve most problems.

    2. Update Your Computer: Make sure the computer being used has been updated (with the latest java, flash etc).  Many items will not work properly if your computer isn't updated.  This also usually means you must restart your computer for the updates to be fully installed.

    When you log into Blackboard there is also a "Test Your Browser" button that can help you and your students determine if the computer is configured correctly.  If it is not, make the necessary updates and if you have trouble submit a ticket.

    3. Be Careful With Public Computers: If you use a public computer (at work or library) note that the system administrator has likely blocked many privileges you need to make Blackboard work correctly.  If you are authorized to do course work at your job then please speak to the system administrator and let them know your technology needs.  Your instructional designer or the ticket system can not help with this.

    4. Reliable Internet Connection: Make sure you have a fast and stable internet connection.  Some items that need to be completed in Blackboard can require a lot of bandwidth like videos and certain assessments.  Also, when you have many windows open it can slow down your computer.  You may also want to think about who else is using your internet connection when you are...are others on computers, cell phones, tablets?  All these things can slow down your connection and make Blackboard timeout.
    So before submitting a ticket or contacting your instructional designer go through all these steps first.  Chances are one of these things is causing the issue.

    When in doubt  - RESTART YOUR COMPUTER :)  That really does fix most things.

    Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - How to Personalize Your Course

    Most of you inherited a completed course in Blackboard when you started teaching here at Stevenson.  You don't always have much say in what content goes into that course, what textbooks are being used and what the assignments and assessments are.  Yet there are still a few ways to personalize and make your course your own.

    1. Announcements - Your weekly announcements are a way to humanize yourself to your students.  They show you are there, into the course, care and want the best for them.  Typical announcement posts include a quick view of the module week ahead, and updates or reminders of due dates.  Any other funny quips or personal add-ins are also always appreciated by your students.  Announcements don't have to be very long but they are a very important part of the online learning experience.

    2. Assignment Feedback - In any assignment/assessment that is graded there is an opportunity for instructor feedback.  While this isn't always necessary, giving a quick 'good point' or 'great job' doesn't take up much of your time and goes a long way with your students.  Again, it creates a real life teacher/student experience.  Timely, constructive criticism is also crucial as it allows your students to make the necessary adjustments in time for their next assignment and allows for greater growth throughout your course.

    3. Faculty Information - In the faculty information area that you set up prior to your course being turned on there is an opportunity to add a photo of yourself.  While many feel uncomfortable with this, this actually makes the students feel more comfortable since they are able to put a face with a name and know who they are communicating with.

    4. Course Theme - This is the fun one that not all are aware of!!!  This can best be shown in this video tutorial.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - How To Copy and Paste Into Blackboard

    Oh copy and paste!  How you have saved the day on so many occasions.  Would you agree this is one of the best word processing tools ever invented?!?!

    The problem with copying and pasting from other sources into Blackboard is that they don't always agree with each other.  Many times it adds a weird html code and then when you click submit it doesn't look how you intended.   To avoid this issue one simple, extra step is needed in Blackboard.  In the long run this will save you time down the road and make you the toast of your instructional designers world!

    View document on how to Copy and Paste in Blackboard

    View video tutorial to see it in action.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Tech Tip Tuesday - How to Use The Email Function in Blackboard

    After a very successful Blackboard Boot Camp on campus last week I was able to get a better feel for what faculty and staff are amazing at and still have trouble with.  Sometimes as Instructional Designers we think you know all the features that are offered within Blackboard but sometimes forget to point out some of the basic "make your life so much easier" ones.

    This weeks Tech Tip Tuesday is dedicated to the simple task of emailing your students from within your Blackboard course.

    When your courses are populated in Blackboard the students information, including email, are automatically added into your course.  There is no need to set up address books or groups within your own email.

    There are two main ways to get to the email feature within Blackboard.  Both ways take you to the same landing page.

    Option 1: (click image for a larger view)

    Option 2: (click image for a larger view)

    Either option will get you to the same landing page, which should look something like this.

    As you can see from here you have many options to email:
    • All Users
    • All Groups
    • All Student Users
    • All Teaching Assistant Users
    • All Instructor Users
    • All Observer Users
    • Single/Select Users
    • Single/Select Groups
    • Single/Select Observer Users

    Once you select the appropriate option for your situation you will see a familiar Blackboard screen with all the usual formatting options.  From here compose your email as you would any other email and send.  All of your recipients will receive your message in their Stevenson email account.  From here, any reply to that email will be sent through email, not Blackboard.