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July 3, 2012

DoIT News Moving to myUMBC Groups

As of today, the DoIT News will be published through the DoIT Group on myUMBC, which in turn feeds the new DoIT site at doit.umbc.edu. As such, we will no longer be maintaining this Movable Type blog. However, it will remain for archive purposes.

FYI to DoIT Group members:

How do I post a new blog in myUMBC groups?

If you have questions, please contact the Technology Support Center (TSC) located on the first floor of the library next to the RLC or call 410.455.3838.

Posted by fritz at 9:19 AM | TrackBack

May 25, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance 10 pm Fri. 5/25 - 1 am Sat. 5/26

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down during the regularly scheduled maintenance window from 10 pm Friday, May 25 to 1 am Saturday, May 26.
We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 9:09 AM | TrackBack

April 30, 2012

UMBC Blackboard Update: SU2012

UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

HEADLINES

1. SU2012 Bb Course Shells Created on April 16
2. SU2012 Blackboard Drop-in Schedule
3. Hybrid Teaching and Learning Resources Lunch & Learn on May 7
4. Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop on June 8
5. Bb Collaborate Training Webinar Links Now Available
6. FA2012 Lab & Lecture Hall Software Request Deadline is May 1
7. FYI: Turning Technologies Overview of Product Enhancements - Lunch & Learn May 9
8. All Students Required to Create Account Security Questions by May 22

Posted by readel at 1:23 PM | TrackBack

Bb Collaborate Training Webinar Links Now Available

Blackboard Collaborate is the web-based conferencing system that DoIT staff installed on the UMBC Bb servers in December, 2011. It allows faculty to incorporate live, multi-way audio and video, a basic whiteboard with mark-up, application and desktop sharing and other tools for interactivity. It can also be used asynchronously; faculty can narrate a lecture presentation (including Power Point slides), save the recording, and make it available for students to access via Blackboard.

Recently Blackboard Collaborate, Inc. provided 4 two-hour training sessions to staff from DoIT, the AOK Library, and CPS. These sessions were recorded and are now available for anyone to view. The first session is an overview of the basic features of Bb Collaborate. The second session includes advanced features appropriate for faculty interested in running synchronous online sessions with their students. The third session covers the use of the software packages Plan! and Publish! Plan! allows faculty to prepare complex Collaborate sessions with many features (such as slides, interactive white board exercises, and quizzes) ahead of time. Publish! is a tool that allows you to download a recorded presentation in several formats including as an .mp4 video file. The final session focuses on the integration of all of the previously covered features. Links to these sessions are below:

1. Bb Collaborate Essentials
2. Bb Collaborate Beyond the Basics
3. Bb Collaborate Plan! & Publish!
4. Putting it all together

First time Bb Collaborate Users are encouraged to go to the First Time User support page first, to ensure that the computer is equipped appropriately. Bb Collaborate also offers an On Demand Learning Center with many training resources.

Posted by readel at 12:47 PM | TrackBack

SU2012 Bb Course Shells Created on 4/16

Bb course shells for SU 2012 were created on April 16, and will continue to be updated daily. Bb shells are available for all courses (designated as lecture, lab, or discussion) listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC), provided that there was an instructor of record listed. The addition of new course sections and instructors will result in new Bb shells being automatically generated each morning. Student enrollment in Bb will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update hourly.

If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue resolved.

Additionally in situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, by default all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, or if you need a shell for for a research or independent study course, please submit a new course request or submit an RT ticket with your request.

As a reminder, all Bb course shells are initially unavailable to students until the instructor makes it available.

Posted by readel at 11:39 AM | TrackBack

April 17, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance 10 pm Fri. 4/20 - 1 am Sat. 4/21

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down during the regularly scheduled maintenance window from 10 pm Friday, April 20 to 1 am Saturday, April 21. DoIT staff will be applying updates necessary to fix a reported problem with the wiki tool.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 7:36 PM | TrackBack

April 16, 2012

Known Issue: Error Accessing Blackboard Wiki Tool (RESOLVED)

UPDATE: DoIT staffed installed the patch for the Blackboard wiki error during the downtime on Friday, April 20, and the wiki tool is now functioning normally.

UPDATE: Blackboard has verified that the wiki error we are experiencing is a known issue (LRNSI-5667) and is due to a Java resource leak which results in unexpected behavior of the tool. DoIT is currently testing the patches provided by Blackboard, in anticipation of installing them on the production server Friday night.

-------------

DoIT is tracking a problem involving the Blackboard Wiki tool. When users try to create or access an existing Bb wiki, an error is generated. DoIT staff are working with Blackboard, Inc. to troubleshoot this issue and we hope to have a solution soon.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Posted by readel at 12:44 PM | TrackBack

April 10, 2012

SU2012 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions

DoIT is offering drop in Blackboard Drop-in sessions to assist and help faculty prepare for summer courses.

The following drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. A DoIT staff member will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times. Please note that this is not a formal Blackboard training class. Users may show up or leave at any point during these sessions.

Additional dates and times may be added as demand warrants.

SU2012 Blackboard Drop-In Schedule
DateTime
Tu 5/812-1 pm
Tu 5/1512-1 pm
M 5/214-6 pm
Tu 5/2212-1 pm
Th 5/2412-1pm
W 5/3012-1 pm
F 6/112-1 pm
M 6/412-1 pm

Posted by readel at 10:03 AM | TrackBack

April 6, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 4/13 to 1 am Sat. 4/14

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, April 13 to 1 am Saturday, April 14. DoIT staff will be applying security updates required by Blackboard during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 4:24 PM | TrackBack

April 3, 2012

Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop, 6/8

DoIT and the Faculty Development Center will be offering the Course Redesign/ Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop on June 8, 2012 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm in ENGR 023 on UMBC's Main Campus. In the morning participants will learn the principles of good course design, including designing assignments and assessments that help students achieve the goals for their learning. Lunch will be provided and participants will hear from a panel of faculty experienced in teaching hybrid courses. In the afternoon faculty will apply the principles of good course design from the morning session to planning a hybrid course (part-online, part face-to-face), and gain hands-on experience with some of the technology tools that are effective in online teaching. This workshop is open to all full or part time UMBC faculty and is limited to 14 participants. To register, please go to this event on the myUMBC Training site.

The workshop will also help meet the requirements for a one-time course-redesign stipend through the Alternate Delivery program (ADP), which is sponsored by both the Office of the Provost, and the Office of Summer, Winter and Special Programs (OSWSP).

Posted by readel at 4:05 PM | TrackBack

March 14, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 7-9 am Wed., 3/21

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for two hours of maintenance from 7 - 9 am Wednesday, March 21. DoIT staff will be installing necessary patches and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 3:31 PM | TrackBack

March 9, 2012

Known Issue: Non-Standard Characters in Course Title Causes Error When Sending Announcement as Email

DoIT has had several reports from faculty who have been unable to simultaneously post a Blackboard announcement and send it out as E-mail to students. This action generates an error message indicating that the announcement was created but that the E-mail was not sent.

announce.png



This is a known issue with Blackboard, and is due to a non-standard character in the Blackboard course title. Testing has revealed that the parentheses ( ) and forward slash / characters are not problematic, but the inclusion of a colon : in the course title will cause this error to occur. DoIT is working with Blackboard to obtain a patch to fix this issue. In the meantime, if faculty experience this issue, the workaround is to edit the course title to remove the non-standard characters.

Posted by readel at 9:00 AM | TrackBack

February 21, 2012

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 2/24 to 1 am Sat. 2/25

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Feb. 24 to 1 am Saturday, Feb. 25. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 4:16 PM | TrackBack

January 22, 2012

New Features in Bb Learn 9.1 SP6

The December 23 upgrade of the Blackboard Learn 9.1 system to Service Pack 6 has introduced a variety of new features and enhancements, several of which are listed below.

1. Increased Browser Support: Blackboard is now compatible with Internet Explorer 9, Safari 5, and stable release channels of Firefox and Chrome.

2. Timed Assessments: Attempt information for timed assessments includes details on how much time the student spent on the attempt versus how much time was allotted. Instructors can now choose to make the timed assessment save and submit automatically when the timer expires, or to allow the assessment to continue beyond the allotted time.

3. Interactive Rubrics: Instructors can now create interactive rubrics for gradable content items including Blogs, Journals, Wikis, Discussion Boards, Assignments, Tests etc. When creating a rubric, instructors can assign weights to categories, allowing the same rubric to be used across multiple items with different possible points. Instructors can interact with any associated rubric for grading in a grid or list view, and Feedback can be typed for each criteria as well as the entire assessment. Rubrics can be made visible to students at any time, before or after grading has occurred.

4. Enhanced "Needs Grading" Tool: Gradable Blogs, Journals, Wikis, and Discussion Board activity can appear in Needs Grading status in the Grade Center and on the Needs Grading page. When an instructor chooses to make an interactive tool gradable, they will also have the option to choose how many interactions will place the item in needs grading status. A Discussion Board forum, for instance, might be set to only appear in Needs Grading status after a student has made three posts, rather than with each individual post.

Posted by readel at 10:41 PM | TrackBack

UMBC Blackboard Update: SP2012

UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

HEADLINES

1. Known Issues with Enrollment of Bb Courses
2. New Features in Bb Learn 9.1 SP6
3. SP2012 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions
4. Bb Down for Maintenance 10 pm 1/27 to 1 am 1/28
5. Sloan-C Workshops on Online Teaching Open to UMBC Faculty

Posted by readel at 10:16 PM | TrackBack

Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 1/27 to 1 am Sat. 1/28

The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Jan. 27 to 1 am Saturday, Jan. 28. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

Posted by readel at 9:58 PM | TrackBack

January 20, 2012

Known Issues with Enrollment of Bb Courses

UPDATE: 1/24/12

As of 10:30 a.m. today, course enrollment updates are now occurring hourly.

Current SA to Bb Update Schedule:

  • New user updates - top of the hour
  • New enrollment updates - bottom of the hour
  • New course updates - daily at 2:15 a.m.


    As reported previously, there have been a number of issues with auto creation and enrollment of Blackboard courses since the December 23 upgrade:

    12/29/11: Spring 2012 Bb courses were auto created but auto enrollment is still once a day
    12/28/11: Bb auto enrollment changed from every two hours to once a day
    12/26/11: Winter 2012 courses were manually created by hand, not auto created

    Basically, DoIT has had to completely re-engineer Bb's integration with the Student Administration (SA) system, a project we'd planned for Summer 2012. Good news? It is nearly completed and appears to be working. Bad news? It is not fully tested.

    Current Status & Next Steps

    • Blackboard courses are being auto-enrolled ONCE A DAY at 3 a.m. using the new "snapshot" process.
    • This process can take up to 90 minutes to complete and has impacted performance.
    • Enrolling courses more frequently risks overall performance and usability of the system at the hectic start of semester.
    • DoIT is testing a new "event driven" process that would update Bb course enrollments every hour, based on incremental changes in SA. If it doesn't work, we can and will roll back to the once-at-3 a.m. approach.

    What You Can Do To Help?

    Students

    If you cannot access your Bb course 24 hours after officially enrolling in it via SA, please submit an RT ticket via myUMBC help or directly at rt.umbc.edu. Please include the following:

    Faculty

    Similarly, if you do not see your Bb course, confirm you are the official instructor of record in the Schedule of Classes (SOC). If not, contact your department scheduling coordinator so you can be added to the course in SA, which updates Bb instructor enrollment, just like students.

    If you ARE the instructor of record but still can't access your Bb course, follow the same steps as students (above), but also include your Blackboard courseID.

    Posted by fritz at 2:23 PM | TrackBack

    January 9, 2012

    SP2012 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions

    DoIT is offering drop in Blackboard Drop-in sessions to assist and help faculty prepare for the spring semester

    The following drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. A DoIT staff member will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times. Please note that this is not a formal Blackboard training class. Users may show up or leave at any point during these sessions.

    Additional dates and times may be added as demand warrants.

    SP2012 Blackboard Drop In Schedule
    DateTime
    W 1/183-5 pm
    Th 1/1911 am-12 pm
    M 1/2312-1 pm
    M 1/235-7pm
    Tu 1/243-5 pm - HELP WITH GRADE CENTER
    W 1/2511 am-12 pm
    F 1/2712-1 pm
    M 1/3011 am-1 pm - HELP WITH GRADE CENTER
    Tu 1/3112-1 pm
    Th 2/212-1 pm
    W 2/812-1 pm
    F 2/1012-1 pm
    M 2/13 12-1 pm
    W 2/1512-1 pm

    Posted by readel at 1:31 PM | TrackBack

    December 29, 2011

    SP2012 Bb Courses Auto Created and Enrolled

    Following yesterday's announcement of a new "snapshot" data synchronization process between SA and Blackboard, DoIT reports that a Bb course shell has been auto created and enrolled for all Spring 2012 courses in the Schedule of Classes. As previously announced, all Bb course shell enrollments are being updated daily at 9 a.m., pending further development and testing of the new process.

    Reminder: All Bb course shells are unavailable (to students) until the instructor of record makes the course available.

    If you have questions or concerns not addressed by this update, please consult the specific Blackboard Help section of the IT support FAQs or submit a Request Tracker (RT) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Div. of Information Technology (DoIT)

    Posted by fritz at 9:12 AM | TrackBack

    December 28, 2011

    WT2012 Bb Courses Enrolled Daily at 9 a.m., For Now

    To resolve reported issues with Winter and Spring 2012 Blackboard courses, DoIT has successfully tested Blackboard's "snapshot" process for automatically creating and enrolling all UMBC Bb courses based on updates to the Student Administration (SA) system. As a result, all Winter 2012 Bb course enrollments have been updated today, and will continue to be updated at 9 a.m.

    Pending further development and testing of the snapshot process next week, DoIT will return to our normal practice of automatically updating all new Bb courses and enrollments from the SA "feed" every two hours.

    For now, DoIT has NOT created or enrolled Spring 2012 Bb courses, so we can see what issues (if any) are reported by faculty and students using Winter 2012 Bb courses. We are optimistic we can create/enroll Spring 2012 courses soon, but will update the campus if and when we have done so.

    We appreciate the campus' patience during this unexpected change in data synchronization between SA and Bb course creation & enrollment. If you have questions or concerns not addressed by this update, please consult the specific Blackboard Help section of the IT support FAQs or submit a Request Tracker (RT) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Div. of Information Technology (DoIT)

    Posted by fritz at 9:42 AM | TrackBack

    December 26, 2011

    DoIT Reports Issues Creating WT & SP 2012 Bb Courses

    While the campus Blackboard server was successfully upgraded on Friday, December 23, DoIT has encountered issues with the planned auto-creation of Winter and Spring 2012 Bb course shells. We are still investigating the issue, but as of today here is a status update:

    • All 100 or so WT 2012 Bb course shells have been manually created by DoIT staff, and the instructor of record has been enrolled. Faculty can now begin to export old Bb courses and import them into these new WT 2012 Bb shells.

    • However, NO students have been "auto-enrolled" in these WT 2012 Bb course shells, and will none will be able to until DoIT has determined the nature of the current problem.

    • Instructors of WT 2012 Bb courses can use the Student Administration (SA) system to view a class roster. If you need to email students before Winter courses begin on Tuesday, January 3, either download the SA roster and email students directly or manually enroll your students into Blackboard and send email through the Bb course site. When DoIT fixes the auto-enroll function, all officially-registered students will remain in the Bb course site, regardless of how they were initially enrolled in it.

      Reminder: Instructors need to make their Bb courses available for students to see AND log into them.

    • Spring 2012 Bb course sites have not been created or enrolled. DoIT will provide another update as we learn more.

    We apologize for this inconvenience, especially to Winter 2012 Bb faculty. If you have questions or concerns not addressed by this update, please consult the specific Blackboard Help section of the IT support FAQs or submit a Request Tracker (RT) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Div. of Information Technology (DoIT)

    Posted by fritz at 8:07 PM | TrackBack

    December 23, 2011

    Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP 6 Upgrade Completed

    The scheduled upgrade for the Blackboard Learn 9.1 system was completed at approximately 2:30 pm on Friday, Dec. 23, and the system was made available to the campus community at that time.

    We thank you for your patience during this scheduled downtime.

    Posted by readel at 2:22 PM | TrackBack

    December 15, 2011

    Blackboard Acknowledges Delay in Processing of Safe Assign Reports

    UPDATE: Blackboard released a final support bulletin on Friday, December 23, regarding the performance of Safe Assign. They report that all of the backlogged papers have been processed and that processing times are back to normal (24-48 hours). If instructors have papers without SA reports generated in 48 hours, it is possible that the papers are corrupted, and Blackboard suggests that they should now resubmit those papers.
    ----------------------


    UPDATE: Blackboard released an updated support bulletin on Monday, December 19, regarding the performance of Safe Assign. Though new submissions are on the decline, there is still a significant delay in processing papers, and faculty should expect reports within 3-5 days. As previously announced, they request that papers not be resubmitted unless they have verified that an error with them has occurred.
    ----------------------

    On Wednesday, December 14, Blackboard released a support bulletin that provided an update on the Safe Assign paper processing delay that has happened over the past several weeks. They confirmed that there is still a global backlog of papers waiting to be processed, and that reports will take 3-5 days to generate. They reiterate that the worst thing instructors or students can do is to resubmit a paper, as that will move the paper to the back of the processing queue. If you have papers that have not received Originality Reports within 5 days of their submission date, please submit an RT ticket and include your name, the Bb course, the specific assignment, and the paper ID.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Posted by readel at 3:26 PM | TrackBack

    December 5, 2011

    UMBC Blackboard Update: WT2012

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Reminder to FA2011 Faculty to Download Bb Gradebook, Bb Upgrade on 12/22
    2. Blackboard Collaborate Replacing Wimba
    3. Course Redesign/ Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop, 1/20
    4. FYI: EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/11 – 1/13
    5. FYI: 1/18 - 1/20 Digital Storytelling Workshop

    Posted by readel at 5:43 AM | TrackBack

    December 2, 2011

    Blackboard Collaborate Replacing Wimba

    As previously announced in October, DoIT will be installing Blackboard Collaborate 11 during the Bb upgrade window starting on December 22 at 10 pm. Bb Collaborate 11 is the new web-based conferencing system following Bb's acquisition of Wimba and Elluminate in Summer 2010. It allows faculty to incorporate live, multi-way audio and video, a basic whiteboard with mark-up, application and desktop sharing and other tools for interactivity. A free 30-day trial of Collaborate 11 is available to any faculty member wishing to preview it, by signing up at http://try.bbcollaborate.com/trial/register.go. DoIT staff will introduce Bb Collaborate 11 during drop-in sessions in ENGR 025 from 12 - 1 pm on January 4, 6, 9, and 16. Further training sessions will be planned prior to the start of the Spring 2012 semester.

    Posted by readel at 1:13 PM | TrackBack

    December 1, 2011

    Reminder to FA2011 Faculty to Download Bb Gradebook, Bb Upgrade on 12/22

    As previously announced, DoIT will be upgrading the Blackboard (Bb) production system on Thursday, December 22 starting at 10 pm. Though final grades are not due until January 4, all FA2011 faculty are encouraged to back up their Bb gradebook by downloading it to Excel, before the upgrade starts. This is just a precautionary step as no problems are anticipated with the upgrade. DoIT staff will be available in ENGR 025 from 12- 1 pm on Dec. 13, 14, 20 and 21 to provide assistance, should faculty have questions about downloading their grades.

    Bb course shells for Winter and Spring 2012 courses will be auto-created on Monday, December 26. Prior to that date, faculty can develop content using older course sites, and then use the export/ import process to move that content once the new shells are auto-created. However, given the start of Winter Session on January 3, DoIT will manually create Winter 2012 shells upon request, with the understanding that faculty who do so need to use a published work around if they encounter the broken links problem the upgrade is meant to resolve.

    This upgrade is necessary in order to fix a growing number of web browser incompatibilities, and a known issue of broken links occurring in an imported course. There is no longer a convenient window of time when upgrades can occur during the academic year, but we have reviewed this decision with an informal advisory group of active Bb instructors in several disciplines, as well as the Faculty Senate’s Computer Policy Committee at its 9/16/11 and 10/7/11 meetings. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to improve the campus’ use of Blackboard.

    Posted by readel at 1:28 PM | TrackBack

    November 30, 2011

    Course Redesign/ Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop, 1/20

    DoIT and the Faculty Development Center will be offering the Course Redesign/ Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop on January 20, 2012 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm in ENGR 023. In the morning session participants will learn the principles of good course design, including designing assignments and assessments that help students achieve the goals for their learning. In the afternoon session faculty will apply the principles of good course design from the morning session to planning a hybrid course (part-online, part face-to-face). This workshop is open to all full or part time UMBC faculty. To register, please go to this event on the myUMBC Training site.

    The workshop will also help meet the requirements for a one-time course-redesign stipend through the Alternate Delivery program (ADP), which is sponsored by both the Office of the Provost, and the Office of Summer, Winter and Special Programs (OSWSP).

    Posted by readel at 1:03 PM | TrackBack

    FYI: EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/11 – 1/13

    The 10th Annual EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference will be held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel from January 11-13, 2012. This year's conference is titled "Reimagining IT in a Changing Landscape" and will focus on the need to reimagine, reinvent, and innovate in a climate of constant change and challenge. The programming on Thursday includes a variety of sessions that may be of interest to faculty and educational technologists. For the second year EDUCAUSE is offering special one-day registration options. Early registration is open until December 14 and can be found at http://net.educause.edu/content.asp?page_id=1028976&bhcp=1#REG.

    Posted by readel at 12:52 PM | TrackBack

    November 21, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 11/25 to 1 am Sat. 11/26

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Nov. 25 to 1 am Saturday, Nov. 26. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 10:00 AM | TrackBack

    November 18, 2011

    Known Issue: Potential Delay in Processing of Safe Assign Papers

    Blackboard Support reported today that the Safe Assign servers experienced an outage at the beginning of this week. The outage resulted in a substantial backlog of papers to be processed by their servers. Their system is currently processing them and the backlog should be cleared within the next 72 hours. This outage did not affect students' ability to submit papers to Safe Assign. Until the backlog is processed users may experience a delay of several days in being able to view the Safe Assign Originality Reports generated from paper submissions.

    Posted by readel at 1:50 PM | TrackBack

    November 7, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Wednesday, Nov. 9 - 12 am Thursday, Nov. 10

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for two hours of maintenance from 10 pm Wednesday, Nov. 9 to 12 am Thursday, Nov. 10 in order to replace a failed RAID controller. DoIT staff have determined that a delay in this repair runs the risk of a system-wide degradation in performance, and therefore it can not wait until the scheduled maintenance window on Friday night.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 12:53 PM | TrackBack

    October 25, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 10/28 to 1 am Sat. 10/29

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Oct. 28 to 1 am Saturday, Oct. 29. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 6:46 AM | TrackBack

    October 12, 2011

    12/22 Bb Upgrade Will Delay Auto-Creation of WT & SP 2012 Courses

    To fix a known issue of broken content links in some courses, reduce growing web browser incompatibilities, and install Collaborate (Blackboard’s replacement for Wimba), DoIT will be upgrading the Blackboard production system on Thursday, December 22, at 10 p.m. As a result, Winter and Spring 2012 course shells will NOT be auto-created until Monday, December 26.

    Faculty can still develop 2012 content using older course sites, and simply delay the export/import process until 2012 course shells are auto-created on 12/26. However, given the start of Winter session on January 3, DoIT will manually create Winter 2012 course shells upon request, with the understanding that faculty who do so need to use a published work around if they encounter the broken links problem the upgrade is meant to resolve.

    Important Note to Instructors About Fall Grades

    While Fall 2011 classes end December 13, final grades are due on January 4. Accordingly, if you display Fall 2011 grades to students in a Bb course, DoIT recommends backing up the gradebook by downloading it to Excel BEFORE the 12/22 upgrade begins at 10 p.m. We do not anticipate any issues with the upgrade, but to be safe, faculty should back up their grade book before the upgrade.

    Why DoIT Is Upgrading Blackboard Before Fall Semester Ends

    Last month, DoIT announced the known issue after students in about a dozen Blackboard courses could not access uploaded documents. We have not received many new reports since then, nor have we (or Blackboard) identified a specific cause, though it appears to be related to importing a Spring 2011 course into an empty Fall 2011 shell under our current version of Bb (9.1.4). While the content IS present in the new shell, the displayed links to it in some Bb courses do not work. Additionally, there is no site-wide fix DoIT can implement after this export/import process has occurred, though faculty can manually work around it if they or their students encounter it.

    Since exporting and importing Bb courses is the primary way all content is moved from one semester to the next, DoIT considers this to be a potentially very serious issue if it is more widespread, particularly in WT and SP 2012 courses. Blackboard believes upgrading our production system will allow the export/import process to work properly, and we believe it will also help minimize a growing problem with web browser incompatibilities due to some browsers changing more frequently than Blackboard. Additionally, we will be installing Blackboard Collaborate which is the new web-based conferencing system following Bb’s acquisition of Wimba and Eluminate in Summer 2010. Collaborate was released this past summer, but not in time for us to test for a Fall 2011 release at UMBC.

    Unfortunately, there is no longer a convenient window of time when upgrades can occur during the academic year, but we have reviewed this decision with an informal advisory group of active Bb instructors in several disciplines, as well as the Faculty Senate’s Computer Policy Committee at its 9/16/11 and 10/7/11 meetings. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to improve the campus’ use of Blackboard.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology

    Posted by fritz at 4:44 PM | TrackBack

    September 27, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 9/30 to 1 am Sat. 10/1

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Sept. 30 to 1 am Saturday, Oct. 1. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

    September 7, 2011

    Known Issue: Students Can't Access Bb Course Files

    DoIT is tracking a problem that has emerged in a dozen Fall 2011 Blackboard courses in which students see the following error:

    The specified resource was not found or you do not have permission to access it.

