Friday, October 2, 2015

Online Student Readiness Tutorials

A new resource to help students prepare for taking online courses has been developed by the CCC Online Education Initiative (OEI). They developed eleven interactive modules covering topics that will help students understand whether or not online courses are right for them and introduce students to the skills and strategies that will help them be successful in online courses. Please assign some or all of these videos for your students to watch at the beginning of each semester. 

Interactive Tutorials

01-Introduction to Online Learning View
02-Getting Tech Ready View
03-Organizing for Online Success View
04-Online Study Skills and Managing Time View
05-Communication Skills for Online Learning View
06-Online Reading Strategies View
07-Career Planning View
08-Educational Planning View
09-Instructional Support View
10-Personal Support View
11-Financial Planning View

Interactive Tools

Monday, August 17, 2015

Record an Intro Video for Your Students

"When you’re teaching an online or hybrid class, you want to connect with your students and make the experience as personable as possible. Introducing yourself to your students through a video is a great way to begin your online class. They’ll love being able to see your face, hear your voice, and get to know your personality from the start."

Read more from the Techsmith blog at

You can also create a video using a webcam and/or screen capture software to show your students around your Blackboard course using the free software from

For $15/year you can buy the full version of screencast-o-matic's software that allows you to record only the webcam and use scripts to record/caption your videos.

No matter how you record the video, when you're done, upload the video to YouTube and link to it or embed it in your Blackboard container.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

YouTube API Changes Causing Issues with YouTube Mashup and Video Everywhere

The following is a bulletin from Blackboard. This issue is unrelated to the recent upgrade and would have happened whether we upgraded or not.

Date Published: Jun 11,2015
Category: Product:Content Management,Extensions; Version:9.1,SaaS
Article No.: 000040643                                                                                                                                                      
Bulletin/Advisory Information: The YouTube Mashup and Video Everywhere tools in the Blackboard Learn software, which allow instructors to integrate videos directly into their lessons and courses from YouTube, is not functioning properly due to Google’s planned retirement of the YouTube Data API (v2).

The result of this is that users are unable to play existing YouTube Mashup links or upload/embed YouTube videos using YouTube Mashup or Video Everywhere. While the uploaded video can still be found on, searching for it in the respective course will direct users to

It is our top software maintenance priority to restore this functionality, and has been for several months. Our product teams have been working diligently to update our software to work with the YouTube Data API (v3).  We plan on releasing patches as soon as development is completed and patches have passed quality assurance. We estimate that these patches will be available within the next 30 days.

Until software patches are made available, the following workarounds are available.

Workaround #1 - For Existing Links

Access the link by opening it in a new tab within your browser.

Workaround #2 - For Adding New Videos

Instructors who have lost access, and/or are unable to upload and embed YouTube videos using the YouTube Mashup or Video Everywhere tools may go to and upload the video(s) via these instructions:
(note: this section modified from Blackboard's original instructions to be clearer)

  • Navigate to and search for the video you want
  • Copy the URL
  • In Blackboard, select an Assignments/Content area from your menu
  • Create a new item in this content area by selecting Build Content > Item
  • Enter a Name
  • On the content editor toolbar, click the Insert/Edit Embedded Media icon
    (it will bring up a new window)
  • Change the Type to iFrame
  • Paste the URL into File/URL
  • Click Insert
  • Submit your new item

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Close of Spring Semester Reminders

Below are some reminders to wrap up your spring courses before taking off for destinations far and wide.

  • Double-check your Grade Center Total column to make sure it is calculating correctly.
  • Check to make sure you haven't hidden any students that have actually been in the class.  (Grade Center > Manage > Row Visibility)
  • Download the Grade Center to your hard drive
  • Archive (backup) your course.


Friday, May 15, 2015

SafeAssign Integration with Regular Assignments

On June 5th and 6th, 2015, we are upgrading to a new version of Blackboard. The biggest change in this new version is that SafeAssignments will be integrated into regular assignments.

SafeAssignments are Blackboard assignments that are checked for plagiarism. Currently, to add an assignment to a content area you hover over the Assessments button and have to choose between an Assignment or a SafeAssignment.

The new integration between SafeAssignments and regular Assignments means there will be only one type of Assignment to choose.

The advantage of this integration is that almost all the features of a regular Assignment are now available for assignments checked for plagiarism. This includes the ability to attach a file, inline grading, and rubrics.

