Blackboard Course Banners are NOT Just for Course Landing Pages

Since the early days of Blackboard and other Learning Management Systems in the field, Course Banners have been a great way to personalize the online or web-enhanced learning environment. Instructors could differentiate any course by starting it out with a graphic or photo of their own choice/making. Course Banners have been used far and wide since then to add flare and personalize the online and blended environment.

Course with Banner ScreenshotFor years, instructors who used Blackboard have been operating under the assumption that a Course Banner could only be used on the landing page of a Blackboard course. Well guess what? Course Banners can be placed almost anywhere in an online/web-enhanced course. Check out this before and after photo of a Blackboard content area, in this case Lesson 1:

Before and After - Adding BannersWith just the addition of a few graphics, a theme change and a Banner image, we can add continuity to the course as well as make it more engaging.

How do you do it?

Show Text OnlyFirst, you will want to give yourself more real estate in the Content Area where you will be placing the Course Banner. You do this by changing your page options to show text only.

  • Ensure your Edit Mode is on.
  • Click the contextual menu next to your page title and select Page Options.
  • Click Show Text Only.

This gives you more space for your graphic to live in the content area where you place it, by removing the icon that shows up next to your content title.

Note: It is also a good idea to make your Course Banners in the subsequent course content areas a little bit smaller. This cuts down on load time as well as screen resolution issues.

Add ImageNext, add/edit a Content Item on your page and add an image to the top.

  • Add/Edit a Content Item.
  • Click the Add Image button.
  • Browse and Attach your Banner.
  • Click Submit.

You will now have a content item with a banner graphic that is placed at the beginning of the content area, folder or module of your choice:

Adjusted Content Item ExampleThis practice will add a layer of continuity and engagement to your course. If your students feel like they are in a familiar place and are engaged while browsing, their satisfaction levels will increase. Consider adding more Course Banners to your online/web-enhanced courses today!

April 2015 How-to Sessions

learn_blogEach month, SHSU Online offers face-to-face and completely online technology training/how-to sessions for faculty and staff at Sam Houston State University. In April we are offering 12 face-to-face and 2 online courses to keep faculty and staff connected and in the know.

April 2015 brings with it a continued focus on our sun-setting of Tegrity at SHSU with 4 sessions covering the technologies you will use in its place.  Piggy-backing off of their debut at the SHSU Online Teaching and Learning Conference, the use of electronic portfolios in Blackboard courses will also be covered. To help with student engagement SHSU Online is also offering sessions on voice tools (audio in your courses), creating and grading with rubrics as well as feedback strategies for your online courses.

To sign up, please visit our Development Sessions sign-up page.

Session Name Description Date/Time
What’s New in Teaching and Learning for Blackboard? This self-paced, completely online course is designed to familiarize SHSU faculty with the latest features and enhancements in Blackboard Learn. Modules cover enhancements in building and designing courses, communication and assessment. Online/Self-Paced
Blackboard Learn: Designing Engaging Content This self-paced, completely online, Designing Engaging Content course is put together so that SHSU instructors learn strategies for effectively designing and organizing content to increase student engagement within Blackboard courses. Online/Self-Paced
Blackboard Learn: Portfolios This 90 minute session covers an invaluable tool in academic professional development. Porfolios provide a powerful medium for users to efficiently collect and organize artifacts representative of work completed over time. Attendees will learn create portfolio assignments as well as build out a portfolio so that they can better communicate with students about buidling their own. 4/1/2015 – 1pm
Blackboard Collaborate: Voice Tools This 1 hour session will show attendees how to utilize Blackboard Collaborate voice tools throughout their course. Topics covered include: personalizing your course by adding your voice anywhere you add text, and implementing a “Voice Board” for a different take on an asynchronous discussion. 4/2/2015 – 2pm
ProctorFree – Online Proctoring for Blackboard Exams and Quizzes This one hour session covers how to use ProctorFree for your online exams & quizzes in Blackboard. ProctorFree is an on-demand, automated online proctoring service that deters cheating in an online testing environment. Using biometric and machine learning technologies, ProctorFree has eliminated the need for a human proctor during testing. This innovative technology creates a convenient testing option for distance education students and increases the credibility of online certificates and degrees for higher education institutions. 4/7/2015 – 1pm
Kaltura: Lecture Capture in Blackboard Adding video to our Blackboard course just became easier! This 60-90 minute session covers how to add video to your Blackboard course using the Kaltura Mashup tool. Attendees will learn how to record and upload video from their webcam as well as capture what is on their own computer screen (PowerPoints etc.). 4/8/2015 – 1pm
Blackboard Learn: Portfolios This 90 minute session covers an invaluable tool in academic professional development. Porfolios provide a powerful medium for users to efficiently collect and organize artifacts representative of work completed over time. Attendees will learn create portfolio assignments as well as build out a portfolio so that they can better communicate with students about buidling their own. 4/9/2015 – 2pm
Blackboard Learn: Rubrics Participants will learn how to use the rubric tool that lists evaluation criteria for an assignment, and provide a means to convey expectations to students for the quality of completed assignments. This session lasts approximately 60 minutes. 4/14/2015 – 1pm
ProctorFree – Online Proctoring for Blackboard Exams and Quizzes This one hour session covers how to use ProctorFree for your online exams & quizzes in Blackboard. ProctorFree is an on-demand, automated online proctoring service that deters cheating in an online testing environment. Using biometric and machine learning technologies, ProctorFree has eliminated the need for a human proctor during testing. This innovative technology creates a convenient testing option for distance education students and increases the credibility of online certificates and degrees for higher education institutions. 4/15/2015 – 2pm
Blackboard Learn: Portfolios This 90 minute session covers an invaluable tool in academic professional development. Porfolios provide a powerful medium for users to efficiently collect and organize artifacts representative of work completed over time. Attendees will learn create portfolio assignments as well as build out a portfolio so that they can better communicate with students about buidling their own. 4/16/2015 – 10am
Kaltura: Lecture Capture in Blackboard Adding video to our Blackboard course just became easier! This 60-90 minute session covers how to add video to your Blackboard course using the Kaltura Mashup tool. Attendees will learn how to record and upload video from their webcam as well as capture what is on their own computer screen (PowerPoints etc.). 4/16/2015 – 2pm
Blackboard Collaborate: Voice Tools This 1 hour session will show attendees how to utilize Blackboard Collaborate voice tools throughout their course. Topics covered include: personalizing your course by adding your voice anywhere you add text, and implementing a “Voice Board” for a different take on an asynchronous discussion. 4/21/2015 – 1pm
Blackboard Learn: Portfolios This 90 minute session covers an invaluable tool in academic professional development. Porfolios provide a powerful medium for users to efficiently collect and organize artifacts representative of work completed over time. Attendees will learn create portfolio assignments as well as build out a portfolio so that they can better communicate with students about buidling their own. 4/22/2015 – 1pm
Feedback Strategies for Your Online Course Engagement in online courses is key for student success, teacher evaluation and the overall course experience. A great way to promote student engagement in your online course is to work on feedback. Students that receive regular feedback tend to perform better and as a result have good opinions of their time in the course. There are many sound strategies for providing feedback in an online course. This 90 minute session will cover a few key feedback strategies. 4/23/2015 – 2pm

