Blackboard Downtime 9/2/17

Blackboard Downtime Banner

SHSU Online will need to apply a critical update to Blackboard on Sat, Sept 2, during Labor Day weekend.  As a result, you will not be able to log into Blackboard for approximately 12 hours from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST.

How can I prepare?

  • Shift any assignment due dates to before or after the downtime
  • Reschedule any online examinations around the downtime window
  • Reschedule any synchronous activities you had planned during that time

As is customary, we will post announcements on the Blackboard landing page, in every Blackboard course, as well as on the SHSU Online website.   The SHSU Online Support Desk will be available to answer any inquiries.


What’s New In Blackboard?

What's New in Blackboard Learn - Graphic
On Sunday, August 13, Blackboard was updated to a more recent version(Q2 2017). Though the majority of Blackboard will operate the same as before the update, there are some important new features that we would like to highlight.

These features include:

  • Drag and Drop Files
  • Submission Receipts
  • Reminders
  • Blackboard Instructor App
  • Dropbox Integration
  • Needs Grading Improvements

Below you will find descriptions for each new feature as well as links to thorough documentation on each.

drag_n_dropDrag and Drop Files
When instructors create content items, assignments, and web links, they can drag files from their computers to the “hot spot” in the Attach Files area. Students can also drag files to upload when they submit assignments. Drag and drop are also supported in the following areas: Content Collection, Content Editor, blank page content type, blogs, journals, and adding an artifact to Portfolios. | For Instructors | For Students |

Submission Receipts
Instructors can keep track of all student submissions, regardless of whether the attempt or assignment is deleted or the submission history is changed. A submission receipt is captured at the time of submission and includes information such as attached file information, date, time, etc. This feature provides evidence for academic disputes, giving students assurance about their work.

Submission Receipts - Instructor view

Students can receive a notification email for each assignment attempt with information about the submission including attached files. Students can also access receipts at any time on the My Grades page in the submissions filter area. Administrators can optionally disable the email notifications. | For Instructors | For Students |

Send ReminderReminders
Instructors can send email reminders from Grade Center columns to students and members of groups who have missing coursework. Students receive a system-generated email that lists the course, coursework, and the due date if included.
| Learn More |

Blackboard Instructor
Blackboard Instructor is a mobile app that enables instructors to view course content, connect with students in discussions, and interact with classes in Blackboard Collaborate. The app is available on iOS and Android mobile devices.
| Learn More |

Dropbox Integration
Students can attach files and submit assignments from their personal Dropbox accounts using this new cloud service integration.

Dropbox Blackboard Mashup

Fewer Needs Grading Items
When multiple-attempt assessments are set to calculate using the first or last attempt, there are potentially numerous other attempts that will never be used for the grade calculation. This can be particularly problematic in anonymous or delegated grading scenarios where it can be difficult to determine which attempts are associated with students and therefore require grading. A new filter is now available both in the Needs Grading workflow as well as within the Grade Center to show or hide these attempts. Attempts that won’t calculate towards the assessment grade are now indicated with an icon. | Learn More |


The importance of a virtual office

Virtual Office Info Graphic

In face-to-face courses, students have the luxury of benefiting from questions asked while in the classroom or the ability to stop by your office to discuss an issue they might be having.  In both cases they get the chance to interact with you and possibly some of their fellow classmates.

Sometimes, students find it challenging to find that same connection in an online, hybrid or web-enhanced environment.  The good news is that with Blackboard, you can create a virtual space where your students can experience the same kind of connection and feedback they receive in their brick-and-mortar classes.

Using a virtual office in your online/hybrid/web-enhanced courses provides many benefits. For the purpose of this blog post, we will focus on three.  Using a virtual office:

  • puts the instructor in the course
  • cleans up email inboxes
  • promotes the use of Blackboard (the LMS or Learning Management System)

The virtual office puts the instructor in the course

Placing a photo of yourself, your contact information and a little biographical info can go a long way toward helping your student see you as a person and not some synthetic-robot version of yourself.   If you want to go the extra mile, replace the photo with a quick Intro or Welcome video that can bring out your personality and help the students get to know you.

By subscribing to your own virtual office discussion forum you will receive prompts when questions are posted.  These prompts will help you engage with your students in a timely fashion and make the students feel like you are in the course.

The virtual office cleans up e-mail inboxes

Let’s face it, we all “misplace” e-mail.  For some of us, our inbox receives a hundred new messages or more each day.  Why not make life easier on you and your students by reserving course-oriented email for things of a personal or private nature.  Have your students post general course questions to the virtual office discussion forumWhen you answer questions via e-mail the only people that see that correspondence are you and the student. If a question is answered in a public space like the virtual office, everyone benefits.

You may have to use the first week of the course as a “training week” where you ensure you point your students to the virtual office for answers to course questions.  Make it a requirement in your syllabus, an expectation on your course expectations page and a question on your Syllabus quiz to ensure students know where to go.

BONUS:  The virtual office builds a course FAQ over the course of a semester that you can then use as part of your next semester’s course.

