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 - Lynda.com

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.

Lynda.com 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 Lynda.com 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 Lynda.com 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 Lynda.com 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 Lynda.com 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.