Personalizing Blackboard Content

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I’m certain you’ve received bulk messages, either on paper through the mail or (often as spam) though email. Often those messages use a function known as “mail merge” to modify the content of the message to show personalized information. Although that sort of function can be awkward if used poorly, Blackboard has limited options to get a “mail merge” effect out of your Blackboard content.

This function was originally intended for developers to be able to list personal details, but these “tokens” will work for students and instructors within Blackboard courses as well. Most of the tokens available are fairly useless (for details see the complete list), but there are three that you may get some use out of: Full Name, Username, and Course Name.

Whenever you are posting content using the Content Editor within Blackboard, including where students post to discussion boards, you can simply put these place-holders, and when viewed the correct information will display.

Data Token Sample
Full Name @X@user.full_name@X@ David Gray
Username @X@user.id@X@ dgray (for instructor) OR 012345678 (for student)
Course Name @X@course.course_name@X@ 2014 Fall DEMO 100 Demonstration Course 79999

Using these tokens, I could post a piece of content like:

@X@user.full_name@X@ (@X@user.id@X@), welcome to @X@course.course_name@X@.

Which, after submission, would display like this for my instructor account:

David Gray (dgray), welcome to 2014 Fall DEMO 100 Demonstration Course 7999.

While my student account would see:

David Gray (012345678), welcome to 2014 Fall DEMO 100 Demonstration Course 79999.

Sadly there is┬ánot a token for “only first name” so the full user’s name is the best you could hope to use for personalizing. These tokens should also work when using Blackboard to send email or post announcements, but I do recommend testing to be certain you have the code correct before blasting out a message to everybody in the course.

Blackboard Offline August 11

Blackboard logo

As previously noted, Palomar’s Blackboard system is going through some software upgrades and system tuning on Monday, August 11, 2014. The plan is for the system to go offline starting at 12:30 AM Pacific time, and have the system back online before 4:30 PM Pacific time.

Should there be any news-worthy events during the upgrade process, I’ll be editing this blog post. So check back during the day on Monday, if you’re the obsessive type who wants to keep informed on the Blackboard system progress.

UPDATE: Posted 10:40 AM 8/11/2014

The Blackboard system has been offline since 12:31 AM, and significant process has been made. However the system remains offline, although we remain on track to complete prior to 4:30 PM.

COMPLETE: Posted 11:02 AM 8/11/2014

In record time, the Blackboard upgrade is complete. The system is back online, and may be used normally now.