The virtual office promotes the use of Blackboard (the LMS)

The more time a student is spending in your course, the more connected they are to what is happening.  When your students establish the habit of checking the course regularly, they will be more engaged and more successful.

Encouraging your students to check the virtual office daily will get them in your course and connect them to the information and activities they need to conquer course objectives.

SHSU Online Faculty Development Update – July 2017

July always seems like it should be a slow month.  It is smack dab in the middle of the summer and the heat alone makes you want to take a breath and find some shade.  July 2017 however, is jam-packed with opportunities and information that can benefit any Blackboard instructor at Sam Houston State University.

In this update we will cover some important topics:

  • July’s Faculty Development Opportunities
  • Preview and Download Ready-Made Rubrics

Faculty Development Opportunities

SHSU Online is pleased to offer faculty development opportunities for the month of July 2107

Date Session Title Delivery Method Time/Location
Open Building Online Communities*   | Description | Blackboard Course Self-Paced – Online
Open Multimedia in Blackboard Courses*  | Description | Blackboard Course Self-Paced – Online

*Gain certification upon course completion.

Enroll in one of our faculty development sessions today!

by_appointmentFaculty Development by Appointment

These sessions can be 5 minutes to an hour and can take place in your office, ours, over the phone and online.  Use the same link to sign up for face-to-face or one-on-one sessions. Just select a topic or come up with one of your own and we’ll do it!

Visit the SHSU Online Faculty Development How-to Session page and schedule a one-on-one with a member of the Instructional Technology Support Services team.

Preview and Download Ready-Made Rubrics

SHSU Online has given Blackboard faculty the ability to preview and download ready-made rubrics for your Blackboard courses.  Benefits to using Rubrics in your Blackboard course include:

  • Rubrics clear up grading ambiguity for students,
  • Rubrics make grading easier and more consistent,
  • Rubrics lets students know what they need in order to succeed.

This full blog post provides more detail into each of the benefits listed above, but in addition to the post, we have now created a showcase of Rubrics for you to preview and download for direct import into your Blackboard course(s). Numerous pre-built rubrics are now available for you to use ‘as-is’ or edit to fit your needs!

The Rubric showcase includes rubrics for…

  • Rubric Examples ImageBlog posts
  • Discussions
  • Wikis
  • Reflective Writing Assignments
  • Research Papers
  • Portfolio Assignments

We will continue to add additional Rubrics to the repository. If there is a specific type of Rubric you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to let us know! To find this new resource and to download the ready-made rubrics for import into your Blackboard courses, visit the Faculty Central tab in Blackboard and Select Bb Resources.

Faculty Development Course Descriptions

Course ScreenshotMultimedia In Blackboard Courses
This recent addition to our certification lineup offers attendees the chance to learn how to employ the multimedia tools that Blackboard has in its tool belt.

This course provides the Blackboard instructor with the knowledge and skills in both the acquisition and implementation of multimedia for online/face-to-face and hybrid courses.  Technologies and best practices are examined in the context of student engagement and success.

Topics covered include:

  • Images in Blackboard courses
  • YouTubevideos in Blackboard courses
  • NBC Learn media in Blackboard courses
  • Video/Audio/Screen Capture with KalturaCaptureSpace Lite
  • Interactive Video Quizzing with Kaltura
  • Best Practices in implementing multimedia in Blackboard Courses

Successful completion of this course awards the Multimedia Master certification.

Enroll in one of our faculty development sessions today!

Building Online Community GraphicBuilding Online Communities
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 the tools.

This online course covers:

  • Onlinecommunities 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 in one of our faculty development sessions today!

Seeing is Believing: Let Students See How Online Tools Work

We have posted previously on the importance of showing students what success looks like in an eLearning environment like Blackboard.   Whether via a rubric or by the example of a previous student submission, letting students see how they can be successful with an assignment or activity in your course is generally a good idea.

This post will help you discover how to utilize a tool that your students will use in their activities by employing it to display course content or provide course communication. That’s right, you are getting two for the price of one!

WikisThe Wiki Tool

The wiki tool can be the most rewarding/frustrating tool in your arsenal of activities that you have in Blackboard. Providing students with instructions on how to use the tool is definitely important, but many times they don’t end up using it the way you intended. This may be because they didn’t have an example or the 1 page example didn’t really show how a completed wiki should look.

Example: Use a wiki to display course topic or content.

Let’s say one of your course modules deals with Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development/Learning. Create a Wiki to display the content across multiple wiki pages:

  • Page 1 – Wiki Home – Overall introduction of unit
  • Page 2 – About Piaget – Biographical/historical look complete with picture
  • Page 3 – Cognitive Development: Explainer on Piaget’s theory
  • Page 4 – Cognitive Learning Today: Embedded video and text

Leave one page with places for your student to add their own text to the wiki demonstrating how a wiki should work in practice.

BlogsThe Blog Tool

In today’s day and age it easy to make the assumption that all students know how to use a blog or are familiar with journaling due to social media. However, this is generally not the case as most social media posts are micro-blogs (very short 126 characters or less) and full of emojis, text-speak and hashtags.

