LPC Blackboard Update for Spring 2015

The following is important information regarding your Spring 2015 LPC Blackboard course(s). Please read and observe the entire document and save it for future reference.

More information can be found in the Online Learning Faculty Handbook.

New for Spring 2015

Ongoing issues and tips

Still important


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bb upgrade Jan. 6

The Distance Education committees at LPC and Chabot, in somewhat of a last-minute decision, have agreed to upgrade the Bb system prior to the Spring 2015 semester. Last year, we upgraded prior to Spring, and the plan was to do the same this year. However, Chabot balked and wanted to push the upgrade back to Summer 2015. We agreed, but Chabot recently announced a new Summer calendar with a June 1 start date (not giving enough time to upgrade) and asked to go back to the original plan of upgrading prior to Spring 2015.

The LPC DE Committee felt that the number and complexity of the new features did not pose a big enough disruption to warrant postponing the upgrade for at least another year. Therefore, the upgrade will begin at 5:01 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6. It is expected to last 15 hours. Obviously, Bb will be unavailable during that time.

The links below describe the new features/updates and link to more information, including videos, about them:

The above information will also be placed into your BOLT course and will be available by clicking the Bb April 2014 Release link in the navigation menu. We will offer training on these topics during the Spring semester, but if you want training prior to the start of classes, contact me. Individual training can be done after the holidays since Jeff and I need some time to learn the new features first.

Microsoft Outlook

The district's email system will transition from GroupWise to Outlook on Jan. 8. District ITS has said that 3 years of emails will be converted to the Outlook active mailbox, and any emails prior to that will be placed in the Outlook archive folder. Online training will be provided to everyone via lynda.com. You will have to use your college email address to create an account.

District ITS has also said that all emails sent and received through Outlook will be automatically archived. For DE purposes, this means that if LPC is ever audited or an accreditor ever wants access to your course, you will be able to provide evidence of interactions with students.

Updated student letter

Here's a sample letter--in MS Word format--that you can download, modify, and email via CLASS-Web (or even print out and snail mail...budget allowing) to your students prior to the beginning of the semester. The letter welcomes students to the class, gives them information about online learning, details the login process, and gives them tips for success. It might also be good to send this letter if, for no other reason, than to extend a personal greeting to your students.

View/download the letter.

Online Learning orientation dates

Learn more about these on-campus and virtual orientations and when they will be held for this semester.

Adding students to DE courses

The LPC DE Committee recently developed recommendations, along with answers to frequently asked questions, that are intended to aid instructors—particularly new instructors—to determine how many students to add and when to add those students near the beginning of the semester. The committee’s recommendations were based on feedback from a survey on the topic that was completed by 25 DE instructors. The survey results showed that, in general, students added prior to the beginning of the semester are more successful than students added during the first or second weeks. They also showed that students added the first week are more successful than students added the second week. Students added the second week tend not to be successful at all.

View the recommendations and FAQs.

Copying course cartridge materials

If you are using course cartridge materials and need to copy them into your new course, make sure you scroll down the Copy Course page, and under the heading Course Cartridge Materials, check the box. This is a very easy box to miss because it is located further down on the page from the rest of the checkboxes. Please make sure you check this box each time you copy a course. If you don't, your exams will be copied, but the pools that house the questions, do not.

Updated Module 1 assignments

If you use any of Scott's model templates and utilize any of his Module 1 assignments with your students, here are the most updated versions of the assignments based on any changes in Bb. The most recent change was made June 23, 2014.

View the assignments

Email issues

In Spring 2014, Yahoo's email system that has affected the way Yahoo servers process emails from @yahoo.com email addresses. In order to prevent spoofing of Yahoo email addresses, the Yahoo mail servers will not accept emails originated on non-Yahoo mail servers (including Bb) with a return address of @yahoo.com.

It was only a matter of time before other email systems followed suit. According to Bb, the Gmail and AOL systems have done the same. A result of this is that emails sent within Bb to you from students (or vice versa) using these systems are showing donotreply@blackboard.com in the From field. Bb says it has to put that in the From field in order for the emails to get sent. If you're not using your LPC email account, there's a chance students will get donotreply@blackboard.com in the From field on emails you send through Bb. Blackboard has tweaked its email system so that students can still reply to emails sent from donotreply@blackboard.com, and those replies will work just fine.

