Blackboard Service Interruption – 19 April

  • Blackboard experienced a service interruption between approximately 11.30am and 12.15pm BST on Wednesday 19 April 2017.
  • During this time Blackboard was unavailable for staff and students.

Information for staff with online submission deadlines during the service interruption:

If you had online assessment deadlines during this time, please make appropriate allowances for any student submission issues encountered in consultation with your SDTL and Support Centre.

It may be necessary to amend the Due Date for assignments to allow students to submit work, if it is decided an extension of the deadline is appropriate in your circumstance. (Guide on extending submission deadlines.)

If you have a Turnitin submission and the students have emailed you the work, it is possible to submit work on their behalf and may negate the need to extend the deadline. (Guide on how to submit on behalf of a student in Turnitin. )

If you have any queries with regards to the service interruption, please contact us via the IT Service Desk.

Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference: Bocconi University, Milan, 21-24 March 2017 #BBTLC17

Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference logo

I was delighted to attend Blackboard’s Teaching and Learning Conference held this year at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. This is a key annual event that brings together Blackboard users from HE institutions across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South Africa. I was accompanied by TEL colleague, Maria Papaefthimiou, TEL/AV Support Manager, Helena Bampton, and Real Estate and Planning (REP) DTL Angelique Chettiparambil-Rajan. We spent an interesting few days attending presentations and workshops about Blackboard and technology enhanced learning, and were pleased, this year, to present on some of the TEL developments we’ve achieved at UoR. Maria and I presented a paper sharing the TEL team’s strategies for successfully engaging and supporting UoR academics in using TEL. Angelique also shared REP’s experiences of piloting a whole-school move to electronic submission, online marking and e-feedback. Both presentations were well received and feature in an article in Blackboard’s eLearn magazine, to be published shortly both in print and online.

Photo of Blackboard Conference welcome

It’s not rocket science! 

The opening keynote was delivered by the ever-engaging education consultant, Eric Stoller. You can access his presentation below. (The reference to rocket science is linked to Blackboard’s CEO, Bill Ballhaus’ background in astronautics!)

Virtual poster presentations from the conference can be accessed here.

Post-event resources, including presentations and photos, are available on the Blackboard Community website. (You will need to create an account to access the Community site.)

Link to Conference resources via Blackboard Community site

What were our key findings?

Looking at the usability of Blackboard through student eyes 

Meg Juss shared Edge Hill University’s experience of surveying the student experience of using Blackboard. Their 7th bi-annual learning survey asked students questions about Blackboard and subsequent comprehensive usability testing established that students found aspects of Blackboard ‘confusing’, ‘jumbled’ and ‘overwhelming’. ‘A user interface is like a joke: it’s not that good if you have to explain it!’, asserted Meg. With this in this mind, findings helped Meg and her team to improve the Blackboard experience for students by standardising course templates, improving navigation and re-designing their ‘My Library’ tab. As a result, usage of the library tab increased by 12% and 82.5% of respondents agree or strongly agree that, ‘using Blackboard has enhanced the knowledge and understanding I get from lectures, tutorials and practical sessions.’ (7th Student eLearning Survey (2016-17) ~ 576 responses)

Gamification

Staff from Durham and Saxion University in the Netherlands shared how they have brought elements of gamification, such as progression, rewards and use of Blackboard’s adaptive release feature, to Blackboard courses to help engage and motivate their students.

A search engine for Blackboard 

Staff from the University of Leuven, Belgium, described how they have used their technical expertise to develop an in-house search engine to enable users to search for content within Blackboard. This is a feature that is currently missing from the off-the-shelf Blackboard Learn platform but which Blackboard are looking to develop.

eAssessment

It was interesting to hear the experiences of other institutions of electronic submission and online marking and feedback. TEL Manager Mark Gamble from Bedfordshire University shared his experience of staff trying to use the Blackboard Assignment tool for blind double marking. This information will be useful as we here at UoR progress with our EMA programme.

Roadmap – where next? 

Photo of map - where next?

It was good to see Blackboard’s roadmap and hear about improved features coming soon. These include increased drag and drop options in some of the learning tools, and a better experience using Blackboard on mobile devices.

#BBTLC17

 

 

Blackboard Assignment submission email receipt error Friday 24th March

Blackboard was unable to send emails between approximately 2am and 2pm on Friday 24th March.

As a result of this issue, students who were submitting to a Blackboard Assignment submission during this time saw an error message after submitting their work because an email receipt could not be sent to them.

NOTE: This did NOT affect students submitting to Turnitin.

It was not clear to students if their work had been successfully submitted due to this and may have resulted in some confusion and concern. Students may also have made several attempts to submit work as a result.

Please be aware that:

  • The students’ work was successfully submitted if they saw this error message.
  • Students will not have received an email receipt for the submission.
  • A copy of the email receipt has not been stored for staff reference in the Files section of the course.

We apologise for the inconvenience and any concern this caused to students and staff. The issue was resolved as quickly as possible by Blackboard engineers.

If you have any questions or queries arising from this incident please submit them to it@reading.ac.uk

 

Advance notice: Blackboard downtime for system upgrade 25-26 June 2017

We are currently testing the most recent Blackboard release, with a view to upgrading to this version in the summer.

Subject to our tests being successful, the upgrade will take place on 25th – 26th June.

Blackboard and Turnitin will be unavailable while this upgrade takes place:

FROM Sunday 25th June, 10:30 a.m. BST

TO Monday 26th June, 12:00 noon BST

It is likely that the system will be back online by mid-morning on Monday 26th, but the whole morning should be considered as being “at risk”.

Further details and reminders will be posted nearer the time.

Blackboard course preparation – what you said, what we are doing

In December we invited staff to complete a survey ‘Preparing your Blackboard course for the next academic year’. We received 108 responses, predominantly from academics, from across the University. We’d like to thank all those that took the time to complete the survey, and for the detailed additional comments that many respondents also provided.

The CQSD TEL and IT TEL Support teams are using the results of the survey to inform detailed plans for the creation of new Blackboard courses at the start of the 2017-18 academic year, but thought it would be useful to pull together some of the key themes to emerge from the survey, and to share our response to these.

Course Rollover

A clear majority of respondents (79%) wished to retain the current practice of copying forward course materials from one year to the next as the default position. Automatic course copying, but with the ability to opt out, was the single most preferred option (47%).

However, there was also a desire for more flexibility. In all, 64% voted for  options which would provide staff with more choice about what is copied.

Staff preference for course rollover

We have taken these views on board when planning for the Summer 2017 rollover.

The default position will remain that any RISIS module or programme which was used in Blackboard in the current academic year, and is scheduled to run again in 2017-18, will be copied forward.

For staff who do not want their course to be copied, Continue reading

Avoid using commas in the title of Turnitin assignments

We have recently become aware of a minor issue when exporting marks from a Turnitin Assignment.

This issue only arises

  • when using Google Chrome (but this is generally our preferred browser)
  • for Turnitin Assignments which have a comma in their title

 

So there’s a simple solution: don’t use commas in the title of your Turnitin Assignments.

Strangely, other punctuation marks seem to be OK – it’s just commas which cause a problem.