Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hiding Courses in Blackboard

Quite a few faculty members have asked about hiding courses in Blackboard.

Depending on the number of courses you teach, you may have 10 or more courses (spanning various semesters) on your Blackboard homepage.

After logging in to Blackboard

Click on the 'sprocket' on the top right of the module.

Personalizing Your Course List


Select (really Un-Select) Courses you don't Want

Un-select the course(s) you don't want on the front screen.

VoilĂ  -- It's Gone!

If you need further help, please call the 24 hour Blackboard helpline at 202-274-5665 or toll free: 877-736-2585. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Exporting Your Blackboard Course

This brief demo will discuss how to backup your Blackboard course. For a text-based tutorial, view this site from UNC Chapel Hill. Each faculty member is given a set allocation in Blackboard. While UDC does backup all courses, you can keep a copy of your Blackboard site as a file. This file contains the full content of your Blackboard site and can be used to copy the course for a new semester or clear space in your account.

Access the Archive Course Link

NOTE: Use the IMPORT PACKAGE option to upload (import) your archived course into a new course shell.

Select Export


Choose to Copy the Course

I recommend copying all content. You can always choose NOT to import items, so it's better to save everything. Once you hit SUBMIT, the system will take a few minutes (you will receive an email when done) to package the file

Save the File

Save the file to your computer. You may want to email Ed Jones if you are experiencing space difficulties. He can remove your old site and clear up space in your account.
If you need further help, please call the 24 hour Blackboard helpline at 202-274-5665 or toll free: 877-736-2585.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Courses and Accessibility

Throwback Post from the Focus on Faculty Newsletter

Ever wanted to know if your courses meet accessibility guidelines?  Well your chance to find out is only a click away.
Did you know? The major categories of disability types include:
Blindness, low vision, color-blindness
Inability to use a mouse, slow response time, limited fine motor control
Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information

Many web resources can assist you in building course material and content that meets ADA requirements. Please check out WebAIM. --> Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM) is an initiative from Utah State University. This organization hosts a
powerful website full of resources where you can determine whether or not your website is accessible.

Some content includes:
A link to evaluate cognitive web accessibility;
A link to a Section 508 Checklist;
A webpage accessibility checker;
Articles on accessibility;
Templates for creating accessible web content;
Captioning Resource List; and
So much more.

Also check out a presentation archive on Educause:

The presentation will highlight accessibility problems and strengths of WebCT, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and Sakai and present
recommendations for improvement. The authors explore common tools (e-mail, quizzes, discussions, content delivery) from
the students' point of view.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Paper Books or Digital Books?

As online learning begins to infiltrate "brick and mortar" institution of higher learning, book publishers are pushing out more digital texts.  While for profits institutions like Strayer often write their own texts, keeping costs low, the $150 textbook still lives on most college campuses.

Recently, the New York Times opined on the topic in an article "In a Digital Age, Students Still Cling to Paper Textbooks." While conventional wisdom suggests this tech-savvy generation of students would jump at the opportunity to do more 'stuff' digitally, this is not the case:
The explosion of outlets and formats — including digital books, which are rapidly becoming more sophisticated — has left some students bewildered. After completing the heavy lifting of course selection, they are forced to weigh cost versus convenience, analyze their own study habits and guess which texts they will want for years to come and which they will not miss. 
California Launches Digital Textbook Initiative

Last year, California launched a digital textbook initiative, led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, partially as a means of saving money [see Money magazine article]. He comments:

The textbooks are outdated, as far as I'm concerned, and there's no reason why our schools should have our students lug around these antiquated and heavy and expensive books," Schwarzenegger said this summer. "Digital textbooks are good not only for the students' achievement, but they're also good for the schools' bottom line. [Washington Post, October, 2009]
Digital texts can often cost half the price of traditional texts.  However, there is a tradeoff, as the student can only use the book for a limited time, often 180 days.  There also may be a learning curve by students (errr, faculty too) to fully understand and utilize the functionality of digital texts.  But as the screenshot below demonstrates, a digital text does provide more information than a traditional one.

With price being a major factor, the LA Times reports that free digital texts are making their way into the marketplace.  Part of the open source movement in education, new models are beginning to threaten the status quo which allow textbook companies to profit off of students.

I can remember the days of photocopying textbooks while in undergrad (now the librarian will arrest you if you do that), open source makes is expensive enough, why pay for a new edition? Except when MY book comes out, you NEED to buy that!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Web 4 Faculty Grading Instructions

Web4Faculty is a grade management system operated by the Office of the Registrar.  Separate from grades in Blackboard, final semester grades must be entered into web4faculty.  This is the grade students will see on their transcript.  Grades entered on Blackboard will not show up in web4faculty... they are two separate systems.

