Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Blackboard File Formats for Uploads - Use PDF, not .rtf

Blackboard Instructors, PLEASE NOTE: When posting materials for students within Blackboard, it is now best to avoid using the Rich Text Format (.rtf) file type.

  • PDF is our top recommendation for a format to use when uploading materials for students to view in Blackboard. This format should be the most accessible for the widest number of students, and it also tends to save in a reduced file size.
  • Microsoft Office file formats (.docx, .pptx, etc.) are also likely to be easily accessible for your students. For files that you only need the students to view (not edit), PDF format is preferable.

If you attended Blackboard training a number of years ago, you might have gotten a recommendation to post materials to Blackboard in rich text format (.rtf) so the files would be accessible by students who might not have Microsoft Office or other compatible software on their computer. While that may have been a good recommendation at the time, it is no longer the case that rich text format (.rtf) is more accessible than other readily available file formats.

The Rich Text Format (.rtf) file type is not supported by default on Chromebooks, which more of our students have begun using. Also, G Suite (Google Drive and its collection of related apps) does not support Rich Text Format (.rtf) files; our students have G Suite built into their ICC email accounts.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Blackboard Grade Center Checkups

It's that time of year again . . . 

TLC staff will offer Grade Center checkup sessions during the week of August 22, 2016, to ensure your Blackboard Grade Center is properly set up and ready for the Fall semester.  We will check to ensure that all columns are properly set up and included in the final calculation, that there are no hidden columns (seen by students but not by instructors), and that all columns are included in weighted categories (where applicable).  We will also help you to reorganize your Grade Center from a weighted system into a total points system, where applicable.

Each session will last approximately 30 minutes, depending upon the number of courses you have. All sessions will be held in the TLC, 240A.

Please contact the TLC to register for one of the half-hour time slots available during any of these sessions: 
- Tuesday, August 23 (12pm-2pm)
- Wednesday, August 24 (4pm-6pm)
- Thursday, August 25 (9am-11am)

See the Fall 2016 Grade Center Checkup flyer for additional details.

Contact the TLC at 694-8908 or tlc@icc.edu to register for a session (or to request an alternate time if none of these times work for you).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bulk Delete Users / Prepare for New Semester

After archiving your Blackboard course and saving the zipped file (should you need the course restored in the future), it's time to remove students from the course and prepare it to be used during a new semester.

Bulk Delete Users/Groups/Statistics
Bulk Delete removes users (students) and materials from a course site in order to prepare it to be used over again for a new semester.  This is a permanent process - be sure that the archive process has been completed first; then follow these five steps for removing users.  

  1. Under the Control Panel of your Blackboard course site, click the Packages and Utilities menu item
  2. Click on Bulk Delete

  3. Check the parts of your Blackboard course you would like to delete - following are the minimum recommendations for course materials to be deleted:
    • Users / Groups / Statistics

    • You may also wish to delete announcements if you do not plan to use the same announcements for a future semester
    • NEVER bulk delete the Grade Center (as this will cause parts of your course to  not function at all)
  4. Type the word Delete (with a capital D) in the confirmation textbox

  5. Click Submit

Please note: Not all student-submitted materials are removed from the site.  Students' individual entries in discussion boards, blogs, journals, and wikis must still be deleted within those tool areas.