To sign up, please visit our Development Sessions sign-up page.

Blackboard Maintenance Preparations

In preparation for this evening’s Blackboard maintenance, the Blackboard Administration Team will be performing some tasks on our production servers. They are as follows:

Student Preview1. Set Inactive and Uninstall “Student View” Building Block

The Student Preview is part of the Blackboard core and as such does not need to be duplicated as a Building Block.  When you login to Blackboard Thursday morning the student preview button will show up in the upper right hand side of your course’s content frame.

2. Delete all “bb_demo” users from system (6765 users)

These were accounts that the old Student View Building block placed in your course(s) every time you used the Student View.

3. Delete all SHSU faculty “_std” accounts. (1217 users)

These are student accounts for faculty that we retained from our “Blackboard Classic” days prior to 2011.  These ARE NOT your instructor accounts. We used to leverage them to view our courses as students.  The Student Preview functionality takes care of this for us now, so there is no reason to have 2 things that operate the same way.

 

Blackboard Maintenance (Downtime)

System MaintenanceBlackboard will be undergoing maintenance from 10pm on Wednesday, December 17th until 10am on Thursday, December 18th, 2014.  Blackboard will be unavailable during this time.  This maintenance will address the accessibility, security, performance and scalability of the platform as well as other known issues.

We are posting this announcement now to allow for any changes in due dates and schedules in your course(s). Please do not log in or try to do any work during the maintenance window.  During the downtime, please visit the SHSU Online Blog for more information.

E-mail blackboard@shsu.edu if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
The SHSU Online Blackboard Team
blackboard@shsu.edu

Getting Your Students ready for Online Exams – Finals Prep

ReadinessWith finals fast approaching, your students should be dutifully studying up on course materials, completing academic research and course activities that will help them be able to handle the questions and concepts they come across during end-of-semester assessments. Your course materials have covered topics large and small that will help them make appropriate inferences, connect the dots and generally understand the subject matter they have been interacting with over the course of a semester.

Even when hitting all of your targets academically speaking, your students may have problems when it comes time for finals in an online environment. We all know that technology failures operate under the “when, not if” principle, but there are strategies and practices that your students can put into place that will help them surmount any obstacle thrown their way. The following practices will benefit your students when it comes to the end of year exams:

BEFORE STARTING THE EXAM

Power Up!
Plug your laptop into the power outlet unless you are absolutely certain that your laptop has enough battery power to last for the duration of the test.

Tether Up!
If you have the option, turn off your wireless connection and plug your laptop into the nearest available network port or use your desktop computer if available. Wireless issue can cause your exam to disconnect and your instructor may not be fond of resetting your exam attempt for the umpteenth time.

Go Solo!
Close down any other programs that my distract you from the test or interfere with your network connection. Having only one active program ensures your computer will be running at its best.

