Blackboard Profiles

One of the aspects of the next version of Blackboard (9.1 Service Pack 10, which will go live on production here at Palomar in early January) is the ability to list profile information about yourself, have it follow you between Blackboard environments, and show your profile with other users within Blackboard. The following video from Blackboard describes how and why students might get use from the Profile:


Of course Blackboard also provides a more stodgy “step-by-step” video describing how to create your profile within the system. Watch the Blackboard On Demand video “My Blackboard Profile” if you want, or just jump right in and try filling out your own profile. The process is simple enough, so head on over to the BbSandbox system and check it out. Bear in mind that the profile you fill out will follow you around, so what you fill in will be present on our production Blackboard system for you to use later in 2013. If you want to jump-start your profile with information you’ve already filled out, you can use the Twitter and Facebook import tools to pull over a personal description and image, or just fill in the blanks manually instead.

Over the coming months there will be an array of communication options from Blackboard that will hinge on your profile, and rest assured that you’ll see those options blogged here when they’re enabled at Palomar.

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.

New Blackboard version in the Sandbox

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As you may recall, Palomar maintains a Blackboard Sandbox environment so that the faculty can get accustomed to new versions of Blackboard prior to encountering them in production. There’s a new version up on BbSandbox now, Blackboard Learn version 9.1 Service Pack 10. (I’ll just say “SP10” from here on, okay?)

The very first thing you’ll notice about SP10 is immediately after you log in; the whole screen will be a notice to let you know that the controls in the upper right corner of the screen are different. (How many of you knew there were even controls up there in the first place?) At any rate, you now have some informational menus, course hopping capabilities, and access to your account settings and other such information up in that corner of the screen, right next to the stylish new look for the logout button.

For most people the most significant change with SP10 is that the Visual Text Box Editor of prior versions is now replaced with the Content Editor, which looks quite different (and works significantly better). However, we here at Palomar have been using the Early Release version of the Content Editor since the start of the Summer term, so the only real changes here are some different styling around the Mashup Tool menu.

SP10 introduces a new File Picker tool as well, a huge improvement over the previous tool, although this will only matter if you use the “Browse Course” button when attaching a file. For those who just use the “Browse My Computer” button, nothing has changed.

There actually are a whole bunch of structural changes in the way the system works, a whole horde of security improvements, better browser compatibility support, and new tools available in SP10 that I can’t really show off yet. Some simply do not show up for users (such as the security improvements), and others I’ll be announcing as some time goes by. After all, I need time to put these new features through their paces before I can tell you about them. Similarly, I would encourage you to use the BbSandbox system and put SP10 to the test with the functions that you use in Blackboard. After all, that’s the whole reason we have a sandbox environment in the first place!

Blackboard Course Copy

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As faculty may have noticed, the Spring 2013 courses now exist within Blackboard (in accordance with our policy of creating courses 90 days prior to the new semester). Of course, all these new courses are empty shells, so now is when you might want to use the Course Copy tool to transfer material forward from an older course site.

To begin the course copy process, start in the Source course. That is, go into the older course which already contains your course materials, and use the copy tool there to transfer material to the new course site. (If you go into the empty new course site and try to use the Course Copy tool, it will let you, but all you will be able to copy is… nothing, since that new course is empty.)

Open up the subsection of the Control Panel named “Packages and Utilities” and click the option for “Course Copy.” The next screen will begin with a drop-down list which only gives you one choice, to copy into an Existing Course. However, at the top of section 2, you will want to click the “Browse…” button, which will open a new window.

In the new window, click the radio button next to the course you wish to copy into. If you teach more than one type of course, this is the point where you should check to be sure that you are copying from the correct older course into the correct newer course. A bit of double-checking at this stage can save you a world of headaches in clearing out incorrect material if you choose the wrong course to copy into; you want to pick a Spring 2013 course site, so watch for that term designation.

Once you choose the course to copy into, scroll down and click the red Submit button in the lower right corner of the window. That window will close, and you will be returned to the previous Course Copy screen. The next step is to select what parts of your course site you want copied into the new semester course. Of course your milage may vary, depending on how you put Blackboard to work, but there are a few issues to keep in mind when choosing which of these boxes to check:

  • If you use tests, you will need to choose the content areas where your tests are deployed, as well as the check boxes lower down the screen for “Tests, Surveys, and Pools” and “Grade Center Columns and Settings.”
  • If you use Discussion Board forums, please realize that after the copy is complete you may have to clean up these forums before they are ready to use. Sometimes old student posts copy along with the forums.
  • In the “Settings” area, do NOT check the boxes for “Duration” or “Enrollment Options.” Checking those boxes will cause your copy to fail.
  • If you check the “Settings” box for “Availability” from an Available course to a new course site, the new course site will immediately become available to students. Likely you will not want to do this, and instead want to review the results of your course copy (and possibly update some of the content) prior to making the new course site available to students.

