Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Bob Dylan

That song just popped into my head as I was thinking about how to tell you about all the changes coming down the pike for how we work with Blackboard.

Henry Eimstead and Brian Nath held a meeting at the district today about how Blackboard and Colleague will talk to each other so that you don't have to request containers and roster uploads every semester.

This process which Brian calls "Gucci" will automatically create Blackboard containers for every section that is listed in Colleague. It will also add students to these containers automatically.

Key points:

  1. All of this may or may not happen for the Fall 2008 semester. If all goes well, this will happen by August 20. If not, we simply fall back to the way things have always been done.
  2. For now, faculty should request all roster uploads and create container requests using the forms on GCCCD Online just as they normally would. These forms should be submitted by August 15.
  3. All the following items will happen only IF "Gucci" happens by August 20.
  4. All containers will be initially created with CONTROL PANEL > SETTINGS > COURSE AVAILABILITY set to No. This is so that the instructor has control over when the container is ready to be viewed by students. When you're ready for students to see your course, set this to Yes.
  5. All containers will be built using a template. Each college can set their own template. This template sets things like the default items in the course menu, how the menu looks, and any content we want to be in every course. Chris and I got some good templates from the onsite Blackboard training we had in May, so we're going to start with something basic until we can confer with faculty on what works best. We can always change it to meet faculty's needs.
  6. Course containers that have already been requested and built by faculty will be automatically transferred to the "Gucci" generated containers. It's magic, what can I say?
  7. The section owns the content. What this means is that if Kari Wergeland was in Colleague to teach section 4633 LIR-110 in the Fall, then for any reason was unable to teach the section and section 4633 was reassigned to Jeri Resto to teach it, then Kari Wergeland would be removed as the instructor of the container and Jeri Resto would be the new instructor for that container. All content that Kari had created prior to being removed as the instructor would be intact in the container that Jeri Resto is now teaching with. We were told by the Blackboard consultants that this is just how Blackboard works. There's no changing it.
  8. So that brings us to the next key point. With this new system it's a good idea to have a development container. That is, a container in which you create your course, and keep updated, which you then copy to the new container that is created for you each semester by "Gucci." When requesting these development containers using the GCCCD Online site, please use the following information to fill out the form.

    Example for a container used to develop courses:
    • College: Cuyamaca
    • Semester: Fall 2008
    • Section: 0000
    • Course: ENGL
    • Number: 110
    • Description: College Composition
    • Special Instructions: this container is for development purposes

    Instructors will be able to change the Course Name after the container is created if they choose.
  9. Merging of sections. By Spring 09 semester there will be a tool called the "Course Merge Tool" that instructors can use to merge several sections into one container. With this tool, rosters will still be automatically updated.

    For Fall 08, the alternative is to merge them manually in which case, only one of the sections will get rosters automatically updated. Or, you can try to get by for one semester with separate sections.

    Classes which are "Cross-listed and Equal" such as ACCT 101 and MATH 101, taught in the same room, at the same time with the same teacher will be automatically merged starting this Fall. This does not include BOT-101A and BOT-101B. I'm not clear on the details why, but that's what they said. Updated 8/11/08 - a single container will be created for every section listed in Colleague. Merging will be as described in the above paragraph. In other words, faculty can combine sections, but they will only get on-going add-drop updates for the section that other sections are being combined into.

Whew. I think that's all of it. There was a lot covered and still a lot that is unknown, but progress is definitely being made!

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