If you don't want to deal with the above, you can always change your default email address in Bb to your GroupWise address. Here's how:

1. Log into CLASS-Web.
2. Select "What is my email address?"
3. Select "Update Email Address".
4. Under "Type of E-mail to Insert", select "Email for Blackboard" and click "Submit".
5. Enter the email address in the field next to "E-mail", and click "Submit". Once done, Blackboard will be updated with the new address within 2-3 hours.

Click to read more about why Yahoo made this change.

Extra credit in weighted totals

Awarding extra credit in classes that weight grades gets pretty tricky, primarily because we cannot have an extra credit column with a 0 points possible (which equals a 0% weight) as it would be ignored when calculating the weighted total. Here's how it is done in Blackboard:

  1. Create just one column for extra credit with a max points possible of 1, with a category of extra credit, and display as raw score.
  2. In your weighted total column, give the extra credit category a weight of 1%.
  3. Reduce the weight of some other component of your course by 1%.
  4. Give each student in your class 1 point in the extra credit column for merely being in the course (since otherwise someone will complain that the rest of the assignments add up to only 99%). Any points above 1 will be extra credit.
  5. To give a student 5 percentage points bonus, give her a 6 in the extra credit column.

Blackboard Profiles

Blackboard's Profiles tools are located in the upper-right part of the Bb screen, next to the Logout button. You might not even use them, and if you have no intention of ever using them, this update should be irrelevant to you.

With Profiles, students will be able to share within new areas called Work Experiences, Projects, Membership in Organizations, and Skills & Competencies. According to Bb, these areas "provide students with their first professional profile, helping them demonstrate skills and competencies they have developed through their educational journey in a visual and uniquely compelling way." The areas are meant to benefit students outside of class and have no effect on course work.

Click here to read more about Profiles.
Click here to view a video about Profiles.

Librarians in DE classes

 LPC’s reference librarians are available to assist in DE courses. A librarian can act as a resource to students doing research projects, answering questions by email or within discussion boards. They can also create library guides on any topic for use by students. Librarians can be contacted at LPClibrarian@laspositascollege.edu.

Profiles and emails

Please post an announcement in your classes that says something like: If you choose to create a profile using Blackboard’s Profile tool, you are asked to input an email address for verification. This is NOT the same as changing your email address for this class and all other classes you have in Blackboard. To change your email address for this class and all others, you still have to do so in Class-Web. View the instructions.

Discussion Board notes

Blackboard has an option in the Discussion Board settings called Post First. This forces a student to post to the board before he can read any other threads. Keep in mind, though, that this feature only works when your assignment allows students to create new threads. It will not work if the assignments has students merely replying to the main (or starter) post.

Also, if you are copying your previous course to your new course, you will notice two options in Course Copy: 1) Include starter posts for each thread in each forum (anonymized), and 2) Include only the forums, with no starter posts. The former keeps the first post in each forum, though they will say Anonymous for the name of the poster. The latter just copies the forums. If you choose the former, you can tell Bb to change all instances of Anonymous to someone's name (typically yours). You would do this the first time you enter the Discussion Board of the new course.

Grade Center scrolling on Macs

If you use a Mac and can't scroll in the Grade Center, try the following:

  1. Launch System Preferences, either from the Dock or from the Apple menu.
  2. Once the System Preferences window opens, select the General preference pane. The middle section of the General preference pane controls when scroll bars appear and a few additional scroll bar options.
  3. Select "Always" from the Show Scroll Bars options. The scroll bars will now always be visible, even when you're not scrolling.

Updated model template quizzes

If you use my model that includes Succeeding in an Online Course tutorial quiz or the Online Orientation quiz, make sure your quizzes are up to date.

Click to see the most recent changes in the Succeeding quiz

Click to see the most recent changes in the Orientation quiz

Updated OCDP course

For those teaching online or mostly online courses, you should still have access to my Online Course Development Program (OCDP) course. This course is routinely updated with new teaching and learning information based on best practices, along with technical tutorials.

Student support desk hours

View the student support hours. The support desk is closed Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Try not to schedule any exam deadlines on days that the support desk is closed.

Problem with embedded media

We've noticed some issues with students not being able to access embedded media files, particularly YouTube videos, in Bb. Here are 3 options for dealing with this:

  1. Let Jeff Sperry fix the links, which will fix the problem. If you choose this option, you will have to tell Jeff: a) which course, b) which links, and c) exactly where in the course the links are located.
  2. Fix the links yourself. View instructions.
  3. Give students the workaround. View the workaround.

