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.

Blackboard Enhancements January 2017

Blackboard was upgraded 18th-19th December (to Blackboard 9.1 2016 Q2 release, Cumulative Update 3, if you like to know such things).

The upgrade did not introduce any significant new functionality, but it did bring a number of bug fixes – for instance, emails sent from Blackboard with a file attachment should now display correctly for Apple users.

The upgrade also allowed us to introduce some other enhancements:

Blackboard Assignment Receipts

We are now able to customise the receipt which students receive when they submit to a Blackboard assignment. We have added some explanatory text for students, to reiterate that

  • they should retain the receipt in case they need to provide proof of submission
  • proof of submission is not proof that they submitted the correct file, nor that the file(s) uploaded and can be viewed successfully.

In addition, where you have set up a Group Assignment, when one member of a group submits to the assignment, all members of that group will now be notified.

See Blackboard assignment submission receipts for further details.

 

Reusable Objects

Reusable Objects allow you to store in a central location (the Blackboard  Fileshare) pieces of content which you regularly use on a variety of Blackboard  courses. Moreover, you can update the Reusable Object in the Fileshare and the content will be updated in every course where it has been made available.

Reusable Objects are thus a good way to maintain and update content which needs to be made available on multiple courses – perhaps even on every course in a Department or School – but which might need to be updated at various points during the academic year. Examples might include Health and Safety guidance, School and Support Centre staff contact details, or information from central teams such as Careers and the Library.

This functionality is likely to be of most interest to colleagues who manage or support a large number of courses. For details, please see our guide Reusable Objects, and log a call with it@reading.ac.uk if you require further assistance or advice on making use of this feature.

 

Turnitin

The Blackboard upgrade required us to update our Turnitin plug-in, but this should not have affected any Turnitin functionality.

However, in an unrelated change, Turnitin introduced a welcome update to their Feedback Studio just before Christmas, which should remove an issue where some staff were finding themselves logged out while marking. Details in this earlier blog post: Turnitin enhancement: Timeout setting revised

Turnitin enhancement: Timeout setting revised

Turnitin updated Feedback Studio on 14th December.

The most important improvement appears to be this one:

“Fixed an issue where instructors were getting timed out of the Feedback Studio if marking student work for over an hour”.
https://guides.turnitin.com/01_Manuals_and_Guides/Administrator_Guides/Feedback_Studio_Success_Kit/Feedback_Studio_Release_Notes

We believe that this timeout issue may have accounted for issues experienced recently by a few staff at Reading.

As we understand the situation, leaving feedback within the Feedback Studio window was – incorrectly – not being counted as activity, with the result that staff could be logged out of Turnitin when they had been marking for 60 minutes. This has now been fixed.

User activity within the Feedback Studio window (e.g. key stokes and mouse clicks) will now reset the timeout clock. Therefore, the 60 minute timeout should now affect only those users who have the Feedback Studio window open for over 60 minutes without clicking or writing comments.

Continue reading

Suggested solutions if you encounter any issues when marking in Turnitin Feedback Studio

Here are some suggestions for staff marking student work using Turnitin Feedback Studio, in case you encounter any technical issues.

Very occasionally, you might find that

  • you are not able to save comments
  • you are not able to open previously saved comments
  • the Feedback Studio screen freezes.

If you do experience any of these problems, we believe that the simplest way to resolve them is to switch back to the old Turnitin interface, ‘Turnitin Classic’.

There is a link to do this at the bottom of the Feedback Studio window.

return to Turnitin Classic

(for more detail see our Feedback Studio User Guide)

 

You may also be able to avoid problems with the Feedback Studio by clearing your browser cache:

IE11
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/17438/windows-internet-explorer-view-delete-browsing-history
Chrome
https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/32050?hl=en
Firefox
https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-clear-firefox-cache
Safari
https://kb.wisc.edu/page.php?id=45060

 

Finally, these issues may be related to Turnitin’s 60-minute timeout.

A Turnitin user session will not remain active indefinitely… Continue reading