If you have any questions, call the Registrar's office at: 202.274.6200
sorry it's a little crooked, I can neither draw a straight line, or scan a document without a slight angle(;

** Page numbers refer to the 2009 Technology Handbook.  Your department chair or dean may have a copy.  It's a bit much too scan all of that...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Engagement in Technology

According to a Thompson Netg job security study in 2002, blended learning yielded better results than online learning alone.

They point out:
  • Blended Learning performance was 30% more accurate than e-learning alone
  • Blended learning performance on the real world task was 41 percent faster than e-learning alone
  • Blended learning performance was 159% more accurate than no training
  • E-learning was 99% more accurate than no training
The results of the study say scenario-based exercises are the most effective for face to face and online materials.

For more on Blended Learning, check out the Brandon Hall Report: The Real Story: Blended Learning.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Considerations for Your Wiki Projects

Throwback Post from the Focus on Faculty Newsletter

April 13, 2010
Volume 2; No. 13

Considerations for Your Wiki Projects

Wiki technologies are being used by many instructors and students as an effective tool for a variety of collaborative projects, such as composing group papers, creating a rich knowledge base, managing projects efficiently, and forming virtual communities. The benefits of using wiki tools include ease of use and collaboration, good instructor control, and anytime/anywhere accessibility. On the other hand, using class wiki projects can be challenging at first. Understanding the wiki features and setting up clear instructions will help streamline the wiki administration process. Here is a list of issues and ideas for you to consider when you start to use wikis in your classes.

Technical issues – Instructors and students can experience technical issues using wikis, especially when starting out. For example, you might have difficulties adjusting font size, adding new page links and modifying heading styles when you start to learn the tool. Depending on prior technical capabilities, setting up a class wiki project can also be time-consuming for both students and instructors. Since most wikis are third-party tools that operate outside of the course management systems, such as Blackboard, creating wiki templates and enrolling students in groups can add up to instructors’ regular teaching load. [Although in Bb 9.1, there will be a Wiki feature]

Collaboration issues – Effective collaboration is always a challenge in team projects, whether it is a face-to-face class or an online class. Wikis are no exception. As with any group project, an entire team can be affected by late contributions from just one team member. The good news for instructors is that most wikis include a tracking feature that allows them to see if all team members have contributed equally.
Professionalism – Most of the wiki projects are open for the public to view, which can be good and bad. On the positive side, instructors can invite subject-matter experts to participate remotely in students’ wiki assignments. Plus, instructors often find that the openness of wikis motivates students to do well and take ownership of their work assignments. At the same time, not everyone thinks about whether their works are professional or may forget that anyone could see if it’s not password-protected.

Training – Since wikis are a new technology, it’s important to offer your students training sessions – either as an in-class orientation or an online tutorial – once you’ve spent time familiarizing yourself with the tool. You can offer instructions, such as PowerPoint presentations, videos and handouts with screen shots to walk students through the learning process. You also may want to set up models or templates for students to follow and help organize their wiki interfaces.

Clear expectations – Setting clear expectations are important, especially in an assignment where students are learning a new technology. To minimize the learning curve, instructors can offer an assignment example for students to view and let them know what you expect to see on wikis before students start their assignments. In this way, instructors can avoid a lot of confusion from students.

Make it optional – Many students love the wiki option and have fun using wikis as a learning tool. However, wikis are not for everybody. It is recommended to make wiki activities optional for students, especially if you have a group of mixed-background students. Some older students who have other work and family responsibilities may be resistant. It is convenient if those students have the option to turn in regular papers to meet course requirements.

Source: Dr. Baiyun Chen is an instructional designer at the University of Central Florida. She has worked with professors in diverse disciplines on integrating technologies into curriculum.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One-to-one computing programs only as effective as their teachers


Experts say 1-to-1 computing research needs to focus more on classroom practices—and less on equipment

A compilation of four new studies of one-to-one computing projects in K-12 schools identifies several factors that are key to the projects’ success, including adequate planning, stakeholder buy-in, and strong school or district leadership. Not surprisingly, the researchers say the most important factor of all is the teaching practices of instructors—suggesting school laptop programs are only as effective as the teachers who apply them.

The studies were published in January by the Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, a peer-reviewed online journal from Boston College’s Lynch School of Education.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

FREE Online Tutoring for all UDC students through SMARTHINKING!

Did you know that all University of the District of Columbia students have access to FREE Online Tutoring through SMARTHINKING?

There are Math, Business, Nursing, and Writing subjects and over 1500 tutors to help you!

To access FREE tutoring:
1. Log into your Blackboard account
2. Select a course
3. Select "tools" on the left
4. Scroll down to click “Smarthinking login

If you have difficulties accessing your account, please call 202-274-5665 or email
Once you are logged in, check out their Student Handbook here  and feel free to contact SMARTHINKING’s Customer Support Team at 888.430.7429 ext 1 or