Update Course for New Semester

Once users/groups/statistics have been bulk deleted from the site, instructors should begin to check through all parts of the site to ensure that all content is up-to-date and ready to present during the following semester (prior to requesting a batch enrollment into the course).  The following ten steps were taken from our Beginning A Semester guide for Blackboard instructors:
  1. Ensure that all students, statistics, and other information from past semesters has been removed (bulk delete process)
  2. Update information within your site – review items such as the syllabus, your contact information and office hours, assignment schedules/course calendars, and class policies
  3. Review the Announcements, and delete or update them as necessary; also set dates for announcements to display as necessary (all announcements can be removed within the Bulk Delete process)
  4. Remove asssignments and other materials you are not using this semester, or make them unavailable to your students – this includes materials provided by the textbook publisher when you are no longer using the book
  5. Review your current assignments – update instructions, attachments, point values, and due dates as needed
  6. Review discussion boards, blogs, wikis, and journals – delete entries from previous students, update instructions, check due dates and point values for any graded forums
  7. Review manually-created columns within the Grade Center – remove any manually-created columns that are no longer needed, update due dates, add new columns as needed (for any assignments to be submitted in person, rather than via Blackboard)
  8. Organize columns within the Grade Center (from the Manage > Column Organization option), and hide/unhide as needed (hiding columns within the Grade Center only hides them from the instructor; students can still see these in their My Grades area); use Hide from Students to hide columns from students
  9. Check all links to ensure they are functioning correctly – this is especially important for external links, which could have changed or might have been removed from the Internet since the course was last used
  10. Check availability settings for course content, discussion boards, announcements, tests/surveys, and assignments

View the Ending a Semester guide for a complete overview and step-by-step instructions for the entire end-of-semester process.

For additional assistance with End-of-Semester Blackboard tasks, contact the TLC at tlc@icc.edu or (309) 694-8908, or visit us in room 240A on the East Peoria campus.

Next week our Blackboard Users' Group will meet in the TLC on Wednesday, May 4 at 12noon or Thursday, May 5 at 3pm - participants may attend either session.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Archiving a Blackboard Course

Once you have backed up the Grade Center to Microsoft Excel, it's time to archive the entire course.  Archiving a course site creates a backup copy of the entire course site, including all of the materials, settings, student files, and grades.  This process will package your Blackboard course (as it exists when you archive it) into a zipped file that you save, should the course need to be restored in the future.  Archived files must be restored by the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) staff before you will be able to view any of the contents.  It will be necessary for you to provide the zipped file to the TLC when you need to have a course restored.

Follow this ten-step process for archiving a Blackboard course and saving the zipped file:

  1. Under the Control Panel of your course site, click the Packages and Utilities menu item

  2. Click on Export/Archive Course
  3. Click on the Archive Course button

  4. Check the box to include Grade Center history
    (if grades are recorded within Blackboard)
  5. Click the Submit button
    • You should see a success bar near the top of the page
    • An email will be sent letting you know when the archive process is complete - this may take several minutes, depending on course size
  6. Click the Refresh button in the main content window
    • If using Mozilla Firefox, click on the link for the archived file, and select Save (do not select open)
    • If using Google Chrome, click on the link, for the archived file 
      • a button will appear in the lower left corner above the start button 
      • DO NOT click this button
      • go to Step 7
  7. To locate the saved file, open File Explorer(the file folder icon in the taskbar at the bottom of your desktop)
    • Open the Downloads folder from the left navigation panel
    • Right-click on the archived file, and select Cut

  8. Save the zip file by navigating to your H:/ drive or jump drive (or to a location on your personal computer)
  9. Then paste the file by right-clicking and selecting Paste
    • It may help to create a new folder called "Archived Courses" - if you don't already have one
    • You will need to provide this zipped file to the TLC should you need this course restored in the future
  10. After the file is saved to your computer (or jump drive), return to the Export/Archive course page within Blackboard, click the drop-down mean next to the archive file link, and choose Delete to remove the archive file from your course

Once the course has been archived (with the archived file saved to a location where you can find it and then deleted from within the Blackboard course), you can remove the students and begin to prepare the course to be used during a future semester (if you wish to use that one again).  
Visit our ICC Blackboard blog again next week when we'll cover steps for bulk deleting users from the course and preparing the course for a new semester.

View the Ending a Semester guide for a complete overview and step-by-step instructions for the entire process.