If your course contains only external links to media content, or no links to media at all, it will not be affected.

Fake student

To make inputting scores into the Bb grade center a little easier, the fake support student in each course is named LPC Zupport. This will put the fake student at the end of your roster. Comrade Zupport is used by our student help desk to assist students with technical issues in Bb.

Blackboard Publisher Building Blocks Guidelines

On April 10, 2013, the Academic Senate approved the Blackboard Publisher Building Blocks Guidelines, which govern the installation of building blocks from texbook publishers. These building blocks are software programs added to Bb that are designed to increase the integration of publisher materials into Bb. Building blocks are different from course cartridges, and the current trend is that publishers are moving away from cartridges in favor of building blocks.

Read the guidelines.

Forwarding from Zonemail

To help students with email within Bb, a video has been created that shows students how to set up forwarding emails from Zonemail to their personal email accounts. Feel free to share the link below with your students. View the video.

Additional time on exams

If you need to give students more time on exams -- for a DSPS student, for example -- use Test Exceptions, which can be accessed by choosing Edit Test Options for an exam. Learn about Test Exceptions.

Regular Effective Contact Guidelines

The LPC Regular Effective Contact Guidelines state that according to Title 5, all DE courses, whether they are fully online or hybrid, must demonstrate regular effective contact. For hybrids, this contact is required not only during on-campus meetings, but it is also required during the virtual meetings. The ACCJC has also stated that regular effective contact in all online and hybrid courses is a requirement for accreditation. Furthermore, if there is no such contact, DE courses can be designated correspondence courses during an auditing process, and this can affect the college's ability to provide federal financial aid to students. LPC’s Regular Effective Contact Guidelines aims to set forth the “minimum standards of regular effective contact,” as stated in the DE Guidelines for the California Community Colleges.

Read the guidelines.

Archiving emails

Learn why you should do this at the end of each semester and how to do it by reading the section called Archive your Emails in the Closing your Course page. From what we're told by District ITS, all sent and received emails in Outlook will be automatically archived.

Preferred web browser

If you are not already using Firefox for Blackboard, you should begin to use it. Use the other browsers as a backup.

Mobile exams

There is a new update to Blackboard Mobile Learn that allows students to take a mobile-optimized version of an exam on their phones or tablets. In order for students to access the mobile-optimized version, you have to set up the exam first in Bb. To do so, navigate to any content area, and choose Create Assessment - Mobile Compatible Test. You'll be confronted with a new, streamlined method of creating an exam that should be easy for you to complete. Once you are finished, students can take the exam on a mobile device, or they can even take it on a computer.

Keep in mind a few things, though, before choosing to create a mobile-optimized exam:

View more information about Blackboard Mobile Learn on our Online Learning web site.
View more information about Blackboard Mobile Learn on Blackboard's web site.

Course Copy

Before copying from one course to another, read about copying courses. We also have a link to a video of the process on that page.

DE drop policy

"The instructor may drop students who miss the first meeting of a course. The first meeting of online or hybrid Distance Education courses is the first day of the class as specified in the class schedule listing. For these courses, instructors may drop students who do not log into their Blackboard course and/or complete indicated activities by the third day of classes. DE instructors may drop students if they have not submitted work and/or accessed the class for two consecutive weeks. For Summer courses, DE instructors may drop students if they have not submitted work and/or accessed the class for one week."

I have posted the entire policy into the following places: the Online Learning ad that goes in the printed schedule, the Online & Hybrid Courses page on the Online Learning web site, into each online and hybrid course information page on the Online Learning web site. You should include it in your syllabi.

New cheating method

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education described how students are cheating on online exams by using Google Docs. Apparently, one student takes the exam, and at the end, if the instructor allows students to see the correct answers, the student posts the answers to a Google Doc, then shares the Doc with a group of students. If you feel that students might be doing this or something similar, you can always remove the option to show correct answers after submission of an exam.

Grade Center totals column

If your Total column in the Grade Center is set to Calculate as a Running Total, understand that the students' total only includes those items that have scores or attempts. This can work well for students if you have all of your Grade Center columns set for the semester and only want the students' Total column to reflect the work they have done up to a certain point.

It doesn't work well at the end of the semester when you are calculating final grades if your Total column is set to display as a percentage, and you haven't entered zeros for all of the students' missing assignments. In this scenario, a student's Total column might show 100% even though she didn't submit 5 assignments. So at the end of the semester, you should either turn Calculate as a Running Total off, or enter zeros for missing assignments.