Once you’ve checked all the boxes you need, just click the red Submit button in the top or bottom right corner of the screen. You should immediately receive a Success message, indicating that your copy is going to run.

Please note that the way the Course Copy tool works in Blackboard can take some time. But don’t worry, as you’ll see below there are plenty of messages within the system to keep you updates on the status of your copy, and once the copy is complete you will receive an email letting you know. Once you’ve started this copy process, if you navigate back to the My Palomar tab quickly enough, you may catch site of a note in the My Courses module indicating that your copy is waiting to run:

If the copy is running, you will see a slightly different message on the My Courses module:

And, if you access the course that you are copying in to while that process is in progress, you’ll see a note about it at the top of the screen:

If you wait until after the course copy is complete, the My Courses module will go back to normal. However, the next time you enter your course you should see another message up at the top of the course, indicating that the course copy is Complete:

To get rid of that message, just click the “X” button over at the right side of the bar. Congratulations, your course materials have been copied. Of course the best plan is for you to begin looking through all of the newly copied materials, and make any changes necessary before the students begin using your course.

One final thought: The Course Copy process typically does not take very long to complete (although larger courses will obviously take longer to copy), but the copy process may take longer if you try to copy during a high-load time. What I mean is, try not to wait until right before the start of the Spring term before starting your copy process. Oh, and if your copy has been waiting or running for more than two hours, you should probably contact tech support.

Blackboard Mobile Learn App Licensing


As many faculty are already aware, there is a Blackboard Mobile Learn app available for iOS and Android devices. That isn’t news, as the app has existed for a couple years now. What is news relates to a change in the way that app is licensed.

Previously the app was usable only by certain devices using certain connections, in a fashion that was confusing to explain. Unless, of course, the institution you were attending actually purchased a license, in which case everything just plain worked. That last is still true, that the institution can purchase a license to use the Mobile Learn app… but that isn’t going to happen here at Palomar. However, it is now possible for individuals to purchase their own license to the Mobile Learn app, and thus use the app in whatever way they wish even though the college isn’t footing the bill.

Here’s how it works: You would install the free app, either on your Android device from Google Play, or on your iOS device from iTunes. Then you search for the institution, and log in. At that point you will be prompted to purchase a license for the app.

What does it cost? There are two licensing options, a one-year license which is priced at $1.99, and a lifetime access license which is prices at $5.99. That license will allow you to install the app on any devices you have of that same type, so if you have both an iPad and iPhone you can have the app on both for the same cost.

Now, I’ve gone on record in the past as saying that the Blackboard Mobile Learn app is clearly designed with the student in mind, and that’s certainly still true. The tools are really not there for faculty to create rich content within a course right from the app. Of course, if you’re trying to create content on your mobile device… I’d say you were doing it wrong. Use a computer for creation, and leave the mobile devices to consumption of material. The app does do a great job of allowing access to attached files right from within the app, as well as a convenient jumping off point for accessing the whole course site from within a browser without having to log in again. The most attractive part of the app for faculty at this point to my mind is that it allows easy browsing of the discussion forums, so you can sit out on your patio with your iPad and monitor discussion threads. Just don’t expect to grade tests from the app at this time, because that level of functionality just isn’t there.

To see what it looks like to start up the app on an iPad now that licensing is required, take a look at this video:


As you can see, the app itself is the same as it was earlier this year, but thanks to the option (okay, requirement, but I’m trying to be optimistic about this change) for individual licensing, now more users can use the app on more kinds of devices. And, to my mind, anything that makes it easier for students to get at the material faculty put into Blackboard is a good thing.

Tales from the Knowledge Base: Blackboard Information for Faculty

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As mentioned on this blog recently, we upgraded Our Helpdesk System as of the beginning of August 2012. As part of that process the techs had the chance to update all of the articles in our Knowledge Base, so to the best of our abilities all that information is correct and accurate. However, we’re often asked the exact questions from our knowledge base, leading me to believe that folks are unaware that these things are documented. So, let’s take a look and see what interesting tidbits are hiding out there…

For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the Blackboard articles in the “Information for Faculty” area:

Now, you may be thinking something along the lines of “I would never ask any of those questions. Why don’t they have an article covering MY questions?” If you have questions, please submit those to us using the helpdesk system. If your question really is a common one, we’ll turn it into a Knowledge Base article soon enough. Even if it isn’t a common question, at least we will be able to answer the question for you… but you do need to ask.