Discover, Connect and Collaborate with Blackboard’s New Social Learning Tools

In this ever connecting world of professional, educational and personal development, building your network has never been more important than it is now.  Establishing your connections as you maneuver through your college experience will not only allow you to connect with people within your educational area, it will pre-wire connections for your professional career as well.  A well-built Professional Learning Network can go a long way to ensuring success in your post-college endeavors.

With the new social learning tools available for Blackboard Learn, you and your students can discover, connect, and collaborate with others from your school as well as other Blackboard Learn schools. Blackboard has created a global learning network to allow users to learn from each other through social, informal means – complementing the more formal classroom and online course experiences.

Check out this Quick Hit video from Blackboard on the new Tools:

SHSU Online has added how-tos and more information under the Get Connected section of the Teaching Online and Getting Started: Blackboard Student Orientation courses inside Blackboard.  Go to Get Connected>Social Learning tools to access the module and find out more!

Social Learning Tools

Blackboard Grade Center Best Practices – Part 2

Best PracticeLast week in this series, we blogged about Column Organization and Feedback within the Grade Center.  This week we will look at three other Best Practices for Grade Center usage in Blackboard Learn.

  • Travel Back in Time with Grade History
  • Due Dates & the Grade Center
  • Grade Center Column Display Names

Travel Back in Time with Grade Center History

Grade Center History The Grade History page acts like a log file that records all of the changes that occur to grades within a course, and displays all the data for grade submissions for the course within a set date range. You can manipulate the view and export the information. Access the Grade History page from the Reports drop-down list on the action bar. Select View Grade History to display the page.

The following columns appear:

Column Description
Date The date you graded the item or changed the grade.
Last Edited By The name of the last user to edit the grade. When clicked, you can view the username and role of the person who edited the grade. If the score appears from an automatically graded test, the name is listed as Automatic.
Value The value of the grade as viewed in the Grade Center as well as the type of value and entry type, such as attempt grade and override grade. If you associated a rubric with the item, you can view it by clicking View Rubric.
Comments Any associated Feedback for User or Grading Notes.

Note: The Grade Center History is especially useful when there is any question of a student’s grade or when multiple attempts at an assessment have taken place.

Due Dates and the Grade Center

bestpracticeiconsmall Assign a Due Date for Each Column
Assigning a Due Date for Grade Center columns populates a student’s calendar with the schedule for the course.  It also leverages Blackboard’s Notification system to remind the student a week before the item is due via e-mail, the Mobile Learn App and the My Blackboard Dashboard.

Note: Looking for a quick way to add a due to Grade Center Items you’ve already created?  Click your mouse on the contextual menu that shows up when you hover over the column name and select Edit Column Information.  You can then add a due date and re-Submit.

Grade Center Column and Display Names

One of the challenges encountered when using the Grade Center is viewing as many graded columns as possible on one screen.  Now we’ve already addressed one way to alleviate this with Smart Views.  However, there is another way to counter the problem with the use of the Grade Center Display Name.

bestpracticeiconsmall Grade Center Display Name
When you create a column or edit a previously created column there is a field for Column name and a field for Grade Center Display Name.  The Grade Center Display Name allows you to create a shortened title that displays in the grade center so that you can view more grade information across multiple Grade Center views.  So, if you created an Assignment called “Assignment 2 – Foundations of Literacy” and realize it is eating up to much space but want to keep the title, just add a Grade Center Display Name of “FOL” to shrink your column width.

Note: To add or change the Grade Center Display name, click your mouse on the contextual menu that shows up when you hover over the column name and select Edit Column Information.  You can then type in a shortened name and re-Submit.

SHSU Online May & June How-To Sessions – Sign up Today!

SHSU Online How-to SessionsThe How-to Sessions for May & June 2013 have been posted. Visit the How-to Sessions page to sign up today. In the next two months and throughout the summer there will be many opportunities to learn technical how-tos as well as strategies for success in different areas.

New offerings for May and June include:

Best Practices for Multimedia in Your Online Course
As with most tools, there are many best practices that revolve around the use of Multimedia in your online course.  The practices may different depending upon the type of media you are employing.  From images to audio and video these steps can help assure that your students get the most out of their multimedia experience in your course.

Feedback Strategies for Online Courses
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 Session will cover a few key feedback strategies.

