Coinciding with changes in staffing, Distance Learning @CFCC is undergoing some changes. These include redesigning our website, restructuring our Blackboard training, and revamping our processes. While we are in transition, you will continue to have access to all the current resources. Check back throughout the Fall semester to check our progress and see “what’s new.”
A few people have had questions recently regarding how to hide items from students in the Grade Center, which differs from hiding them from your (instructor) view. Did you know that you can hide a column from yourself, while leaving it visible to students?
While we’re on the topic of hiding, I will be permanently “hiding” starting February 24. I will be leaving the state to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Please contact Larolyn Zylicz for distance learning questions and requests after that time.
In the meantime, I am here to help you.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I’m sure many of you are thankful that the end of the semester is near. This is the time when instructors are ironing out Grade Center issues and preparing for the new semester.
- Hiding Old Courses: Many of you have inquired about hiding old courses and announcements from your Blackboard page. There’s an easy way to do this. Please see our Bb FAQ page for the instructions.
- Grade Weighting: If you find that your grades are not weighting properly, please check the Weighting Grades by Category document.
- Preparing for the New Semester: For those of you who are working on your spring 2012 courses, please refer to the Course Readiness Checklist to ensure that your course is ready for the first day of the semester.
I’ve had a few inquiries about ExamView tests that result in a “fatal error” message when importing into Blackboard, even when using the most recent version of ExamView and saving for the correct version of Blackboard. If this happens, please export for older versions of Blackboard (6x/7) and try to import that file. If this fails, please contact your publishing representative.
Have a great Thanksgiving and feel free to contact me with any questions.
As the first mini session ends and the second begins, some people are reporting these issues:
- Grade Center weighting is not calculating properly.
This is often due to either duplicate categories existing, the weighted column being incorrectly set up, or items not assigned to the proper category. Please review the Weight Grades by Category document for information on resolving these issues.
- Assignments are not copying to the new course section.
This is usually due to an unchecked box during the course copy. Make sure to include “Grade Center Columns and Settings” or graded items will not copy and the Grade Center will not include any graded items.
Remember, when you copy an existing section into another, although the old students will not copy to the new course, the discussion posts will carry over and will appear as posted by “anonymous”. Simply select all and delete these.
Please see the Course Readiness Checklist to help ensure that your online course is ready for the first day of class.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
It’s that time of year when we want to remind you to implement some basic file size optimization methods since CFCC pays for Blackboard disk space and also to enable students to more easily view and/or download items.
Large files can be prohibitive to students who do not have high speed connections. Also, Blackboard is not a streaming server so any audio or video files must first download to the user’s computer before it will play. This can take a considerable amount of time.
Here are a few ways you can keep file size and storage space down:
- Stream from the source: Do not store audio/video files in Blackboard. Instead, stream them from the source (such as NCLive).
- Stream from YouTube: If you record short lectures or instructional videos or audio, stream them from YouTube (you have an account attached to your CFCC Gmail). You can make videos public or only accessible to people who have a link.
You might consider attending a Lecture Recording on a Budget workshop offered later this month. See the DL Training Schedule for more information.
- Stream from iTunesU: We also have iTunesU available for Podcasting, though this has proven to be a bit cumbersome.
- Compress Images: The file size of documents is significantly increased when uncompressed images are included. There are ways to compress the images in Microsoft documents and in PDF files. Optimizing Files will take you through file optimization for MS Office and Adobe Acrobat Pro. You will learn how to compress images to significantly reduce the size of your files.
- Use the Cloud: All CFCC employees have access to Google Apps and Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office. This type of storage will not suit all of your needs, but it is a viable option for some types of activities. Visit the LRC Instructional Technology page for information on how to use these tools to store documents online and to share with others.
If you have any questions about these issues, please feel free to contact me:
As you have been notified, Blackboard will be down on August 1 for an upgrade. Some miscellaneous issues have been resolved and a few important new features have been added.
Don’t forget to review your courses before they launch to ensure that they are ready for the new semester. The Department of Distance Learning provides an interactive checklist to help you review your courses:
If you would like to receive DL news updates (generally just one or two each month), visit the there are two options:
Enjoy the remainder of your summer. We’ll see you in the fall!
Do you have difficulty attending live Blackboard training due to schedule conflicts? If so, the Department of Distance Learning has a solution.
We are now offering our basic Blackboard training courses as self-paced courses, which you can choose instead of the face-to-face workshop. If you choose this option (select through the registration form), you will be enrolled in a course with an empty shell, and be provided with instructions on how to complete some basic activities. The instructional materials are available to everyone, but you must register and complete the course online to receive credit for this training, if choosing the self-paced option.
Of course, we will continue to offer these workshops live, for those of you who prefer this method.
Happy June from the Department of Distance Learning. As the first mini session is progressing, there have been some questions about weighting grades in Blackboard. Since most of you weight by category, there is a three step process:
- Set up categories (and remove duplicates).
Manage > Categories
- Set up category weights in your weighted grade column.
Weighted Column > Edit Column Information
- Assign a category to all items that will be graded.
Manage > Column Organization
In addition to the steps above, here are a few items that frequently cause problems:
- Items must be “included in Grade Center calculations” in the item settings.
- An item must include “possible points” to affect the calculation.
- When selecting “Yes” for Calculate as Running total, make sure to assign a Zero for items not attempted or students will not be penalized for not attempting the assignment (excused absence).
The following short video might be helpful in setting up Grade Weighting (start at 1:35 if you weight by category, rather than by individual items). Weighting Grades in Blackboard 9.1 (4:53)
Please see the following document for a list of known issues in Blackboard and solutions or work arounds:
As the first week of classes is quickly approaching, I wanted to send a few reminders:
About the Technology
- Blackboard is not yet certified for use with Internet Explorer 9 browser (see the list of known issues in this post for suggestions).