Another thing: If you have hidden columns in which you entered points possible but did not score students, check that you have not included those points in the Grade Center calculations. To fix this, you will have to go to Manage - Column Organization to show those columns in the Grade Center. Then in the Grade Center, you need to choose Edit Column Information for those columns, select No for Include this Column in Grade Center Calculations and Show this Column to Students, then click Submit. Of course, you can just delete the columns if you want.

One last tip: If your points possible don’t look correct, make sure all columns are included in the calculations.

Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education

This document provides a bunch tips you can incorporate to promote academic integrity in your class. View the document.

Online tutoring

Students in any course at LPC--on campus and off--have access to online tutoring for Writing. Students in Math courses have access to Math online tutoring. View more information.

Mobile apps

LPC is pleased to offer students the opportunity to use mobile devices to complete course work and conduct research. Click the links below to learn more about mobile learning apps for iOS and Android devices, then download the apps to get started.

My Messages

A Bb module called My Messages is available for use. If you use the Messages tool in Bb, this modules allows you to see how many unread Messages you have awaiting you. It also includes links to the Messages tool within your courses. Just go to your My Institution page, click Add Module, then select My Messages. Students can do the same thing.

If you want, you can also add the My Messages module within any of your courses. You can do this through the course menu by clicking the plus sign at the top and choosing Create Module Page. You can add it to a content area by going to Build Content - Module Page - Submit - click the link you just created, click Add Module, then choose My Messages.

SafeAssign anti-plagiarism tool

If you want to use an anti-plagiarism service, you can use SafeAssign, which is built right into Bb. If you need training on SafeAssign, contact Scott Vigallon or Jeff Sperry. Or, you can click one of the links below:

Also, after performing a course copy or moving an individual SafeAssignment to another course, an additional step is needed to activate the SafeAssignment in the new course. From the Control Panel, click Course Tools, then SafeAssign, then SafeAssignments, then Synchronize This Course to establish the link between the SafeAssignment and the Central SafeAssign server.

Accessibility issues in Bb 9.1

Some of the content areas tools in Bb come with features that make content accessible to students with disabilities. Of course, other tools don't. Choosing Create Image from the Build Content button allows you a place to enter an alt label for the image and a Long Description box to enter a thorough description if needed. Adding an image or video provides options for adding transcripts. We would rather have you post images and videos to another server then create a link to them in Bb because of file size issues with multimedia and for accessibility purposes. We recommend that if you are going to use multimedia, contact the TLC for help. We have a server to post your files, and we can help with close captioning.

Also under Build Content, there is a Mashup section that allows you to search for, and post, Flickr photos, SlideShare presentations, and YouTube videos. For Flickr photos, make sure the name of the photo accurately describes the photo. If it doesn't, change it. This name is the title of the picture that students see and can be read by a screen reader. If the picture is a chart, graph, table or a photo with lots of information, you will need to write out an explanation of the picture in the Description box.

For SlideShare presentations (think of SlideShare as a YouTube for PowerPoints), you will have to include a link to an Easy SlideShare version of the presentation. View tutorial on creating an Easy SlideShare version. Also, if there's audio, you will need to add a transcription, and if there are slides with charts, graphs, tables or a photos with lots of information, you will need to write out an explanation of the slides in the Description box.

All of your YouTube videos need captions. YouTube is currently experimenting with an automated translating system that converts the spoken word to captions. However, the accuracy leaves a lot to be desired. We recommend that you contact the TLC for captioning of YouTube videos.

Updated BOLT course

All Blackboard instructors have access to Bb 9.1 information, tutorials, sample assignments, etc. by logging into the Blackboard Online Learning Team (BOLT) course.

CCC DE Accessibility Guidelines for Students with Disabilities

On Jan. 11, 2011 (or 1-11-11), the State Chancellor's Office issued the "Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities," an updated version of the 1999 guidelines. The document reiterates that all online courses must be accessible.

Read the document, and you should become familiar with the Basic Requirements and Frequently Asked Questions sections.

Bb tutorials

If you want to learn a tool immediately, you can check out the online tutorials on Blackboard's YouTube channel. View the channel.

Making courses available

To make your courses available to students, access a course, then go to Control Panel - Customization - Properties, and for Make Course Available, click Yes, then click Submit.