SafeAssignments that already exist in containers prior to this upgrade will still work without any problems at all. You will still access them through Course Tools > SafeAssign. They will not be automatically converted to these new integrated assignments. 

This is not a problem, however, you may prefer to use the new integrated assignments to take advantage of the advanced features. There are a couple of different ways to get your old SafeAssignments converted to the new integrated assignments once the upgrade is complete.

  1. Recreate the SafeAssignments by hand.

    To do this, go into a content area, hover over Assessments, and choose Assignment from the drop-down as seen in the image above. Fill out the fields as usual and in the Submission Details section, put check marks next to "Check submissions for plagiarism using SafeAssign" and "Allow students to view SafeAssign originality report for their attempts".
  2. Wait until after the upgrade to do a Course Copy.

    If you wait to copy your course until after the upgrade is complete, your assignments will be automatically converted. If you are not teaching a course this summer, and haven't already copied courses for fall, I'd really recommend you choose this option and wait to copy your courses until after the upgrade is complete on June 7th.
  3. Just wait until the next time you copy your course.

    The next time you copy the course after the upgrade, SafeAssignments will automatically be converted to the new integrated assignments. There is no problem leaving SafeAssignments as they are. You just won't have the advanced features available to regular assignments. Even if you've already copied courses for the summer and/or fall, there's no harm in leaving SafeAssignments as they are until the next time you copy your course.
To find out more about SafeAssign and the new integrated assignments, watch the video at

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Improve Presentations with "Resonate"

Nancy Duarte is a communication expert and the creator of some of the most influential visual messages of our times. Her fabulous book, "Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences," is now available FREE online in multimedia format. This is an extraordinarily well done compilation of techniques for improving presentations.

The free version is available at

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fix for Firefox Copy/Paste Blackboard Bug

You may recognize this situation: using Firefox, you copy some text from Blackboard or some other website, then you try to paste it into a Blackboard content editor by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-v. But nothing gets pasted! You look at your fingers and the screen in disbelief, mutter a few choice words, then end up trying to find another way to get that text typed in.

If you've been having this problem, there are three options to solve this problem:

  • Option 1: Paste the text into another program, like a text editor, then copy it again from that program and paste it into the Content Editor.
  • Option 2: Use the Chrome browser instead of Firefox.
  • Option 3: Make changes to the advanced configuration in Firefox. Warning - this option is not for the faint of heart or tech challenged.
    1. Open Firefox
    2. Type about:config in the address bar (where you would normally type the URL of a website)
    3. Click the button that says "I'll be careful, I promise!"
    4. Type dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled in the search box just above "Preference Name"
    5. Double click the search result item to toggle value from "true" to "false"
    6. Close Firefox
    7. Open Firefox again and login to Blackboard
    8. Test copy/pasting
Please note, you still need to use Ctrl-v to paste instead of right-clicking and this fix has no effect on copy/pasting from Word or programs other than Firefox. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Change the Time Blackboard Assignments and Tests Are Due

If you have Blackboard tests and assignments that are due at 11:55 pm or 11:59 pm, please consider changing the due and availability times to 11:00 pm or earlier. 

Blackboard periodically needs to take their servers down for maintenance or emergency repair and they usually do this at 11 pm. If your assignments are due later than 11 pm, some students may find it difficult to submit their tests and papers. We try to give enough notice through Blackboard announcements prior to any maintenance, but I know how easy it is for both students and faculty to just skip past these announcements to go to the course they want to work on.

Changing the due and availability times to 11 pm will make it less disruptive for students when Blackboard maintenance is performed. The Date Management tool is a great way to do this for many assignments and tests all in one place. Just select "List all dates for review" to get started.

Please remember to change the time assignments are due on September 4th to 11 pm because we will definitely be down for about 4 hours that night to do a minor Blackboard update.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two Snapshot Runs Per Day

District IS listened to our request from last semester and they are now running Snapshot twice per day to transfer information from WebAdvisor to Blackboard.  Below is the new schedule.

