Getting Help


We are here to help you succeed.  We administer the Blackboard system for technology enhanced and online classes, the web server systems, streaming media systems, WordPress systems and other educational technology tools at Palomar College.  If you have a problem with one of these—and I say “if” but I really mean “when”—you need help, and that is one of the reasons we are here.  We have a great technical support staff, and we have an excellent helpdesk system which we now host ourselves.  This quick post is a description of how to use it and how to get help from the college’s technical support personnel in general.

OK.  Let’s say you experience a technical problem with Blackboard and you have no clue what to do about it.  Here is how to get started with getting help.

1.  Click a help button.

If you can’t even get logged into Blackboard, or for some reason you are on the Blackboard login screen, look for the little dark green “live help” button floating on the left hand side of the page.

Live Help Button

If indeed it IS dark green it means that Live Chat help is available.  That is, one or more of our techs are waiting to chat with you (by typing back and forth) online.  Click the button and in a moment you will receive help.

If the button is dimmed out:

Live Help Dim

it means the techs are currently unavailable for live chat.  It is OK to click it anyway, because when the techs are not available you will be taken to the helpdesk module that will allow you to create a help request ticket.  Our techs will deal with your ticket as soon as possible.  More about creating help tickets in a moment…

While you are on that Blackboard login page, however, you might want to try a little self help.  See the link in the upper right of the page that says “Student Information,” “Faculty Information,” etc.  Click the appropriate link.

For Assistance

If you are a student, you will find the answers to the most common Blackboard questions on the Student Information pages (like, how do I login, what do I do if my login is not working, and why is my course listed as unavailable—those are the big three).  You will also find some screen video tutorials on how to check your grades in Blackboard, how to post to a discussion board, or reply to a discussion board post, how to submit an assignment, how to take a test online, and other topics.

If you are a faculty member, you will find a discussion of the differences between your faculty account and your student account (yes, faculty members have a student account they may use to test their courses).  You will also find a link to our many how-to screen tutorials.

Or, you can just cut to the chase and click the “Submit a Help Request” link.  More on that in a moment.  For now, back to Blackboard.

If you are actually logged into Blackboard and need assistance, click the little question mark icon in the upper right of your screen, and you will be taken directly to our helpdesk system.

Click For Help

Once you arrive at the helpdesk system you can login with your Palomar credentials to submit a new help request ticket.  But wait, there is one last opportunity to use Live Chat instead, an altogether quicker way of getting help.  If the little badge on the left of the screen says that we are ONLINE:

Live Chat Icon

you can right then and there initiate a chat session (you will also see this badge on the Academic Technology web site.  If the badge says we are AWAY, go ahead and login and submit a help ticket.

You login to the helpdesk system just as you login to Blackboard.  Students use their 9-digit student ID as username and their eServices password as password.  Faculty members use their username (usually first initial + lastname) as user ID and email password as password.

Bb Login Box

Once logged in you can view the progress of any outstanding tickets you have filed, or submit a new one.  (Our turn-around time is usually pretty quick (unless it is an issue that requires us to contact Blackboard, Inc. or some other vendor) so you probably won’t have many tickets to check on.

What is nice about creating a ticket is that you get to fill in some information about your problem that we need that you might not otherwise think to include in a phone message or an email to us.  Like:

Help Desk Info Fields

In the subject area the more you can tell us about your problem the better.  If you are getting an error message, take a screenshop (or screen clipping) of it and

Add file or graphic

Let’s take a step back.  When answering those questions on the form, how do you know what your Operating System version is?

On a PC, click the Start button, click Computer, and in the Windows Explorer dialog box click System Properties.  (Or click Start > Control Panel > System; or hold down the Windows key and press the Pause key—they all do the same thing).

System Properties

A system properties box will appear detailing your system type (64-bit or 32-bit).

On the Mac click the Apple Menu in the Finder and then About This Mac.  A box will appear with your OS X version number.

With respect to web browser, I am going to assume you know the difference between Firefox, IE, Chrome and Safari.  If you are using anything other than IE on the PC or Safari on the Mac you have had to make the change deliberately, so this should not be an issue.  (By the way, if you have a PC do yourself a favor and start using Chrome or Firefox instead of IE to minimize problems you have with Blackboard and your browser).

When it comes to web browser version, however, you may need some assistance.  Here is how to find out on the PC platform.

  • For Firefox click the Firefox menu > Help > About Firefox to bring up the About Mozilla Firefox box.  Look under the word Firefox at the top of the box for the version number you are using:

Firefox version

  • For Chrome click on the little wrench in the upper right of your screen, then on About Google Chrome.  A dialog box will appear.  Under the words “Google Chrome” you will see the version number.

Chrome version number

The version of Blackboard we are running, as of Service Pack 9 upgrade which we performed in August 2012, has committed to being compatible with the latest Firefox and Chrome versions, so you will be doing well to be using one of these browsers.  Various security options can cause users confusion in chrome, so currently the least troublesome browser with Blackboard is Firefox.

By the way, checking on the version number in Firefox and Chrome in this manner will cause them to upgrade to the latest version, if one is available.

  • For Safari click the gear icon in the upper right of the screen, and then About Safari.  A dialog box will appear with the version number you are using.

Safari version number

  • For the latest IE, click the little gear icon in the upper right of your  screen and then About Internet Explorer.

 IE version number

Frankly, this information if most important with IE, and especially older versions of IE (versions 8 or 7—God forbid you should be attempting to use an earlier version).

On the Mac, there is no IE to worry about, and the version number of the other browsers can be found on the Product Menu in the About field.

If you can’t find the version number, or this seems too complicated, submit a ticket anyway.  In all likelihood the version number is not going to matter (though the browser in all likelihood will).  If it does matter, we will walk you through finding it.

So, you may be thinking, can I still just send in an email request for help, or make a phone call?

Absolutely.  But consider this:  we only have a single phone line, and our techs are very busy.  If you phone you will probably have to leave a message, and the message will become a help request ticket in our system.  If you email, your email will become a help request ticket in our system (automatically if you use your Palomar email account).  Are you sensing a trend here?  Since everything ends up becoming a ticket, you might as well file a ticket, with more complete information, from the get go.  The only quicker way to get help is by using the Live Chat feature, and if we are not available for Live Chat, your request will become a ticket.

So that’s the complete description of how to get help.  Once you get used to using the system we think you will appreciate it.  The volume of chat sessions of the last couple of days has been very high, and in all cases the individuals have received immediate resolutions to their problems.  The help request tickets lag only slightly behind in terms of turn-around time, but of course since some of them do not contain full information there is the delay in communications between our techs and you as we attempt to contact you.  Once in a while we have to research a help request either because it is very complex, or because it involves some Blackboard behavior that appears to be unusual.  If this is the case, we will update the help ticket as we continue to work on it, and you can follow the progress of our work by logging in to the help system.

Here’s hoping you won’t need to use it.