- Please check the Teaching with Blackboard page to find links for many great tutorials.
- Check Faculty Blackboard FAQ’s page for frequently asked questions.
- The DL Professional Development Schedule lists upcoming training opportunities (live and self-paced online).
About the Pedagogy
- The DL Course Development page offers resources to help you develop quality online courses.
- Contact Liz Stover if you would like assistance developing your online courses or locating resources to help deliver rich, interactive content.
New Items and Fun Stuff
- Create a Banner for Your Blackboard Course
Learn how to easily create a banner for your course using a free web-based image editor, Pixlr.
- Since CFCC now uses Gmail through the new portal, this also provides you with access to Google docs and YouTube (where you can post lectures and instructional multimedia), in addition to a number of other useful tools for your courses. Access these through My.CFCC.edu and click the Email link, which takes you the CFCC gmail, documents, etc.
As we slowly approach the summer and fall semesters, please make note of some important resources available for building your online and Internet courses:
- Current list of known Blackboard issues:
Issues and suggested solutions
- Distance Learning Faculty Resource Site:
Guidelines, resources, and tutorials
- DL Professional Development Schedule:
Training opportunities (live and self-paced online)
- Course Readiness Checklist:
What you need to have up and running for the beginning of the semester
Have a great summer!
Don’t let your students be the ones to notice problems in your online courses. As you are making copies and revisions for summer and fall, here are some reminders and new items to consider:
- Since CFCC is moving to the new portal (My.CFCC.edu) , remove references in your course to Campus Cruiser, including in the contingency plan.
- Do NOT use update Internet Explorer to version 9 yet, since Blackboard does not support it; doing so could result in display and functionality issues. Use Firefox or IE 8 instead.
- Review the “Preparing your summer and fall courses” post to help ensure that your courses are ready for the first day of class.
- If copying and pasting from a Word document, use the Paste from Word tool to remove excessive code that results display problems in some browsers.
- There are some lingering minor issues in Bb. For a list of these issues and work arounds or solutions, view the Blackboard Issues and Solutions document (pdf).
In addition to the items mentioned above, don’t forget about professional development opportunities from the Department of Distance Learning. In addition to Blackboard training, we offer workshops on course quality and eLearning applications.
If you would like to schedule a meeting with the DL instructional technologist to assist with course development, please contact Liz Stover at firstname.lastname@example.org or x7722.
You might also check out training from the LRC, where you can learn about exciting tools for your traditional and online courses.
Many of you are now building your summer and fall courses. First, you must determine how will build or copy course content.
Learn about your options for adding content to your course shell.
The following documents will help you determine if your courses are ready for the first day of class. Items include content, design, and support items. The first document, the Course Readiness Checklist, provides you with an interactive form to help you document the status of your course(s). The other documents support the Course Readiness Checklist.
- Use the Course Readiness Checklist (pdf) to help ensure that your course is ready to launch.
- Check the Grade Center to ensure that all activities were copied and are correct; that the correct grading schema is being used; and that items are correctly categorized. Refer to Grade Center Check document (pdf).
- If you are revising your course, consult the CFCC course essentials checklist (doc).This document identifies 25 standards that should be addressed in online courses. You can use the rubric (doc) with these standards if you want to take notes as you review your course.
If you would like to sign up for distance learning training, please refer to our training schedule.
If you would like instructional design assistance for your hybrid or Internet course, please contact the DL Instructional Technologist, Liz Stover at email@example.com.
Even when teaching online (hybrid or Internet), it is sometimes beneficial to provide ways for students to connect with each other and/or with the instructor synchronously (in real-time). Some possible uses for synchronous communciation include:
- Office hours
- Guest speakers
- Oral examinations
- Student collaboration
- Virtual field trips
There are many tools available to provide real-time interaction. Some are built into the Blackboard course management system. Others are available for low or no cost (Skype, WizIQ, etc.).
While the following article was written about ways to use Skype in online courses, these activities can be used with other tools (Skype cannot currently be used on the CFCC campus). Read 10 Ways to Use Skype in Online Classes.
There are several tools currently built into Blackboard at CFCC that can be used for synchronous activities. Learn about these and more options from Conducting Office Hours Online (pdf).
As always, if you need assistance with integrating these or other tools in your online courses, feel free to contact me (Liz Stover) at firstname.lastname@example.org or x7722.
Can I post this video online? Can I scan chapters of the textbook so students can view them from Blackboard? These are some of the questions I receive related to copyright and fair use. Sometimes, the answers are not cut and dry when deciding if and how much of a work can legally be used in an online course. Some of the rules differ from a face-to-face class.
Here are a few resources at CFCC to help you determine how and when you can use certain works:
- Copyright Considerations for Online Materials
This page lists a general process for making copyright decisions.
- Following Intellectual Property Guidelines
From the Creating Course Content module of the Best Practices for Online Teaching course, this section (page 6) provides detailed information and resources to help you determine if you can use specific works.
Briefly, here are six steps you can follow (move to the next step if the answer is “no”):
- Does your school own a license for the material?
- Is the material in public domain?
- Does the material hold a Creative Commons license?
- Is your use covered by TEACH Act?
- Will your use likely be covered under Fair Use?
- Can you obtain permission from the copyright holder?
Please note that the library does own a license for many resources, so this is a good place to start. The license will control how to use the materials.
If you would like a brief introduction to copyright basics, view this short Copyright Basics Video from the Copyright Clearance Center.