    Workaround

    Actually, the files DO exist in the course, but need to be re-linked (NOT re-uploaded). We understand this is a challenging problem and workaround at a very hectic time of year. We have submitted a support ticket into Blackboard, which is working to dentify the cause of this problem. We will update UMBC Bb instructors as we learn more.

    Posted by fritz at 7:53 AM | TrackBack

    August 25, 2011

    UMBC Blackboard Update: FA2011

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the Technology Support Center (formerly the Help Desk) at 410.455.3838 or submit an RT (Request Tracker) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Fall Course Shells Created on July 11
    2. Bb Courses Older than Fall 2005 Will Be Deleted Aug. 26
    3. UMBC Blackboard Help Now Part of myUMBC Help Wiki
    4. FA2011 Bb Drop-in Sessions
    5. Known Issue: Blackboard compatible browsers
    6. Blackboard Weekly Maintenance Schedule Reminder
    7. End of LO Building Block (Blogs/ Wikis/ Journals)
    8. WT2011 Alternate Delivery Program Provides Hybrid Course Support
    9. FYI: ELI Annual Meeting Presentation Proposals Due September 7

    Posted by readel at 5:49 AM | TrackBack

    August 24, 2011

    UMBC Blackboard Help Now Part of myUMBC Help Wiki

    As part of campus-wide user support changes announced by the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) earlier this summer, the Blackboard Help tab inside Bb (available at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help) is now run by the “Find Help - FAQ” wiki on the myUMBC Help menu.

    myUMBChelpmenu.png
    Wherever possible, our approach will be to focus on UMBC-specific Bb help that can't be found elsewhere (e.g., course creation, enrollment, availability), or useful, but perhaps less well-known tools in Blackboard’s generic online user manuals available in every course site under “Tools” (for students) or the “Control Panel” (for instructors & community leaders).

    Examples include:

  • How to make your Bb course available (a key UMBC-specific task), and
  • How to enable "subscription" to discussion boards so users can get an email alert of new posts (a useful, but little known tool).

    As in the examples above, our preference will be to show brief (5 minutes or less) focused video “screencasts” of key tasks, followed by simple step-by-step text instructions. Not all articles will contain videos, but our goal is add them to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs).

    In addition, there are key advantages to using a wiki for Blackboard Help. First, as some faculty know who have used wikis for student projects, it is easier for more people with a variety of technical skills to edit and maintain a wiki because it is a completely web-based tool and does not require highly technical programming skills to do so. For now, DoIT staff are maintaining the site, but eventually we hope to make this more directly available to students, faculty and staff who can help us monitor and edit existing help documentation or actually create new articles that can be published (and searched) as “drafts” for use by the UMBC Bb community. Until then, you can “suggest an article” on the FAQ “about” site to add, change, comment on or request deletion of an existing FAQ article.

    Second, there are useful wiki tools such as shorter URLs or web addresses, a “history” of changes to the document and the ability to email it to yourself or a colleague. We’ve also added feedback tools and a “request help” link that goes to the other main link on the myUMBC Help Menu: Request Help. This site serves as the campus gateway for the RT (Request Tracker) ticketing system used by DoIT, Financial Services, Academic Services and some academic departments such as Computer Science/Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Unlike sending a help request to a support staff member’s personal email inbox, an RT ticket can be monitored and acted upon by more than one individual, who may be busy or unavailable due to vacation or sickness. In addition, you can use the RT interface to monitor the status of your open RT ticket and provide feedback on your experience.

    Clearly, interest in RT is growing, and it appears the myUMBC Help menu may be one reason why. Last year, the campus generated more than 50,000 RT tickets (about 25,000 were IT-related), and the “Request Help” link was accessed 30,000 times (students, faculty and staff can also call the main tech support number of 5-3838 to have a ticket entered on their behalf).

    By contrast, the myUMBC “Find Help” site, which used to be called DoIT Knowledge base (KB), was accessed 10 times less than “Request Help.” So, over the summer, DoIT and Library staff worked on redesigning the FAQ, with the hope of creating a central, community-driven knowledge base similar to Indiana University or Virginia Tech. We also plan to participate in a broader higher education knowledge management initiative that is sponsored by the Kuali Foundation and based on the Indiana KB.

    Finally, DoIT and the Library have collaborated on the “Find Help -- FAQ” wiki as part of the new Retriever Learning Center (RLC) that opens this fall. The goal is to explore and refine inevitable issues when different organizations (and cultures) share a single web platform to provide end user support. This is key to encouraging other campus organizations to use the wiki, which will hopefully make it easier for students, faculty and staff to find, request and track online help about a wider variety of topics.

    For more information, visit the FAQ “about" site that contains a brief, video overview of the changes to myUMBC help.

    Posted by fritz at 6:16 AM | TrackBack

    August 23, 2011

    Known Issue: Blackboard Supported Browsers

    DoIT staff have received a number of reports from faculty and students regarding incompatibilities between Blackboard and some of the newer versions of web browsers. Examples include the gradecenter not loading completely, documents not being accessible, and quiz links not working. As previously reported, the version of Blackboard we run (Bb Learn 9.1 SP 2) is fixed, whereas web browsers are not. The workaround for this known issue is to use one of the officially supported browsers.

    To view a list of ALL supported browsers please read our faq on https://wiki.umbc.edu/x/RgdQ

    Posted by readel at 7:28 PM | TrackBack

    Blackboard Weekly Maintenance Schedule Reminder

    This is just a friendly reminder to the UMBC campus community of the Blackboard weekly maintenance schedule window from Friday 10 pm to Saturday 1 am. Although this maintenance window is not always utilized, DoIT Staff will now be regularly implementing server updates on the last Friday of each month, starting with August 26, 2011. Reminder notices about the downtime will be posted several days in advance. Blackboard instructors should take note of the weekly maintenance window, and as a general rule, refrain from assigning any work that is due on Blackboard during this time. Similarly students should understand that Blackboard may be unavailable each week from Friday 10 pm - Saturday 1 am.

    We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience as we maintain these critical systems.

    Posted by readel at 12:35 PM | TrackBack

    August 21, 2011

    UPDATE: FYI: Bb Courses Older Than FA2005 Will Be Deleted 8/25

    UPDATE: DoIT has pushed back the date to remove Bb courses older than FA2005 by one day, to Friday, August, 26 at 3 pm.

    -----

    In accordance with the Blackboard Course Retention Policy, all Blackboard courses older than Fall 2005 will be deleted. DoIT has scheduled this removal for Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 3 p.m. No downtime will be required.

    Instructors are encouraged to download and keep a copy of the Grade Center for any affected courses. Instructors may also archive an entire course, and keep a local copy for their records. Be aware though that only DoIT system administrators can "restore" an archived course on the UMBC Blackboard production server.

    Posted by readel at 11:33 AM | TrackBack

    August 1, 2011

    FA2011 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions

    DoIT is offering drop in Blackboard Drop-in sessions to assist and help faculty prepare for the fall semester

    The following one hour drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. DoIT staff members will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times.

    Additional dates and times may be added as demand warrants.

    FA2011 Blackboard Drop In Schedule
    DateTime
    M 8/2212-1 pm
    W 8/2411 am-1 pm
    W 8/243-5 pm
    F 8/2612-1 pm
    M 8/293-5 pm
    Tu 8/304-6 pm
    F 9/212-1 pm
    Tu 9/612-1 pm
    F 9/912-1 pm
    NEW F 9/1612-1 pm
    NEW M 9/1912-1 pm
    NEW Th 9/2212-1 pm
    NEW M 9/2612-1 pm

    Posted by readel at 1:15 PM | TrackBack

    July 31, 2011

    DoIT IT Support Changes - Help Desk & AV Moving

    Starting this summer, there will be a number of significant changes occurring in the way DoIT provides support to the campus community. The driver for this change is the new Retriever Learning Center (RLC) that will be opening in the Library this fall. The RLC will have a significant technology component and will provide 24-hour space for students. As part of this DoIT is making significant changes to our Helpdesk and establishing a student-focused unit named the Technology Support Center adjacent to the RLC.

    This is one of the most exciting and important initiatives for students that has occurred on campus. So, to support the RLC, DoIT will be making the following changes.

    First, we are renaming the Help Desk to be called the Technology Support Center, which will be located next to the RLC. This change is primarily designed to provide walk-up support of students, though faculty & staff are welcome, too. Managed by Jamie Harrison, the TSC will work closely with the Library to proactively meet student technology support needs in a much more visible location.

    Second, we encourage all students, faculty and staff to search, request and track technical support using the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://my.umbc.edu/help. In moving student technology support to the Library we will only have two, remaining full-time staff (distributed in the Engineering Bldg.) who are available for faculty-staff support issues. We are exploring possible collaboration with other functional offices, Departmental IT (DIT) support staff, as well as a way faculty might be able to request specially-trained students for one-on-one instructional technology assistance. All DoIT support groups will continue to monitor the primary 5-3838 technical support phone number, however given potential challenges in our capacity to respond immediately, we are working to improve the myUMBC Help interface so you can find, request and track your tech support needs in one location.

    Third, to make certain that the technology classrooms in Engineering are properly supported we will be moving the Audio Visual (AV) services group from Academic IV-A 204 to Engineering 020. In addition to continuing to deliver mobile technology carts from this location, AV will oversee support for the computer classrooms in Engineering, including openings and closings.

    Finally, to streamline management we are realigning the DoIT organization so that all three of these groups will be under the Instructional Technology and New Media unit led by Asst. VP John Fritz. As with any change, we know there will be some issues that will arise that we need to address. We are committed to working with the campus to make this a success and appreciate your patience while we make this change. If you have questions, suggestions or comments, please email them to John (fritz@umbc.edu) or myself (jack@umbc.edu).

    Posted by jack at 4:57 PM

    July 29, 2011

    Wimba Classroom Upgrade from 10 pm 8/6 to 7 am 8/7

    Blackboard Collaborate has announced that UMBC's Wimba Classroom will be upgraded to version 6.1.4 during an extended maintenance window from Saturday, August 6 at 10:00 PM to Sunday, August 7 at 7:00 AM. The maintenance release will address server-side enhancements of Wimba Classroom. During this time, services, including live sessions and recordings, will not be available.

    Thank you for your patience during this upgrade.

    Posted by readel at 11:30 AM | TrackBack

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 8/5 to 1 am Sat. 8/6

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of maintenance from 10 pm Friday, Aug. 5 to 1 am Saturday, Aug. 6. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

    July 18, 2011

    FA2011 Bb Course Shells Created on 7/11

    Bb course shells for FA 2011 were created on July 11, and will continue to be updated daily. Bb shells were created for all courses (designated as lecture, lab, or discussion) listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC), provided that there was an instructor of record listed. The addition of new course sections and instructors will result in new Bb shells being automatically generated each morning. Student enrollment in Bb will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update multiple times daily.

    If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue resolved.

    Additionally in situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, by default all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, or if you need a shell for for a research or independent study course, please submit a new course request.

    As a reminder, all Bb course shells are initially unavailable to students until the instructor makes it available.

    Posted by readel at 10:12 AM | TrackBack

    July 11, 2011

    UMBC Featured in BbWorld Developer's Conference Keynote

    UMBC's Check My Activity (CMA) feedback tool for students featured prominently in a keynote talk by John Fritz at the Blackboard World Developer's conference today.

    Posted by fritz at 9:24 PM | TrackBack

    July 8, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 7/8 to 1 am Sat. 7/9

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of maintenance from 10 pm Friday, July 8 to 1 am Saturday, July 9. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 7:18 AM | TrackBack

    June 9, 2011

    Known Issue: Bb Course Auto Enrollment (RESOLVED)

    The auto enrollment script that takes students who are officially enrolled in SA and places them into the corresponding Blackboard course shell stopped working on Monday, June 6. It was restarted as of 9 am Thursday, June 9.

    Typically the Blackboard servers receive students enrollment data from the SA system multiple times daily; in this instance the data feeds were no longer being sent from SA to Blackboard. DoIT staff are working to identify the cause of this error.

    We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to ensure that it does not occur in the future.

    Posted by readel at 11:21 AM | TrackBack

    Known Issue: Blackboard Connection Issues (RESOLVED)

    One of the Blackboard file servers went down at approximately 11:50 am on Wednesday, June 8 due to a power outage related storage failure. DoIT staff became aware of this when users reported that they were unable to log in to Blackboard. The storage issue was corrected and full service was restored at 12:55 pm.

    Thank you for your patience during this time.

    Posted by readel at 10:56 AM | TrackBack

    May 25, 2011

    SU 2011 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions

    DoIT is offering drop in Blackboard Drop-in sessions to assist and help faculty prepare for the summer sessions.

    The following one hour drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. DoIT staff members will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times.

    Additional dates and times may be added as demand warrants.

    SU2011 Blackboard Drop In Schedule
    DateTime
    Tu 5/3112-1 pm
    W 6/112-1 pm
    M 6/612-1 pm
    W 6/812-1 pm
    M 6/2012-1 pm
    Tu 6/2111 am-1 pm

    Posted by readel at 9:23 AM | TrackBack

    May 23, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 am to 1 pm Fri. 5/27

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of maintenance starting this Friday, May 27, at 10 am. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconveniences that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 10:42 AM | TrackBack

    April 29, 2011

    End of LO Building Block in Bb (Blogs/ Wikis/ Journals)

    As of SU2011 DoIT is discontinuing the use of the Learning Objects (LO) building block in Blackboard, including the 3rd party Campus Pack blogs, wikis and journals. Blackboard includes similar tools as components in the Learn 9.1 release, and they have been available for instructors to use since the major upgrade in May 2010. Having two different tools (one native to Bb and one from a 3rd party vendor) to accomplish the same thing has been a source of frustration to instructors. DoIT staff recommend that instructors who wish to keep a record of any of the Campus Pack blogs, wikis or journals from their courses, export them as html files prior to May 26, 2011. After that date, these items will no longer be accessible in your old Bb courses.

    DoIT staff thanks you for your patience during this transition period.

    Posted by readel at 1:27 PM | TrackBack

    UMBC Blackboard Update: SU2011

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ENGR Room 020, or submit an RT ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Summer Course Shells Created on 4/19
    2. End of 24/7 Bb Support for Students / DoIT Help Desk Moving to RLC
    3. End of LO Building Block (Blogs/ Wikis/ Journals)
    4. Hybrid Faculty Workshop June 9
    5. Call for Software for Lecture Halls/ Lab Images & Preliminary Lab Reservations
    6. Bb Courses Older than Fall 2005 Will Be Deleted August 25

    Posted by readel at 1:12 PM | TrackBack

    End of 24/7 Bb Support for Students/ DoIT Help Desk moving to RLC

    On May 26, DoIT will no longer outsource student support of Blackboard. Instead, like faculty and staff, all students will now contact the DoIT Help Desk by calling 410.455.3838. As a reminder, the DoIT Help Desk hours are 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Mon-Fri), 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sat.) and Noon-5 p.m. (Sun.). Before, during and after these hours, everyone is encouraged to 1) consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Bb or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help, or 2) submit an RT (“Request Tracker”) ticket via the myUMBC Help menu or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu. Also, DoIT has found that customers who can supply a “screen capture” of a software problem help us resolve the issue more efficiently or effectively.

    Since November 2009, DoIT has been piloting a 24/7 outsource of Blackboard support with Presidium Learning, Inc., in part to address staffing challenges from turnover, retirements and current budget challenges. During this time, we’ve tightened our standard operating procedures by having to explain them to a third party. Also, Presidium’s approach to managing support through metrics has also complemented our own. DoIT began publishing monthly support statistics last January, including results of voluntary customer satisfaction surveys when an RT ticket is resolved.

    Unfortunately, outsourcing support to a third-party has been more challenging than expected. As announced last Fall, DoIT ended 24/7 Bb support for faculty due to challenges in supporting the depth and variety of faculty Blackboard needs. While students have continued to use the 24/7 support, especially the online knowledge base designed for self-service, our analysis of ticket volume shows very few students were submitting support tickets after our Help Desk’s current hours of operation.

    Finally, as part of the Retriever Learning Center’s opening in the Library this fall, DoIT and the Library have decided to join forces in providing on-site support of students. As such, we are exploring moving some of our current operations from the Help Desk in Engineering 020 to the RLC’s first floor of the Library. Details are still being discussed, but we imagine having more trained, student IT workers available and roving in the RLC to answer customer questions directly. Since most of DoIT’s current customer support is provided remotely (by phone or online), this will be a dramatic change in how we do business. But we are intrigued by the possibilities of working more directly with customers in the RLC. We will continue to provide direct, remote support during existing Help Desk hours, but ask customers to consult our online knowledge base before submitting an RT ticket.

    In addition to feedback and suggestions, DoIT appreciates your patience as we work through this transition in Bb support specifically and IT customer support generally.

    Posted by readel at 12:47 PM | TrackBack

    April 28, 2011

    Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop, June 9, 2011

    DoIT and the Faculty Development Center will be offering the Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop on June 9, from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm in ENG 023. Participants will learn the principles of good course design and apply them to a traditional, face-to-face (F2F) course that could be delivered as a hybrid (part-online, part F2F) course. Using hybrid delivery to demonstrate best practices of hybrid teaching, this workshop is open to any UMBC instructor considering teaching a hybrid course in any semester. To register, please go to this event on the myUMBC Training site.

    The workshop will also help meet the requirements for a one-time course-redesign stipend through the Alternate Deliver program (ADP), which is sponsored by both the Office of the Provost, and the Office of Summer, Winter and Special Programs (OSWSP).

    Posted by readel at 10:37 AM | TrackBack

    April 26, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 4/29 to 1 am Sat. 4/30

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, April 29, at 10 pm. DoIT staff will be applying MS Windows updates, and a patch provided by Blackboard to fix the known issue of viewing past archives in journals.

    Thank you for your patience during this time.

    Posted by readel at 8:22 PM | TrackBack

    April 19, 2011

    SU2011 Bb Course Shells Created on 4/19

    Bb course shells for SU 2011 were created on April 19, and will continue to be updated daily. Bb shells were created for all courses (designated as lecture, lab, or discussion) listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC), provided that there was an instructor of record listed. The addition of new course sections and instructors will result in new Bb shells being automatically generated each morning. Student enrollment in Bb will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update multiple times daily.

    If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue resolved.

    Additionally in situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, by default all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, or if you need a shell for for a research or independent study course, please submit a new course request.

    As a reminder, all Bb course shells are initially unavailable to students until the instructor makes it available.

    Posted by readel at 8:08 PM | TrackBack

    April 15, 2011

    Known Issue: "Not Enough Space on Disk" Error Message (RESOLVED)

    At approximately 10 am, Friday, April 15, DoIT staff received multiple reports from both faculty and students of a "not enough space on disk" error message on Blackboard. Typically this error message was returned when users were trying to upload documents, create assessments or complete assignments and quizzes. The cause of this error was isolated to one of the four Blackboard application servers. Several key routine "housekeeping" tasks had failed to run on this server, resulting in the disk space usage error. This server was restarted at approximately 2 pm and the problem has been resolved.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Posted by readel at 2:28 PM | TrackBack

    March 11, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Extended Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 3/18 to 10 am Sat. 3/19

    As a part of DoIT's regular scheduled maintenance, Blackboard will be down for an extended time on Friday, March 18 (10 p.m.) until Saturday, March 19 (10 a.m.) in order to reindex the entire database. This process is the second phase of a 2-step process recommended by Blackboard in order to fix the previously reported spikes in database utilization. The first phase, replacement of a key database function, was completed on February 11. DoIT staff are hopeful that the completion of this second step will resolve any lingering Blackboard performance issues.

    We are sorry for the inconvenience of this temporary downtime, and we thank you for your cooperation and patience.

    Posted by readel at 1:01 PM | TrackBack

    February 24, 2011

    IHE Journal Publishes Article on Check My Activity Tool for Students

    The Internet and Higher Education has published an article about UMBC's Check My Activity (CMA) tool for students in its special issue on web mining in education. For more information, see the following:

    Fritz, J., Classroom walls that talk: Using online course activity data of successful students to raise self-awareness of underperforming peers, Internet and Higher Education, Volume 14, Issue 2, March 2011, Pages 89-97.

    Posted by fritz at 2:44 PM | TrackBack

    February 4, 2011

    2/11/11 Bb Downtime & Known Issue: Abnormal Usage "Spikes"

    As part of DoIT's regular scheduled maintenance window, Blackboard will be down next Friday, February 11 (10 p.m.) to Saturday, February 12 (1 a.m.) to address abnormal database utilization "spikes" occurring several times a day since the start of this semester. Normally, Bb operates at about 20-30 percent of system capacity, but DoIT has seen spikes of nearly 100 percent, resulting in very slow performance for up to 30 or even 60 minutes each occurrence.

    We've heard similar reports from other institutions that have upgraded to version 9, and have been exploring their suggested fixes. We've also been working with Blackboard, which has recently recommended a two-step approach: 1) replacement of a key database function that will occur during next week's downtime, and 2) re-indexing of the entire database.

    This re-indexing step #2 would require at least 12-hours of scheduled down time, which we are not yet prepared to do given the disruption to students, faculty and staff during the semester. Our preference is to do this over Spring Break, but if step #1 does not buy us time by temporarily fixing the problem, we may be forced to act sooner.

    DoIT will continue to monitor the Blackboard system and update the campus when we know more. In the meantime, thank you for your cooperation and patience.

    Posted by fritz at 2:00 PM | TrackBack

    Educause Publishes Video Demo of UMBC "Check My Activity" Tool for Students


    The final 2010 issue of EDUCAUSE Quarterly includes a brief (5 minute) video demo of UMBC's "Check My Activity" (CMA) tool for students. The CMA demo was part of EQ's special focus on student retention, and includes new information comparing how students use Blackboard by final grade distribution in all 1,461 Spring 2010 Blackboard courses. Specifically, D & F students used it 47 percent less than students earning a C or better, which is similar to results from previous semesters based on much smaller samples. A similar analysis is being conducted on all Blackboard courses for Fall 2010.

    Posted by fritz at 12:58 PM | TrackBack

    January 25, 2011

    Student Access to Blackboard Courses

    Students must be officially registered in a UMBC course via myUMBC in order to be auto enrolled in a Bb course shell. Auto enrollment takes place multiple times daily, so students will appear in the Bb course roster several hours after they register through the SA system. However, students will not see the Bb course until their instructor makes the course shell available to them.

    Posted by readel at 4:48 PM | TrackBack

    Known Issue: Bb Course Auto Enrollment (RESOLVED)

    The auto enrollment script that takes students who are officially enrolled in SA and places them into the corresponding Blackboard course shell stopped working on Thursday, Jan. 13. It was restarted as of 12 pm, Tuesday, Jan. 25.

    Typically the Blackboard servers receive students enrollment data from the SA system multiple times daily; in this instance the data feeds were no longer being sent from SA to Blackboard. DoIT staff have identified the issue and are working on the creation of business processes to ensure that this does not happen in the future.

    Posted by readel at 4:38 PM | TrackBack

    Update and Tips on Blackboard Faculty Support

    As I announced this past summer, DoIT is no longer using Presidium Learning for Blackboard faculty support (it is intended only for 24/7 support of students). Instead, DoIT's Help Desk and Instructional Technology & New Media (ITNM) unit are providing basic and advanced Blackboard faculty support, respectively. After consulting the Blackboard Help site, the best way to reach both groups is to submit an RT (Request Tracker) "ticket" by logging into http://rt.umbc.edu or using the myUMBC "help" link. Apart from not sitting in any one person's email inbox, using RT helps us triage and collaborate on your support request.

    In addition, we are down a staff member for the start of Spring 2011, following the retirement of Debra Arnold at the end of the Fall 2010 semester. Deb worked at UMBC for 30 years, but spent her last few years focusing a lot on Blackboard faculty support, and working closely with Karin Readel, Director of Instructional Technology. We are optimistic about replacing Deb in time for the start of summer classes, which can help prepare for the busy start of Fall 2011.

    In the meantime, here are some key tasks that every faculty member can do to help sustain and even improve Blackboard support:

    Use Jing to show AND tell IT problems.

    We are going to be stretched this semester, but we are committed to helping faculty be successful in using Blackboard, and appreciate your patience and cooperation.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    410.455.6596 | fritz@umbc.edu | www.umbc.edu/oit/itnm

    Posted by fritz at 4:11 PM | TrackBack

    January 24, 2011

    Known Issue: Instructors Can't Import Bb Course Over 250MB

    DoIT has confirmed a known issue that affects faculty trying to export an old Blackboard course and import it into a new, empty shell:

    The export works fine, but if the resulting file is larger than 250 MB, faculty cannot import it. The process will return a "time out" error message.

    Other schools running version 9.1 have reported this issue, but until Blackboard releases a fix and we have tested it, the work around is for faculty to submit an RT Ticket with a copy of the error message in the body of the ticket requesting that DoIT import the old course.

    Posted by fritz at 11:29 PM | TrackBack

    January 21, 2011

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 1/21 to 1 am Sat. 1/22

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, January 21, at 10 pm. DoIT staff will be applying MS Windows updates, and a configuration change to the collaboration server during this time.

    Posted by readel at 7:43 AM | TrackBack

    January 12, 2011

    SP 2011 Blackboard Drop-in Sessions

    DoIT is offering drop in Blackboard Drop-in sessions to assist and help faculty prepare for the spring semester.

