Friday, August 26, 2011

Creating Content in Blackboard

Blackboard has streamlined the process for creating content. Pages which allow content creation will have the following tabs. This post will show the contents of each tab.

Build Content

This tab is used primarily for content YOU will provide. Creating an item or file allows you to create text items (you can also upload attachments) or simply upload a file (using the file option). This is primarily where you would post your syllabus or post other files for general consumption by students.

Be sure to categorize items efficiently, if you are going to be posting weekly readings or course notes, make a folder first, and then put the items into the folder. Try to avoid randomly placing files in Blackboard, it confuses the students and ultimately will confuse you as well.c2.jpg

Create Assessment

c3.jpgIn addition to test and surveys (ungraded tests), the Self and Peer Assessment option is available as well as SafeAssign.

The Assignment utility is where you would set up assignments which require something to be submitted or tracked.

Interactive Tools


These tools allow you to actively engage students online. If you don’t fully understand a tool, it’s probably best not to employ it in class until you do. Keep an eye out for upcoming workshops in these areas.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Smarthinking – Free Online Tutoring

How can you help students use SMARTHINKING

It has been demonstrated that when instructors provide information and guidance about  SMARTHINKING, students listen and take advantage of the online tutoring service.

Please consider the following ways of helping your students access online tutoring.

▪ Mention SMARTHINKING in your syllabus when discussing resources available.

▪ Post a link to SMARTHINKING and reference in your Bb class.

▪ Conduct orientation sessions for your classes to show students how to access SMARTHINKING. -When possible, have students logon to the service and begin using it.

▪ Whenever due dates for assignments are approaching, remind students that SMARTHINKING can help them.

▪ After an exam send students to SMARTHINKING to work with a tutor on concepts they do
not understand or questions they missed

.▪ Remind students that they have access to archives of each of their SMARTHINKING tutoring sessions. Archives can be used to review the content of a tutoring session or as the starting point for follow‐up sessions with a new tutor.

More examples of how you might use Smarthinking in class.

SMARTHINKING’s Paragraph Submission option allows students to submit a single paragraph of up to 200 words for review. E‐structors provide feedback for one higher‐order concern and one lower‐order concern for the paragraph submitted in a way that offers suggestions and models revisions that students can apply to entire essay. This option is found under submit your writing.

SMARTHINKING’s Essay Submission. Once a first draft of an essay has been completed, have students submit it to SMARTHINKING for review and critique. The e‐structors’ will provide feedback as the basis for essay revision prior to the student submitting it for grade.

Topics Supported by Smarthinking

Basic Math Skills, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus I & II (Single Variable Calculus), Statistics, Spanish, Writing, Biology, Introductory Human Anatomy & Physiology, General Chemistry, and Physics, Accounting and Economics.


Access to Smarthinking is easy:

1. Students will log into their  Blackboard account

2. Select a course

3. Select "tools" on the left

4. Scroll down and click the Smarthinking login icon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tools and Resources Available to UDC Faculty via CAT

Soft Chalk – A software that helps faculty create exciting, interactive lessons for digital deployment.

NBC Learn - The educational arm of NBC News, is dedicated to making historic stories, images and primary source documents available on-demand via Blackboard. NBC Learn has a digitized library of more than 12,000 stories from the NBC News archives — one of the largest news archives in the world.

McGraw Hill- Customizable content for Blackboard courses that saves faculty time. McGraw Hill has developed hundreds of Online Learning Centers (Blackboard Course Cartridges) for use with the Blackboard platform.

Camptasia/Snag-it - A software application that allows users to capture screen images and record video. Very helpful in the development of online course content.

Nook Study – Digital Textbook readers and resources for faculty to use that deploy within Blackboard, possibly saving students 60% on average text book costs.

Café Scribe - Digital Textbook readers and resources for faculty to use that deploy within Blackboard, possibly saving students 60% on average text book costs.

Respondus 4.0 - A powerful tool for creating and managing exams that can be printed to paper or published directly to Blackboard.