Spice up Your Blackboard Course
Learn how to make your course more visually appealing while at the same time use best practices that will help ensure your students’ success.  Learn how to customize your course and make it more attractive and usable to your students. Begin to set contextual way points in your course so that your students will always know where they are and where they are going.  This hour long session will add the “Spice” to course that you want.

Other How-to Sessions:

  • Blackboard Learn – Getting Ready for Next Semester
  • Blackboard Learn – Using the Grade Center
  • What’s New in Blackboard?
  • Blackboard Collaborate Course Webinars with your Students
  • Blackboard Collaborate Lecture Capture
  • Blackboard Learn Course Building
  • Blackboard Learn Assessment

Sig up today! –

Blackboard Grade Center Best Practices – Part 1

Grade Center Best PracticesOne of the most feature rich areas of Blackboard Learn is the Grade Center.  From schemas to to grading periods and smart views to column organization the grade center is like the Swiss army knife of of Blackboard.  Taking this into account it is easy to see where we may only scratch the surface of what “this baby can do”, or how we can become overwhelmed with all of the data the grade center records. The next few weekly blog posts will be an attempt to highlight some best practices when it comes to getting the most out of your Blackboard Learn Grade Center.  

For each area of the Grade Center we cover, we will include a best practice or two to help you along.


The Column Organization page is divided into various tables that control how different Grade Center views are displayed. Rows in these tables represent Columns in the Grade Center views. Rows can be manipulated to customize the different views of the Grade Center.  The column organization page allows you to:

  • Freeze Columns:  Frozen columns remain in place when scrolling through the Grade Center views.
    bestpracticeiconsmall Always Know the Group Name
    Trying to determine who is in what group can be a real pain when it comes to viewing students in the Grade center.  By adding the Group Name column to the “Frozen” Columns you can always tell which groups your students are in.
  • Hide Columns: Hidden Columns are not displayed in Grade Center views although the data IS PRESERVED and the column can be revealed at any time.
    bestpracticeiconsmall Improve Your Point of View
    Hide the columns you don’t need so that you can see more of the columns you want when you view the full grade center.  A common first step is to hide the User Name, Student ID, Last Access and Availability columns.
  • Edit Categories: Selected rows can be associated with a Category or have their Category association changed.
  • Edit Grading Periods: Selected rows can be associated with a Grading Period, or have their Grading Period association changed.


As you provide and view grades, you are obtaining information on how students are performing in your course. You can tailor your view of student progress by creating smart views. A smart view is a focused look at the Grade Center. It shows only the columns that match a set of criteria, and the view is saved for continued use. When the Grade Center includes a great number of students and columns, you can use smart views to quickly find data.

You have 8 Smart Views by default with 2 of them (Assignments & Tests) marked as Favorites that show up in your Grade Center area of your course’s Control panel.  These Smart views are: Assignments, Blogs, Discussion Boards, Final Grade View, Journals, Preview of My Grades, Self & Peer Assessments & Tests. The Smart views are accessed by using the Manage button on your Grade Center’s Action Bar and choosing Smart Views.

bestpracticeiconsmall Smart View for Merged Course
When you have multiple sections merged in Blackboard, the Grade Center will create a column name called Child Course ID.  You can create a smart view based upon the Name within the Child Course ID column.  You will use the Create Smart View button on the Smart Views page, give it a Name (Name of the section you want to view) and Description (Optional), then choose the Custom radio button and select Child Course ID as the User Criteria and paste in the ID for the Value.  *You will need to copy the ID from your Grade Center before you access this page and paste it.


If you utilize the Grade Center in your Blackboard course, you will find that students check it early and often (all apologies to voting strategies aside).  Heck, if you just have a Blackboard shell for your course, your students will expect it!  While students appreciate the fact that you post grades regularly, online and indeed face-to-face students want to know why they received a particular grade.

A great way to connect to your student and let them know the reasons for their particular grade is to leave feedback.  Even just a quick word of encouragement will go along way toward promoting student engagement in your course.

bestpracticeiconsmall Put a face or voice to the name with Audio & Video Feedback
One of the largest concerns voiced in the distance learning community is that online students rarely get to see or hear from their instructor.  The Grade Center in Blackboard Learn allows you to leave audio or video feedback directly to your students for a particular graded item.  You can use the Wimba Voice Authoring tool to add a quick audio message or use the Video Everywhere tool to post some video feedback to your student.

Tune in next week for our next installment of Grade Center Best Practices.