Academic Technology @ Palomar College

Common Blackboard Problems

Common Blackboard Problems

Welcome to the summer 2012 semester.  We are just two days into the summer semester and a survey of the help request tickets we have received so far shows that the most common problems from past semesters are being repeated by new students.  These are dealt with in the “Student Information” link from the Blackboard login page, but as always, who reads the help files?  As a quick aid, here are the most common problems we are seeing and their answers.

1.  I just signed up for an online course, but it is not listed in Blackboard.  Why not?

Our help file response:  “It can take a bit of time for changes in enrollment system to percolate over to Blackboard, so if you have just signed up for classes it may be up to an hour before you will see the new course listed in Blackboard. Similarly, if you just applied for admission to Palomar, it may take an hour for your Blackboard account to be generated.”

The longer explanation:  Blackboard enrollments are controlled by PeopleSoft.  Once a student is enrolled via PeopleSoft, a PeopleSoft report runs once an hour that sends a file to Blackboard reporting new student enrollments.  Blackboard then processes the report and the student will then see the course listed in the Blackboard My Courses area.  If the student enrolls via PeopleSoft immediately after the report ran they will have to wait up to an hour to see the course listed.

2.  I can see my Blackboard course listed when I log in, but it says “unavailable.”  Can you make it available?

Our help file response:  “If you see a course on your list in Blackboard that is marked as “unavailable”, this does mean that you are not officially enrolled in the course. The “unavailable” marker is merely an indication that the instructor of the course has not allowed students into the course site at this time.”

The longer explanation:  There is a Blackboard course “shell” created for each course in which it is possible to enroll.  The shell starts out empty of content, and is set to be unavailable to students by default.  Professors add content to the course shells and make them available when they are ready for students to see and interact with the content.  The Academic Technology department will not make courses available.  Only professors can do this when they are ready for them to be made available.  It is a simple procedure, but there are three reasons this might not happen:  1) professors may be new to Palomar and not be aware they need to take this step–though we make every effort to make it common knowledge; 2) professors simply forget to do this–after all, it is only something that is done once per semester; 3) professors are truly not ready yet.  In any event, this is not something we can or will do on behalf of professors unless they specifically request it.

For the sake of professors who fall into groups 1 and 2 described above, here are the simple steps to take to make a course available:

Login to Blackboard

Click on the link in the My Courses area to enter your course

Click the Customization link in the Control Panel (on the left of your screen beneath the course menu).

Click Properties under Customization.

Click the Yes radio button in area 3 of the resulting Properties form.

Click Submit.

If you would like to view a video on this topic, here it is.  You will need to do this for each of your Blackboard courses.

3.  My login to Blackboard does not work.  What do I do?

Our help file response:  “Your Blackboard account information is the same as what you use for the eServices enrollment system. Your username is the whole nine-digit Palomar student ID number (including any leading zeros), and your password should match what is set in eServices. If you are unable to log into Blackboard with this information, this problem can typically be fixed by updating your password in the eServices system. Once you have updated your eServices password, wait about half a minute then try to log into Blackboard again.”

The longer explanation:  As with student enrollments, student accounts are controlled by PeopleSoft and a related script that populates our campus network accounts with student accounts created when students apply for admissions.  It is very common for students to forget their passwords.  If this happens, use the link in the text above to reset the password.  If all else fails, contact enrollment services If all else fails, call the admissions office at extension 2164 for assistance in resetting a student password.

4.  I can’t see any of my assignments in Blackboard.  When I was in class (or at an online orientation) my teacher showed us the Blackboard class and it had a bunch of menu choices like “Course Documents” “Assignments” and other stuff, but when I login to Blackboard and go into my course I don’t see any of those.  Can you help

Absolutely.  For better or worse, Blackboard has a collapsible course menu.  It is all too easy to accidentally click on the margin between the course menu and the content areas in Blackboard, and if you do, the course menu collapses to a rather difficult to see grey bar at the upper left of the user screen.  To get it to extend out again just click this grey bar and it will roll out in all its glory.  If you are unaware of this behavior, the first time it happens you will be panic stricken and call for help.  The fix is easy, but a surprising number of people have no idea what to do.  Personally, I think the menu should not automatically collapse, but rather issue a little warning that the user could approve, like those Windows dialog boxes that also have an option of “Don’t show me this again.”  That way the user would know what to expect.  As it is, this can be a problem even for experienced users who have never, by chance, had this happen in the past.

 Collapse Menu

To bring the menu back:

Bring the Menu Back

So just where is this student help page I’ve been talking about?  Right on the login page:

Student Info Page

And as always, for any assistance with Blackboard, or with any educational technology issue, use our help service to get answers as quickly as possible.

Have a great summer semester.

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