For additional assistance with End-of-Semester Blackboard tasks, contact the TLC at tlc@icc.edu or (309) 694-8908, or visit us in room 240A on the East Peoria campus.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Backup Grade Center to Microsoft Excel

There is a three-part process we recommended that instructors complete on their Blackboard courses following the end of each semester:

  1. Back up Grade Center to Microsoft Excel
  2. Archive Course
  3. Bulk Delete Users
In this month's blog series, as we focus on topics for Ending a Semester in Blackboard, we'll take a look at each part and its purpose, as well as how to prepare your courses for the next semester, over the next few weeks.  

Backing up your Blackboard Grade Center to Microsoft Excel will allow you to have full access outside of Blackboard to the data saved to the Grade Center, should any questions arise over student grades (once the students have been deleted), without the need to restore an entire archived course.  The Blackboard Grade Center can be backed up to Excel at any point during the semester, but we recommend it especially at the end of the semester, once all grades have been entered and updated.

Update all Grade Center cells

  • Before downloading the Grade Center to Excel, ensure that all grades are entered for all students and that zeros are entered for missing assignments so that the final grade is accurately calculated

Download file to Excel

  • Once the entire Grade Center is updated, click the Work Offline button in the upper-right area of the full Grade Center
  • Select the Download option

  • Click Submit on the next screen, as the default options should work best
  • When the Download Grades window appears, click the Download button
  • Depending on whether you are using Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, take the following steps:
    • Mozilla Firefox: A popup window will appear to indicate that the Grade Center will open in Microsoft Excel - select Open With Microsoft Excel, and click OK
    • Google Chrome: A button will appear in the lower left corner above the start button - click this button to open the Excel document

Save the Excel File

  • Within Excel select File > Save As
  • Provide a file name for the document - it's helpful to include both the course name and semester (i.e., ENGL110_Fall2015)
  • Select a location to save your Excel file 
    • H:/drive - if on campus - or jump drive or home computer
    • It may help to start a new folder called "Grades" (if you don't already have one)
  • Change the Save as type option from Unicode text (*.txt) to Excel Workbook (.xlsx) so that you can read the file within Excel  (this step is extremely important so that you are able to read the file in the future)
  • Click Save
  • Close the Excel program

View the Ending a Semester guide for a complete overview and step-by-step instructions for the entire process.

For additional assistance with End-of-Semester Blackboard tasks, contact the TLC at tlc@icc.edu or (309) 694-8908, or visit us in room 240A on the East Peoria campus.

Visit our ICC Blackboard blog again in the next couple of weeks when we'll cover steps for archiving your Blackboard courses and bulk deleting users from the course.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Video Everywhere

This week we'll explore a third option for embedding video within your Blackboard courses - Blackboard's Video Everywhere feature.  Video Everywhere allows Blackboard users (students, faculty, staff) to easily embed their own videos from YouTube within a Blackboard course.  All ICC students, faculty, and staff have access to YouTube via their @lab Google accounts.  While these are the traditional email accounts for students, faculty and staff should use their @lab Google accounts not for email, but for working with Google apps like Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and YouTube, among others - learn more within our Google Accounts for Faculty and Staff guide.

The Video Everywhere feature is available within Blackboard's content/text box editor, allowing users to make use of this feature "everywhere" in Blackboard that the content editor is available.  Instructors could post weekly videos as part of the Announcements page, include video instructions or sample project videos within Assignments, or start a discussion forum with a video instead of text.  Content editors are even available within the Grade Center, allowing instructors an option for providing video feedback to student assignment submissions.  Students could use the Video Everywhere feature to submit assignments or post to a discussion board, blog, or journal.  

The Video Everywhere icon is available at the start of the bottom toolbar in any content editor box (highlighted below):

Clicking on this icon will open a new window that prompts you to sign in to your YouTube account.  Once you enter your @lab email address and password, you can click on the Browse tab to view thumbnail images for videos already uploaded to your YouTube library.  (Note: If you are already signed in to a different Google account within your browser, you will need to sign out of that account and then into the @lab account.)  For each video you have uploaded to your YouTube account, you will have the option of either inserting the video into Blackboard, previewing the video before deciding to insert it, or editing the video within YouTube.  