Respondus Lockdown Browser - A custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Blackboard, such that students are unable to print, copy, go to another URL, or access other applications. When an assessment is started, students are locked into it until they submit it for grading.

SafeAssign - A plagiarism prevention service, offered by Blackboard. This service helps educators prevent plagiarism by detecting unoriginal content in student papers. In addition to acting as a plagiarism deterrent, it also has features designed to aid in educating students about plagiarism and importance of proper attribution of any borrowed content.

Axciom - Blackboard and Acxiom joined together to improve student verification. The product enables institutions to deploy a verification program within their e-learning platforms that maintains the integrity and privacy of student information.

Smarthinking - Online Tutoring - 24/7 tutorial services available to students – deployed from within Blackboard.

Tools for circulation: iPads, iPods, Belkin voice recorders, Flip video recorders, Adesso Cyber pads, laptops, microphones.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Respondus 4.0 and Respondus LockDown Browser

Thousands of institutions are using Respondus 4.0 worldwide to create and manage assessments. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) will add this software application its technology toolbox this fall. We have had LockDown Browser for two years already.

Respondus 4.0 is a powerful tool and easy to use. It will literally save faculty hours of time when creating assessments. The application allows faculty the ability to import exams from MS Word – including images, equations, and tables, access thousands if ready-to-use test banks (free of charge) from many of the leading textbooks in higher education, and publish assessments directly into Blackboard or print to paper. To learn more – watch this short YouTube video.

Respondus LockDown Browser - is a custom browser that works within Blackboard to lockdown the testing environment when deploying online assessments. It’s a great tool to deter cheating and to increase confidence in the results of online exams or quizzes. The application prevents students from navigating to other URLs, printing or copying the assessment, accessing any other application during the exam, and blocks instant messaging, screen sharing, and network monitoring applications. The application displays the assessment in full-screen (it cannot be minimized) and disables print screen, screen capture, function keys, and right-click menu options. The application is user-friendly and includes an installer for both Windows and Mac. Give them a try this fall! And as always, if you need assistance, do not hesitate to contact the Blackboard Help Desk.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

FERPA Guidelines for Online, Hybrid and Web-Facilitated Courses

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. The four primary rights for students afforded under FERPA are: the right to review their own educational records; the right to seek amendment of their own education records; the right to limit disclosure of their own education records; and the right to file a complaint.

Each student at the University is the sole holder of this right to privacy of their records. No other individual (e.g. parent, spouse, sibling, or child) has a right to the education record of any student at the University without the student’s written consent. Exceptions apply, however, in very limited circumstances,

When in doubt, however, err on the side of caution against disclosure and ask an appropriate administrator or the Office of the General Counsel.

Online learning at the University of the District of Columbia is to be presented using the Blackboard portal. Use of any other commercial online vendors and internet repositories by UDC faculty (full-time or adjunct) to capture UDC student information and course records of study are a violation of university guidelines and may subject faculty to litigation or investigation by the Department of Education.

Students enrolled in courses with online components and distance education courses are covered by FERPA and protected from release of educational material and private student information. Only the registered student may have access to their educational materials such as grades and course work.

Generally, students must be permitted to opt out of having data shared with other students or persons outside the University community (not contractors), and must complete agreements or waivers of privacy rights granted by FERPA. Information privacy can be violated by faculty if others are privy to student academic records, e-mail addresses, identifiers/locators, and course work such as postings to blogs, journals, and discussion forums; e-portfolios, home pages, and vita; and individual or group capstone projects, reports and written assignments without obtaining the student's permission to make his or her work available publicly.

Express written consent is not required if the student posts his/her work; students are given prior notice of course posting requirements; the student is not identified and there are no grades or evaluative comments; and the posted work is available only to members of the class. The student should be informed that he/she should not post identifiable information.

If the student has restricted access to directory (or public) information, you may not release any such identifying information.

You may not release non-directory or personally identifiable information about a student to a third party (parents included) without the student's written authorization or consent to release to a specific individual or organization. Such consent forms are available through the University’s Office of the Registrar.