A quick summary is:
  • If a student enrolls between 1:00am and 11:45am today, they will have access to Blackboard about 4:30pm today
  • If a student enrolls between 11:45am today and 1:00am tomorrow, they will have access to Blackboard about 7:30am tomorrow
1st Run 2nd Run
IS data process starts 1:00am 11:45am
Data files on ftp server
(times will vary according to length of process)
2:30am 1:30pm
Blackboard picks up files 4:45am 1:45pm
Blackboard starts Snapshot process 5:00am 2:00pm
Snapshot updates completed
(times will vary according to number of updates)
7:30am 4:30pm
Updates the data entered between 11:45am previous day-
1:00am current day
1:00am-11:45am current day

Note: If the previous Snapshot process is still running, the next one will be aborted

Thanks go to Brian Nath and Debbi Smith for implementing this so our students can access their online classes sooner after adding!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Online Teaching Conference Virtual Sessions

The Online Teaching Conference on June 20 & 21 is sold out, but if you don't already have tickets, you can still attend virtually and it's free! You can sign up for the virtual conference at

They've released many of the virtual presentations already so everyone can get a head start on the conference. These videos can be viewed at

Update: I tried viewing a few of the YouTube videos that have been released, however they don't include links posted to the chat window and screen sharing from the presenter. Instead of using the link above, go to and type OTC14 into the Content search box, then click Find Archives. On the search result page, click the blue Archive link next to a video you want to watch.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Guest Access to Blackboard Courses

At the beginning of each semester you may want to allow some students access to your course before their add is processed in both WebAdvisor and Blackboard. Turn on guest access to do this.
  1. Make the course available
    Customization > Properties > Make Course Available = Yes
  2. Allow Guest Access
    Customization > Guest and Observer Access > Allow Guests = Yes
  3. Choose the areas guests can access
    Customization > Tool Availability > Check the “Visible to Guests” column for item types you want to show, such as Announcements and Content Area
After doing the above steps you will see a choice on the course menu for items you selected in step 3 to Permit or Deny Guests. 
  1. Click the options arrow next to the menu item

  2. Choose Permit Guests.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

End of Semester Update

Congratulations on another successful semester!

Before you leave for the summer, please download the Grade Center to your hard drive and Archive (backup) your course to your hard drive.

We will not be upgrading Blackboard before the summer semester. Each spring we evaluate our options for upgrading, and this year it was determined by committees at both colleges that the risk of new bugs far outweighed the advantages for any of the upgrades that are available to us during the break between spring and summer semesters. So enjoy the summer; there's nothing new to learn on the Blackboard front!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

@ONE Online Summer Classes for Faculty

@ONE offers some of the best online courses for faculty interested in or already teaching online. Some of the topics will also interest faculty who teach only in the classroom. Their courses are taught fully online, so no matter where you're travelling this summer, you can take these courses.

These courses run from 7/7/14 - 8/1/14:
  • Building Online Community with Social Media  
  • Creating Accessible Online Courses  
  • Designing Effective Online Assessments  
  • Introduction to Teaching with Blackboard 9.1  
  • Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning
These classes fill up fast, so register as soon as possible at

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wrap it up and start all over again

At the same time you're wrapping up the Fall Semester, many of you are starting to prepare for Intersession or the Spring semester.  Below are some reminders that may help you in this process.

Wrap up Fall

  • Double-check your Grade Center Total column to make sure it is calculating correctly.
  • Check to make sure you haven't hidden any students that have actually been in the class.  (Grade Center > Manage > Row Visibility)
  • Download the Grade Center to your hard drive
  • Archive (backup) your course.

New Semester Preparations 

There are a few resources to help you prepare for the new semester on the Online Success website. There is a Blackboard Semester Checklist web page that lists things you'll need to do in your Blackboard containers. There is a very useful Word file ("downloadable checklist") on that page with a more detailed list that you can print out and check things off as you finish them. There is a video tutorial that you can link to in your first announcement that explains to students how to log in to Blackboard.

There is an important emerging legal issue that I'd like to remind you about as you prepare your syllabi. It is increasingly important that online instructors establish an ongoing drop policy and implement it. It is the responsibility of the instructor and the college to assure that students receiving federal and state financial assistance be dropped from online classes when they cease to be active. The most common measure of inactivity is the passing of a week without communication with the faculty member or submission of course work (simply accessing the Blackboard container is not sufficient to demonstrate “activity”). The federal government has audited colleges to see if students are receiving financial aid for periods longer than they were actively involved in the class. Further, they are asking colleges to reimburse them for money paid to inactive students!

