Blackboard Tests and ADA time extensions

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Do you use timed tests in your Blackboard course? Do you ever need to give students extended time on tests to meet legal requirements? Do you like to set things up once, rather than wasting time doing the same thing multiple times?

If you answered yes to all of those, this post is for you!

Before diving into the minutia of how to manage extended test times best, let’s define how students at Palomar end up entitled to additional time. As I’m quite ignorant on this topic, I consulted with an expert. Sherry Goldsmith of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) had this to say:

“Here is how it works. Not all students with disabilities are eligible for extended time. DRC Counselors approve extended time based on the students educational limitations. The student then provides an accommodations form to instructor. In face-to-face courses the instructor signs the form; however, in most online courses the instructor receives the form via email and a signature is not always available. Of the students that receive approval, the majority receive 1.5 times. Most blind students receive 2 times the normal time.”

So potentially students may require time extensions in two flavors: time-and-a-half, and double time. Since recent changes to the Blackboard testing system, there are provisions to make test availability exceptions, so you could certainly make exceptions to each of your tests for the specific students who need them, each and every time the issue crops up. Or you can follow these instructions, set your tests up once, and not need to touch each individual test deployment each time a student needs a time extension allowed.

Step one, create two groups in your course. I’d suggest naming them something memorable, such as TestTime1.5 and TestTime2. (Create Manual groups, set to not be visible, with no tools checked.)

Group creation options screen

Step two, for each deployed test, make it part of your normal routine to create availability exceptions for both these groups. Obviously set the TestTime1.5 group to be allowed half again the normal time limit, and TestTime2 allowed double the normal time limit. (In the Test Availability Exceptions screen, click the Add User or Group button, select both groups from the list, then set the Timer options. For a typical 30 minute test, set to 45 and 60 minutes.)

Test availaiblity exceptions

Step three, make it part of your normal routine when copying or export/importing content into new courses, to always include the “Group Settings” section, along with the more traditional “Content Areas”, “Grade Center Columns and Settings”, and “Tests, Surveys and Pools”.

Step four, whenever you have a student allotted extended time limits on tests, simply enroll them in the appropriate Group. Since you’ve been good about always setting those exceptions, and copying them forward to new semesters, putting them into a group is all you need to do!

Group enrollment screen

This video should illustrate the whole process, if things are still unclear:

Grading? Back up!

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As the Fall term draws to a close, quite a bit of grading is going on. If you’ve just spent the last two hours at your computer punching in student grades, this might be a good time to back up that work.

If you’re already in your course site now, just follow these 6 simple steps to create a grade backup:

  1. Go to the “Full Grade Center” view, so you can see the whole grade grid for your course.
  2. Over on the upper right of the grid, open up the “Work Offline” menu, then choose “Download”.
  3. If you are hiding student grades in the grade grid, be sure to “Include Hidden Information” in section 2 of the Download grades options. If not, then the default setting are all you should need.
  4. Click the “Submit” button.
  5. Click the “DOWNLOAD” button in the upper left corner of the Download Grades screen.
  6. Save the file onto your computer, somewhere you will find it should you ever have need.

Hopefully you’ll never need a backup of your grades, but hope and a backup will get you more than just hope.

Customizing Menus in WordPress

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Managing navigation menus on a website is usually a difficult task. WordPress takes way most of the difficulty of creating menus and, some would say, even makes it fun. In fact, on many WordPress sites the menu will automatically be configured as you create each new page. Page settings such as the ‘Parent Page’ and ‘Order’ allow you to control where in the menu the page will be listed.

There are, however, many cases where the menu needs to be customized. For example, if you need to add a link to a third-party webpage or add a post category.

The following video, part of the “Getting Started with WordPress” series, demonstrates how to create and manage a custom menu:

Creating a New Page in WordPress

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If you intend to use WordPress  as more than just a blog, and in my opinion you should at least consider it, it is necessary to understand how to create pages. While there are many similarities between creating a post and a page, there are some significant differences.

The following video gives an overview of creating a page and the various options available:

For more video tutorials on how to use WordPress check out the How-To page at the Palomar College WordPress Central site.

Creating New Posts in WordPress

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After obtaining a new WordPress site, one of the most important tasks to learn is how to create new posts. Posts can be used in many different ways within WordPress, but their primary use is as discrete entries in a blog. The home page of a new WordPress site is what is referred to as the posts page. Any page in a WordPress site can be designated as the posts page, but the home page is the default.

Posts are a great way to get fresh information online, keeping your site from appearing stale. The beauty of WordPress is that posts are quick and easy to create.

The following video demonstrates how to create a new post and talks about many of the options when doing so:

From 35mm slide to digital

Remember 35 millimeter slides?

Yeah, me neither. No, really, although most of us don’t have occasion to use slide projectors any more, there are still boxes and carousels of slides floating around out there. Occasionally we in Academic Technology are asked “is there some way to have my slides scanned?”

Yes, yes there is. Meet the ImageLab slide scanner.

As you can see demonstrated in the video below, this little device makes it easy to digitize any 35 millimeter slides or negatives you have lying around. The scanner outputs JPG files, so there’s no fuss about using non-standard file formats; there’s not even any custom software to worry over, just pull out the SD card or plug the scanner in via USB to pull your pictures off the scanner. This thing even runs on AAA batteries, so you could sit in your living room easy chair with a box of slides and the scanner and just work away until you are done.

As mentioned in the video, the Academic Technology department does have one of these available, either to use in the LL-111 Faculty Technology Center or to check out to faculty for short periods of time. It doesn’t take long to actually scan the slides, either. That slide carousel shown in the movie contained 76 slides, and I was able to digitize the whole batch of them in just under 25 minutes.

So, if you’ve got slides or negatives to convert to image files, we’ve got you covered. Just come on down to the Academic Technology offices and we’ll help you get started.