    The following one hour drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. DoIT staff members will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times.

    Additional dates and times may be added as demand warrants.


    SP2011 Blackboard Drop In Schedule
    DateTime
    Tu 1/1812-1 pm
    W 1/1912-1 pm
    M 1/244-6 pm
    W 1/2612-1 pm
    M 1/3112-1 pm
    W 2/212-1 pm

    Posted by readel at 4:48 PM | TrackBack

    December 3, 2010

    UMBC Blackboard Update: WT2011

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ENGR Room 020. Students may submit a help request via the 24/7 Blackboard Support portal at http://bbsupport.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. WT2011 & SP2011 Bb Course Shells Created 12/1
    2. Instructional Continuity Support WT & SP 2011 Courses
    3. 24/7 Bb Support Still Available For Students Only
    4. Only 4 Seats Left in Hybrid Course Re-design Workshop 1/14/11
    5. Ad Hoc SP2011 AV Support Reservations Now Being Accepted
    6. FYI: EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/12-1/14

    Posted by readel at 4:27 PM | TrackBack

    FYI: EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/12 - 1/14

    The 9th Annual EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference will be held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel from January 12 -14, 2011. This year's conference is titled "Setting a New Course for the Future" and will focus on meeting the changing needs of learners, faculty, researchers, and administrators through innovation - while continuing to support the critical IT infrastructure. The programming on Thursday is particularly geared towards faculty and educational technologists, and includes presentations and hands-on opportunities that focus on classroom activities. This year EDUCAUSE is offering special one-day registration options. Early registration is open until December 15 and can be found at http://net.educause.edu/Registration/1025803.

    Posted by readel at 3:55 PM | TrackBack

    WT2011 & SP2011 Bb Course Shells Created 12/1

    Bb course shells for both WT and SP 2011 were created on Dec. 1, and will continue to be updated daily. Bb shells were created for all courses (designated as lecture, lab, or discussion) listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC), provided that there was an instructor of record listed. The addition of new course sections and instructors will result in new Bb shells being automatically generated each morning. Student enrollment in Bb will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update multiple times daily.

    If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue resolved.

    Additionally in situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, by default all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, or if you need a shell for for a research or independent study course, please submit a new course request.

    As a reminder, all Bb course shells are initially unavailable to students until the instructor makes it available.

    Posted by readel at 12:46 PM | TrackBack

    November 23, 2010

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 11/26 to 1 am Sat. 11/27

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, November 26, at 10 pm. DoIT staff will be performing MS Windows Server maintenance and updates during this time.

    Posted by readel at 4:18 PM | TrackBack

    October 26, 2010

    Storage Failure Affects Blackboard

    Today from approximately noon to 2pm the Blackboard server was unavailable. This was due a controller on a storage array going bad. Unfortunately, the server attached to this storage was Blackboard. We have had some issues with this storage array for the past few weeks. The vendor (Sun) has been actively working with us to analyze logs to identify the root cause of our problems. On Saturday we implemented a temporary fix that appears to have fixed one issue. However, today we had an unrelated hardware failure. We are awaiting word back from Sun but we expect to have them install a new controller sometime this evening. Thank you for your patience.

    Posted by mikec at 4:47 PM | TrackBack

    October 1, 2010

    Bb Known Issue: Email Sent in HTML Format vs. Plain Text

    Over the past month DoIT has received reports from both faculty and students that emails sent through Blackboard contain HTML code. In some instances users have complained that the embedded code makes the body of the email difficult to read. This format is the default setting in Blackboard, and DoIT is unable to change this to plain text at the system level. However, individual users can configure their local mail clients to display incoming email messages in HTML format. Directions for configuring Webmail to view HTML formatted email have been posted to the DoIT Frequently Asked Questions website.

    Posted by readel at 4:46 PM | TrackBack

    Reminder: 24/7 Bb Support Now For Students Only

    UPDATED Dec. 3, 2010:

    DoIT encourages faculty to continue to steer their students to the 24/7 Bb Support Portal as a "first line of defense" for assistance with any technical Blackboard questions. Typically the questions that students have about Blackboard are less complex than those faculty have, and the 24/7 Bb Support team has been successful in resolving those issues quickly. Based on a survey conducted this summer, 77% of respondents reported that they were satisfied, or highly satisfied with their 24/7 Bb Support experience, and 85 % would recommend it to others. Reminding students of this service should help reduce the default technical support role that many faculty end up playing now.
    --------------------

    In late August, DoIT announced a change in the way faculty receive Blackboard support. This change was made due to faculty feedback regarding the quality and consistency of support received through the 24/7 Bb Support provided by Presidium. As of October 1, faculty seeking Bb support should contact the UMBC Help Desk at 455-3838, where they will be routed to UMBC support staff. After hours, faculty are asked to submit an online request for help through the RT System at http://rt.umbc.edu. 24/7 Support from Presidium will still be available to students only, and DoIT encourages faculty to convey this to their classes.

    Thank you for your patience during this transition. We hope that this change will provide the best support possible for both faculty and students.

    Posted by readel at 1:54 PM | TrackBack

    September 30, 2010

    Effective Use of Blackboard for Collaboration by Staff

    During today's UMBC Professional Development Day, John Fritz presented five reasons why (and how) UMBC staff might want to use Blackboard in their work.

    1. Using Blackboard for Job Search or RFP Committees

    Key Steps

  • Review one “thread” per applicant or proposal on the Bb discussion board.
  • Post initial “vote” by changing subject line of your reply to Yes, No or Maybe.
  • Optional: Use body of your reply to explain your “vote”
  • “Subscribe” to the Discussion Board to receive email alert of posts by other members.
  • Meet face-to-face as a group to “negotiate” your online voting differences and reach consensus.

    2. Subscribe to a DB to be alerted by email whenever there are new posts

    Key Steps

  • Subscription is NOT a default setting for the discussion board—but should be.
  • Bb Instructors have option for what “subscribers” are alerted about:
  • Forums (Great for receiving update about any new post)
  • Threads (More targeted and specific)


    3. Configure access to content (e.g., timesheets, P&T documents) based on roles

    Related Demo

  • Tim Hardy (ECON) uses adaptive release to raise student grades by 20 percent

    4. Train PT or student workers using online tutorials

    Key Step

  • Learn how to create brief “show & tell” screen cast videos with Jing. Dead easy.

    5. Use Wimba voice & video conferencing for live or recorded meetings from home.

    Posted by fritz at 1:22 PM | TrackBack

    September 27, 2010

    Blackboard Service Restored 8:45AM

    Update at 8:45AM
    Blackboard service has been restored. We will be monitoring the systems throughout the day.
    ---------------------------------
    Update at 7:30AM
    UMBC’s Blackboard system is currently down. At approximately 12:30 am this morning we experienced a failure of our Blackboard server virtualization system (VMware). DoIT staff have worked with the vendor throughout the night to isolate the problem. As of 7:15 am the vendor has proposed a solution which should restore the Blackboard system in the next 2-3 hours (e.g. approximately 10:15AM). We apologize for the inconvenience and will update you as we know more.
    --------------------------------------
    Update at 5:03AM
    The Blackboard system went offline early on Monday morning. DoIT staff have isolated the issue to the server virtualization system (VMware) used to host the Blackboard system. We are currently working with the vendor to restore services. We will post additional information later today.

    Posted by mikec at 6:02 AM | TrackBack

    September 8, 2010

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 9/10 to 1 am Sat. 9/11

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of maintenance starting this Friday, September 10, at 10 pm. This maintenance is required in order to fix an error that occurs during the submission of quizzes and surveys. DoIT has worked with Blackboard over the past week to determine the cause of this error. Earlier this week DoIT was provided a resolution which has been installed and tested on the Bb test server. Unfortunately this resolution will cause the following known issue to occur: any attached file with either a semicolon (;) or a pound sign (#) in the filename will result in an error when a user tries to access the file. The workaround for this issue is to avoid using those characters when naming files.

    We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience that this down time may cause.

    Posted by readel at 2:34 PM | TrackBack

    September 2, 2010

    Quiz Errors on Blackboard- UPDATE

    UPDATE:
    DoIT staff implemented the suggested fix during the scheduled downtime on Friday evening, Sept. 10th. This fix should provide a resolution to the "no action config" errors in quizzes and surveys.
    ------------
    DoIT has received numerous reports today from students who have been getting error messages when they take quizzes and surveys on Blackboard. Typically the student finishes answering the questions and then after submitting the quiz, this message is generated:

    No action config found for the specified url.
    For reference, the Error ID is db51608a-8c02-496d-a662-79a7003470ed.
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 3:20:33 PM EDT

    This error is not generated all of the time, and at this point does not seem to be dependent on either operating system, or browser. We have contacted Blackboard for support in troubleshooting the issue, and will update the campus community as soon as we have a resolution.

    Karin Readel
    Director, Instructional Technology

    Posted by readel at 5:55 PM | TrackBack

    September 1, 2010

    Instructor Display of Bb Menus Using Firefox Now Fixed

    firefox_bb_bad_still.pngYesterday, DoIT began receiving reports from instructors that their course menus were obscured when they used the Firefox web browser (see example at right). We worked with Blackboard, which identified the source of the problem (a missing or corrupt icon image, perhaps a result following the Service Pack 2 upgrade last Friday night during the scheduled maintenance window), and implemented the solution this morning.

    To clarify, DoIT always tests Blackboard upgrades, service packs and hot fixes before implementing in production. We did not see this issue on our Bb test environment, and do not know why the issue manifested itself yesterday (four days after the SP2 implementation). We are working with Blackboard to confirm the cause of the missing image file, but for now the issue appears to be resolved.

    Posted by fritz at 10:11 AM | TrackBack

    August 26, 2010

    How New Employees/Instructors Get Access to Bb Courses

    As announced earlier this month, all FA2010 Blackboard courses were auto-created on July 15. Since then, DoIT has auto-created new Blackboard course shells every day, whenever a new course with a named instructor of record has been added to the Schedule of Classes. In order for this process to work, department scheduling coordinators, Human Resources, the Registrar's Office and the new employee each need to complete specific steps (described or illustrated below):

    Steps


    1. Department payroll preparer sends the Faculty/Staff Pre-Hire Form to HR indicating the new employee is an instructor.

    2. Within one business day of receipt, HR enters bio/demographic data of the new employee into the HR system using the PeopleSoft Person of Interest (POI) PreHire electronic interface. The POI serves two important functions:

    a) Automatically generates a unique Campus ID and sends an email to the new employee's alternate email address, with instructions for how to create AND activate his or her new UMBC account (aka myUMBC username).

    b) Automatically creates an RT ticket to the registrar's office requesting that the new employee be added to the department's table of instructors and be granted row level security access in the SA system.

    Note: Currently, only HR has access to the POI, but Continuing & Professional Studies (CPS) was recently given access in preparations for summer session, as part of a wider rollout to campus departments, which is still to be determined. For now, all campus departments need to use the Faculty/Staff Pre-Hire form (step 1 above).

    3. NEW: When the new employee has been added to the department's instructor table, row level security has been granted and SA security roles have been assigned, the Registrar’s office resolves the RT ticket AND cc's the scheduling coordinator of the new employee's department on the ticket. The resolution will indicate the employee has been added as an instructor, but that the scheduling coordinator still needs to ASSIGN the instructor/new employee to a specific course (or courses) in SA.

    4. When the new employee has created his or her account AND the department has assigned him or her to a course, then DoIT's script will auto-create a Blackboard course shell with the new employee as the instructor of record.

    5. At this point, the new employee/instructor can log into Blackboard, find his or her course and make it available (by default, all Bb courses are "unavailable" until the instructor of record in the Schedule of Classes makes it available).

    Posted by fritz at 3:11 PM | TrackBack

    August 25, 2010

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 8/27 to 1 am Sat. 8/28

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, August 27, at 10 p.m.

    Posted by readel at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

    August 24, 2010

    UMBC Blackboard Update: FA2010

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ENGR Room 020. Students may submit a help request via the 24/7 Blackboard Support portal at http://bbsupport.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Fall Bb Course Shells Created 7/15; Daily Updates Continue
    2. Blackboard Upgraded to Bb Learn 9.1; New Features and Known Issues
    3. Top 5 Start of Semester Blackboard Tips
    4. Changes in How Faculty Can Get Blackboard Help
    5. Support for WT & SP 2011 Hybrid Courses, Instructional Continuity
    6. A Case for Using the Blackboard Grade Book
    7. Reminder: How to Request AV Services

    Posted by readel at 4:58 PM | TrackBack

    Changes in How Faculty Can Get Blackboard Help

    Starting today, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) is directing faculty to the DoIT Help Desk to resolve basic (tier 1) Blackboard issues or escalate to DoIT's Instructional Technology & New Media group. Presidium Learning will continue to support basic (tier 1) student Blackboard issues, excluding DoIT's auto-enrollment and auto-course creation processes, which are unique to UMBC.

    Generally speaking, tier 1 IT support refers to basic but frequent end user support (e.g., forgotten passwords), tier 2 refers to less frequent but more advanced application support (e.g., how to export/import a course or use the grade center), and tier 3 refers to a handful of back end, but high impact system administration issues (e.g., server is down).

    We are making this change in faculty Blackboard support for a number of reasons:

    First, a steady number of faculty continue to report lack of consistency in the depth and quality of 24/7 Bb support they have received from Presidium Learning. We have continually worked with Presidium to address specific issues when we learn of them, and results of a recent user satisfaction survey are generally positive. However, feedback from some faculty is still mixed. As we announced in May, one reason we proceeded with the 9.1 summer upgrade was to learn about issues that may affect support of faculty before the start of Fall. While any upgrade can be challenging, we don't want support of faculty to complicate the transition, so we are making this change now.

    Second, student use of 24/7 Bb support continues to outpace faculty--especially during nights and weekends, and feedback is generally positive. Since nearly all students have at least one Blackboard course, faculty may want to ask students to start with 24/7 Bb support if they have technical issue. In turn, this may reduce the default "help desk" role many faculty play in their Blackboard courses now. Also, as Presidium continues to provide student support, it frees up DoIT staff to provide more advanced, tier 2 application support.

    Finally, as I announced a year ago today (and again in November and January), we continue to face challenges in providing support for an application that is now used by nearly all UMBC classes--with the same Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staffing as when we started using Blackboard ten years ago. To do so, faculty have stepped up to not only support each other, but also to lead by example in how to get the most out of Blackboard and other instructional technologies or effective practices (e.g., AV, clickers, digital storytelling, hybrid learning, etc.). DoIT values and intentionally facilitates these kinds of faculty learning communities, but as technology adoption increases, we need to find the right balance between supporting people while also helping them to help themselves and others.

    To be clear, this change now means that "after hours" faculty Bb support will be limited to the UMBC support staff (and faculty colleagues) who able and willing to provide it. But we hope this change and continuing use of 24/7 Bb student support will be a step in the right direction.

    If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please let me know.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology
    410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu

    Posted by fritz at 9:47 AM | TrackBack

    August 23, 2010

    Anecdotal Reports of System Slowness After Bb 9.1 Upgrade

    Early after the Blackboard 9.1 upgrade at the end of May, DoIT received a few anecdotal reports of slowness in the new version of Blackboard. While we've not been able to consistently replicate these issues for further analysis, we have been in frequent contact with Blackboard, which has inspected our system and found nothing out of the ordinary.

    Without being able to consistently reproduce a problem, it is difficult to pin down, diagnose and resolve. If you encounter slowness in Blackboard, you can help by reporting it via an RT ticket.

    In addition, if you are willing and able to do so, capturing when the slowness occurs in the form of an optional, "show and tell" video screen cast would be extremely useful. I'm attaching a similar email request I sent to hybrid faculty back in June, but essentially it would be helpful if students, faculty and staff could do the following if and when there is new evidence of possible Bb system slowness:

    1. Capture it with Jing (works on a Mac or PC, is free and can be downloaded at www.jingproject.com)
    2. Show or tell the browser and release version you're using (e.g., Firefox 3.6.3, IE8, etc.)
    3. Show or tell the operating system you're using (e.g., Windows 7, Mac OSX 10.4, etc.)
    4. Show or tell the kind of internet connection you're using (e.g., wireless on campus, wireless at home using Comcast, etc.)
    5. Show or tell the specific problem you are able to repeat (reminder there is 5 minute limit on free Jing videos)
    6. Upload your video to screencast.com (part of the free Jing service) and get a link you can paste into an RT ticket (http://rt.umbc.edu)
    7. Create an RT ticket using the "online learning" queue, perhaps with "Bb 9.1 Issue w/Jing" as first part of your subject line
    8. Paste the link to your Jing video in the body of your ticket as well as text responses to items #2,3,4 above.
    9. Submit the RT ticket
    10. OPTIONAL: Add your Jing to the following site so others can learn about "known issues" (I've put up an example):

    UMBC Bb 9.1 Known Issues
    https://spaces.umbc.edu/x/vhHg

    Again, creating a "show and tell" video screencast is totally OPTIONAL and not required for submitting a ticket that contains the same information in textual format. But if you can create the video, it will really help DoIT determine the root of the problem--if it persists.

    As DoIT continues to investigate this issue, I will update the community if we learn more. In the meantime, if you have any questions, suggestions or need more information, please let me know.

    Sincerely

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology
    410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu

    Posted by fritz at 1:51 PM | TrackBack

    August 22, 2010

    Top 5 Start of Semester Blackboard Tips

    With the start of the semester just around the corner, many faculty members are in the midst of getting their Bb courses ready to go for the first day of classes. Here are the top 5 tips that everyone needs to know about Bb 9.1.

    How to Export/ Import:

    If you have material in an old Bb class that you would like to add to your current class, the quickest way to do that is to use the Export and Import functions found within the Control Panel. Help sheets, as well as a Jing screencast, explaining both the Export and Import processes can be found on the Faculty/ Leaders Blackboard Help page.

    If your course Export file is in excess of 250 MB, you will be unable to import it yourself, and you will need to submit a request to RT.

    How to Add Course Content:

    If you are building your FA 2010 Bb course from scratch, chances are that you have a limited number of Course Menu buttons available. In order to add content to your course, you will need to create a Course Content Menu button (such as Course Documents, or Syllabus). Once you have that created it is easy to add documents, images, and other files. The “Build Content” button allows you to create folders, and attach many different types of files, including YouTube mashups. Quizzes, Assignments, and Safe Assignments can be added via the “Create Assessment” button. Wikis, Journals, Blogs, and the Wimba Classroom and Voice tools are added from the “Add Interactive Tool” button.

    How to Make Your Course Available:

    A Bb course must be available in order for students to be able to view any content.
    By default all Bb course shells are unavailable upon creation; each instructor must make them available by following these simple directions (also available as a Jing screencast).

    Managing Course Enrollment:

    Faculty members do not need to manually enroll students in their Bb courses, and in fact should never do so. Students are automatically enrolled in the appropriate Bb course once they have officially enrolled for the course in SA. This automated enrollment process is updated multiple times daily. When students officially drop the course in SA, they will be made “unavailable” in the Bb course, and thus no longer have access to it.

    In the past, some students have pressured faculty to manually enroll them in their Bb courses during the Add/Drop period. Occasionally students have become confused, and thought that since they had access to Bb, they were officially enrolled in the course. At the end of the semester after completing all of the coursework, those students did not appear on the official grade roster in SA, and therefore did not get credit for the course. Please remember that SA is the system of record for student enrollment- let it do the job for you!

    Directions for enrolling an additional Instructor or Teaching Assistant in a course can be viewed here.

    Enable Subscriptions in Discussion Boards:

    Many faculty members on campus use Discussion Boards to engage students in course material or related topics outside of class. One useful feature is the ability to allow students (and instructors) to subscribe to either entire forums, or to individual threads within a Discussion Board. By enabling subscription, users no longer have to actively log in to Bb, and search through a Discussion Board to see if anyone has responded to a particular post. If they subscribe, they will be notified by E-mail whenever a new post occurs. This may prompt users to interact with each other to a greater extent.

    Posted by readel at 9:19 PM | TrackBack

    Blackboard Upgraded to Bb Learn 9.1; New Features and Known Issues

    UMBC’s Blackboard Learning Management System was upgraded to Bb Learn 9.1 over Memorial Weekend. Approximately 300 faculty members successfully used this new system to teach their courses throughout summer, taking advantage of the many new features available. These enhancements include the accessibility of the Control Panel, the new Course homepage, the Course Files feature, and drag and drop ability. Highlights of these new features, as well as some of the known issues are detailed below.

    New Features:

    1. Control Panel - All course management tools are now immediately available upon course access for instructors, without having to open a separate page. The control panel is now permanently located at the lower left of the window (and is not seen by students). This area provides easy access to the Gradecenter, Group/ User Management, Course Tools, and Course Files. Instructors now have the ability to edit the Course Menu directly through the addition of content areas and tool links.

    2. Course Home Page - The default course entry point is the new Course homepage, which contains a variety of modules such as “Course Announcements”, “What’s New”, “Calendar” and Tasks. The Course homepage provides “one stop shopping” for students by consolidating all relevant course information in one place.

    3. Course Files - Bb Learn 9.1 now provides a Course Files area that allows instructors to view and manage all files related to their course content. Instructors can now upload a file once, and use it in multiple areas of the course. When a file is renamed or moved, any links to that file will remain intact. The new 360° View lets an instructor see all of the places that any given file has been used in a course.

    4. Drag and Drop Function - Instructors are now able to use "drag and drop" to reorder Course Menu buttons, files, folders, and other content items.


    Known Issues:

    1. DoIT has received some anecdotal reports of Bb 9.1 system slowness. In some cases the issue was related to an older desktop machine, running IE 7.

    2. When opening an Office 2007 document in Internet Explorer, the user is sometimes presented with an unnecessary authentication dialog. Canceling it allows the document to open normally.

    3. If an instructor has created a Course Menu button to an external link, and set it to “open in a new window”, the URL is often appended with extra characters, making the URL unusable. The workaround for this is to set Course Menu buttons to external links to open in the existing browser window.

    4. Documents that are added as “Content Items” do not have the ability to open in a new window. If a user clicks on the link, the item is downloaded directly to the local machine. There is a new “File” content type, which allows an instructor to attach a file, and also allows the option to open that file in a new window. The key differences between “Item” and “File” content types are that with the “File” type the instructor is limited to attaching a single file, and there is no ability to add a textual description to it.

    5. When using discussion boards, if students post an attachment using the VTBE, the instructor will not be able to view it. Instead, the student should use the “attach file” button below the VTBE window.

    Posted by readel at 7:12 PM | TrackBack

    Fall Bb Course Shells Created on 7/15; Daily Updates Continue

    Bb course shells for FA2010 were created on July 15, and continue to be automatically updated daily. As announced in April, the course creation process has undergone a change. Bb shells were created for all courses listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC), provided that there was an instructor of record listed. The addition of new course sections and instructors will result in new Bb shells being automatically generated each morning. Student enrollment in Bb will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update multiple times daily.

    If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue resolved.

    Additionally in situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, by default all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, please submit a new course request.

    As a reminder, all Bb course shells are initially unavailable to students until the instructor makes it available.

    Posted by readel at 6:53 PM | TrackBack

    August 9, 2010

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 8/13 to 1 am Sat. 8/14

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, August 13, at 10 p.m.

    myUMBC will also be down during the weekend of August 14 and 15. During this time the campus community will still be able to access Blackboard at http://blackboard.umbc.edu or http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard.

    Posted by readel at 5:32 PM | TrackBack

    FYI: Bb Courses Older Than FA2004 Will Be Deleted 8/26

    In accordance with the Blackboard Course Retention Policy, all Blackboard courses older than Fall 2004 will be deleted. DoIT has scheduled this removal for Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 3 p.m. No downtime will be required.

    Instructors are encouraged to download and keep a copy of the Grade Center for any affected courses. Instructors may also archive an entire course, and keep a local copy for their records. Be aware though that only DoIT system administrators can "restore" an archived course on the UMBC Blackboard production server.

    Posted by readel at 5:19 PM | TrackBack

    Server Failure Results in Blackboard Outage

    UPDATE: Service to Blackboard was fully restored at 5:35 p.m.
    ------------------------------
    At 2:50 pm on Monday, August 9th the Blackboard file server crashed. In consultation with VMWare, DoIT staff members were able to restore the system and expect to have it publicly available at approximately 5:30 pm.

    Posted by readel at 4:35 PM | TrackBack

    July 26, 2010

    DoIT Extends Summer Blackboard 9.1 Dropin Sessions - Aug & Sept.

    Now that the upgrade to Blackboard 9.1 has been completed and summer faculty are using the new version, DoIT is offering additional drop in sessions to assist and help prepare the rest of the campus for the fall semester.

    The following one hour drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. DoIT staff members will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times.

    Additional dates and times will be added as demand warrants.

    SU2010 Aug & Sept DoIT Drop In Schedule
    DateTime
    Tu 8/312-1 pm
    Th 8/511:30 am-12:30 pm
    M 8/912-1 pm
    W 8/1112-1 pm
    M 8/1612-1 pm
    Tu 8/1712-1 pm
    Th 8/2612-1 pm
    F 8/2712-1 pm
    NEW M 8/305-8 pm
    W 9/112-1 pm
    Th 9/212-1 pm
    Tu 9/712-1 pm
    Th 9/912-1 pm
    NEW T 9/1412-1 pm
    NEW F 9/1712-1 pm
    NEW M 9/2012-1 pm
    NEW Th 9/2312-1 pm
    NEW T 9/2812-1 pm
    NEW W 9/2912-1 pm

    Posted by darnold at 2:48 PM | TrackBack

    June 30, 2010

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance from 10 pm Fri. 7/2 to 1 am Sat. 7/3

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, July 2, at 10 p.m.