Information about your drop policy should be included on your syllabus that defines exactly when and under what circumstances students will be dropped for inactivity. For example, “Students who are inactive will be dropped from the course. If an entire week goes by with no activity on your part either through discussion board participation, email communication, or submission of work, quiz, or exam, you will be dropped. Therefore, it is imperative that you let me know if, for some reason, your contribution to the class will be interrupted.” In reality, we recommend you send a warning notification to students after a week of inactivity and allow a few days for them to respond.

I hope you have wonderful holidays and a very happy new year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Date Management Tool

On December 20th we will install a new Blackboard tool called "Date Management." This tool will make it easy for you to adjust all the due dates and item availability dates in your course. If you have a lot of dates to change in your courses, you may want to wait until this tool is available before changing them one-by-one.

Watch a short video to see how it will work at We do not use terms on our system, so follow the steps below to adjust the dates for a normal full semester course from Fall 2013 to Spring 2014.

Steps to use the Date Management Tool in Spring 2014:

  1. Copy your course from this semester into the spring semester container as usual
  2. Go into the spring semester container
  3. Go to Control Panel > Course Tools > Date Management
  4. Click "Use Course Start Date"
  5. Current Start Date: 08/19/2013 (a late start class would have had a different start date)
  6. New: 01/27/2014 (adjust as needed for shorter classes)
  7. Click the Start button

Once this process completes, you can easily fine tune all the dates in your course using the Date Management Review page. This review page will be available from then on through Control Panel > Course Tools > Date Management.

If you want to play with this tool now, it's available on the Blackboard test server at

Monday, October 28, 2013

Free Video Hosting - 3C Media Solutions

3C Media Solutions is a CCC Chancellor's Office project that provides free video hosting for all California Community College faculty. I wasn't aware of some of the useful ways this can be used until I watched the recording of a webinar they gave a couple of weeks ago through CCC Confer. This service allows you to upload and host your college video content. You then get a link to your video that you can give to your students through email or Blackboard. 

Another interesting feature they offer is that they will host YouTube content, so that when you link to it, it doesn't have links to other videos tempting your students to watch funny cat videos instead of working on your course. 

This webinar also talks about several other ways you can use 3C Media Solutions and CCC Confer to provide video or audio files for your courses. Watch the recorded workshop at

Academic Dishonesty

Debbi Smith took these notes during a workshop on academic dishonesty at the Blackboard Tour held at Southwestern College a couple of weeks ago.


  • One person takes the exam and lets others know what is on it – they then claim technical issues after viewing the whole exam. 
  • Groups take the test at the same place and time, such as in a library or tech mall, so they can talk to each other during the test and give answers. They will have similar test times and answers. 
  • Facebook users contact ‘friends’ who pass Word docs around with entire test banks. 
  • Claim of unreal technology issues. 
  • Hire someone to do their work. 
  • Keep content open while testing. 
  • Use cellphones to look up answers. 
  • Google test questions. 
  • Try to open Blackboard on two different devices. 
  • Record screenshots of entire exam or capture with video and post on YouTube as private.


  • Easier to prevent than catch cheating. Let students know up front that you can pull activity reports and put it in the syllabi. 
  • Blackboard will kick a student out of a test if they have Blackboard open on 2 devices – tell students this. 
  • Randomize test questions. 
  • Use Test Pools – a different test for each student 
  • Pull Activity reports (will show if students are flipping between content and test – will show test, content, test, content, logout; will show if they looked at the whole test; will show if group of students took the test at the same time in the same building) 
  • Use SafeAssign (checks for plagiarism) 
  • Check for a difference between education level, grammar, and writing style of minor assignments and major assignments. 
  • Check consistency/location of IP Addresses. 
  • Show one question at a time (makes it harder for students to see if questions are the same) 
  • Reduce time per question to 60-75 seconds. 
  • Adjust text of test questions so Google doesn't find them quickly.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Using Item Analysis to Assess SLOs

Guest post by Anthony Zambelli.

Blackboard now allows you to run an item analysis on any test you've deployed in it. Although not necessarily the intent of item analysis, you now have a new and powerful tool to assess your students’ achievement of student learning outcomes when you administer your assessments in Blackboard.

Item analysis provides statistics on overall test performance and individual test questions. Although item analysis is intended to help you recognize questions that might be poor discriminators of student performance so that you can improve questions for future test administrations or to adjust credit on current attempts, it can also be used to assess student achievement of student learning outcomes.