Availability of old courses
To reduce the long list of courses that many of you have, LPC will automatically hide courses from the previous two years. Should you need access to courses older than two years, let Scott know.

If you want to hide more recent courses, do the following:

Click the circular icon to the right of My Courses. Uncheck the boxes under Display Course Name for the courses you want to hide, and uncheck any other boxes you want to hide. Click Submit.

Don't forget to make ALL of your old courses unavailable to students. To make a course unavailable, go to Control Panel - Customization - Properties, and for Make Course Available, click No, then click Submit.

Proofread your course

After you have copied your course, you will want to proofread it to make sure it is ready to go. View a document to learn what to look for.

Course banners

Online and hybrid instructors can choose from a new set of course banners to place on your course home page. If you would like one of these, email Scott your choice and tell him which course you want it in. Scott will customize the banner, then email it to you. To place it in your course, save the file to your computer, then go to Control Panel - Customization - Style. Upload it in the Select Banner section. If you have an old banner that you want to remove, check the box in front of "Remove this banner."

These banners are only available for online and hybrid courses.

To copy a banner from one course to another, you'll have to choose Settings - Banner Image during the Course Copy process.

View the banners

Email vs. Messages
Do not confuse your students by having both the Messages and Email tools available. Messages is an internal email tool that resides in each class, while the Email tool routes email sent through Bb to students' and instructors' external email accounts.

It is recommended that you only use one of the tools. To disable one of the tools, go to the Control Panel, click Customization, click Tool Availability, then uncheck the box in front of either Email or Messages. You can always enable either tool later by checking the appropriate box.

Library databases
To see the addresses of the library's databases, go to the Library web site. Students off-campus can access the databases by with following ID and password formats: The ID is the student's User Identification (W) Number. The password is the same as it is for Blackboard, which is the first two letters of the first name, the first two letters of the last name followed by the last four digits of the W number (ex. josm8999 for John Smith with W00008999). If students are on-campus, no ID or password is required.

Blackboard maintenance
Blackboard's primary maintenance window is from 11 p.m. Thursdays until 3 a.m. Fridays. Depending on the nature of the maintenance, the system might or might not be available during this time, and I will let faculty and students know. Because of this maintenance, if you have assignments due on Thursdays after 11 p.m., you might want to consider moving your due times to prior to 11 p.m.

Welcome announcements and Zonemail

For those teaching online or hybrid courses, please include student email info in your welcome announcement. Email within courses can be a bit tricky for first-time Blackboard users. Here's some sample verbiage:

"Make sure you understand how email works in Blackboard. Your default Blackboard address will be your Zonemail address. However, you can change your default Blackboard address in CLASS-Web (not in Blackboard). You can also log into Zonemail and set up forwarding to your private account. Learn how to do these tasks."

Video and audio accessibility

LPC is participating in a statewide grant to close caption all videos and transcribe all audio files in Bb courses. If you are adding video or audio files, please contact Jeff Sperry at 424-1654. Better yet, complete this form to get your needs addressed.

Blackboard, email and The Zone - Faculty information and instructions
Please click to read this important information. If you have questions, contact Scott.

Student Blackboard email, portal instructions
Make sure you understand the implications of the portal on your students.

Plagiarism lesson
If you need to teach students about plagiarism, there is a lesson in Bb intended just for that purpose. It includes a tutorial and an accompanying quiz. Each of the 10 questions is worth one point, and the answers are listed in random order. Of course, you can change all of the options if you want; you can also change the quiz itself, too.

View the tutorial

If you would like the lesson placed into your Bb class(es), contact Scott. Once the lesson is in your class(es), you'll have to deploy the quiz, called Plagiarism Quiz, into the Plagiarism Lesson content area.

Course and Gradebook backups
If you used Blackboard during this past semester, make sure you download your gradebook, archive your courses, and make your courses unavailable when you no longer want students accessing them. Click to view instructions on course and gradebook backups. To make the course unavailable, go to Control Panel - Customization - Properties, and for Make Course Available, click No, then click Submit. These and other end-of-semester tasks can be found in the page Closing your Course.

Blackboard support blog
I have posted a blog to help keep everyone better updated on Bb issues. Most of it will be the same info I email to you. However, this will make it easier for you to read something you might have missed. The blog is linked from the Staff Development web site (go to Instructional Technology/Blackboard) and from the BOLT (go to Online Learning info). Its URL is http://lpc-blackboard.blogspot.com.

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