    Posted by readel at 3:43 PM | TrackBack

    June 11, 2010

    DoIT Summer Blackboard 9.1 Drop in Sessions

    Now that the upgrade to Blackboard 9.1 has been completed and summer faculty are using the new version, the dust is settling and we are ready to offer some drop in sessions to assist and help prepare the rest of the campus for the fall semester.

    The following one hour drop in sessions will be held in Engineering 025. Several DoIT staff members will be available to work one-on-one with with users who show up during the designated times.

    Additional dates and times will be added in the near future.

    SU2010 DoIT Drop In Schedule
    DateTime
    6/2310-11 am
    6/2312-1 pm
    6/2810-11 am
    6/2812-1 pm
    6/2910-11 am
    6/2912-1 pm
    7/810-11 am
    7/81-2 pm

    Posted by darnold at 2:46 PM | TrackBack

    May 28, 2010

    Upgrade to Blackboard Learn 9.1 Completed

    Update: August 14, 2010

    As announced last spring, there are numerous changes to Blackboard as part of the 9.1 upgrade. These will be described in more detail in DoIT's traditional "back-to-school" Blackboard Update next week.

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology
    410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu


    The scheduled upgrade was completed and Blackboard was brought back online at approximately 3 pm on Friday, May 28. Blackboard Learn 9.1 is now available for the entire campus community to use. DoIT will be continuing to work on a variety of minor modifications over the next few days. However, this work should not impact the ability of the campus community to access courses or communities. Preliminary documentation on getting started with Bb Learn 9.1 has been posted for instructors/ leaders and will be expanded on through the summer.

    Thank you for your patience during this upgrade period.

    Posted by readel at 5:05 PM | TrackBack

    May 19, 2010

    A Case for Using The Blackboard Grade Book

    In 2008, a national study of more than 30,000 seniors and freshmen at more than 100 colleges and universities (including UMBC) reported that students value the ability to check their grades far more than any other function in a course management system (CMS) like Blackboard. Yet, less than half of UMBC's Bb courses used the grade book this past fall and spring. We understand why: it takes a little time to master the Bb grade center, faculty may prefer to use Excel functions in an "offline" mode, and there may be a reluctance to put a grade on everything students do. But apart from keeping students from constantly pestering faculty, an active Bb grade book can be "leveraged" in some interesting ways.

    UMBC_bb_gdr.png
    UMBC Bb activity by grade distribution, 2007-2009. Detail table
    1. Post Your Final SP2010 Grades To Help Understand Student Bb Usage by Grade Distribution

    As some may recall, DoIT has been researching how students use Blackboard. Specifically, over two years in a sample of 110 courses, D & F students tend to use Blackboard 39 percent less than students earning better grades. To be clear, we are not suggesting or interested in how Blackboard "makes" good students. Instead, we are interested in how good students use Blackboard, and how displaying this information (albeit anonymously within courses) might help raise awareness of their under performing peers.

    This is where faculty can help, by voluntarily adding to the sample of courses so we can study the Bb activity of students by final grade distribution. To do so, simply add a column called "GRADE" (quotes omitted) to your Blackboard grade book with your students' final letter grades. You can even hide the column from student display if you only want them to see your final grades in SA. But after final grades are due on May 26, if your Bb grade book contains a GRADE column, we will run a script that analyzes your student grades AND Bb activity to see if and how the usage trend does or does not persist. For more information, visit our project blog at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    2. Encourage Your Students to Use the Bb "Check My Activity" (CMA) Tool

    If faculty use the grade book, our "Check My Activity" (CMA) tool beneath the "My Grades" tool lets students see an anonymous summary of Bb activity for students who earned the same, higher or lower grade they earned on any assignment. From prior surveys about the CMA, nearly 30 percent of students say they are "surprised" how their own Bb activity compared to peers (another 42 percent say they'd have to use the CMA more to determine its usefulness, but they appear to be intrigued). In addition, 54 percent say they would be "more inclined" to use the CMA's grade distribution report to review their Bb activity on past assignments--before future assignments are due. In other words, the CMA may leverage or amplify the feedback effect of grades that faculty are going to give students any way, but it can only do so if they use the grade book.

    Note: After initial promotional campaigns within Blackboard each weekend in October and March of this year, the CMA currently generates more than 1,300 weekly visits, 80 percent of which are by return users who are spending more than a minute per session viewing the 2-3 custom reports they can generate themselves. While we don't completely know who is using the CMA or why (the reports can only be viewed with a myUMBC login), we plan to study usage further and conduct focus groups and interviews with students. For more information, including a brief, online video demo of the CMA, visit www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    3. Use Adaptive Release: The "Killer App" for Structuring Online Learning

    Tim Hardy
    Hardy's presentation begins at 00:28:34.

    Using Blackboard's "adaptive release" function, faculty can create "pre-conditions" that students have to meet before they can even gain access to other functions or content in a Bb site. For example, you could require that students pass a syllabus or academic integrity quiz at the start of the semester, before they can turn in any work for credit. But to do so, you'll need a "grade" for the quiz that adaptive release can use as a condition for allowing students to even see the web link to an electronic assignment, subsequent quiz or discussion board.

    Tim Hardy in Economics has used adaptive release so effectively, his ECON122 Bb course was UMBC's most active undergraduate Bb course this past fall and spring. Also, students in his hybrid course have consistently scored 20 percent higher on his department's required, common final exam, largely (he says) because the Bb course structure makes them apply concepts in assignments that prepare them for it. "Initially, students hate it, but after they pass the final exam, they tell me it worked," says Hardy, who also participated in the Alternate Delivery Program to re-design his course for hybrid delivery last summer and fall. For more information, see Hardy's 3/10/10 Brown Bag workshop with Katie Morris from Social Work, "Developing and Assessing Quality Learning in Online and Hybrid Courses."

    From our position in supporting faculty, we typically see three kinds of Blackboard usage:

    1. User & Document management (Pulling students to the site through mandatory use)
    - Password-protected class & group space
    - Attach or copy/paste documents such as syllabi, presentations, notes.

    2. Communications (Pushing content to them and facilitating interaction)
    - Announcements
    - Email
    - Chat & Discussions (especially if "email subscription" of new posts is enabled)

    3. Assessments (Pushing & Pulling to facilitate self-paced learning)
    - Electronic assignment delivery & collection
    - Quizzing, Surveys, use of Grade Book
    - Adaptive release to structure student responsibility and self-awareness

    To be sure, most faculty are doing #1 (maybe even #2), but students would like to see more faculty doing #3. Depending on where you see yourself now, I'd like to encourage you to consult your peers who are actively using Blackboard, or let us know if and how we can help you help your students take more responsibility for their own learning.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. Vice President
    Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Div. of Information Technology
    410.455.6596 | fritz@umbc.edu | www.umbc.edu/~fritz

    Posted by fritz at 3:38 PM | TrackBack

    April 30, 2010

    UMBC Blackboard Update: SP2010

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help. You can also contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ECS Room 020 or submit a help request via the new 24/7 Blackboard Support portal at http://bbsupport.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES
    1. Major Blackboard Upgrade Scheduled in Late May
    2. SU2010 Faculty Enrolled in Bb 9.1 "Sandbox" Course
    3. Change in Blackboard Course Creation and Enrollment, SU2010 Course Shells Created
    4. Hybrid Course Redesign Workshop at Shady Grove Campus, June 4, 8:30 am - 4 pm
    5. UMBC Adopts Turning Technologies Clickers Starting SU2010
    6. FA2010 Lab & Lecture Hall Software Requests Deadline is July 1
    7. Turnitin No Longer Available in Blackboard as of SU2010

    Posted by readel at 9:30 AM | TrackBack

    April 29, 2010

    Turnitin No Longer Available in Blackboard as of SU2010

    As of SU2010, DoIT is disabling the Turnitin (TII) plagiarism-detection software inside Blackboard, since it does not currently work in Bb's new version 9.1 that the campus will be upgrading to on May 26. Instead, DoIT recommends that faculty use the SafeAssign plagiarism-detection tool that is already built into Blackboard.

    At its April 16 meeting, the Faculty Senate Computer Policy Committee (CPC) approved the recommendation to disable the TII "building block" (or 3rd-party "plugin"), which first began having technical issues in SP2008 when we upgraded to Bb version 7.3. At that time, Blackboard had also acquired SafeAssign, an alternate plagiarism detection tool, and made it part of the delivered Blackboard software.

    Currently, it is not possible to return a TII-reviewed paper to students in the Bb 9.1 grade book, though faculty can assign a grade for it. This is a known issue reported by other institutions as well. As in the past, we have attempted to troubleshoot the TII issues, but there was and continues to be very little incentive for Blackboard and TII to collaborate.

    While some faculty prefer TII functionality over SafeAssign, which does not have as large a submission database at this point in time, a recent report by Florida State University compared the two products and recommended SafeAssign. UMBC has not conducted a similar review, but at this point, neither tool has been widely adopted in many UMBC courses. Given past technical issues and the likelihood TII will be difficult to use in Bb, DoIT recommends faculty switch to SafeAssign, if only to concentrate our support on one tool that can still support UMBC's academic integrity initiatives.

    For faculty who still want to use TII, which is paid for by the Provost's Office, they can do so outside of Bb by going to the TII website and supplying a UMBC code provided by Barry Casey, interim director of the Faculty Development Center. In addition,
    students will need to create a TII user account to submit and receive papers that are reviewed for originality through the TII database.

    Posted by fritz at 10:19 PM | TrackBack

    April 28, 2010

    Change in Blackboard Course Creation and Enrollment, SU2010 Course Shells Created

    Summer Blackboard course shells have been created and are now available for faculty to add content to. The course creation process has changed and is no longer a one time event. Starting today, there will be an automated daily creation of Bb course shells based on the courses present in the UMBC Schedule of Classes. Student enrollment in Blackboard will continue to mirror the official registration in SA, and will update multiple times daily.

    In prior semesters Bb course shells were created on only one date, approximately 4-6 weeks prior to the start of a semester. This meant that any additions or changes to the official Schedule of Classes was not reflected in Bb course shells. In those instances, faculty had to submit a request to have their course shell manually created.

    DoIT has modified the script that is responsible for both the creation and auto enrollment of Bb course shells. Starting immediately, this script will automatically create new Bb shells for any summer course listed in the Schedule of Classes (SOC) that has an instructor identified. The addition of new course sections, newly cross-listed courses, and any changes in the instructor of record will result in new Bb shells being automatically created.

    Bb course shells will not be created for those courses without an instructor of record. If you are an instructor, and your name is not associated with the course you are teaching in the SOC, please see your departmental scheduling coordinator to get that issue fixed. Once the change is reflected in the SOC, your course shell will be created the next day.

    In situations where one instructor is teaching multiple sections of the same course, all sections will be combined into one Bb course shell. If you want to have separate shells for different sections, please submit a new course request.

    By default, all Bb course shells are unavailable to students until the instructor of record makes it available.

    Fall Bb course shells will be created by August 1, 2010.


    Posted by readel at 1:42 PM | TrackBack

    April 27, 2010

    SU2010 Faculty Enrolled in Bb 9.1 "Sandbox" Course

    All SU2010 Faculty have been enrolled in one practice course on the Bb Learn 9.1 development server located at http://bbdev-10.umbc.edu. DoIT took this step to allow those faculty teaching this summer to gain some experience with the new Bb 9.1 interface prior to the major upgrade scheduled over Memorial Day weekend. We encourage faculty to log on to this server, and explore the capabilities of Bb Learn 9.1 prior to the start of your summer class. At the very least we ask that you post an announcement, upload a file, and add a comment to the discussion board to familiarize yourself with the new format.

    Because all 300 faculty have been enrolled into the same course, AND because this instance of Bb 9.1 is run on a development server, we want you to be aware of several things.

    1. First and foremost, do not use this "Sandbox" as a staging ground for your summer class. Summer course shells have been recently created on the production server and you should place all summer course material there. Directions on exporting a course from a prior semester and importing it to a new shell can be found here. All of the material will be carried over intact during the upgrade process. In fact, ALL existing Bb courses from prior semesters will be upgraded to Bb Learn 9.1 format.

    2. Please note that if all of you access this course at the same time, the server response time will slow down dramatically. Please be assured that this reduction in speed is not an indication of the product and how it will behave on the production server after we upgrade.

    3. We have purposely removed the ability for Bb instructors to import course packages into this course shell. We have also enforced an overall "course quota", and limited the size of individual files you can upload. Again, this is a necessary step to make sure that the development server response time remains reasonable. These abilities will be available to you in your courses on the production server.

    4. Please feel free to create and adapt content (documents, assessments, blogs, etc.) in order to "test drive" the system. However, do note that if the course quota is reached, content will be purged to allow more faculty to try things out throughout the month of May.

    Posted by readel at 3:18 PM | TrackBack

    Major Blackboard Upgrade Scheduled in Late May

    CORRECTION: The update will begin approximately 7 am on Thursday, May 27, not on May 26 as stated below.

    DoIT is planning to upgrade the UMBC Blackboard 8.0 system to Blackboard Learn 9.1 at the end of May, over Memorial Day weekend, after the completion of Spring 2010 courses and grading. The change in the interface from 8.0 to 9.1 is substantial and we are encouraging all Blackboard users to be proactive in educating themselves about the new system. The rationale for this upgrade is detailed below, along with some information on how this might impact the campus community.

    When will the upgrade take place?

    The upgrade process is slated to begin approximately 7 pm on Wednesday, May 26th and will take several days to complete. All Blackboard courses and communities will be unavailable during this time. At the end of this process all prior courses will still exist (complete with their content), but will just appear in the new Bb Learn 9.1 format.

    Why upgrade Blackboard now?

    The decision to upgrade Blackboard prior to the start of Summer Session was made for several reasons. There are limited windows of opportunity during the year for DoIT to perform a major upgrade like this. Our current version of Blackboard is old, and does not work well with the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox. These known browser incompatibility issues have continued to be a problem this semester for both students and faculty alike, and there is no end in sight. Based on information gleaned from other institutions who have already gone through this process, DoIT felt that it was important to have Bb Learn 9.1 in place throughout the summer. This will allow more time for the campus to acclimate to the interface changes, and for DoIT to provide training opportunities for faculty and staff.

    What type of testing has been done to date at UMBC?

    In anticipation of this upgrade, Karin Readel has piloted the use of Bb Learn 9.1 with 200 SCI 100 students this spring. No major problems have been reported, and the browser-related issues have ceased. DoIT is actively consulting with Presidium (the 24/7 Blackboard Support Service) to monitor any known support issues that they have addressed with other institutions who have implemented this upgrade. DoIT is also in the process of documenting (with help sheets and screen captures) the major interface changes to assist faculty in getting their courses ready for summer and fall. Details on additional “just in time” training resources, and drop-in Bb help sessions will be posted as they become available.

    Is there anything that you need to do?

    All existing course content will be migrated to Bb Learn 9.1 during the upgrade. As a precaution DoIT recommends that all faculty download a copy of their grade center from their Spring 2010 courses prior to May 26th. Summer faculty have already been enrolled in a Bb Learn 9.1 Sandbox course so that they can test out the new system prior to June. If you are teaching in the summer and you do not have access to the Sandbox course, please submit a request to be added to it. All other faculty will have access to Bb Learn 9.1 starting in June, allowing plenty of time to investigate all of the new features.

    Posted by readel at 9:33 AM | TrackBack

    February 24, 2010

    Bb Down for Maintenance 3/5, 10 p.m. to 3/6 1 a.m.

    The UMBC Blackboard server will be down for three hours of scheduled maintenance starting this Friday, March 5, at 10 p.m.

    Posted by readel at 11:29 AM | TrackBack

    February 22, 2010

    Blackboard Blogs & Wikis Upgraded

    The Blackboard blog and wiki tools developed by LearningObjects.com have been upgraded to the latest version 3.0.12 today. All content and functionality appears to be present and working properly, but one documented issue is the possible loss of a course menu link to the JournalLX (blog) and TeamsLX (wiki) tools. If this occurs, the fix is easy: create a NEW menu button link to the blog or wiki too available in the Bb course tools area. ONLY the menu button link may disappear, all content is still available via the blog or wiki links in the Bb tool area.

    Note: JournalLX and TeamsLX are part of a social networking suite of software that is collectively known as Campus Pack:

  • ExpoLX -- a personal blog and wiki tool available to all UMBC Blackboard users. Tip: each can tool can be "shared" with your classes or communities on the Blackboard server OR even with non-UMBC account holders, who you can allow to view, comment or edit.

  • JournalLX -- a blogging tool for Bb courses and communities.

  • TeamsLX -- a wiki (collaborative web site) for Bb courses and communities. UMBC History Professor Anne Rubin is featured in a LearningObject.com case study.

  • PodcastLX--an upload tool for audio podcasts.

  • SearchLX--searches content across the entire Campus Pack tool suite.

    For brief (30 minute) online demo of the entire Campus Pack software suite, visit the LearningObjects.com "community site."

    Posted by fritz at 8:58 PM | TrackBack

    February 16, 2010

    Brown Bag: Developing and Assessing Quality Learning in Online and Hybrid Courses, RESCHEDULED for 3/10/10, 1-2 pm, Engineering 023

    Bring your lunch and join us as Katie Morris (Social Work) and Tim Hardy (Economics) share two examples of quality student learning in their online and hybrid courses. Both faculty members are past participants of the Alternate Delivery Program (ADP).

    Morris and Hardy joined Tyson King-Meadows (center) for a panel presentation during the Summer 2009 Hybrid Course Re-design workshop.

    Morris, who has served as an ADP peer reviewer, recently completed the Quality Matters Program online certification training. Using the QM principles and approach, she converted her hybrid SOWK 240 course into an online-only course for Winter 2010 and will share her students' feedback.

    One of six faculty to re-design an ADP Summer or Winter course for Fall 2009 hybrid delivery, Hardy will share his observations about quality student learning. Specifically, when comparing his students' scores on his department's common final exam, he found the hybrid students performed better than students in a traditional, face-to-face course.

    To register for this Brown Bag event, please visit http://www.umbc.edu/brownbag.

    Posted by darnold at 8:56 AM | TrackBack

    February 13, 2010

    24/7 Bb Support Update: January Stats & Known Issues

    Last month, UMBC began its first full semester with Presidium Learning as the provider of our new 24/7 Blackboard support service. As a result, 169 students and 83 faculty sought direct, start-of-semester help (266 total). In addition, the related Bb self-support portal recorded 755 visits, 167 knowledge base article accesses and a total of 1,766 page views. This does not include 195 Blackboard "Request Tracker" (RT) tickets resolved by DoIT staff directly. A more detailed summary of January's 24/7 Bb support is available here, and future monthly reports will be announced in this DoIT News blog each month during this one-year pilot that was announced last fall.

    While it's too soon to say what our 24/7 Bb support usage reports mean, or if and how Blackboard support may improve given staffing challenges reported last fall, a few specific issues emerged last month that need to be clarified or improved:

    1. UMBC course creation and auto enrollment issues cannot be solved by 24/7 Bb Support.

    As part of this pilot, UMBC elected not to give Presidium access to the Student Administration (SA) system, which is needed to troubleshoot course and enrollment mismatches between SA and Blackboard. A DoIT workgroup is meeting regularly to address the course and enrollment mismatch issues that emerged again this semester, with a focus on how to improve our current process before a planned upgrade to Blackboard version 9 in Fall 2010. While DoIT initially announced that Presidium would have to refer such "UMBC-specific uses of Blackboard back to the DoIT Help Desk," including course enrollment issues, some students and faculty sought support for these issues from Presidium, which could not solve them.

    For now, DoIT asks students and faculty to submit an RT ticket via myUMBC help or directly at http://rt.umbc.edu for any course creation or enrollment mismatches between SA and Blackboard. Please include the specific course name, and userIDs of students or instructors who are officially enrolled in or eligible to teach the course according to the SA system. We will also continue to ask Presidium to escalate these requests to DoIT on behalf of UMBC students and faculty who end up contacting Presidium first.

    bb_support_still.png
    Tips for getting & improving UMBC Bb help (4:02 min)

    2. Presidium should facilitate a "warm transfer" of issues they cannot solve or that are out of scope (e.g. UMBC Bb course creation and enrollment).

    By mutual agreement, this means the Presidium Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) should explain to the UMBC student, faculty or staff member that they will need to transfer his or her call to the DoIT Help Desk during our business hours, or create an escalated ticket in DoIT's RT system after hours. Unfortunately, this was not done consistently in the first two weeks of January, resulting in some students and faculty contacting 24/7 support only to be told they should hang up and call the DoIT Help Desk directly. This is understandably frustrating and not acceptable. DoIT worked with Presidium's account manager, and the UMBC-specific knowledgebase that guides Presidium CSRs now reflects this "warm transfer" procedure.

    3. UMBC's course copy process is actually Blackboard's export/import function.

    When UMBC first started using Blackboard in 2000, DoIT made a deliberate choice to disable a delivered function called course copy, which literally allows a faculty member to make a new, exact copy of an old course. The problem is that it also requires faculty to create a unique and permanent courseID that follows a consistent naming convention we knew we'd need for any kind of auto-enrollment process to work. Instead, like a number of other institutions, we disabled course copy, and opted to create empty course shells each semester (with the unique and consistent courseID embedded in the new shell for auto-enrollment to work). As we never imagined giving true "course copy" functionality to faculty in the future--and had no third party support entity like Presidium now--we continued to use the phrase "copying an old course to a new one" for what is actually the export/import function in Blackboard now. This simply became a matter where IT and the faculty we've supported for the last 10 years came to understand and thus redefine what "course copy" meant in using Blackboard at UMBC.

    Unfortunately, our understanding differed from Presidium's, which has clients who do allow faculty to use the "course copy" function, resulting in Presidium advising UMBC faculty to do something they can't. When we became aware that Presidium's "course copy" advice to UMBC faculty conflicted with our long-standing recommended export/import practice, we decided it would be easier to train Presidium CSRs than change a term and task UMBC faculty had been using for several years--especially right before the semester started. Unfortunately, some Presidium CSRs reverted to their common practice and terminology, which led to unsatisfactory support for some faculty. Again, we altered the UMBC-specific knowledge base that Presidium CSRs use in supporting our faculty, but it has come at the expense of some faculty understandably being upset with the advice they received from our 24/7 Bb support.

    Going forward, as part of our plans to upgrade to version 9 in Fall 2010, DoIT is exploring a change in our current processes to make course creation and enrollment less problematic for UMBC students and instructors, as well as DoIT and Presidium.

    Finally, I want to thank UMBC students and faculty for their patience as Presidium learns how we operate and vice versa. Eventually, this pilot may show us that 24/7 support is not needed or desirable, and that we should try to staff up if and when budget issues ease, to meet the support needs of ever growing Blackboard usage. However, like January's summary report, I have noticed a similar pattern in November and December that students used the 24/7 support twice as much as faculty. At a minimum, I'm hopeful this may mean we can reduce the default tech support role many faculty find themselves in their current Blackboard courses. In turn, this may free up DoIT staff to support more advanced pedagogical needs of faculty, if Presidium is handling basic Blackboard support needs.

    For now, I'd like to issue an open call to any UMBC faculty member to contact me or Karin Readel (readel@umbc.edu), Director of Instructional Technology, if Presidium is not "learning UMBC" or supporting faculty the way they should. In addition, if you open a ticket on the Bb support portal, please provide feedback when the ticket is resolved, if your support experience could have been improved. We can't help Presidium improve if we don't have specific details of how and when they've stumbled (e.g., date/time of the incident, name of course, name of CSR). To date, DoIT has received 12 such reports from faculty since we started using Presidium in November. Presidium has also expressed appreciation for feedback on what they can do better, and I have appreciated them providing access to the monthly reports I'm sharing in this and future updates about our 24/7 Bb support.

    Together, I still believe we can partner with Presidium to provide quality 24/7 Blackboard support to UMBC students and faculty. If you have questions, concerns or would like to discuss this further, please post a comment to this entry or contact me directly.

    Sincerely,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    UMBC Division of Information Technology
    410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu

    Posted by fritz at 11:09 PM | TrackBack

    January 27, 2010

    Spring 2010 Blackboard Auto Enrollment Issues (RESOLVED)

    1/29/10 UDPATE: SP2010 Bb Courses Now Being Enrolled at 8 a.m./p.m. and 2 a.m./p.m.


    The auto enrollment script that takes students who are officially enrolled in SA and places them into the corresponding Blackboard course shell stopped working on Thursday, Jan. 21. It was restarted as of 11 a.m. today.

    DoIT is currently working to increase the frequency of auto enrollment, especially during the 10-day add/drop period. For now, however, auto enrollment occurs nightly at 2 a.m. and takes about 45 minutes to complete. In the meantime, the workaround for faculty members is as follows:

    • check official enrollments in SA
    • if student is missing in Blackboard course, instructor may manually enroll student (NOTE: If student is not officially enrolled in SA, do not put them in Blackboard)
    • check Blackboard the following day to verify roster
    • if student is no longer enrolled, submit a help desk ticket
    If and when we are able to increase the frequency of daily auto enrollment, we will notify the campus on the DoIT News blog and inside Blackboard.

    Posted by readel at 11:20 AM | TrackBack

    Blackboard & Web Browser Known Issues for Start of Spring 2010 Semester

    We are running a fixed version of Blackboard (8.0) and the web browsers used by most faculty, staff and students are not fixed; this has resulted in a significant amount of support calls dealing with incompatibility issues within Blackboard.