Never release personally identifiable information (such as student identification numbers or social security numbers; grades or exam scores; grade point average or detailed enrollment data; race, ethnicity, or nationality; gender; or date of birth) without obtaining written authorization from the student.

Address, telephone, or e-mail may be disclosed as directory information, provided that the student has not opted out of such disclosure.

Faculty may obtain written permission, use code words, or randomly assigned numbers that only the faculty and individual students know to post grades. It is a FERPA violation to notify students of grades via e-mail, or publically post grades by student's name, student number, or social security number. Use of the Blackboard grade center will eliminate FERPA grade posting violations.

For Further Information
Additional information regarding the statute and applicable regulations is available at: 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 C.F.R. § 99.1 et seq.; at the Department of Education website, and at the Office of the General Counsel, or 202.274.5400.

We trust that you will find this information document helpful. Our committee is happy to assist. Source: C4OL Committee in partnership with the Office of the General Counsel.

Friday, August 5, 2011

SoftChalk 7

SoftChalk 7 is now available. This updated software application comes packed with a number of significant upgrades.

SoftChalk 7 is an interactive multimedia media authoring tool used in higher education (and K-12). It's designed to let instructors create and edit e-learning resources on the Web without the need for HTML or other programming knowledge. It includes built-in style sheets for page navigation, layout, and other design elements and automatically packages the materials for use in a learning management system such as Blackboard.

SoftChalk 7 adds new functionality that automatically generates a mobile version of materials created using the tool and displays the appropriate version based on the device the viewer is using. It also added six new HTML5-based templates for creating materials.

SoftChalk Smart Mobile – SoftChalk content can now be specially formatted for viewing on smart phone devices. This new feature automatically generates mobile friendly versions each time you create with SoftChalk.  Version 7 lessons automatically detect your learner’s device and delivers the appropriate version of your content for their smart phone, tablet or computer.

SoftChalk authoring – featuring six new activity templates designed for mobile devices, a new “embed” tool (IFrame) to easily embed web pages, pdfs and other files in your learning content, and many more exciting new enhancements.

Kevin Reeve, Enterprise Architect at Utah State University, beta tested SoftChalk 7 and said, "I am most excited about the new mobile features available. With these, I can easily bring interactive and engaging content to learners on the go. The ability to produce mobile friendly e-learning content is moving SoftChalk light-years ahead of other software providers out there" (Source).

“We are excited to provide educators the means to reach the digital students who demand learning outside of the classroom,” stated Sue Evans, co-founder and CEO of SoftChalk (Source).

For more information, visit

Register for a free SoftChalk 7 webinar.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Students at Arizona State University (ASU) Design A New Innovative System To Help Visually Impaired Students See and Take Notes

Visually impaired students on American College campuses number roughly 75,000. These students often struggle to keep up in traditional classes as they attempt to view and read white or blackboards, take notes, and listen to lecture. Many students rely upon small eyeglass-mounted telescopes. These telescopes assist students with low vision to see the boards, but the narrow field of vision provided by the telescope allows the student to only focus upon one section at a time. To take notes, the students must take off the telescope and go back-and forth between using the assistive tool. This can often cause a student to miss important lecture concepts as they try to keep up. A recent graduate of ASU, David S. Hayden, who himself has low vision led a team of other students to develop a system, called Note-Taker. The innovative system couples a tablet PC and a high-resolution video camera to assist students in vision and note taking. The product recently won second place in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup technology competition and is in its fourth generation of development.

Note-Taker includes screen commands that deploy the camera to pan and zoom. The video content can include audio which may be saved for later reference, or played in real time on the tablet. The tool also allows students a space for typed or handwritten notes using a stylus.

“Mr. Hayden built a prototype of the device with the help of John A. Black Jr., a researcher specializing in computing and human visual perception at the university’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing. The project was then awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation and refined with the help of Michael Astrauskas, Shashank Srinivas, and Qian Yan, who are Arizona State students” (Wiseman 2011). The tool holds great promise and as Mr. Hayden heads off to graduate school at MIT in the fall, he will no doubt have his graduate project underway.

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education Wired Campus, August 1, 2011. Article By Rachel Wiseman.