Global Accessibility Awareness Day 18th May – Blackboard webinars

Global Accessibility Awareness Day logoThis Thursday is the sixth Global Accessibility Awareness Day. To celebrate this, Blackboard is promoting a series of pedagogically focused free webinars, bringing together Blackboard experts and leading academics, covering a variety of topics on digital access in education.

The webinars will be delivered from different countries, and happen across different time zones. We’ve converted the times to BST below, to make it easier to plan which webinars you would like to attend – while the 1 p.m. webinar from the UK might be the obvious one to tune into, several of the US-based webinars are also at UK-friendly times. And even if you can’t attend the webinars as they happen, by registering you’ll be sent a link to watch a recording of the event at a later date.

Creating a truly inclusive experience (Sydney, Australia)
1.30 a.m. BST  = 8.30 a.m. for colleagues in Malaysia

How Digital Accessibility Can Support an Inclusive and Engaging Learning Experience  (London, UK)
1 p.m. BST

Interview with Gallaudet [US University for the hearing-impaired]: Importance of accessibility and its impact on students (Washington, D.C.,USA) 
3 p.m. BST

(In Spanish) Breaking Barriers: Reaching all Learners through Digital Accessibility (Bogota, Colombia) 
4 p.m. BST

Creating a university policy around accessibility (Berkeley, CA, USA) 
4 p.m. BST

How to use industry standard LMS features to create accessible courses (Missoula, MT, USA) 
6 p.m. BST

Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series Webinar – Accessibility at Blackboard (Washington, D.C., USA) 
8 p.m. BST

Lose the stigma of leaving the classroom (Lawrence, KS, USA)
10 p.m. BST

You can sign up to any of these events at http://webinars.blackboard.com/Global-Accessibility-Awareness-Day.

Blackboard course rollover 2017: advance notice of timetable and downtime

Course rollover is the annual process whereby Blackboard courses from the current academic year are copied for use in the next academic year.

This post contains notice of this year’s rollover timetable and planned downtime, plus some preparatory information on how different types of courses are rolled forward, and what you will need to do for this process to go smoothly.

This year Course Rollover will take place on Saturday 8th July 2017

 Saturday 15th July is being held in reserve in case of technical issues, or further work needing to be done.

Blackboard will be unavailable to users while course copying is taking place.

We anticipate that Blackboard will be unavailable during the morning on 8th July (and 15th July if required), but Blackboard should be considered “at risk” for the whole of the day.

 

If you have a RISIS course that is running again with the same module/programme code

The default position is that any RISIS module or programme

  • which was used in Blackboard in the current academic year (i.e. in 2016-17)
  • and is scheduled to run again in the new academic year (i.e. in 2017-18)

will be automatically copied forward as part of Course Rollover.

 

If your Module meets these criteria, then no action is required to ensure that the course is included in the rollover process.

 

An opt-out will be available for staff who do not want their entire course to be copied, and would prefer to upload or copy course materials to a new blank course shell.

 

If your Module did not run in 2016-17, you can request that the 2015-16 Blackboard course is copied forward for use next academic year.

 

There is no need to do anything at present – the request forms for staff to use are currently being updated. A further communication will be sent out, specifying what actions are required (if any), in early June.

 

 

If you have a new RISIS course or an existing course where the module/programme code is changing

If you are the Module Convenor for a brand new module, or if your module is getting a new course code in RISIS there are some checks you can carry out now to ensure that these changes will be properly reflected in Blackboard.

Please see the Course Rollover page for further details.

 

 

If you have a shared course or non-RISIS course

If your Blackboard course is not directly linked to a RISIS programme or module code (e.g. if you use a Shared Course or Non-RISIS course), you will need to submit a request to have a 2017-18 course created and to have course content copied forward.

 

There is no need to do anything at present – the request forms for staff to use are currently being updated. A further communication will be sent out, specifying what actions are required (if any), in early June.

 

More detail on all of this is available on the Course Rollover page of this Blog.

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