    Examples of these known issues include:

    • invalid file type errors when creating or submitting documents/assignments
    • inability to post to discussion boards
    • in quizzes, the submit button is blocked by the timer

    DoIT plans to upgrade to the newest version of Blackboard, version 9.0, for the fall semester of 2010. At that time, we anticipate that most, if not all, of these incapability issues will be resolved. In the meantime, the workaround is to use a supported browser. Please refer to the “Blackboard Supported Web Browsers” list located on the “myBlackboard” tab within Blackboard or at http://kb.blackboard.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=25368489.

    Posted by darnold at 10:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 26, 2010

    DoIT Extends Informal 60 minute Technology "Drop-In" Sessions

    Now that the semester is well under way, DoIT wants to continue helping faculty during this busy time by extending drop in sessions for Blackboard and Wimba. AV Services will continue to offer sessions upon request.

    SP2010 DoIT Drop In Schedule
    DateBlackboardWimba
    2/1 ECS 025 (12 pm) *IMC (2 pm)
    2/2 ECS 025 (11 am)IMC (3 pm)
    2/3 IMC (10 am)
    2/4 ECS 025 (10 am)IMC (1 pm)
    2/5 ECS025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    2/8ECS 025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    2/9IMC (10 am)
    2/10ECS 025 (12 pm)IMC (3 pm)
    2/11ECS 025 (2 pm)IMC (1:30 pm)
    2/12ECS 025 (12 pm)
    *IMC - International Media Center, Academic IV B Wing, Room 219

    BLACKBOARD DROP-INS | Support Site

    DoIT will be hosting drop in sessions for Blackboard so that faculty can have their questions answered and work with someone to resolve any issues.

    WIMBA DROP-INS | Support Site

    Wimba Classroom is a real-time, virtual classroom environment designed for distance education, hybrid classes and collaboration and supports audio, video, application sharing, and archiving. Faculty can conduct class, hold office hours or set up group work spaces. Voice Tools include:

    • Voice Board - a recorder tool
    • Voice Direct - an aural chat
    • Voice Presentation - describe slides
    • Podcaster

    AUDIO VISUAL SERVICES | Support Site

    As always, AV Services will schedule individual tutorials on an as needed/by
    appointment basis. Please call X52461 to make arrangements.

    Posted by darnold at 1:16 PM | TrackBack

    January 16, 2010

    UMBC Blackboard Usage Sets All Time Record in FA2009

    Based on UMBC's most recent Blackboard Report for Fall 2009, students and faculty used the course management system (CMS) in more classes than ever before. Specifically, 1,430 courses used Blackboard in Fall 2009, compared to 1,014 a year ago (a 30 percent increase). In addition, 215 courses included one or more sections, which means at least 1,645 sections (or 65 percent of the university's approximately 2,500 sections) used Blackboard.

    While it's hard to pinpoint specific reasons for the increase, the preparation for academic continuity in case of an H1N1 outbreak may have been a factor.

    UMBC_bb_gdr.png
    UMBC Blackboard activity by grade distribution, 2007-2009. Detail table
    In addition, 29 faculty participated in the voluntary request to post final grades in Blackboard, the most ever since 2007 when DoIT began studying how students use the CMS by grade distribution. To date, students earning a final grade of D or F in 110 courses have used Blackboard 39 percent less than students earning a C or higher (the average was 37 percent less in Fall 2009).

    We know hits alone are no measure of quality teaching or learning. Also, the sample needs to be expanded and the demographics of students needs to be studied further. But does the pattern hold true throughout the semester? If so, how might students’ self-awareness, motivation and performance change if they could know how their CMS usage activity compares to more successful peers, earlier in the semester? If not, how and when does the pattern break down? And is it significant enough to dilute student awareness and motivation to seek or accept help from an instructor or the Learning Resources Center (LRC)?

    While we can not yet fully answer these questions, DoIT continues to explore ways to provide this information to students sooner. And they are finding it. During the three-month period from September 1 to December 1, our custom Check My Activity (CMA) tool recorded more than 15,000 visits and 52,000 page views (see Google Analytics report). The CMA lets student compare their own activity against an anonymous summary of their peers, based on average hits per user. This is also how UMBC's most active Blackboard courses are determined.

    In addition, if faculty post a grade for any assignment in the Blackboard grade book, students can view an anonymous summary of the Bb activity by students who earned the same, lower or higher grade as their own grade. Nearly half of the FA2009 Bb courses (658) contained active grade books with at least one recorded grade, and past surveys of specific UMBC classes have shown more than 50 percent of students would be inclined to use the CMA for past assignments before future assignments are due--if they have grades to check. This confirms a national study by the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) that shows students value checking their grade more than any other function in an online CMS like Blackboard.
    Check My Activity
    While we would like to better understand how and why students are using the CMA, and what it tells them, DoIT has made the CMA easier for students to find by creating a custom "building block" that links directly to it from within any UMBC Blackboard course (tools-->"My Activity").

    For more information, visit the UMBC Blackboard Reports project blog at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Posted by fritz at 6:23 PM | TrackBack

    January 8, 2010

    Blackboard & Web Browser Known Issues for Start of Spring 2010 Semester

    We are running a fixed version of Blackboard (8.0) and the web browsers used by most faculty, staff and students are not fixed; this has resulted in a significant amount of support calls dealing with incompatibility issues within Blackboard.

    Examples of these known issues include:

    • Invalid file type errors when creating or submitting documents/assignments
    • Inability to post to discussion boards
    • In quizzes, the submit button is blocked by the timer

    DoIT plans to upgrade to the newest version of Blackboard, version 9.0, for the fall semester of 2010. At that time, we anticipate that most, if not all, of these incapability issues will be resolved. In the meantime, the workaround is to use a supported browser. Please refer to the “Blackboard Supported Web Browsers” list located on the “myBlackboard” tab within Blackboard or at http://kb.blackboard.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=25368489.

    Posted by darnold at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

    December 19, 2009

    Faculty Request: Participate in Final Grade Distribution Report by Bb Actvity

    As announced last spring, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), would like to encourage faculty to post their FA2009 final grades in the Blackboard grade book using “GRADE” as the column heading (please omit quotes and make the column heading ALL CAPS). This is totally voluntary and does not constitute official submission of final grades, which is due Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

    Posted by fritz at 12:06 AM | TrackBack

    December 4, 2009

    UMBC Blackboard Update: WT2010

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. IIf you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help, or contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ECS Room 020 or submit a help request via the new 24/7 Blackboard Support portal at http://bbsupport.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. WT2010 & SP2010 Bb Course Shells Created 12/1, WT2010 Shells Auto Enrolled

    2. Karin Readel Named Director of Instructional Technology

    3. DoIT Offers Informal 60 minute Technology "Drop-In" Sessions

    4. OSWP & DoIT Offer 1/15/10 Hybrid Course Re-design Workshop

    5. Using the Blackboard “Subscribe” feature in Discussion Boards to Engage Students

    6. Student "Check My Activity" Tool Now Available in Bb Courses

    7. Reminder: Changes in Requesting AV Support, SP2010 Reservations Now Being Accepted

    8. Reminder: Instructional Continuity Plans in Case of H1N1 Closure

    9. Reminder: 24/7 Blackboard Support Now Available

    10. FYI: Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/13-15

    Posted by fritz at 11:29 AM | TrackBack

    WT2010 & SP2010 Bb Course Shells Created 12/1, WT2010 Shells Auto Enrolled

    As is our practice normally, Winter and Spring 2010 Blackboard course shells have been created for all courses listed in UMBC's official Schedule of Classes (SOC) on 12/1/09. However, auto-enrollment of students for Spring 2010 Bb course shells will not begin until 12/15/09 (auto-enrollment IS working for Winter 2010 Bb course shells now).

    By default, a Bb course shell is unavailable (to students) until the instructor of record makes it "available."

    INSTRUCTORS: If your course was not listed in the SOC on 12/1/09 OR a cross-list with another course was not officially indicated in the SOC, please submit a Bb Course Creation Request.

    In addition, if you or your department intended one Blackboard course to be "cross-listed" or "associated" with another course, this needs to appear in UMBC's official Schedule of Classes for Blackboard to automatically do so. Please contact the Registrar’s Office to make official cross-lists, so that all students will be properly enrolled in the correct Blackboard course shell.

    STUDENTS: You MUST be officially enrolled in a UMBC course via myUMBC to be "auto-enrolled" in a Bb course "shell." You will see them when they have been made "Available" to students by the instructor.

    If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help, or contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ECS Room 020 or submit a help request via the new 24/7 Blackboard Support portal at http://bbsupport.umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

    DoIT Offers Informal 60 minute Technology "Drop-In" Sessions

    With the start of the semester right around the corner, DoIT wants to help faculty prepare for this busy time by conducting drop in sessions for Blackboard and Wimba. AV Services will continue to offer sessions upon request.

    SP2010 DoIT Drop In Schedule
    DateBlackboardWimba
    1/19 *IMC (10 am)
    1/20 ECS025 (10 am)IMC (11 am)
    1/21ECS 025 (1 pm) IMC (12 pm)
    1/22 ECS 025 (11 am)IMC (1 pm)
    1/25 ECS025 (2 pm)IMC (1 pm)
    1/26IMC (11 am)
    1/27ECS025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    1/28ECS025 (10 am)IMC (2:30 pm)
    1/29ECS025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    *IMC - International Media Center, Academic IV B Wing, Room 219

    BLACKBOARD DROP-INS | Support Site

    DoIT will be hosting drop in sessions for Blackboard so that faculty can have their questions answered and work with someone to resolve any issues.

    WIMBA DROP-INS | Support Site

    Wimba Classroom is a real-time, virtual classroom environment designed for distance education, hybrid classes and collaboration and supports audio, video, application sharing, and archiving. Faculty can conduct class, hold office hours or set up group work spaces. Voice Tools include:

    • Voice Board - a recorder tool
    • Voice Direct - an aural chat
    • Voice Presentation - describe slides
    • Podcaster

    AUDIO VISUAL SERVICES | Support Site

    As always, AV Services will schedule individual tutorials on an as needed/by
    appointment basis. Please call X52461 to make arrangements.

    Posted by darnold at 11:09 AM | TrackBack

    Using the Blackboard “Subscribe” feature in Discussion Boards to Engage Students

    The discussion boards within Blackboard have a feature that allows students to subscribe to a forum or thread. By enabling this feature, students can choose to receive a link to the discussion forum/thread post or the body of the new post in their email. When you create a new discussion forum or thread, students receive email notices alerting them to that fact and no longer have to go to their Blackboard course site to see if anything new has been posted to a discussion forum.

    To enable the subscribe feature in a forum or thread, here’s all you need to do:

    1. Go to Control Panel > Discussion Board. Click your course discussion board (the same name as your course) to open it.
    2. Click the +Forum button at the top left of the window to create a new discussion forum.
    3. Name the discussion forum and decide how you want it to look and behave for your students. One of the choices is “Subscribe.”

    By default, Blackboard has the “Do not allow subscriptions” radio box selected. However, you can choose between the following:

    1. Allow members to subscribe to threads
    2. Allow members to subscribe to forum (with the additional options of (a) include body of post in the email or (b) include link to post.

    subscribe.png

    If you select “Allow members to subscribe to threads,” then any threads in that post will have a button at the top right of the discussion thread view labeled “Subscribe.” When the student clicks this button, they are automatically subscribed to that thread, with any new posts being sent to their email.

    subscribe2.png

    If you select the second choice, “Allow members to subscribe to forum,” that forum will have the “Subscribe” button for the student to select and all new postings to that forum would either be (a) posted in its entirety to the students’ email or (b) posted as a link (less text in the student’s email message, since it would just be a link to the discussion forum.)

    Either way, students CANNOT respond to discussion forums or threads through their email. They MUST go to the Blackboard course site and post there. The subscription feature simply alerts students to new postings without having to go to each Blackboard site. It’s a great way to keep students engaged with their courses and is a valuable feature to a discussion board.

    "Show & Tell" videos

  • For Bb instructors: How to Enable the Subscribe Feature in a Discussion Board
  • For Bb students: A Student’s View of the Subscribe Feature in a Discussion Board

    Posted by darnold at 11:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Student "Check My Activity" Tool Now Available in Bb Courses

    myactivity.png
    Show & Tell Video
    Students can now check their Blackboard activity from within all Blackboard courses and compare it against an anonymous summary of course peers. Also, if instructors post grades in the Bb grade book, students can compare their own Bb activity against an anonymous summary showing the activity of students who earned the same, higher or lower grade. For more information, visit www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Posted by fritz at 11:04 AM | TrackBack

    November 17, 2009

    Bb Maintenance to Fix Email Announcements: 11/20, 10 p.m. to 11/21, 1 a.m.

    To address a recent issue with Blackboard announcements not being automatically sent by email when an instructor or manager selects that option, UMBC's Blackboard system will be down from 10 p.m., Friday, November 20, to 1 a.m., Saturday, November 21.

    Reminder: Why Blackboard needs scheduled maintenance.

    Posted by fritz at 4:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 4, 2009

    Bb Will Be Down 11/6, 10 p.m. to 11/7, 6 a.m.

    To address issues with web browser compatibility and back up the system before applying latest patches and hot fixes, DoIT will be taking the main Blackboard system down from 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, to 6 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7.

    Reminder: More info about why DoIT needs scheduled downtime.

    Posted by fritz at 7:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    24/7 Blackboard Support Starts Wed, Nov. 11

    As indicated in the August 24 "Challenges and Changes to Blackboard Support" announcement, UMBC's Division of Information Technology (DoIT) will begin working with Presidium Learning to provide basic Blackboard support starting Wednesday, Nov. 11. The DoIT Help Desk and Instructional Technology staff will still provide walk-in and by-appointment Bb support, but all students, faculty and staff will be able to get 24/7 Blackboard support via phone, IM chat or online knowledge base. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, Presidium specializes in answering technical support questions for faculty, staff, and students at more than 700 educational institutions, and provides a 95 percent first call resolution rate.

    UMBC Blackboard Support Portal (sample)
    The partnership with Presidium is a one-year pilot to determine if and how external support can improve use of Blackboard, as well as free up DoIT staff for more advanced issues and opportunities, including refinement of Blackboard course creation and enrollment integration with the new Student Administration (SA) system, trend analysis of our most frequent user support demands, and assessment to help identify and promote effective uses of Blackboard.

    For the Nov. 11 implementation, students, faculty and staff can do the following to get Blackboard help:

    1. Access the online knowledge base at http://bbsupport.umbc.edu (will be active on 11/11).
    2. Ask a question via live Instant Messenger (IM) Chat
    3. Call the existing DoIT Help Desk phone number of 410.455.3838

    Note: A short, brief phone tree will be implemented so as to route all other IT-related calls to the DoIT Help Desk, while still allowing Presidium to handle Blackboard-related calls. In addition, UMBC users will have to create a separate account and password the first time they submit a help request ticket. This may change in the future to use the UMBC userid & password, but is not available at this time.

    Initially, Presidium will be responsible for the following:


    • All Blackboard-related application questions or issues, including how to get started, add content, manage discussion, create electronic assignments, quizzes and surveys and use the new grade center.
    • Refer all UMBC-specific uses of Blackboard back to the DoIT Help Desk. These include all account management and password resets as well as integration with SA to auto-create and enroll courses.
    • Provide a monthly report to DoIT showing all Bb-related support requests or knowledge base accesses, identify trend and root-cause analyses, and help benchmark UMBC usage against similar institutions using Blackboard.

    "As we go forward in this pilot, it is important to note we are augmenting not outsourcing Blackboard service," says John Fritz, Asst. VP for Instructional Technology & New Media. "By supporting one part of the overall structure with a partner who has a wealth of experience in higher education technical support, we hope to provide a higher level of service for UMBC students, faculty and staff."

    Posted by fritz at 2:32 PM | TrackBack

    October 9, 2009

    UMBC "Check My Activity" Reports for Students Now Available Inside Blackboard

    bb_reports_tool_link.pngBased on user response to a system-wide announcement in all UMBC Blackboard courses this past week, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has made a permanent link to the self-service "Check My Activity" (CMA) reporting tools for students on the myBlackboard tools menu.

    Specifically, all students now have an easy way to find the "Check My Activity" (CMA) and "Grade Distribution Report" (GDR) tools for comparing their own activity against an anonymous summary of their course peers. Using this same myBlackboard tools menu link, faculty and staff have access to similar reports, though staff are unlikely to have need for the GDR tool, which is only valuable if a grade has been entered in a Bb grade book.

    As reported previously by DoIT and The Retriever Weekly, students have had access to their own CMA and GDR tools since Spring of 2009. However, adoption has been slow, probably because the tools don't reside inside Blackboard. So, a link to both reports was posted on Friday, October 2, at 5 p.m. and expired a week later at the same time on Friday, October 9.

    CMA & GDR Demo
    CMA & GDR Demo
    The Results?
    • In just one week, CMA & GDR usage activity increased more than 1,000 percent to 6,051 visits compared to 391 visits the entire previous month (Sept. 1 to Oct. 1).

    • The total number of page views increased to 20,008 from 537 the previous month. Average page views per visit also increased to 3.31 compared to 1.37.

    • The average time spent on the CMA & GDR reports jumped to 1 minute, 18 seconds, compared to just 13 seconds the previous month.

    • Also, returning visitors accounted for 83 percent of all page views, and they spent more time on the site (1 min, 26 secs) compared to new visitors (58 secs). This means the the CMA & GDR tools constitute a "sticky site," in that once visitors discover it, they come back again and again.

    • Is is worth noting that the Grade Distribution Report (GDR) was by far the most popular tool, accounting for 73 percent of all visits to the UMBC Blackboard Reports site that contains all "self service" tools and list of Most Active Courses for each semester over the last two years.

    While user activity steadily declined as the week progressed, it may be because there were fewer new grades to compare user activity against. This strong interest in grades and related Blackboard activity confirms key findings of a national study showing students value the ability to check grades and gain access to practice quizzes and sample exercises as the most valuable functions in a course management system (CMS) like Blackboard.

    A full report showing the CMA & GDR usage activity from September 1 to October 9 is available here.

    Posted by fritz at 10:19 PM | TrackBack

    August 25, 2009

    UMBC Blackboard Update: FA2009

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, please visit the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help/

    HEADLINES

    1. Challenges and Changes to UMBC Blackboard Support

    2. Instructional Continuity Plans in Case of an H1N1 Closure

    3. DoIT Provides Instructional Technology Drop In Sessions

    4. FA2009 Bb Course Shells Created 7/30, Use Request Form if Yours Wasn’t

    5. Blackboard Login “Looping” Problem is Resolved

    6. Changes in Requesting AV Support or Service

    7. FYI: Blackboard Synch for iPhone Now Installed

    8. FYI: Bb Courses Older Than FA2003 Will Be Deleted 8/27

    Posted by fritz at 4:11 PM | TrackBack

    FYI: Bb Courses Older than FA2003 Will Be Deleted 8/27

    As announced at the end of the Spring 2009 semester, all Blackboard courses older than Fall 2003 (six years from this fall) will be deleted.

    The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has scheduled this removal for Thursday, August 27, 2009, at 7 p.m. No downtime will be required.

    Posted by fritz at 1:27 PM | TrackBack

    August 24, 2009

    Challenges and Changes to UMBC Blackboard Support

    This summer, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), has begun to face more than our typical “back to school” challenges in providing Blackboard support to UMBC students, faculty and staff. Specifically, we have lost an employee who provided fulltime support for nine years; the campus has implemented a new student information system that provides the data for our auto course creation and enrollment scripts; and we are preparing for a possible disruption of classes due to the H1N1 flu this coming year.

    In addressing these challenges, DoIT asks for your understanding as we make some necessary changes to sustain (and hopefully improve) how we provide Blackboard support to the campus.

    For example:

    1. We will continue to rely on the full time DoIT Help Desk staff to provide tier 1, basic Blackboard support, including all queries about Bb course creation and enrollment issues.

    myumbc_help_still.png
    A year ago, Help Desk staff members Jim Keys and Barb Myers agreed to an experiment: working with Instructional Technology to learn the inner workings of Blackboard and provide tier 1 basic support, so our full time instructional designer, Bob Armstrong, could focus on more advanced or time-consuming issues and opportunities, including one-on-one support to faculty participants in the Summer & Winter Alternate Delivery Program. By all accounts, the experiment “worked” and Jim and Barb are seasoned Blackboard support veterans now.

    In addition, Jim and Barb have helped us transition Blackboard support to DoIT’s new call tracking system, Request Tracker, or RT for short. As such, to coordinate (and document) demand for Bb support, it would be very helpful to DoIT if ALL Bb help requests are submitted using the RT request form, which is available in the myUMBC help menu or directly at http://my.umbc.edu/help/request. Alternately, you can call the help desk at 410.455.3838 or drop in by visiting Engineering Room 020.

    myumbc_help_still.png
    Debra Arnold

    I also want to thank Debra Arnold, who is stepping up to provide day-to-day, tier 2 application support for Blackboard now that Bob Armstrong has joined the Johns Hopkins School of Engineering to support their distance education program. Deb has provided outstanding IT support and training to UMBC staff for many years, and has orbited the Bb support periphery before, by helping to support Blackboard communities and using Bb to support PeopleSoft finance and HR training. She also recently completed all requirements for her Master’s in Instructional Design at UMBC this summer.

    Currently, Blackboard is used in about 50 percent of all 2,500 UMBC course sections each semester. This includes 65 percent of all 1,000 faculty and 95 percent of all 12,000 students. DoIT has a little more than two (2) FTE support staff dedicated to Blackboard user support. Admittedly, informal benchmarking with other schools has shown an average of .25 FTE for every 1,000 students supported, so we’re sized just shy of where we should be for current usage. But with the new SA challenges, possible H1N1 closures or high absenteeism, and recent staffing changes, user patience and cooperation will be appreciated this semester, and will be important in sustaining efficient and effective Blackboard support.

    2. We encourage faculty within departments to continue helping each other.

    Long before our current challenges, we have always relied upon and tried to facilitate faculty learning from each other. This is one reason why we publish the most active Blackboard courses by discipline, as well as the past participants in the Summer & Winter Alternate Delivery Program.

    True story: I once interviewed a faculty member about student reports of her good Blackboard use (in front of colleague from her department). When we finished the interview, her colleague said: “I had no idea what you were doing. Can we have lunch?” I just smiled and realized half of my job is connecting faculty who can and want to learn from each other. Hopefully, our lists of experienced Blackboard practitioners can do the same.

    Of course, if faculty providing or requesting collegial help get stuck, please consult UMBC's Blackboard Help or submit a myUMBC help request to DoIT and we’ll do our best to solve problems, provide effective workarounds or escalate the problem to Blackboard directly.

    3. We will begin another experiment this year by outsourcing our Blackboard support to Presidium Learning, Inc., which provides 24/7 support, and a 95 percent first-call resolution rate.

    Details are still being ironed out and will be communicated more fully, but working in concert with the DoIT help desk which will provide walk in support, all UMBC students, faculty and staff will soon be able to get 24/7 Blackboard support via phone, IM chat or an online knowledgebase. In addition, DoIT staff will be freed up for more advanced issues and opportunities, including trend and root cause analysis of our most frequent user support demands, and how these benchmark with other institutions running Blackboard installations of our size and composition.

    Perhaps most importantly, if the university is closed or challenged by absenteeism for an extended period due to the H1N1 flu, Blackboard support can continue with off-site support, in case DoIT staff also get sick and can’t provide it. That said, DoIT staff will continue to provide on-site consults, preferably for small groups or cohorts from the same department, but we ask the campus community to first try to use Presidium support.

    Finally, we hope the addition of Presidium will provide a much needed support structure for students, who have often had to rely on faculty for informal technical support, since there just aren’t enough DoIT support staff to meet everyone’s needs. In particular, we think the 24/7 access will be a welcome addition to students when they’re working late at night and having technical problems.

    It is important to note that the agreement with Presidium is a one-year pilot only. A growing number of colleges and universities are considering or implementing outsourced support, but we want to learn the pros and cons of UMBC doing so. In addition to helping with a staffing crunch and possibly increased support due to H1N1 this year, we think it is worth conducting the pilot now as part of DoIT’s overall plan to improve end-user support.

    If you have questions or suggestions about UMBC’s Blackboard support strategies, please contact me at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596.

    Thanks,

    John Fritz
    Asst. VP, Instructional Technology & New Media
    Div. of Information Technology

    Posted by fritz at 4:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 23, 2009

    Blackboard Login "Looping" Resolved

    It's taken a while, but the occasional redirect "looping" problem that occurred when logging into Blackboard has been resolved. If you find otherwise, please report your experience via a myUMBC help request to the Division of Information Technology (DoIT)--preferably with precise steps and a screen shot to document the problem.

    Always difficult to diagnose because it could not consistently be repeated--and never in any other application besides Blackboard--the "looping" problem was most likely solved when DoIT changed authentication systems for logging into Blackboard this summer. Specifically, UMBC's custom authentication script WebAuth, which made UMBC one of the first school's to provide users with a "single sign-on" experience, was replaced by Shibboleth, an open-source, standards-based authentication system that allows universities, businesses and government agencies to collaborate online.

    Campus users may wonder why DoIT didn't make this authentication switch sooner? But while it was annoying, the looping problem wasn't frequent, and as we reported earlier, the simple workaround was to quit the browser and start over. In addition, the problem ONLY occurred in Blackboard, and we didn't want to affect other applications like webmail and myUMBC by switching to something we didn't fully understand.