Idle Computers are the Devil’s Playground
Check your laptop idle time to make sure that it will not go into sleep mode prematurely and sabotage your assessment attempt midway through.

Be Up for Pop-Ups!
Disable all pop-up blockers. These blockers come installed in the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox, in third-party toolbars such as Google and Yahoo, and they can come with utility software such the Norton products from Symantec.

Get Patched Up!
Ensure that your laptop has the latest Operating System (e.g., Windows) patches. Automatic updates can disrupt your current browser session or make your laptop very slow.

Are You Compatible?
Use a web browser that is compatible with or certified to work with the current version of your Learning Management System.

Using Special Software? Practice, Practice, Practice!
If you are using a lockdown browser or special proctoring software, be sure to download and install it BEFORE you take the exam. Your instructor may provide a practice assessment that will let you make sure you are familiar with the special software involved.

DURING THE EXAM

Don’t Get Click Happy!
When beginning the quiz/test, click the quiz link ONLY ONCE and wait at least a minute for the quiz/test to load.. Do not keep clicking on the quiz/test/test link. Clicking on the quiz/test link two or more times may trigger a message saying you already took the quiz/test. If, after clicking once and waiting the full minute nothing happens, contact your instructor or test proctor immediately.

Leave-off of Leaving
Once you have started the quiz, do not leave the quiz/test page for any reason. Using the browser’s back and forward buttons to move to and from the quiz/test will end the quiz prematurely and prevent you from further access until your instructor clears the attempt. If you are permitted to view other online resources during the quiz/test, open a new browser to view them.

Problem? Reach out and Touch Someone
In case of computer problems during the test notify your instructor as soon as possible. He or she will reset your quiz/exam attempt or authorize a designee to do so. Your instructor may have policies on if they allow you to reattempt the quiz at all.

Sizing it up BEFORE You Begin!
Do not resize or refresh your screen after loading the quiz/test. Make sure the screen is the size you want before going into the quiz/test. Most browsers refresh the page when you resize the screen so the browser will try to reload the quiz/test if you resize/refresh.

 

 

Connect With Online Students – Make Feedback Personal

banner-people-connectedOne of the challenges for any online instructor is making students feel a sense of community or connectedness in their online course. There are multiple strategies that can be put into place to meet this challenge head-on. Today’s blog post will focus on the feedback the instructor gives in an online course and how it can connect the student more personally with the instructor.

The type of feedback an instructor provides can have a tremendous affect upon the student/instructor dynamic in an online course. Students who feel like they know their instructor report higher satisfaction levels and tend to be more engaged with the courses they are taking. Conversely, students that don’t sense instructor presence in the course tend to feel less satisfaction and engagement, and that can be reflected in course evaluations.

The following are steps an instructor can take to connect with online students via course feedback:

1. Leave specific feedback.

Be purposeful about leaving feedback that deals specifically with aspects of a student’s submitted work. A side-effect of a good best practice to save time for online instructors is that sometimes generic feedback can be used to a fault. The online instructor can counteract this by leaving specific feedback about the students’ attempt every few assignments.

2. Use student names when leaving feedback.

Starting assignment feedback with a student’s name immediately personalizes the interaction. Placing emphasis on the personal before leaving the feedback of the assignment, points to interest on the part of the instructor in the student’s individual attempt. The idea that an instructor cares about student success is vitally important in any course, online or otherwise.

3. Use multimedia to personalize the interaction.

To a student sitting at their workstation/laptop/tablet, a grade or text-based feedback in an online course can seem almost sterile and devoid of the human touch that comes from the professor handing back grades in a face-to-face course. Luckily, most LMS’s these days come with tools that can make the feedback interaction more personal. Just the sound of the instructor’s voice will add a personal dimension to the feedback experience. The addition of video to assignment feedback kicks it up a notch!

Audio Feedback with Blackboard Collaborate Voice AuthoringAt SHSU, Blackboard is the Learning Management System for online, hybrid and web-enhanced course offerings, and it comes equipped with tools that can enhance the feedback experience. It also interacts well with third party tools and other types of files that can fulfill the same type of need for students. For example faculty can use the Blackboard Collaborate Voice Authoring Mashup to leave audio feedback directly in the feedback of the assignment.

As a bonus a student is not just limited to hearing the disembodied voice of the online instructor for feedback. Faculty members can also use the Video Everywhere tool to drop a recorded video into the feedback shown to the student. The Video Everywhere tool utilizes YouTube to either link to a video uploaded to the instructors YouTube account or record a video at the point of feedback and place it directly.

Using Video Everywhere for FeedbackIf the instructor does not have ready access to a webcam or microphone on their computer, he or she can record a video with their smartphone and upload it to YouTube as an unlisted video, then link to the video with the Video Everywhere tool. Instructors can also use voice recording apps to attach audio files to feedback for online students.

Personalizing feedback for an online course is an important best practice for any instructor. However, personalizing every feedback entry for every student would take too much time away from grading and other important interactions. As with all things, moderation is key. Try provide a few personal interactions for each student, each semester, letting them know that the instructor is committed to their success and is willing to connect with students on a more personal level.