Example: Use a Course Blog to summarize the week/topic/module, provide commentary on student performance and provide a look into the next week/unit/topic.

This example allows you to demonstrate how a blog works and allows you to communicate important news and information to your students.

Each week make a blog post that:

  • Summarizes what the students went over
  • Provides kudos for student performance
  • Provides encouragement for student struggles
  • Allows for commentary to point out important details about the course content.
  • Gives students a preview/intro into the next unit.
  • Be sure to use multimedia so that students see what the blog can do.

*Use other communication tools in your course (announcements, e-mails, calendar entries) to remind students to check the blog. Be sure to encourage students to comment on your blog posts (a few bonus points for your top 3 commenters across a semester).

Both of these activities will give your students a good idea about how they can use these tools to complete the activities/assignments that you have placed in your course.

This strategy works with multiple types of tools/activities in and outside of Blackboard. Things like VoiceThread, GoogleDocs, course hashtags and many others are easy to pair with the “Seeing is Believing” idea.

Hopefully, by employing these types of strategies in your Blackboard courses, you can reduce student anxiety and increase student success!

Faculty Development Opportunities – May 2017


SHSU Online is pleased to offer a number of faculty development opportunities via different avenues for May 2017.

Online Cohort and Self-Paced


Face-to Face

self-paced_header_graphic webinar_header_graphic face-to-face_header_graphic
  • Multimedia in Blackboard Courses
  • Building Online Communities
  • Organization the Bb Gradebook
  • Bb Collaborate Ultra
  • Copying Your BB Course Into Next Semester
  • Blackboard & More By Request

Faculty Development Schedule – Face-to-Face/Self-Paced/Webinar

Date Session Title Delivery Method Time/Location
Open Building Online Communities Blackboard Course Self-Paced – Online
Open Multimedia in Blackboard Courses Blackboard Course Self-Paced – Online
May 2 Organizing the Bb Gradebook Webinar 1pm – Online
May 4 Bb Collaborate Ultra Webinar 1pm – Online
May 15 Bb Collaborate Ultra Webinar 12pm – Online
May 16 Blackboard & More by Request Face-to-Face 5pm – TWC 210
May 18 Copying a Bb Course Into Next Semester Webinar 1pm – Online
May 23 Organizing the Bb Gradebook Webinar 1pm – Online
May 25 Bb Collaborate Ultra Webinar 1pm – Online

Enroll in one of our faculty development sessions today!

Faculty Development by Appointment

by_appointmentThese sessions can be 5 minutes to an hour and can take place in your office, ours, over the phone and online.  Use the same link to sign up for face-to-face or one-on-one sessions. Just select a topic or come up with one of your own and we’ll do it!

Visit the SHSU Online Faculty Development How-to Session page and schedule a one-on-one with a member of the Instructional Technology Support Services team.

“Coming Soon” to a Blackboard Near You!

If announcements for new Blackboard tools were like movie trailers, then you’d be on the edge of your seat for these tools “coming soon” to Blackboard and SHSU Online.

Trailer #1: Blackboard Ally

….In a world where it is hard to know whether your course materials are accessible or if your students can open or understand course files, a new tool will rise. Ally, making course content accessible!….

ally_logoBlackboard Ally

SHSU Online is acquiring ally to gain greater understanding of the accessibility of our growing repository of online content. The tool will be instrumental in…

  • Providing guidance to instructors about how to improve the quality of their content, and by
  • Providing students of all abilities with immediate access to content in formats that may be more suited to their specific needs.

Guidance to Faculty

The Ally software is designed to automatically check course materials for accessibility as they are uploaded to Blackboard. If a PDF file is uploaded, for instance, the tool will look for corresponding file tags that can be picked up by screen-readers. If tags are not associated with the PDF, the system will prompt the faculty to include them to improve the accessibility rating, and will guide them through the process via an easy-to-use interface.

Access to Alternative Formats

Part of the remarkable technological capabilities of Ally is that it can take a document, like a syllabus or a study guide, and render alternate versions of it that will play better with accessibility tools. For example, when an instructor uploads a syllabus to a Blackboard course, Ally will create alternate formats of that syllabus, including semantic HTML, tagged PDF, audio, and electronic braille. What’s more, Ally will create these alternate formats without additional input requirements from the professor.

Trailer #2: Voicethread For Blackboard

…..In a world where PDF or PowerPoint lectures are bringing you down and reading student submissions is making your eyes go dry, one tool can make the difference…..Voicethread for Blackboard.


VoiceThread is a totally web-based application that allows you to place collections of media like images, videos, documents, and presentations at the center of an asynchronous conversation. A VoiceThread allows people to have conversations and to make comments using any mix of text, a microphone, a web cam, a telephone, or uploaded audio file.

With VoiceThread, instructors and/or students can create, share, and comment on images, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, videos, audio files, documents, and PDFs, using microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload. For SHSU Online, VoiceThread will be an external tool that integrates into Blackboard.

Watch the following video to learn more about Voicethreading:

Both of these tools will be available soon.  Be on the lookout for more information from SHSU Online!