    For now, if you experience the redirect "looping" problem, please report it to DoIT. And if possible, try to describe or even capture the steps in a screencast or screencapture so we can diagnose it better.

    Posted by fritz at 11:46 PM | TrackBack

    August 20, 2009

    FYI: Blackboard Synch for iPhone Now Installed

    The Blackboard Synch for iPhone has been tested and installed on UMBC's Blackboard production system. Used primarily to stay current on recent announcements, document uploads and discussion postings, instructions for downloading and installing the iPhone app are available on the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) Knowledge Base.

    Posted by fritz at 5:27 PM | TrackBack

    August 17, 2009

    Tips for Instructional Continuity in Case of An H1N1 Outbreak

    Inclement Weather Update: February 8, 2010

    Given the current campus closures due to inclement weather, students and faculty may want to try the H1N1 academic continuity suggestions below.

    Of Special Note: if you want to talk, text chat or share presentations online at the same time (synchronously) or at different times (asynchronously), consider using the Wimba web-based audio & video conference tools built into every Blackboard course. | More Info.


    Earlier this summer, Provost Elliot Hirshman, in consultation with the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), sent an advisory to all faculty about why and how they might want to consider teaching online in the event of an extended closure of campus due to an H1N1 "Swine Flu" outbreak. The full text of the advisory follows:

    Context

    In response to the World Health Organization’s recent declaration of an H1N1 level 6 flu pandemic, the University needs to move rapidly to facilitate instructional continuity in the event of a campus closure. Instructional continuity is absolutely essential to ensure the academic progress of our students and the financial stability of the University should the campus be forced to close due to pandemic flu.

    The steps proposed here are designed to address the circumstance in which campus is closed, but the information technology infrastructure of the campus remains intact. In this circumstance, remote instruction/distance learning will be necessary to continue courses.

    The University recognizes that faculty members may wish to use different approaches to remote instruction and respects the rights of faculty members to pursue any of a range of available approaches. The University also recognizes that some courses (e.g., courses requiring access to specialized equipment or materials) may be difficult to continue remotely. The goal is to continue as many courses as possible to maintain academic progress and financial stability.

    Specific Procedures

    Some faculty members may teach courses that permit remote instruction, but they may not be familiar with the technology necessary to carry out this instruction. The following steps are designed to assist these faculty members prepare for remote instruction in the most convenient manner possible.

    Step 1: If they are not already, all faculty members who are teaching courses in the fall semester should become familiar with the basic functioning of Blackboard. To access tutorial instructions, visit http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help or log in to Blackboard via myUMBC (or directly at http://blackboard.umbc.edu) and review the “Blackboard Help” tab at the top of the screen. Faculty may want to visit the “Getting Started” link first.

    All Blackboard courses have a student manual (under “tools”) and an instructor manual (under “control panel”), but Faculty members should be able to carry out three basic functions:

    1. Turn their UMBC Blackboard course on. |
    2. Post documents (e.g., a syllabus) on blackboard. |
    3. Send an E-mail to all class members. |

    Step 2: Faculty members should consider the lecture, document or presentation posting and discussion requirements of their fall courses. The material below indicates how to use Blackboard to accomplish these tasks remotely. Faculty members should conduct a trial or practice usage of the referenced capacities to ensure that they can post materials remotely and students can access these materials, if necessary.

    For Audio Lectures:


    For Discussions (text-based):

    • For asynchronous (not at the same time, not at the same place) text-based communication, use the Blackboard Discussion Board capacity.

    • For synchronous (same time, but not at the same place) text-based communication (often known as “chat”), use Blackboard’s built in “Virtual Classroom” capacity (under the “Communications” course menu).

    Document and Presentation Posting


    • Use Blackboard’s document upload capacity referenced above.

    Additional Guidance from DoIT


    • For faculty members who have mastered the above-referenced approaches, OIT STRONGLY RECOMMENDS using “Wimba Classroom” for synchronous text-based chat. In addition to being more stable and full-featured than Bb’s built in “virtual classroom,” Wimba can also allow you and your students to use voice-based email, discussions and real-time synchronous chat. It takes a little time to learn the effective protocols for conducting synchronous text or voice-based discussions or chats without everyone talking at once, but with practice, it can be done.

    • For more information on using Wimba, visit the UMBC Wimba guides and tutorials on the UMBC Blackboard Help tab, or Wimba’s own support site at http://www.wimba.com/services/support.

    • Through the hybrid learning website, you can learn many other “effective practices” for managing and assessing online discussions or chats: visit http://www.umbc.edu/oit/hybrid/practice.

    Resources Available to Support Faculty

    In addition to the on-line tutorials referenced above, there are two forms of assistance available to faculty members.


    1. Peer assistance from faculty and staff colleagues is available. Deans will be working with Department Chairs and other members of the Council of Deans to identify peers who are available to consult with faculty members as they become more familiar with the referenced instructional technologies. Examples include the following:

    2. DoIT staff are available for additional consultation

      • John Fritz, Asst VP, Instructional Technology & New Media (410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu)
      • Debra Arnold, IT Training Support Specialst (410.455.3234 or darnold@umbc.edu)
      • Jim Keys, Help Desk Consultant (410.455.3127 or keysj@umbc.edu)
      • Joan Costello, Classroom Technology/Wimba (410.455.3685 or jcoste1@umbc.edu)

    Posted by fritz at 4:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 14, 2009

    FA2009 Bb Course Shells Created 7/30, Use Request Form if Yours Wasn't

    As is our practice normally, Fall 2009 Bb shells have been created for all courses listed in UMBC's official Schedule of Classes (SOC) on 7/30/09. By default, a Bb course shell is unavailable (to students) until the instructor of record makes it "available."

    INSTRUCTORS: If your course was not listed in the SOC on 7/30/09 OR a cross-list with another course was not officially indicated in the SOC, please submit a Bb Course Creation Request.

    In addition, if you or your department intended one Blackboard course to be "cross-listed" or "associated" with another course, this needs to appear in UMBC's official Schedule of Classes for Blackboard to automatically do so. Please contact the registrar’s office to make official cross-lists, so that all students will be properly enrolled in the correct Blackboard course shell.

    STUDENTS: You MUST be officially enrolled in a UMBC course via myUMBC to be "auto-enrolled" in a Bb course "shell." You will see them when they have been made "Available" to students by the instructor.

    If you have questions or need help, please consult the Blackboard Help tab inside Blackboard or directly at www.umbc.edu/blackboard/help, or contact the DoIT Help Desk at 410.455.3838, ECS Room 020 or submit a help request via myUMBC or directly at http://my.umbc.edu/help/request

    Posted by fritz at 4:13 PM | TrackBack

    DoIT Offers Informal 60 minute Technology "Drop-In" Sessions

    With the start of the semester right around the corner, DoIT wants to help faculty prepare for this busy time by conducting drop in sessions for AV services, Blackboard and Wimba.

    FA2009 DoIT Drop In Schedule
    Date AV BlackboardWimba
    8/24 LH1 (11 am)
    LH2 (1 pm)
    ECS025 (10 am) *IMC (11 am)
    8/25 LH3 (11 am)
    LH4 (1 pm)
    ECS025 (1 pm) 
    8/26LH 7 (11 am)
    Note: LH8 is identical to LH7
    ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
    IMC (11 am)
    8/27LH 5 (12 pm - this is a change)
     
    ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
     
    8/31LH 9 (11 am)ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
     
    9/1 ECS025 (10 am)
    ECS025 (1 pm)
     
    9/2ACIV 204 (12 pm)ECS025 (12 pm)IMC (12 pm)
    9/3 ECS025 (1 pm) 
    9/4ACIV 204 (12 pm) IMC (12 pm)
    9/9ACIV 204 (12 pm)  
    9/11ACIV 204 (12 pm)  
    *IMC - International Media Center, Academic IV B Wing, Room 219

    AUDIO VISUAL SERVICES DROP-INS | Support Site

    AV Services will be hosting informal drop-in tutorials for UMBC faculty
    and staff on the use of the AV equipment housed in lecture halls. Topics to be covered include:

    • using your laptop to provide video and audio to the projector
    • playing content through the projector with the VCR and DVD players
    • using the local computer for content
    • where applicable, using the document camera for content instead of a whiteboard
    • lighting and sound options

    AV Services will also hold open drop-in tutorials for faculty and
    staff on equipment usage in classrooms and lecture halls during free hour (12-1 pm).

    As always, AV Services will schedule individual tutorials on an as needed/by
    appointment basis. Please call X52461 to make arrangements.

    BLACKBOARD DROP-INS | Support Site

    DoIT will be hosting drop in sessions for Blackboard so that faculty can have their questions answered and work with someone to resolve any issues.

    WIMBA DROP-INS | Support Site

    Wimba Classroom is a real-time, virtual classroom environment designed for distance education, hybrid classes and collaboration and supports audio, video, application sharing, and archiving. Faculty can conduct class, hold office hours or set up group work spaces. Voice Tools include:

    • Voice Board - a recorder tool
    • Voice Direct - an aural chat
    • Voice Presentation - describe slides
    • Podcaster

    Posted by darnold at 1:15 PM | TrackBack

    July 23, 2009

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance on 7/24

    Blackboard will be down for scheduled maintenance on Friday, July 24th from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. At this time, we will be installing Blackboard Sync on the production application servers to allow for the iPhone app to work.

    We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

    Posted by darnold at 12:39 PM | TrackBack

    May 14, 2009

    Use Wimba Classroom for Great Communication

    In this age of sustainability and fear of contagion, there is a tool in Blackboard that can help with both of these issues – Wimba Classroom. Wimba Classroom is an online delivery tool – great for hybrid classes and distance education, but general classes and meetings should embrace it also. It could save travel time and expenses for meetings and guest lecturers (non-UMBC people can be invited to participate). Maybe all classes should be prepared to meet this way - no losing important lecture/class time with school closings due to weather/health , etc.

    Participants need internet access and a headphone with a microphone. The presentation can be archived for review or later access if there is a problem with their connection. With Wimba Classroom you can present a power point presentation, share whiteboards, applications, desktops, websites and host guest lecturers. Many classes require group presentations –use WC to set up group space for your students to meet, discuss, plan their work.

    Please check out tutorial presentations, documentation, etc from the Wimba site - http://wimba.com/services. On campus, our Wimba info person is Joan Costello in AC IV 219, x53685, jcostello@umbc.edu. She will be happy to meet one on one, or a group to help you get started.

    Posted by rarmstro at 12:16 PM | TrackBack

    May 8, 2009

    Summer 2009 Blackboard Update

    UMBC Blackboard Update is provided by the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For support requests, create a ticket at http://my.umbc.edu/help/request. For more information about using Blackboard, visit the "Blackboard Help" tab before or after you login through myUMBC or directly at http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Faculty Senate's CPC Approves Blackboard Course Retention Policy

    2. Spring 2009 Course Shells Expire 6/15

    3. SU2009 Course Shells Created with New “Student Administration” System

    4. WT2009 ADP Student Survey Results

    5. Faculty Request: Show Each Other How Good Students Use Blackboard

    6. FYI: Hybrid Course Re-Design Workshop 6/4

    7. New “Show & Tell” Screencasts on How to Use Wimba

    8. FYI: BbWorld 2009 is July 14-16 in DC

    Posted by rarmstro at 12:58 PM | TrackBack

    Faculty Senate's CPC Approves Blackboard Course Retention Policy

    To improve Blackboard performance, minimize downtime during upgrades, and manage growing disk usage, the Faculty Senate's Computer Policy Committee (CPC) approved a DoIT proposal to delete all courses that are more than six years old at the end of each academic year. In addition, all empty, unavailable, auto-created course shells that have not been accessed by students or faculty will be deleted at the end of each semester.

    The full policy approved by the CPC is as follows:

    UMBC Blackboard Course Retention Policy

    To improve Blackboard performance, minimize downtime during upgrades, and manage growing disk usage, DoIT will implement the following changes after the Summer 2009 semester:

    1. All empty, unavailable course shells that have not been accessed by students or faculty will be deleted at the end of each semester.

    2. Any course shells that are more than six (6) years old will be deleted at the end of the current academic year.

    3. Instructors can archive any course at any time and keep a local copy for their own records, but only DoIT system administrators can “restore” an archived course to the UMBC Blackboard production server.

  • Note: Blackboard’s license with all clients stipulates that the company must only support “backward compatibility” of up to two (2) full versions from its current, generally available release.

  • For example, Bb’s current release is version 9.0. UMBC is now operating under version 8.0 and upgraded to version 7.0 in January 2007.
  • 4. Faculty are encouraged to “copy forward” the most current version of their courses, by copying into an empty course shell and then requesting to delete past versions of the course.


  • If they use the Blackboard grade book, faculty are also encouraged to download and keep a copy of it after each semester.
  • 5. DoIT will broadly communicate this policy at the end of each spring semester, but only implement it at the end of the summer special session.

    Posted by fritz at 9:45 AM | TrackBack

    Spring 2009 Course Shells Expire 6/15

    The SP2009 course shell duration date will expire on June 15th by default. After that date, students will no longer have access to the courses even though courses appear “Available” to instructors. This feature has been set up so that students do not accumulate links to large numbers of old Blackboard courses on their “myBlackboard” page.

    If you would like to give students continuous access to the course shells, you can change the duration date by going to the course Control Panel –> Settings –> Course Duration, select “Continuous” or modify the date and click “Submit”.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:44 AM | TrackBack

    SU2009 Course Shells Created with New “Student Administration” System

    DoIT has created new Summer 2009 Blackboard course shells for all courses in the Schedule of Classes as of 5/1/09. By default, a Bb course shell is unavailable (to students) until the instructor of record makes it "available."

    With the creation of the summer shells, users will notice that the course id format has changed to reflect the new Peoplesoft Student Administration system. Course ids can be found with the appropriate course listings under the “myCourses” tab. Instead of the usual “SCI100_7050_SU2009” course id, the new format will be “SCI100_1.1099_SU2009. The number “1.1099” comes from the schedule/class number that appears in the schedule of classes and is generated by the Student Administration system.

    Automatic course enrollment is also controlled by this new id number and is listed in the description field of each course. The course auto-enrollment process will not have any changes except for the number.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:44 AM | TrackBack

    WT2009 ADP Student Survey Results

    In an effort to determine the effectiveness of hybrid courses at UMBC, DoIT and the Office of Summer, Winter and Special Programs (OSWSP) have begun to survey students about their experiences in special session hybrid courses. Initially, only summer and winter courses that are taught by faculty that have participated in the Alternate Delivery Program (ADP) have been surveyed. Eventually, we are hoping to survey all special session courses.

    This first survey showed that 69% of the students who responded had never taken a hybrid or online course before and 48% strongly agreed they would take another. The complete set of results from winter 2009 survey can be found online.

    If you have any questions about the survey results, please contact Bob Armstrong at rarmstro@umbc.edu or submit a ticket at http://my.umbc.edu/help/request.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:43 AM | TrackBack

    Faculty Request: Show Each Other How Good Students Use Blackboard

    To help DoIT’s ongoing study of how good students use Blackboard, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) would like to encourage faculty to post their final grades in the Blackboard grade book using “GRADE” as the column heading (please omit quotes and make the column heading ALL CAPS).

    This is a totally voluntary action on your part that will allow DoIT to run a script that determines the average hits per student by grade distribution. DoIT has been reporting final grade distribution by Blackboard activity for the past two years, and we will include SP2009 results after final grades are officially submitted. If you do not want your Bb final grades to be included in the overall, anonymous grade distribution report summary, then do nothing.

    If you want to run your own grade distribution report for your own class, visit the "self service reports" on the UMBC Blackboard Reports site.

    As a matter of convenience to students, we know posting of final grades in Blackboard is a wide-spread, informal practice among many faculty now, and should not be construed as a replacement for “official” submission of final grades. But until we can link Blackboard activity and official sources of final grades in the new Student Administration, this voluntary action by faculty is the only way we can begin to see what relationship, if any, exists between student activity and performance.

    Note: DoIT is NOT suggesting there is a correlation between Bb activity and grades. However, we are interested in Bb activity as AN indicator of student engagement. As such, we would like to see how good students (as measured by final grades) tend to use Blackboard. We are also interested in seeing whether feedback to all students – by showing their grades against an anonymous summary of their peers – can be effective in helping them be more aware about their own performance during the semester, when they might be able to do something about it.

    For more information, visit http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Posted by fritz at 9:42 AM | TrackBack

    FYI: BbWorld 2009 is July 14-16 in DC

    Registration for the BbWorld 2009 conference has begun. The conference is being held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Washington D.C. from July 15-17, 2008 and is described as “the most concentrated Bb training and development opportunity of the year".

    To register for the conference, just complete the form on the Blackboard website. Several staff from OIT will be presenting at the conference and we look forward to seeing you there.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:39 AM | TrackBack

    March 26, 2009

    Issue With Blackboard Discussion Boards

    DoIt has been informed that there is a problem with removing threads/replies in course and community discussion boards. We have found that attempts to delete individual posts in discussion boards can result in the deletion of the entire thread and all of the associated replies. We have tried this with a number of different browsers and have found that there is no clear cut way to perform the task without a possible negative result.

    DoIT is working with Blackboard to find a solution but one has not been found to date. Our recommendation to faculty members is to not "Allow authors to remove own posts" in the forum settings area when creating new forums. If you already have forums created with this settings enabled, we suggest that you return to the forum, click on "Modify" uncheck the box and "Submit". Also, do not try to remove individual threads/replies of others as this can cause the problem as well. Review the following video for a demonstration.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Bob Armstrong at extension 5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu, or send an email to the helpdesk.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:12 AM | TrackBack

    February 2, 2009

    SP2009 Blackboard Update

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard, login via myUMBC or visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Blackboard Announcement Emails Not Working

    2. Upcoming Bb Workshops: New Grade Center, Assessments, etc.

    3. MDBUG 4/23 Conference "Call for Proposals" (Due: 2/20)

    4. TLT Brown Bags: How Students Use Bb, Moving Course Evals Online, Beyond PowerPoint

    5. SU2009 Hybrid Course Re-design Faculty Presentations

    Posted by fritz at 5:17 PM | TrackBack

    Blackboard Announcement Emails Not Working

    It has been brought to DoIT's attention, that the email function attached to Blackboard course announcements is not sending emails properly. (This can be found by going to the course Control Panel -> Announcements -> then clicking on the "Add Announcement" button to create an announcement.) In the "New Announcement" creation page, the user is able to create an announcement for the course and then has the Option (4) to send an email to course users announcing that the email has been posted. DoIT is working with Blackboard.com to get this resolved.

    Reminder: Every time a Blackboard course announcement is created in a course, that announcement will be posted in the Blackboard flyout in myUMBC.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu

    Posted by rarmstro at 5:08 PM | TrackBack

    MDBUG Conference Call for Proposals (Deadline: 2/20)


    The Maryland Blackboard Users Group (MDBUG) is now accepting proposals for its next biannual conference, "Learning 2.0: Beyond the LMS," to be held Thursday, April 23, 2009, at the University of Maryland, College Park.

    Also, the conference keynote will be presented by Jeffrey Trzeciak, University Librarian at McMaster University, which received the 2008 Excellence in Academic Libraries award from the Association of College and Research Libraries, in part for their exemplary professional development program in the use of Learning 2.0 tools and strategies.

    Come join your colleagues and share your stories by submitting a proposal to present at the conference. MDBUG is accepting proposals for individual or panel presentations or posters in the following areas:

    • Effective practices in teaching and learning (faculty focus)
    • Effective support models (instructional technology support/technical staff focus)
    • Effective practices/implementations in K-12
    • Leadership issues
    Proposals are due by February 20, 2009, and can be submitted online at the following:

    http://www.oit.umd.edu/as/MDBUG/mdbugproposalform.html

    Posted by fritz at 4:11 PM | TrackBack

    Upcoming Blackboard Workshops

    Need to brush up on or learn how to use Blackboard? Upcoming workshops include:


    • Blackboard 8.0 Grade Center (2/6, 1 p.m., Engineering 025)
    • Building Activity with Blackboard's Communication Tools (2/13, 1 p.m., Engineering 025)
    • Creating Assessments in Blackboard (2/20, 1 p.m., Engineering 025)
    • Blackboard Wikis & Blogs (3/6, 2:30 p.m., Engineering 025)

    Blackboard 8.0 Grade Center (2/6, 1 p.m., Engineering 025)

    This 75 minute workshop will provide the gradebook user with an advanced look at the new Blackboard Grade Center that will be used starting with the Spring semester. New features include easier recording of grades, ability to divide the gradebook into multiple course sections, dropping the lowest score and advanced reporting features.Familiarity with the current gradebook is helpful.

    Building Activity with Blackboard's Communication Tools (2/13, 1 p.m., Engineering 025)

    This 90 minute hands-on workshop will introduce you to the various communication tools in Blackboard and discuss how they can be effectively used. Topics will include how to use the new discussion board, use of the "Assignments" feature, effective ways to use groups, Turnitin, and email. (Please bring an electronic copy of your syllabus if you have one.)


    Creating Assessments in Blackboard (2/20, 1 p.m., Engineering 025)

    This 90 minute hands-on workshop will focus on creating both assessments and surveys in Blackboard and how to manage the course Gradebook. Attention will be focused on the Test Manager, Survey Manager, uploading and downloading grades, managing items in the Gradebook and the Gradebook settings.

    Blackboard Wikis & Blogs (3/6, 2:30 p.m., Engineering 025)

    All UMBC Blackboard courses and communities have access to interactive community publishing tools such as blogs (diary-like journals any user can create) and wikis (a communal web site anyone can add to and edit). This one hour hands-on workshop will give participants a chance to try out blogs and wikis for themselves, and show how others are currently using them in UMBC Blackboard courses and communities.

    For more details about these workshops and to register, please visit http://www.umbc.edu/training/blackboard.

    Posted by darnold at 9:55 AM | TrackBack

    January 7, 2009

    2/12 Brown Bag to Show How Good Students Use Blackboard

    UPDATE: Video Archive Now Available

    Consistent with a 2008 national study showing students value checking grades more than ANY single function in a course management system like Blackboard, UMBC's first Spring 2008 Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) "Brown Bag" workshop will show how and why UMBC instructors may want to influence AND leverage this obsessive "status checking" behavior.

    Specifically, Suzanne Braunschweig and John Fritz will show how she used new myUMBC & Blackboard reporting tools in her Fall 2008 course (SCI100 "Water: An Interdisciplinary Study"), and why the Division of Information Technology developed them.

    They will also share results of a SCI100 student survey showing that students are much more inclined to check their own Bb activity before future assignments are due if instructors will post an anonymous Grade Distribution Report (GDR) by Bb activity for past assignments. To view a short, informal video screencast Fritz created to show Braunschweig how to create a GDR by Bb activity, click here.

    Note: An examination of 2007-08 voluntary instructor GDRs showed students earning a final grade of D or F tended to use Blackboard 35 percent less than students earning a final grade of C or higher.

    This Brown Bag workshop will be held on Thursday, February 12, at noon. For more information and to RSVP, visit www.umbc.edu/brownbag. Light refreshments will be provided to registered participants.

    Posted by fritz at 4:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    December 15, 2008

    DoIT Publishes FA2008 Most Active Bb Courses Reports

    DoIT has again published UMBC's "Most Active Blackboard" courses reports for the Fall 2008 semester, based on an "average hits per user" approach. While activity alone is not a measure of quality, DoIT publishes these reports so faculty can seek each other out about what does (or doesn't ) work in using Blackboard.

    FA2008 Highlights (based on student activity ONLY):

    Most Active Graduate Course: EHS 640 "Fundamentals of High Performance Mobile Health Systems" taught by Stephen Dean, Richard Bissell and Brian Maguire (avg. hits per student: 2,235).

    Most Active Undergraduate Course: PSYC 100 "Introduction to Psychology" taught by Linda Jones, Laura Rose and Karen Freiberg (avg. hits per student: 1,365).

    Note: Two other sections of PSYC 100 also came in a very close second and third most active of all undergraduate Bb courses.

    Most Active Disciplines: Biotechnology (avg. hits per student: 1,180) and Education (92 active Bb courses).

    Note: The "Disciplines" report now allows anyone to sort a department's Bb activity by avg. hits per students across all of its active Bb courses OR by its total number active Bb courses.

    Most Active Community: Project Lead the Way managed by Mechanical Engineering Professor Anne Spence.

    Total Number of Blackboard Courses (including those with multiple sections): 1,014

    For more information about the Blackboard Reports project, contact John Fritz at 410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 12:58 AM | TrackBack

    December 1, 2008

    WT2009 UMBC Blackboard Update

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Division of Information Technology for
    students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or
    suggestions, contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong
    (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard,
    login via myUMBC or visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Blackboard Down for Upgrade 1/13-16

    2. FA2008 Course Shells Expire 1/15

    3. SP2009 Course Shells Created 12/1; WT2009 Shells Created by Request

    4. New Blackboard Tools (Gradebook) for Spring 2009

    5. UMBC Blackboard User’s Annual Survey (12/1 to 12/9)

    6. FYI: Hybrid Course Re-design Workshop 1/15-16

    7. FYI: Blackboard Training in January

    8. FYI: Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/7-9

    Posted by fritz at 3:34 PM | TrackBack

    November 21, 2008

    Blackboard Down for Upgrade 1/13-16

    To install the next version of Blackboard (8.0) UMBC’s main Blackboard server will be down Tuesday, January 13, through Friday, January 16, 2009. This upgrade will introduce some new tools and fix some existing bugs.

    Similar to past major upgrades performed in January, all WT2009 courses will be created and run on the alternate Blackboard server at http://bbss.umbc.edu. (Here is a video that demonstrates how to set up a link between the production server and the winter server.) All communities and organizations will remain on the main production server, but not be available January 13 to 16 during the upgrade. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:42 PM | TrackBack

    FA2008 Course Shells Expire 1/15

    The FA2008 course shell duration date will expire on January 15th by default. After that date, students will no longer have access to the courses even though courses appear available to instructors. This feature has been set up so that students do not accumulate links to large numbers of old Blackboard courses on their “myBlackboard” page.

    If you would like to give students continuous access to the course shells, you can change the duration date by going to the course Control Panel – Settings – Course Duration, modify the date and click Submit.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:41 PM | TrackBack

    SP2009 Course Shells Created 12/1; WT2009 Shells Created by Request

    DoIT has created new Spring 2009 Blackboard course shells for all courses in the Schedule of Classes as of 12/1/08. WT2009 course shells can be requested by completing the Bb Course Creation Request form. By default, a Bb course shell is unavailable (to students) until the instructor of record makes it "available."

    INSTRUCTORS: If your course was not listed in the SOC on 12/1/08 OR a cross-list with another course was not officially indicated in the SOC, please submit a Bb Course Creation Request. Students who officially drop courses will be disabled inside courses. Instructors can tell who has been disabled in a course by seeing a red circle with a slash in the Blackboard course roster.

    STUDENTS: You MUST be officially enrolled in a UMBC course via myUMBC to be "auto-enrolled" in a Bb course "shell."

    Please consult the Blackboard Help tab or contact DoIT at blackboard@umbc.edu if you have questions.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:33 PM | TrackBack

    New Blackboard Tools (Gradebook) for Spring 2009

    With the 1/13 upgrade to Blackboard’s version 8.0, there will three new tools available to faculty at the start of the spring semester.
    The most significant of the three is the new “Grade Center” that has replaced the traditional grade book. For example, the grade center allows instructors to do the following:

    • Drop the lowest grade;
    • Present both score/percentage and letter grades at the same time;
    • Create “smart views” that will allow multiple sections courses to easily divide sections; and
    • Quickly enter grades by clicking directly on the correct cell rather then multiple clicks to get to the right screen.

    DoIT is offering workshops on the new “Grade Center” and you can register by going to http://www.umbc.edu/training/blackboard. An introductory video describing the Grade Center can be found at http://screencast.com/t/d8OAe0Ng and a manual for the Grade Center can be found at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/newmedia/blackboard/80_help/80_gradecenter.pdf.
    The second new tool is the “Early Warning System” that allows faculty to set up alerts to notify students when they are underachieving on assignments etc. Finally, the “Self and Peer Assessment” content tool allows instructors to set up assignments and criteria for any topic they want students to evaluate their own or another student’s work.

    If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Bob Armstrong at ext. 5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:28 PM | TrackBack

    UMBC Blackboard User’s Annual Survey (12/1 to 12/9)

    Once again this year, DoIT has posted its annual Blackboard Users Survey. We ask that all faculty, staff, and students complete the appropriate survey so that we can improve UMBC’s support of Blackboard.

    You can find your version of the survey by logging into Blackboard and clicking on the appropriate survey link under “myBlackboard” or “My Organizations”. Surveys are anonymous so we encourage you to give us honest feedback that will help make our services better. Thank you for your participation and we will post the results early next year.

    Results from past surveys can be found at http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:26 PM | TrackBack

    FYI: Hybrid Course Re-design Workshop 1/15-16

    The Office of Summer, Winter & Special Programs (OSWSP), in cooperation with DoIT and the Faculty Development Center, will again sponsor an “Alternate Delivery Workshop” for those interested in learning how to develop a hybrid class. If the course is to be offered during SU2009, OSWSP provides a one-time, $1,500 course development stipend as part of its Alternate Delivery Program (ADP).

    The Hybrid Course Re-design workshop consists of two half-day sessions on pedagogy and good course design (1/15, Noon to 4 p.m.) and effective practices using instructional technology (1/16, 9 a.m. to Noon). Both sessions are required and will be held in Engineering, Room 023.

    Following the face-2-face workshop sessions, participants who wish to receive the one-time, $1,500 ADP stipend will be required to present two “learning objects.” While the Hybrid workshop is NOT required to participate in the ADP, it has been shown to help faculty prepare to meet the ADP’s requirements. The ADP faculty presentations are open to the campus, especially departments of participating faculty, and will be videotaped for online viewing by future participants through UMBC’s iTunesU and UMBCTube video distribution sites. The ADP presentations are tentatively scheduled for 3/6 and 4/10.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:49 AM | TrackBack

    FYI: Blackboard Training in January

    DoIT will continue to offer workshops in the use of the “grade center” during the month of January. If you are not currently using the grade book and want to learn how, or if you are an experienced user, we encourage you to attend one of the workshops as there are numerous changes to the upcoming version. Go to http://www.umbc.edu/training/blackboard to register.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:47 AM | TrackBack

    FYI: Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference 1/13-15

    The Mid-Atlantic Regional Educause Conference will return to the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel from January 13-15. Early registration is open until 12/16 and can be found at http://http://net.educause.edu/Registration/1022269.

    The conference, titled “Opportunity in Adversity”, is an opportunity to meet and hear from innovators and forward thinkers about current and emerging best practices in higher education information services. Many faculty and staff have attended previously and have found it be useful and informative.

    For more information and the program schedule you can go to http://net.educause.edu/content.asp?SECTION_ID=445

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:46 AM | TrackBack

    October 16, 2008

    New Blackboard Gradebook in Spring 2009

    DoIt will be upgrading Blackboard to the new version 8.0 in mid January 2009 in preparation for the spring semester. Among other things, the new version includes a completely redesigned grade book that allows instructors to drop the lowest of several grades, email students when they fall below a certain pre-determined standard, and the ability to divide the grade book based on class sections if several are included in the same course shell.

    As a result of these major changes, DoIT is offering workshops that will introduce the new grade book features and give faculty a chance to work with them. Faculty are encouraged to sign up for the workshops by going to the Blackboard training page.

    A grade center manual produced by Larry Lambert of Southwestern College can be found online. Click here to view a video about the new grade center.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:19 AM | TrackBack

    September 4, 2008

    Blackboard and Firefox 3

    DoIT has become aware of an incompatibility problem with the new Firefox 3 and Blackboard that prevents users from being able to upload assignments via the assignment manager. There is a workaround that can be applied.

    You will need to install an add-on for Firefox in order to make it work. Go to the following Firefox add-on page: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/59. The name of the add-on is User Agent Switcher 0.6.11.


    • Once you have the add-on installed, go ahead and take a look in your Tools menu. You will see a new entry, "User Agent Switcher." Select Tools->User Agent Switcher->Options->Options... Now choose User Agents then Add.

    • Make the description "Blackboard" and the user agent "mac" and then click "Ok".

    • Close and re-open the browser.


    When you want to submit an assignment, you will need to click on Tools -> User Agent Switcher -> "Blackboard" and then you should be able to submit.

    The alternative to this process is to use another browser such as Internet Explorer.

    If you have questions or concerns, you can send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 21, 2008

    New SU2008 Bb Most Active Courses (and Disciplines) Report

    DoIT has again published UMBC's "Most Active Blackboard" courses reports for the Summer 2008 semester, based on an "average hits per user" approach. While activity alone is not a measure of quality, DoIT publishes these reports so faculty can seek each other out about what does (or doesn't ) work in using Blackboard.

    SU2008 Highlights (based on student activity ONLY):

    Most Active Graduate Course: EDUC 605 "The Adult Learner" taught by Ciaran Lesikar, Greg Williams, Jeffrey Boham (avg. hits per student: 1,692).

    Most Active Undergraduate Course: SCI 100 "Water; An Interdisciplinary Study" taught by Karin Readel (avg. hits per student: 1,135).

    Most Active Disciplines: Linguistics (avg. hits per student: 833) and Education (22 active Bb courses).

    Note: The "Disciplines" report now allows anyone to sort a department's Bb activity by avg. hits per students across all of its active Bb courses OR by its total number active Bb courses.

    Most Active Community: College of Engineering and Information Technologies Business Manager Search managed by Karen Mattingly, James Milani and Karen Rose.

    Total Number of Blackboard Courses (including those with multiple sections): 156

    FYI: faculty may also want to try out the new "Average Hits Per User by Final Grade Distribution" reports announced on March 6.

    For more information about the Blackboard Reports project, contact John Fritz at 410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 11:30 PM | TrackBack

    August 18, 2008

    FA2008 Blackboard Update

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for
    students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or
    suggestions, contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong
    (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard,
    login via myUMBC or visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. FA2008 Bb Course Shells Created and Enrolled

    2. Seven Classrooms, One Lecture Hall Get Tech Upgrades; Mobile AV Requests Due 8/22

    3. "Clicker" Hardware & Software to be Upgraded in Lecture Halls

    4. Changes to Turnitin Interface--Not Status @ UMBC

    5. Bb Version 8 Pilot Server to Help Prepare for January Upgrade

    6. Using Clickers to Control Online Access to Recordings of In-Class Lectures

    7. DoIT and CIRC Sponsor 9/18 Mathematica Demo

    Posted by fritz at 11:32 PM | TrackBack

    August 17, 2008

    Using Clickers to Control Online Access to Recordings of In-Class Lectures

    If you record in-class lectures and make them available online, why would students still come to class? If they don’t—but can pass exams—does it matter? While faculty have mixed feelings about recorded lectures, a combination of new technologies makes it possible to allow ONLY students who attend class to access recorded lectures online, for the purposes of review (not discovery).

    Problem

    For several years, UMBC has been providing a lecture-capture taping service whereby student videographers are paid by professors or departments to trek across campus, set up tripods and cameras, capture a variety of lecture content (and formats), and bring them back for light editing, digitization and distribution online through open and (sometimes) closed access websites. While the process doesn’t scale particularly well, it is relatively unobtrusive to the faculty member, who can go about the process of lecturing pretty much the way he or she has always done.

    In recent years, lecture capture demand has grown as have a variety of solutions that include dedicated, wall-mounted, pan/tilt video cameras with remote control and automated, scheduled recording. These are attractive (and expensive) solutions, but still don’t address faculty concerns about whether students will come to class if the lectures are available online.

    Tamara Mendelson
    Tamara Mendelson
    LH7_audiorecorders.jpg
    A view of the lecturn at the start of Mendelson's Spring 2008 Biology class.
    Proposed Solution

    Last spring, after seeing a photo of 15 personal digital audio recorders aligned along the podium of a large biology class, we talked with the instructor, Tamara Mendelson, who explains her rationale for allowing them: “Everything I say is fair game for a test, so I tell the students ‘If I were you, I’d record it all.’ And they do.”

    Just like our labor intensive lecture capture service, Mendelson didn’t have to do anything and apparently the students were content to have only her PowerPoint presentations online and their own audio recordings. When we suggested she could make the recordings herself and post them on Blackboard, Mendelson wondered if she could limit access to only students who were in the class. In other words, she wanted to provide the online, recorded lectures for review by students who were present, not for discovery by students who were absent.

    Combined with our own lessons learned about simple screencasting software solutions, clickers and the use of a function called “adaptive release” in Blackboard, we realized it is possible to use a daily record of attendance collected by the clickers as a "precondition" for who can access recorded lectures that the instructor posts to his or her Blackboard site.

    While we are using MP3 digital audio recorders only, the same process can be used for recorded screencasts made with Camtasia and published in Blackboard, which we have been supporting for years.

    Essentially, any faculty member can adapt this cookbook “recipe” to use clickers to control access to any file or function in Blackboard:

    1. Record the audio of your lecture with an MP3 digital recorder (we’ve found a good one for $80) accompanied by a powerpoint; or make a screencast which combines audio and any actions or screens on the instructor’s vga display into one synchronized file (we like Camtasia).

    2. Ask at least one clicker question during the class period or (ideally) the lecture yourself so you don't get clicker-only "drop ins" (you might even want to ask questions at the start & end of the period/lecture).

    3. Upload your clicker grades into your Blackboard gradebook.

    4. Create a folder where your lecture materials (e.g., PPTs & audio or screencasts) will reside; make it unavailable to students so you can take your time uploading lecture materials.

    5. Upload your lecture materials

    6. Use Blackboard's "Adaptive Release" function to limit access to only those students who have ANY score (e.g., activity) for that day's clicker question(s)

    7. Make the lecture folder available.

    8. Send and/or post announcement that the day's lecture materials are available for REVIEW to students who were present and "clicked."

    For more information, DoIT has prepared a help sheet, which also uses short screencast videos to "show and tell" the process Mendelson will be piloting this fall:

    Posting/Controlling Access to Recorded Lectures
    http://www.umbc.edu/oit/newmedia/blackboard/help/audio/audio_directions.html

    Posted by fritz at 10:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Bb Version 8 Pilot Server to Help Prepare for January Upgrade

    To help prepare for a January upgrade to version 8.0, the first installment of Blackboard’s “Next Generation” course management software, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has set up a pilot server and welcomes faculty interested in using it for Fall 2008.

    The new version includes a completely redesigned grade book that allows instructors to drop the lowest of several grades, email students when they fall below a certain pre-determined standard, divide the grade book based on class sections if several are included in the same course shell, and other features that were requested by Blackboard users.

    An online manual developed by Southwestern College can be found at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/newmedia/blackboard/help/version8/Grades80.pdf.

    Additional features in version 8.0 include the ability for students to self and peer review assigned materials and the early warning system for notifying students when they fall below standards set by the instructor.

    Instructors from several courses, including some sections of Science 100, English 100Y, MLL 406 and Psychology 100 will be participating in the initial pilot and will share feedback. If you would like to participate, contact Bob Armstrong at 410.455.3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 5:18 PM | TrackBack

    August 16, 2008

    FA2008 Bb Course Shells Created and Enrolled

    OIT has created new Blackboard course shells for all courses in the Schedule of Classes as of 8/1/08. By default, a Bb course shell is unavailable (to students) until the instructor of record makes it "available."

    INSTRUCTORS: If your course was not listed in the SOC on 8/1/08 OR a cross-list with another course was not officially indicated in the SOC, please submit a Bb Course Creation Request. Students who officially drop courses will be disabled inside courses. Instructors can tell who has been disabled in a course by seeing a red circle with a slash in the Blackboard course roster.

    STUDENTS: You MUST be officially enrolled in a UMBC course via myUMBC to be "auto-enrolled" in a Bb course "shell."

    Please consult the Blackboard Help tab or contact OIT at blackboard@umbc.edu if you have questions.

    Posted by fritz at 4:18 PM | TrackBack

    August 13, 2008

    Blackboard Down for Maintenance on 8/15

    Blackboard will down for scheduled maintenance on Friday, August 15th from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday.

    We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

    Posted by rarmstro at 12:29 PM | TrackBack

    July 9, 2008

    Limited Blackboard Support Staff 7/14 to 7/21

    Please note: All of of UMBC's primary Blackboard support staff will be attending the BbWorld08 Annual Conference next week, Monday, July 14, through Friday, July 18.

    During this time, all but the most urgent requests (e.g., server down, account or enrollment problems) will be handled as soon as possible after we return on Monday, July 21. So that we may learn from the conference and improve support, routine course or community creation requests, or support of specific functionality, will not be addressed while the staff are away.

    If you have urgent questions or concerns, please contact the Help Desk at helpdesk@umbc.edu or 410.455.3838 or stop by at Engineering Room 020. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

    Posted by fritz at 5:50 PM | TrackBack

    May 20, 2008

    OIT Publishes SP2008 Most Active Blackboard Courses

    OIT has again published UMBC's "Most Active Blackboard" courses reports for the Spring 2008 semester, based on an "average hits per user" approach. For the second straight semester, one department (Information Systems) and one class (PSYC 100 "Introduction to Psychology) have taken the top spot for most active discipline and undergraduate course, respectively. For more information, visit www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Highlights (based on student activity ONLY):

    Most Active Graduate Course: IS 634 "Structured Systems Analysis and Design" taught by Heather Holden, Carlton Crabtree, Carolyn Seaman (avg hits per student: 2,685).

    Most Active Undergraduate Course: PSYC 100 "Introduction to Psychology" taught by Linda Jones, Eileen O'Brien, Brian Jobe (avg hits per student: 1,632).

    Note: PSYC 100 was also the most active undergraduate Bb course for Fall 2007.

    Most Active Discipline: Information Systems (84 Blackboard courses).

    Note: Information Systems was also the most active discipline for Fall 2007.

    Most Active Community: Geography and Environmental Systems Department managed by several GES faculty (avg hits per user: 533).

    Total Number of Blackboard Courses (including those with multiple sections): 1,034

    While activity alone is not a measure of quality, OIT publishes these reports so faculty can seek each other out about what does (or doesn't ) work in using Blackboard. Toward this end, faculty may also want to try out the new "Average Hits Per User by Final Grade Distribution" reports announced on March 6.

    For more information about the Blackboard Reports project, contact John Fritz at 410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 11:09 AM | TrackBack

    May 3, 2008

    Using Blackboard for Job Search or RFP Committees

    provost_search_bb.png
    When the 20-member Provost Search Committee identified its four finalists, it did so using a Blackboard community to review AND rank all applicants online before meeting face-to-face to discuss their differences. Similarly, the Alternate Delivery Program has frequently used Blackboard to review faculty proposals to receive a one-time course development stipend to redesign an existing course for hybrid delivery in summer or winter sessions.

    Key Steps

    1. Members review candidate materials or RFP proposals on the Bb community discussion board or blog.

    2. Members post an initial "vote" by changing subject line of their reply to "yes" or "no" or "maybe."

    3. Optional: Members use body of their reply to explain their "vote"

    4. Members meet face-to-face as a group to "negotiate" their online voting differences and reach consensus

    "Show & Tell" videos

  • For Bb Leaders: How to Post Applicant/RFP Materials So Committee Members Can Review Them
  • For Bb Leaders: How to Set Up a Discussion Board So Members Can "Vote" On Applicant/RFP Materials
  • For Committee Members: How to Vote and Comment on Applicant/RFP Materials

    Posted by fritz at 12:45 AM | TrackBack

    SP2008 UMBC Blackboard Update

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for
    students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or
    suggestions, contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong
    (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard,
    login via myUMBC or visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. SP2008 Course Shells Expire on 6/15

    2. SU2008 Course Shells Created on 4/30

    3. OIT Publishes FA2007 Blackboard User Survey Results

    4. New myUMBC Tools Show How Good Students Use Blackboard

    5. UMBC Joins Two National, Online Learning Faculty Development Networks

    6. Job Opening: UMBC Blackboard Graduate Assistant

    7. FYI: Using Blackboard for Job Search or RFP Committees

    8. FYI: OIT to Upgrade Labs to MS Office 2007 (PC) & 2008 (Mac)

    9. FYI: BbWorld'08 World Conference is July15-17

    Posted by fritz at 12:42 AM | TrackBack

    May 2, 2008

    Job Opening: Blackboard Graduate Assistant

    OIT’s Instructional Technology & New Media unit seeks a graduate assistant to provide Blackboard support to students, faculty and staff. The person will assist with routine Bb system administration functions (e.g., course & community site creation), and development of Blackboard user support procedures and documentation. Candidates will be expected to work well in a collaborative team environment and to communicate effectively with customers from a variety of academic and administrative departments.

    In the past, special projects have included design and development of the following:

    UMBC Blackboard Reports
    UMBC Blackboard Help

    The successful candidate must be self-directed and work well communicating information to technical and non-technical users. The candidate must also be able to interact with customers of all levels in a highly professional and competent manner.

    Qualifications

    The qualified candidate must be an officially registered UMBC graduate student with demonstrable experience providing end-user support. The candidate must have good problem-solving skills, strong analytical and organization skills, and excellent oral/written communications skills. Experience with web application development (ideally using PHP & MySQL) is preferred.

    Compensation & Hours

    Term (9 Month)
    Closing Date: Open until filled
    Compensation: TBD by Graduate School policy (typically stipend, tuition & health)
    Hours:
    • PT (20 hours/week) in Fall & Spring
    • FT (40 hours/week) possible in Winter & Summer

    Application Process | Show Me (video)

    1. Login to Blackboard via myUMBC or directly at http://blackboard.umbc.edu
    2. Search for and “Enroll” in the “Blackboard User Group” organization on the Bb Community tab
    3. Complete the “UMBC Bb GA” application by attaching the following:

    - Cover Letter (include a brief description of how you use Blackboard now)
    - Resume or CV
    - Unofficial PDF version of your transcript from myUMBC
    - Names of three references and how they know your work
    - Note: You can “save” your application and come back, but can only “submit” it once.

    Send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu when you have submitted your application using the process described above, or if you need help doing so.

    Posted by fritz at 12:15 PM | TrackBack

    April 29, 2008

    Students Provide Insight Through Fall Blackboard Survey

    As we've done in the past, OIT again conducted it's Undergraduate student survey in Fall 2007 with 759 students participating. The survey was divided into several sections including general demographics, an open-ended section for students to recommend instructors that they perceive to be strong users of BlackBoard, tool usage and functionality, and suggestions for improvements.

    The most original comments were received when students were asked to recommend an instructor who they viewed as a strong user of Blackboard. Respondents listed numerous faculty members with the following faculty receiving the highest number of positive comments:

    • Phil Sokolove (Biology)

    • Lili Cui (Physics)

    • Clayton Laurie (History)

    • Tara Carpenter (Chemistry)

    • Eileen O’Brien (Psychology)

    Lili Cui and Clayton Laurie have also been highlighted in the Interviews section of the Blackboard Best Practices site as faculty who use Blackboard well.

    Students reported the most frequently used tools in Blackboard included:

    • Posting Course Content (91%)

    • Announcements (80%)

    • E-mail (54%)

    • Discussion boards (47%)

    Major advantages to the use of Blackboard were:
    • 24/7 access to course content (78%)

    • Prompt visibility of posted grades (56%)

    The biggest disadvantage to using Blackboard was the reliance on technology (53%) and the most needed improvements were server reliability and performance (59% combined). Overall, the respondents scored faculty as “Good” (59%) when it came to the use of Blackboard.

    Students provided a number of suggestions for improving Blackboard including:

    • More online student help

    • Mandatory usage of Blackboard for all faculty

    • Improved design and functionality

    • Improve performance and reliability

    Respondents provided a number of suggestions in how to improve Blackboard that included providing more online student help and mandatory usage of Blackboard for all faculty. The respondents overwhelmingly supported Blackboard as a great tool despite its occasional problems. Other input included the suggestion for Blackboard.com to improve its design and functionality and the most received comment was the need to improve performance and reliability. Respondents noted that the system always seems to be down.

    From this sampling of undergraduate students, it appears that Blackboard is perceived as an asset to the educational process at UMBC. Faculty that incorporated the use of Blackboard into the classroom setting received appreciation from undergraduate students. OIT needs to continue to address issues that impact usage in order to increase end-user acceptance of this online course management tool.

    Complete survey results can be found online.

    Posted by rarmstro at 8:55 AM | TrackBack

    Course Shells Created for Summer 2008

    Today, May 1, 2008 OIT created an empty Blackboard course shell for all Summer 2008 courses listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes with assigned instructors. Courses that don’t have assigned instructors will be created as they are added to the Schedule of Classes by the Registrar’s office. Only officially registered students should be automatically enrolled in all Bb courses. Students who have dropped will be "disabled" in the course once they have completed the process in myUMBC. Students that have been disabled will be clearly noted in the roster inside each course shell. All courses for both summer 2008 sessions will be conducted on the Blackboard production server.

    Notes:


    • To copy content from an old Bb course to a new course shell, click here.
    • To request a new course shell earlier than the typical month all course shells are created before a semester starts, click here.
    • If you no longer need an old course, please submit a request to delete it.

    Posted by rarmstro at 8:34 AM | TrackBack

    Spring 2008 Course Shells Expire on 6/15

    Spring 2008 Bb course "shells" are set to expire on June 15, 2008 after grades are due. This means the course will automatically revert to being unavailable to students, but faculty will still see the course link. This will help students who frequently complain about having numerous links to old courses in Blackboard. They can request ongoing access from the instructor, who can override the duration settings manually. This may be helpful for processing incompletes, but the majority of students will not have to request to be un-enrolled from old courses.

    If you don’t need your old Bb course site, please consider deleting it by completing the “Bb Course Delete” request form on the Bb Blackboard Help tab.

    Posted by rarmstro at 8:33 AM | TrackBack

    FYI: BbWorld'08 World Conference is July 15-17 in Las Vegas

    Registration for the BbWorld '08 conference has begun. The conference is being held in sunny Las Vegas from July 15-17, 2008 and is described as a "client-centered program built on client feedback, innovation and success."

    To register for the conference, just complete the form on the Blackboard website. Several staff from OIT will be attending the conference and we look forward to seeing you there.

    Posted by rarmstro at 8:00 AM | TrackBack

    March 6, 2008

    New myUMBC Tools Show How Good Students Use Blackboard

    myUMBC Blackboard Reporting ToolsOIT announces the release of two new myUMBC tools designed to show the campus community how top UMBC students use Blackboard.

    Specifically, students can "Check My Blackboard Activity" to see a comparison of their own activity against an anonymous summary of other students in their classes. In addition, faculty can now run their own "Grade Distribution" and "Tool Usage" reports showing their students' Blackboard activity by any item in the Blackboard grade book (including final grade), or by overall tool usage within the course.

    While the trend needs further study, initial findings suggest that students who earn higher grades tend to use Blackboard more than students earning lower grades. It is NOT the case that using Blackboard alone will produce higher grades, simply by "gaming" the system.