Once you select Insert, a screen with additional display options will appear.  Play in place is the default selection with a thumbnail size of 120x90.  A larger display would be more ideal - just be sure to keep the dimensions proportional.  Once you click the Insert button, you may add additional text description, attachments, due dates, etc. to the announcement, assignment, discussion forum, etc.  

Need to learn more about how to record videos and upload them to your YouTube account?  There are several options available:

  • Videos can be recorded from a SmartPhone and then uploaded to YouTube directly from your phone.  
  • If you wish to provide a demonstration of something on the computer, you could record it using Screencast-O-Matic (check out our Screencast-O-Matic blog post from January 2015).  
  • Videos can be edited in Movie Maker (Windows) or QuickTime Movie Recording (Mac) 

The University of Idaho's BbLearn Help page Upload your video to YouTube provides an overview of each of the recording options listed above, as well as an excellent step-by-step overview (with screenshot images) of how to upload videos within a YouTube account.  

Additional Resources

For additional assistance with incorporating Web Content into your Blackboard courses, contact the TLC at tlc@icc.edu or (309) 694-8908, or visit us in room 240A on the East Peoria campus.

Next week our Blackboard Users' Group will meet in the TLC on Wednesday, April 6 at 12noon or Thursday, April 7 at 3pm - participants may attend either session.

Our May blog series will focus on the necessary steps for ending a semester in a Blackboard course and will include topics about backing up the Grade Center to Microsoft Excel, archiving courses, and bulk deleting users, and preparing a course for the following semester.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Linking/Embedding Media Content

Last week's blog post presented ideas for using Blackboard's Mashup tool as a means for embedding media content like photos, audio, and video from their original sources within your Blackboard courses.  Not all media available online has an option for being integrated via Blackboard's Mashup tool, but there are still ways to either link to or embed media content within a Blackboard course in order to reduce course size.  Learn more at Blackboard Help's page - Best Practice: Reduce Your Course Size.


Instructors can link to external content via either the (1) Web Link option or the (2) link icon within the content/text editor box.  
  1. The Build Content drop-down menu available in any content area features a Web Link option.  Selecting this option will allow instructors to add a title and URL and - optionally - a description or attachment(s).  By default the link will open in a new tab.  A web link will appear in Blackboard with a globe as the icon, followed by the name you entered.  Clicking on the name (as shown in the image below) will open the web site in a new tab.

  2. Check out Purdue University's video tutorial for a visual overview:

  3. The other method to link to an external site is to do so within the content/text editor box.  Anywhere the content editor is available (items, assignments, discussion boards, blogs, journals, etc.), an instructor can highlight text and then click the chain link icon to actively link it (shown in the image below).  You will be given options on the pop-up window when you click the chain link icon.  On the Target drop-down, be sure to select Open in a New Window (_blank) so that the user will remain in Blackboard and the link will open in a new tab.

These two methods for adding web links provide a means for linking to content on another website.  A text link that can be clicked to access other content will be made available.  

Another option is to embed media into your Blackboard course so that the actual media appears within the Blackboard course (rather than having to open a link in a new tab), similar to the way it appears when using the Mashup tool.

To embed media from an external website, you will need to access the embed code from that site, which is usually available by clicking a "Share" or "Embed" link.  Once you copy the embed code, it can be pasted into any content/text editor box within Blackboard by clicking on the HTML icon (highlighted below).  

For a complete list of steps for embedding Web 2.0 content, as well as brief descriptions of various types of Web 2.0 content that can be embedded into a Blackboard course or website, visit Blackboard Help's page - Best Practice: Web 2.0 Tools.

Contact the ICC Teaching and Learning Center to learn more about embedding media content to help reduce course size.  Visit our blog again next week to learn more about Video Everywhere, a means for embedding your own YouTube videos into Blackboard.