You will be using the Question Statistics Table on the Item Analysis Page to assess your SLOs. You can run item analyses on deployed tests with submitted attempts, but not on surveys. Access previously run item analyses under the Available Analysis heading or select a deployed test from the drop-down list and click Run to generate a new report. The new report's link appears under the Available Analysis heading or in the status receipt at the top of the page. For best results, run item analyses on single-attempt tests after all attempts have been submitted and all manually graded questions are scored.

Just follow the following instructions on running item analysis on a test:

You can access item analysis in three locations within the assessment workflow. It is available in the contextual menu for a:
  • Test deployed in a content area.
  • Deployed test listed on the Tests page.
  • Grade Center column.

  1. Access the test's contextual menu.
  2. Select Item Analysis.
  3. In the Select Test drop-down list, select a test. Only deployed tests are listed.
  4. Click Run.
  5. View the item analysis by clicking the new report's link under the Available Analysis heading or by clicking View Analysis in the status receipt at the top of the page.
You are now ready to use the data that is generated to assess your students’ achievement of SLOs. The question statistics table provides item analysis statistics for each question in the test.

  1. Filter the question table by question type, discrimination category, and difficulty category.
  2. Investigate a specific question by clicking its title and reviewing its Question Details page.
  3. Statistics for each question are displayed in the table, including:
    • Discrimination: Indicates how well a question differentiates between students who know the subject matter those who do not. A question is a good discriminator when students who answer the question correctly also do well on the test. Values can range from -1.0 to +1.0. Questions are flagged for review if their discrimination value is less than 0.1 or is negative. Discrimination values cannot be calculated when the question's difficulty score is 100% or when all students receive the same score on a question.
    • Difficulty: The percentage of students who answered the question correctly. Difficulty values can range from 0% to 100%, with a high percentage indicating that the question was easy. Questions in the Easy (greater than 80%) or Hard (less than 30%) categories are flagged for review.
    • Graded Attempts: Number of question attempts where grading is complete. Higher numbers of graded attempt produce more reliable calculated statistics.
    • Average Score: Scores denoted with an * indicate that some attempts are not graded and that the average score might change after all attempts are graded. The score displayed here is the average score reported for the test in the Grade Center.
    • Standard Deviation: Measure of how far the scores deviate from the average score. If the scores are tightly grouped, with most of the values being close to the average, the standard deviation is small. If the data set is widely dispersed, with values far from the average, the standard deviation is larger.
    • Standard Error: An estimate of the amount of variability in a student's score due to chance. The smaller the standard error of measurement, the more accurate the measurement provided by the test question.
You will be only interested in the Average Score column when assessing student achievement of SLOs by following the following steps:
  1. Identify the SLO that is being assessed by the question.
  2. Determine a satisfactory score that indicates that your students have achieved that SLO.
  3. Compare your satisfactory score to the average score. If that score is greater than or equal to the satisfactory score then your students have achieved the SLO which you will report in TracDat. If the average score is less than your satisfactory score, then the students didn’t achieve the SLO and that may be an SLO you may want to work on the next time the course is taught, again reporting in TracDat.
For more information see the Blackboard Help.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Regular Effective Contact in Online Courses

Title V of the California Education Code requires regular effective contact in online teaching. Federal regulatory requirements (ACCJC) require regular and substantive interaction. Section 55200 of Title V says that “any portion of a course conducted through distance education includes regular effective contact between instructor and students, through group or individual meetings, orientation and  review sessions, supplemental seminar or study sessions, field trips, library workshops, telephone contact, correspondence, voice mail, e-mail, or other activities.” All distance education sections are subject to the same local and state approval standards and procedures and should be considered a “virtual equivalent” to a classroom-based course.

Some approaches to satisfying regular effective contact requirements are:
  • Learning activities that foster instructor-student, content-student, and if appropriate to the course, student-student interaction (e.g. e-mail, discussion, phone, online conferences).
  • Instructor responsiveness and availability standards (turn-around time for email, grade posting, etc.) are clearly stated and are commensurate to that of face-to-face class (3 hours for 3-unit class).
  • Requirements for student interaction are clearly articulated
  • Instructor reads online discussions and responds as appropriate.
  • The instructor posts weekly announcements that help students navigate the course.
  • The instructor provides constructive and timely feedback on assignments.
Please note, a part of demonstrating regular effective contact is ensuring that the interaction is faculty-initiated, as opposed to student-initiated.

For more information see: