Peer Rating of Discussion Posts

5 Star Rating - GraphicDid you know that instructors can allow students to rate each other’s posts in Blackboard discussion forums? It works the same way that one would rate movies, books, apps, and things purchased in an online storefront like Amazon.

Turning on the ability to rate discussion posts can be an additional way that online instructors increase student engagement levels.

Instructions for turning on discussion post rating

Any time you add or edit a blackboard discussion forum you can turn on the feature that allows members to rate discussion posts.  If you have existing forums in your course, here are the steps to enable peer rating.

  • Click on the Course Tools section of the course’s control panel
  • Click Discussion Board
  • Select the contextual menu arrow next to the appropriate forum and click Edit
  • Access the Forum Settings section close to the bottom of the Edit Discussion Forum page.
  • Check the Allow members to rate posts checkbox and click Submit.

    Forum Settings Screenshot with the "Allow Members to Rate Posts" checkbox selected

Rating discussion forum posts

Discussion posts are rated via a 5-Star scale.  If a post has been rated, the Overall Rating will show right next to the discussion posts in the form of stars.  Students can only rate a post one time and are not allowed to rate their own posts.  Below are the steps to rate a discussion forum post:

  • Find the desired post among the threads of a particular discussion board
  • Select the aforementioned post
  • Notice the Your Rating text with 5 blank close by.

    Discussion Board Rating box with no stars selected

  • Choose the number of stars that approximates your rating of the discussion forum post.  Note: Once a post has been rated, the Overall Rating will appear whenever the discussion forum post is displayed.

    Discussion Board Rating box with 4 out of 5 stars selected

Hopefully, following these steps will add a layer of peer evaluation to your course as well as promote more student engagement.


Keep Your Students Engaged with the Blackboard App

One of the challenges faced by online, hybrid, and web enhanced instructors is keeping your students engaged.  This blog post could go into depth about the myriads of streams, hashtags, posts and cat videos that are all competing for your students’ attention. So, rather than go down that particular rabbit hole, we will focus on a way to engage your students…..using the Blackboard app.

Blackboard App - Course ContentLet us take a quick look at the various features of the app. This is not the primary focus of this blog post, but I am getting ahead of myself. Here is a quick look at the Blackboard app feature set:

Blackboard App Features

  • View Blackboard Activity Stream
  • View course items/announcements
  • View Due Dates
  • Complete assignments (Google Drive, DropBox & OneDrive integration)
  • Participate in discussions
  • Check grades
  • Interact with instructor and class via Collaborate Ultra
  • Download course files and view them when offline
  • Push Notifications

These are all great features, but you will notice the special emphasis on certain features in the list.   These features provide a little extra engagement for your device carrying students.

Activity Stream

Your students can see an up-to-the-minute list of important course activity including new content, announcements, and grades. The activity stream automatically prioritizes items to help students focus on the tasks that they want to take care of right away.

The activity stream shows first when the app is opened. Students tap the menu icon to navigate to their courses and other features.

Blackboard App - All GradesGrades

Students can select Grades in the main menu to see a quick view of their grade in each course. They tap a course grade to see submitted assignments, tests, quizzes, and graded discussions. Students can see calculated grades, such as running totals if the  them. If a calculated total shows in a desktop browser but not in the app, your school hasn’t updated Blackboard yet.

While in a course, students can tap their current grade at the top of the Course Overview to see all of their graded work. They can tap a graded item to view the assessment details, attempts, and instructor feedback.

Push Notifications

The Blackboard App will keep students up to date and let them know when a test is coming up or an assignment is overdue. It will also send notifications when new grades are posted.

These notifications will show up on their smart phone with a buzz or a bing or when the student checks their device.

This is Great, Now What?

So if you like what the Mobile App can do for your students, what can you do to get them to use it? How about making one of Start Here activities in your course an assignment where students have to submit a screenshot of your course as viewed through the Blackboard app.  Provide the link to the app in the assignment instructions for easy access.  If the students already have the app, they just need to do the screenshot portion of the assignment.

Student feedback in Blackboard – Where do they find it?

Research shows that students spend a large portion of their time in Blackboard, checking their grades.  A student’s desire to check their grades via the LMS (Learning Management System) is a regular driver for faculty adoption of Blackboard as a way to provide feedback.

However, even when a Blackboard instructor is using the Grade Center, students may still have difficulty finding their grades and assignment/assessment feedback.   A good best practice for Blackboard instructors is to let students know the mechanics of accessing their grades and graded feedback.

Students can see grades for all of their courses or one course at a time, by using My Grades.

Students can access their grades by clicking the My Grades link in the Blackboard course’s navigation menu or by selecting the arrow next to their name in the upper-right corner. In the menu, they select My Grades. Grades can be sorted by All Courses or Last Graded. If student work hasn’t been graded, grade status icons appear. Select an item’s title to view details.

My Grades accessed from Global navigation menu

The My Grades Page

On the My Grades page, students can view all the coursework and grades for the course they are in. If student work hasn’t been graded, grade status icons appear.

Students can filter and order their view.

Students can select an item’s title to view details. For example, the instructor can type comments, highlight text, and draw on student documents. Students then can select an assignment’s title to access the assignment’s Review Submission History page and review the grade, annotations, and feedback in context.

More on inline viewing

If you use a rubric to grade student work, they can select the View Rubric link to view details.

Students can Select the View Feedback icon to view instructor feedback in a pop-up box.

My Grades page

What Do the Icons Mean?

Icon Description
No information is available.
You completed the work, but no grade is assigned for items such as surveys.
You submitted your work. This item is ready for grading.
Grade Select the grade to view details.
Your work is in progress, but you haven’t submitted it yet.
Your grade for this item is exempted. You don’t have to submit work.
An error has occurred. Contact your instructor.
Your work was graded anonymously. Appears with submissions where your instructor assigned grades with student names hidden during the grading process.
Select to view feedback from your instructor.

Grade Center Due Dates & Column Organization

One of the of the hallmarks of student satisfaction in any online or web-enhanced course is a good student-course relationship.  If the student has a good experience interacting with the course structure and materials, they are more likely to report a higher level of satisfaction.

One way to increase the odds of a good student-course relationship is to be sure that when students check their academic progress, it is easy for them discover how they are doing in the course.

Blackboard students and instructors have dramatically different views of course grades.  Instructors generally interact with student grades via the Grade Center, whereas students work with a custom My Grades tool that only shows them their own achievements.  Students do not get a spreadsheet view of their grades.  Instead, they see a list of graded items in whatever order the instructor happens to have them in Blackboard’s Grade Center.

When adding assignments and activities during any given semester it is easy to just set-and-forget the Grade Center and forget about how students see their grades.  The good news is that there are steps that any Blackboard instructor can take to ensure that the students’ view of their academic progress is easy to understand and in the correct order.

The following video capture by SHSU Online Instructional Designer Jay Wilson will walk Blackboard Instructors through the process of organizing the Grade Center using Grade Book Due Dates and Column Organization.

Cut down on student stress by layering academic and mechanical instructions throughout your course.


With students, everything revolves around context. They are becoming used to getting contextual information about the restaurant where they are eating, the traffic they are driving in, and the television shows they are watching. That is why it is important to not just put instructions in your course syllabus. They need to placed at the unit and assignment level as well.


A big key here is not just revealing the academic instructions that tell the students the requirements of a particular assignment or activity, but the mechanical instructions that tell the students how to use the particular tool to complete the assignment or activity. Relying on the fact that your students may be “digital natives” is just not a good strategy when it comes to them figuring out how to maneuver in your Blackboard Course.  If your students are completing an activity using one of the learning management system’s tools, why not give them a reminder on where to click to begin and then provide a link to help documentation (from on how to use the tool they are being assigned.


Making these best practices a regular part of your course design and development will go a long way toward ensuring that your students are able to work through course activities with more success and less stress.

SHSU Online Faculty Development Opportunities – October 2016


We’ve got some frightfully good faculty development offerings for October 2016, so get in the spirit and sign up for one of our faculty development sessions!

New Boo! for October 2016

online_communityDoes working with groups in Blackboard leave you spooked?  Are you unsure about how to use wicked wikis?  Do you wonder what the trick is to blogs and journals?  If so, then you are in for a treat!  SHSU Online is proud to offer a brand boo fully-online faculty certification course:  Building Online Communities (Starts 10/3).

Communication and collaboration are key facets to this online certification course. In this course, we will further explore some of the communication and collaboration tools Blackboard Learn has to offer. You will have ample opportunity to communicate, gain feedback and share ideas with your colleagues’ using of shsu_boo_onlinethe tools. This online course covers:

  • Online communities and the Instructor’s Role
  • Best Practice and Learning Theory Around Discussion Questions
  • The Use of Journals & Blogs
  • The Use of Wikis
  • Groups in Blackboard Courses
  • Grading in the collaborative space

Successful completion of this course awards the Online Community Organizer certification. | Enroll Today |

Get Caught in a Web-inar

webinar-halloweenDon’t feel like walking across campus for a how-to session?  Are you worried you’ll lose a parking spot?  Worry no more, because in October, we are offering three faculty development sessions via a webinar:

  • 10/4 – Blackboard Collaborate – The Ultra Experience (1pm)
  • 10/19 – Feedback Strategies for your Online/Hybrid/Supplemental Course (1pm)
  • 10/24 – Blackboard Learn Rubrics (12pm)

| Enroll Today |

More Spooktacular Faculty Development Offerings!

  • 10/11 – Video/Audio/Screen Capture & Video Quizzes – Kaltura (MURFF 105 @ 1pm)
  • 10/11 – Blackboard & More By Request (Woodlands Campus 210 @ 5pm)
  • 10/14 – ProctorFree Online Proctoring of Blackboard Exams (MURFF 105 @ 1pm)
  • 10/25 – Blackboard & More By Request (Woodlands Campus 210 @ 5pm)
  • 10/26 – ProctorFree Online Proctoring of Blackboard Exams (MURFF 105 @ 1pm)

| Enroll Today |

Using Blackboard to Meet Attendance Initiative Needs

Unless you’ve been vacationing off-planet recently, you’ve probably heard of the university’s Attendance Initiative.  You have been presented with 2 options for reporting attendance.

  1. Manually enter attendance results in Banner’s “Attendance Tracker” tool.
  2. Set up a an appropriate academic activity in Blackboard so that attendance attendance reports can be run automatically.

The 12th class day for the Fall 2016 semester is Friday, September 9th.  In order for a student’s attendance to “count” within Blackboard before then, the student will need to complete an appropriate academic activity in your Blackboard course.  *Examples of tools in Blackboard to use for this are:

*Only these tool types will provide automated attendance data so that you do not have to manually report it using the Banner attendance tracker.

Each of these activities are great first week activities on their own in that they get your students engaged with the course from the start.  They are not a heavy lift for your students in terms of difficulty level, or for you in terms of grading.

Click the activity name to see  ideas for each of these tools that you can employ to fulfill the Attendance Initiative Requirements.

Questions to consider:

When should due dates for these activities occur?
We recommend that due dates be set for these activities on 9/7 and 9/8 in case of any delay in reporting.

Do I have to grade the assignment before the 12th class day?
No.  Only the student submission is required for attendance purposes.  You can grade these submissions whenever you want or set it up as a non-graded or completion/incomplete activity.

Is this just for faculty who teach online?
No.  Any faculty member teaching an online, hybrid, or face-to-face class can take advantage of the automated option by deploying one of the activities listed above.

Blog PostBlackboard Blog Instructions

Have your students each post a blog entry on what they hope to get out of your class for the semester. You and their fellow students can comment on entries as needed/required.

Journal EntryBlackboard Journal Instructions

Have students share an experience that led them to taking your class or deciding upon their major. You can decide to make the journal public to the class or just in between you and the student.

AssignmentBlackboard Assignment Instructions

Have students turn in a KWL assignment.  KWL – What do you know about the topic? What do you Want to Know? What have you learned?  This assignment is great as it helps you determine where you might want to spend some more time as you teach the subject and it lets the students come back at the end of the semester and update you on what they have learned.

DiscussionBlackboard Discussion Forum Instructions

Have each of your students submit a post to an “Introduce Yourself” discussion forum.  Ask them to share things like:  Major, Hometown, Hobbies, Why they are taking the class and even something fun (If you one super-power, what would it be?).  You can then encourage the students to reply to their colleagues to gain full credit for the assignment.

Quiz/ExamBlackboard Quiz/Exam Instructions

A great way to start off the semester and ensure your students are familiar with what is expected of them is to have them take a syllabus quiz.  This low-stakes assessment is perfect for getting your students used to taking quizzes/exams in Blackboard and ensures that they actually read the syllabus!