    But if students know how their activity compares to an anonymous summary of peers, at any time during the semester, this timely and personal feedback may allow them to monitor and change their own behavior as it pertains to engaging with course concepts, materials, instructors or each other. In essence, students can now draw their own conclusions about the quantity AND quality of their Blackboard activity and the impact this may or may not have on their learning.

    Since the "Check Grade" tool in Blackboard allows students to view statistical differences between their grades and the class average for any visible item in the grade book, OIT will eventually publish student reports showing activity by grade distribution as well. In the meantime, faculty who wish to can provide further insight to students, by viewing, printing and publishing (as PDF files in their Bb course site) their current or past student activity GDRs for their specific courses.

    Background

    A year ago, OIT began reporting on UMBC's "Most Active Blackboard Courses" based on a simple "average hits per user" approach. In this way, "rankings" don't favor large enrollment sites over smaller ones. To date, we now have reports for the Spring, Summer and Fall 2007 semesters.

    After OIT announced the Fall 2007 Blackboard reports and availability of the "self service" faculty Grade Distribution Reports (GDR), 16 faculty used their GDRs, which collectively showed overall Blackboard usage was higher by students earning higher grades. The self service GDRs complemented earlier pilots with two faculty from Geography and Environmental Systems (Karin Readel and Chris Swan), which also showed higher Blackboard usage among students earning higher grades.

    While there is no statistically significant difference among students earning As, Bs and Cs (numerically there is: students earning higher grades tend to use it more), there is a significant difference between this group and those students who earn Ds and Fs. So far, the pattern has held true in the courses mentioned above, and OIT is working on a way to load final grades into a table that looks at all Bb courses to see if the trend is broadly generalizable.

    OIT recognizes that hits alone are no endorsement (or indictment) of course quality. But looking at and publishing user activity is one way to help faculty and students identify and consult each other about effective teaching and learning practices. By adopting an attitude of transparency about Blackboard usage, the entire UMBC community (and not just OIT system administrators) gains a "birds eye view" of how this Course Management System (CMS) is being used.

    For more information, visit http://www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports. You can also view a brief video demo of these new myUMBC tools for students and faculty.

    Posted by fritz at 2:00 PM | TrackBack

    February 12, 2008

    Blackboard Hardware Issues Affecting the System

    Saturday, September 12, 2009
    The Blackboard system is currently experiencing hardware problems. We are actively working with our hardware vendor to identify the cause and restore the system (updated 11:44AM 9-12-09). DoIT staff are currently restoring the blackboard servers and expect to have the system fully functional by 2:00PM today. Thank you for your patience.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Posted Feb. 2008
    Change to Weekly Blackboard Maintenance: Fridays, 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

    Starting this Friday, February 22, OIT will change the weekly, scheduled maintenance window to Fridays from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

    Last semester, OIT announced the need for scheduled, weekly maintenance when Blackboard could be unavailable. If OIT plans to use the new weekly maintenance window, we will post a "Down for Maintenance" notice users will see when they attempt to login.

    While rare, OIT found some classes were actually held on Saturday mornings during the Fall 2007 semester. The new Friday evening maintenance window also works well because overall usage has been historically low during this time.

    Note: As it did last semester, the Faculty Senate's Computer Policy Committee approved the new change in weekly Blackboard maintenance at its February 12 meeting. For more information, contact CPC Chair Ant Ozok

    Posted by fritz at 9:50 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    January 25, 2008

    Blackboard "Turnitin" Issues & Scheduled Downtime (1/26, 6-9 a.m.)

    Following the planned upgrade to version 7.2 last week, OIT has discovered issues with the Turnitin "Building Block" that instructors may want to understand before using this tool.

    In addition, the main Blackboard production server will be down for routine, scheduled maintenance this Saturday, January 26, from 6 to 9 a.m. This is unrelated to the Turnitin issues described in this announcement.

    Basically, the Turnitin "Building Block" (or plug-in) for Blackboard we have used for several years has been going down sporadically in Bb versions 7.2 or higher. This was not publicly announced and it seems to be an issue when Blackboard is used in a multiple server configuration such as UMBC uses to guarantee redundancy and performance. We've learned that other schools have experienced similar issues.

    The issue has become more complicated since Blackboard released its own plagiarism detection tool, SafeAssign, this summer. While SafeAssign is free (the Faculty Development Center currently pays for Turnitin), the key to any tool like this is the library of past submissions to compare future papers against. Clearly, Turnitn has a larger library at this point, but given its wider availability across all 3,700 colleges and universities using Blackboard, SafeAssign is bound to catch up. Also, there were early reports of "issues" when Safe Assign first shipped, but they appear to be settling down.

    While we have worked with Turnitin, there is no guarantee the tool will not go down if you use it inside Blackboard. Accordingly, OIT has made SafeAssign available in all courses and suggests the following options:

    1. Use Turnitin Outside of Blackboard

    As a campus, we haven't done this in a while, but it is possible to access Turnitin outside of Blackboard; it's just not as easy for faculty and students who may be accustomed to using it inside Blackboard.

    Instructions

  • Go to http://www.turnitin.com
  • Click on "Create User Profile"
  • Pick "Instructor" and click
  • Enter UMBC account "ID" and "Enrollment Password" (Obtain from Jack Prostko at prostko@umbc.edu)
  • Create user profile.
  • After creating the profile, add your class and create a password.

    After the class is created online, students will need to create accounts and submit papers using your class ID. If you have questions, please contact Jack Prostko, Director, Faculty Development Center (ext. 5-1829 or prostko@umbc.edu).

    2. Use SafeAssign

    While we do not have a lot of experience with this tool yet, OIT has made it available. Also, faculty can upload student papers from past courses to "jump start" the rebuilding of their respective bank of papers SafeAssign can check against. For more information on how to use SafeAssign, visit www.safeassign.com.

    3. Use Turnitin Inside Blackboard | More Information

    OIT recommends piloting “Safe Assign” for those courses where issues would be most problematic or for faculty who do not wish to worry about Turnitin. We will keep the Turnitin service running for faculty who wish to continue using it and accept that there is some risk.

    If you have questions or concerns, please add them as a comment to this announcement, which OIT will monitor, or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 1:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    January 14, 2008

    Reminder: Blackboard Down for Upgrades 1/15 to 1/17

    As announced November 30, 2007, UMBC's main Blackboard production server (http://blackboard.umbc.edu) will be down for hardware and software upgrades from Tuesday, Jan. 15 through Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008.

    Note: The alternate Blackboard server being used in Winter session (http://bbss.umbc.edu) will continue to operate during the production server upgrades.

    Posted by fritz at 1:30 PM | TrackBack

    December 14, 2007

    OIT Publishes FA2007 Most Active Blackboard Courses Reports

    OIT has again published UMBC's "Most Active Blackboard" courses reports for the Fall 2007 semester, based on an "average hits per user" approach. To learn more, visit www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Highlights include the following (based ONLY on student activity):

    Most Active Graduate Course: EDUC 688 "Methodology of Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language" taught by George Chinnery, Eunju Chen, Margaret Wilson (avg hits per student: 2,075)

    Most Active Undergraduate Course: PSYC 100 "Introduction to Psychology" taught by Kelly Forys, Brian Jobe, Linda Jones (avg hits per student: 927).

    Most Active Department: Information Systems (90 Blackboard courses).

    Most Active Community: "Project Lead The Way" managed by Anne Spence, Mechanical Engineering (avg hits per user: 1,214).

    Total Number of Blackboard Courses (including those with multiple sections): 1,074

    While activity alone is not a measure of quality, OIT publishes these reports so faculty can seek each other out about what does (or doesn't ) work in using Blackboard. Toward this end, faculty may also want to try out the new "Average Hits Per User by Final Grade Distribution" "self service" report announced on November 30, 2007.

    For more information about the Blackboard Reports project, contact John Fritz at 410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 4:16 PM | TrackBack

    November 29, 2007

    Winter 2008 Blackboard Update

    UMBC Blackboard Update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For support requests, send email to blackboard@umbc.edu. For more information about using Blackboard, visit the "Blackboard Help" tab before or after you login through myUMBC or directly at http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    UMBC Blackboard Down for Upgrade Jan. 15-17, 2008

    SP2008 Course Shells Created on 11/30; WT2008 Shells Created by Request

    FA2007 Course Archiving & User Maintenance

    FA2007 UMBC Blackboard User Survey

    Call for SP2008 Pilot Courses for Bb Version 7.3

    OIT Pilots New Report Showing Student Activity by Final Grade Distribution

    Wimba "Voice Tools" and "Live Classroom" Now Permanent

    Blog & Wiki Use in Blackboard Continues to Grow

    Reserving AV Equipment for WT2008 & SP2008

    FYI: Blackboard Training in January

    FYI: Blackboard Awards for Exemplary Courses

    FYI: SU2008 Hybrid Course Design Stipends (Course Proposal Deadline: Dec. 7)

    Posted by rarmstro at 4:02 PM | TrackBack

    UMBC Blackboard Down for Upgrade January 15-17, 2008

    To install the next version of Blackboard (7.2) and move the application to a new virtual, load-balanced server, UMBC’s main Blackboard server will be down Tuesday, January 15, through Thursday, January 17, 2008. This upgrade will fix some existing bugs, increase system speed and reliability, and introduce new features such as:

    • Performance Dashboard tool: provides a window to monitor user’s progress and activity in the course
    • Early Warning System tool: used to communicate warnings to students that a performance problem is beginning to appear

    Similar to past major upgrades performed in January, all WT2008 courses will be created and run on the alternate Blackboard server at http://bbss.umbc.edu. (Here is a video that demonstrates how to set up a link between the production server and the winter server.) All communities and organizations will remain on the main production server, but not be available January 15 to 17 during the upgrade. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596) or Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:50 AM | TrackBack

    November 28, 2007

    SP2008 Course Shells Created 11/30; WT2008 Shells Created by Request

    On November 30, 2007, OIT created an empty Blackboard course shell for all Spring 2008 courses listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC) with assigned instructors. Using the Auto Enrollment" process, only officially registered students will be automatically enrolled in all Bb courses as they officially register. Courses that don't have assigned instructors will be created as usual and instructors will be enrolled as they are assigned. Auto enrollment of students and instructors is done four (4) times a day.

    To request creation of a WT2008 Blackboard course shell, please use the "Request A Course" link on the Blackboard Help tab before or after you login via myUMBC or directly at http://blackboard.umbc.edu. Remember: Due to the planned upgrade Jan. 15 to 17, all WT2008 courses will be run on the "alternate" Blackboard server at http://bbss.umbc.edu. When you complete the WT2008 course request above, your course will be on the alternate server.

    Note: Because some students (and faculty) have mistaken enrollment in a Bb course shell as official UMBC course registration, OIT has turned off the "self enrollment" function in all Blackboard shells. Also, faculty should not manually enroll students who “say” they will officially register (sometimes they don’t). If you or your students have any questions or concerns, please send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 27, 2007

    FA 2007 Course Archiving & User Maintenance

    As we near the end of the semester, here's a checklist of tasks instructors should complete to manage Bb courses and users (help sheets are available on the Blackboard Help tab):

    Make your course unavailable to students
    Create a backup copy of your grade book
    Send UMBC Blackboard course deletion requests

    For more information or help, send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:00 AM | TrackBack

    Fall 2007 UMBC Blackboard User Survey

    OIT is always looking for feedback on how students, faculty and staff are using Blackboard and how we can improve support. You can find a link to the appropriate survey whether you are a faculty member, undergraduate student, or graduate student, by logging into Blackboard and using the link on your "MyBlackboard" page under "My Organizations". Thank you for your input and we look forward to serving you in the coming year. You can also view results of past surveys on www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Call for SP2008 Pilot Courses for Bb Version 7.3

    OIT will again be piloting the latest version of Blackboard (7.3) during the spring 2008 semester. The new version introduces a "hybrid" discussion board that includes both the features introduced in 7.1 and the older features in 6.3. With 7.3, the user will have a choice of how they want to view discussion board threads and replies.

    As with all Blackboard pilot semesters, OIT requires the following:

    • OIT will place an announcement in your pilot course describing what you and your students need to do if you encounter a problem in the version 7.3 pilot environment. We would ask you to make this a "permanent" announcement in your course throughout the semester.
    • Throughout the semester, you and your students may be asked to complete a survey about your experience with the software.
    • Your course will not be compatible with the regular production server until it is migrated to the version 7.3 software. Currently, OIT does not have plans to migrate all courses to version 7.3. until Winter 2009.

    The pilot server will be available in mid-December. If you are interested in participating in the 7.3 pilot, please contact Bob Armstrong (ext 5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu)

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:00 AM | TrackBack

    OIT Pilots New Report Showing Student Activity by Final Grade Distribution

    As announced earlier this year, OIT has been publishing new reports and videos about how students and faculty actually use Blackboard. Now, after piloting with two faculty from Geography and Environmental Systems, OIT is extending the pilot to all faculty who want to see their students’ activity by final grade distribution.

    In three of four courses taught by Karin Readel and Chris Swan, “A” students used Blackboard more than “B” students who used it more than “C” students and so on. OIT is making these “self service” grade distribution reports available to faculty to see if there is a similar trend in their Blackboard courses.

    These “self service” reports query a “replica” of the main Blackboard server that is updated weekly. Only the instructor of record can query (and view) his or her course’s student activity by grade distribution, if there is a grade book column called GRADE and the grade type is set to “text” display using only A, B, C, D or F.

    Note: If you use these reports, they may be added to an anonymous, cumulative summary of all UMBC Bb courses to show student activity by final grade distribution. Unless you give OIT permission to do so, we will NOT publish your specific course’s final grade distribution in the list of most active Blackboard courses.

    Future plans include developing a “Check My Activity” link faculty can enable for students that provides contextual feedback on how each student's activity compares to an anonymous summary of all other students in the course at any point during the semester. Students might also be able to “opt in” to receive email, rss or txt updates if their activity falls below a specific (or desired) level.

    Reminder: The FA2007 Most Active Blackboard Courses reports will be run on Dec. 12, the day after classes end.

    For more information about the UMBC Blackboard Reports project (www.umbc.edu/blackboard/reports), contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596).

    Posted by rarmstro at 8:00 AM | TrackBack

    Wimba "Voice Tools" and "Live Classroom" Now Permanent

    Effective immediately, the Wimba Voice Tools and Live Classroom building blocks are a permanent part of the UMBC Blackboard course management system. Since 2005, OIT has partnered with Modern Language & Linguistics (MLL) and other organizations to pilot this “building blocks" plug-in to Blackboard.

    "Voice Tools" provide faculty and students with an easy tool that can record their voices in formats such as a Voice Email, Voice "discussion" Boards, Voice Direct for live conferencing, Voice Recorder, for recording messages or assignments for students, and Voice Presentation, for posting web sites in a slide format with text and audio narration.

    "Live Classroom" allows faculty to conduct "live" classes online with the use of a white board, powerpoint and website presentation system, as well as live voice and video components. The tools can be found under the course "Communications" link and as a content type on all content pages.

    If you have questions or want training on how to use the tools, please visit the Wimba website. OIT also has a link to online help under the "Blackboard Help" tab.

    Posted by rarmstro at 7:00 AM | TrackBack

    Blog and Wiki Use in Blackboard Continue to Grow

    The Learning Objects tools in Blackboard continue to expand with the addition of more changes designed to enhance their use in course management systems. The tools that are frequently used here at UMBC include, blogs, wikis, podcasting tools and a search tool. New features include:

    • Permalinks that enable links to specific pages in blogs and wikis
    • A privacy link that allows the user to monitor comments
    • Administrative ability to increase the size of allowed attachments
    • RSS feeds from podcasts posted inside a course or community

    For more information about these features, you can go directly to the Learning Objects website.

    Note: for a good example how to use a wiki inside Blackboard, see History Professor Anne Rubin’s student group project: “Child Labor in the American South” which was presented at the Oct. 2 Maryland Blackboard Users Group (MDBUG) conference.

    Posted by rarmstro at 6:00 AM | TrackBack

    Reserving AV Equipment for WT2008 & SP2008

    If you plan to use presentation technology in your Winter or Spring 2008 face-to-face classes, please submit an equipment request by December 19, 2007. Requests can be submitted using a web form or by calling AV services at ext. 5-2461. Remember: all equipment requests are subject to availability and are not considered confirmed until you receive an email reply confirming your request.

    For future reference: All faculty can determine which rooms have specific A/V equipment permanently installed by using the "Find Tech Classrooms" link under the "Class Tech Links" on the myBlackboard tab. However, when scheduling a room assignment from Academic Services (through your department scheduling coordinator), it's best to ask for specific room attributes (including technology) rather than asking for a specific room. Because of demand, you may not get the specific room you want, however, Academic Services tries to provide a similar room if they know what you want. If you have questions or concerns, please contact AV Services (ext. 5-2461 or avservices@umbc.edu).

    Note: AV Services will be open from 8:30 AM to 4 PM during FA2007 finals week, December 13-19, 2007. All requests for equipment during this period must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance using the online request form. The AV office will be open for returns only on December 20,2007. Please call in advance (ext. 5-2461). The International Media Center will be open during the following hours:
    December 12, 13, 17, 18 (9 AM to 9 PM) December 14, 19 (9 AM to 4
    PM) December 16 (1 PM to 6 PM) December 20-21 (Closed)
    If you have questions, please contact Joan Costello in the Media Center (ext. 5-
    2464 or jcoste1@umbc.edu).

    Posted by rarmstro at 5:00 AM | TrackBack

    FYI: Blackboard Training in January

    A number of Blackboard-related workshops will be offered in January, 2008, including the following:

    Getting started with Blackboard

    Tuesday, January 8 - This 90 minute hands-on workshop will get you started using Blackboard at UMBC. The workshop will cover how to access your course, basic course design, posting a syllabus, adding content, and managing users in your course. (Please bring an electronic copy of your syllabus if you have one.) Prerequisites: Active UMBC account

    Blackboard Wikis and Blogs

    Thursday, January 10 - All UMBC Blackboard courses and communities have access to interactive community publishing tools such as blogs (diary-like journals any user can create) and wikis (a communal web site anyone can add to and edit). This one hour hands-on workshop will give participants a chance to try out blogs and wikis for themselves, and show how others are currently using them in UMBC Blackboard courses and communities. Click here for an example from a previous workshop.

    Note: This workshop assumes at least a basic understanding of the instructor's or leader's role and function inside a Blackboard course or community.

    You can register for these Blackboard sessions by going to the Blackboard training page.

    Jack Prostko, Director, Faculty Development Center, will again be offering an orientation session for new part-time faculty on January 22 and 26, 2008. (All part-time faculty who have not previously attended are also welcome to come.)

    PT Faculty Orientation (Tue., Jan. 22, 5:30 to 8 p.m., UC312)

    This session will focus will focus on establishing your myUMBC account, getting a class list, computer support, Blackboard, using the library, administrative issues such as parking, payroll and benefits, teaching and academic issues and teaching resources.

    Teaching and Learning Workshop (Sat., Jan. 26, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., International Media Center (IMC)

    9 a.m. Continental breakfast

    9:30 a.m. Teaching and learning techniques, course goals, assignments, tests, and promoting academic integrity.

    12:30 Lunch will be provided to registered participants

    1 p.m. OIT will provide a hands-on introduction to Blackboard for those that have myUMBC accounts.

    These sessions are sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Development Center. To register, see the Faculty Development training page.

    Posted by rarmstro at 4:00 AM | TrackBack

    FYI: Blackboard Awards for Exemplary Courses and Projects

    Each year, Blackboard.com is looking for those who "develop technologically rich and pedagogically sound courses". These courses are highlighted to "help faculty use e-learning technology more effectively". The program has been very successful in years past and has presented effective courses from many disciplines.

    The deadline for submissions is January 21, 2008. For more information and the appropriate submission forms, go to the Blackboard Greenhouse Program website.

    Posted by rarmstro at 1:00 AM | TrackBack

    November 25, 2007

    FYI: SU2008 Hybrid Course Design Stipends (Course Proposal Deadline: Dec. 7)

    The Office of Summer, Winter & Special Programs (OSWSP) invites proposals from any UMBC faculty member for $1,500 "course development" funding to redesign current face-to-face (F2F) UMBC courses for online or hybrid (part online, part F2F) delivery in summer session 2008. Instructional design and technology support are also provided by the UMBC Faculty Development Center (FDC) and the Office of Informational Technology (OIT). To begin the process, complete the online course proposal by Dec. 7. For more information, including deadlines for required "deliverables" and training workshops, visit www.umbc.edu/oit/hybrid.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:36 AM | TrackBack

    October 16, 2007

    GES Faculty Show and Tell How and Why They Use Blackboard

    Karin Readel
    Karin Readel
    Chris Swan
    Chris Swan
    OIT has published two inaugural "Show & Tell" screen capture videos by Geography and Environmental Systems (GES) faculty Karin Readel and Chris Swan, whose courses are among the top five Most Active Undergraduate Blackboard Courses for Summer 2007 and Spring 2007 respectively, as measured by average hits per student on the UMBC Blackboard Reports site.

    In addition, OIT has published pilot reports for some of Readel's and Swan's recent courses showing student activity by final grade distribution:

  • Readel: SCI100_7050_SU2007 "Water: An Interdisciplinary Study"
  • Swan: GES302A_0101_SP2007 "Applied Issues in Ecology"
  • Swan: GES408_0101_SP2007 "Field Ecology"
  • Swan: GEOS206_0101_SP2006 "Ecology"

    While this kind of individual course report is not yet available (faculty can do it manually), OIT intends to provide this service to faculty who wish to view it privately (or eventually post it inside a Bb course for future students to monitor and benchmark their own activity).

    OIT will also be publishing a similar, public report that summarizes student activity and tool use by grade distribution in the top 25, 50, 75 and 100 percentile ranges of all UMBC Blackboard courses. The goal is to see what difference, if any, exists in student grade distribution across a range of Bb courses and activity levels.

    UMBC on iTunesAfter watching Readel and Swan show how they use Blackboard in their actual course sites, faculty may want to check out why they do so in two new "Q & A" video interviews on UMBC's iTunesU service (for more information about UMBC on iTunes, see http://itunes.umbc.edu).

    OIT plans to publish more "Show & Tell" (how) and "Q & A" (why) videos from faculty teaching active Blackboard courses in other disciplines, but if you or a colleague has an effective practice or insight you'd be willing to share, send email to fritz@umbc.edu. Please include a short description of the pedagogical problem that is solved or the new learning opportunity that is created in using Blackboard.

    Note: To protect the work and identity of students who may appear in the "Show & Tell" videos, only UMBC faculty can access them with their myUMBC userid & password. These videos are intended for collegial, professional development only, so all faculty are reminded that any medium containing identifiable student academic information constitutes an "educational record" that is protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

    Posted by fritz at 4:10 PM | TrackBack

    October 15, 2007

    OIT Staff Present Blackboard Reporting Project at MDBUG Conference

    MDBUG ConferenceOIT staff members John Fritz, director of Instructional Technology & New Media (ITNM), and Jeffrey Berman (an ITNM graduate assistant) presented the UMBC "Most Active Blackboard Courses" Reports project at the Maryland Blackboard Users Group (MDBUG) conference on Tuesday, October 2, at the UMBC Technology Center.

    Proceedings are not yet available on the conference website, but you can watch Fritz and Berman's presentation, "Why and How UMBC Publishes Its Most Active Blackboard Courses Reports," on the Blackboard reports site (Fritz handles the "why" and Berman explains the "how").

    Other UMBC presenters included:


  • Anne Rubin (History): "Child Labor in the American South: Using a Bb Wiki for Historical Research"
  • Matthias Gobbert (Math/Stats): "Screen Capture of Mathematics with Voice Over using a Tablet Laptop"
  • Katie Morris (Social Work): "Social Work & Technology: An Unlikely Pair?"
  • Bev Bickel & Adriana Val (MLL): "Multiple Voices from Online EFL Teacher Education"

  • For more information about the Maryland Blackboard Users Group, including the opt-in email listserve, visit www.umbc.edu/mdbug.

    Posted by fritz at 1:45 PM | TrackBack

    September 13, 2007

    Weekly Blackboard Maintenance Begins This Weekend

    3/8/10 UPDATE

    The weekly Blackboard maintenance window is now Friday, 10 p.m. to Saturday, 1 a.m.

    Division of Information Technology


    Starting this Saturday, September 15, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) is implementing weekly Blackboard maintenance on Saturdays from 6 to 9 a.m. While OIT may not always use all or part of these weekly maintenance "windows," Blackboard users should plan accordingly.

    Since 1999, UMBC has used Blackboard which now supports more than 1,000 courses and 350 organizations every semester, making it one of the largest, most mission-critical technology services on campus. However, there is no good time when OIT can perform necessary patches, upgrades or even simple reboots because the academic semesters all overlap (except the third week in August, which is too close to the start of Fall).

    OIT will continue to implement major upgrades in January, when the small number of winter courses can be run on a separate Bb server. But we need regular weekly maintenance and think the 6 to 9 a.m. window on Saturdays minimizes disruption to users while giving OIT staff access to the system to maintain it.

    For the next month, OIT will post system-wide Blackboard maintenance "reminders" on Thursdays, develop a generic "Blackboard is Down for Maintenance" message for anyone who logs in when Blackboard is down, and continue to note any changes to the system.

    Long term, we think regular maintenance will help improve Blackboard's performance, and appreciate the campus community's support and patience as we move forward.

    Posted by fritz at 8:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    SU2007 Blackboard Reports Now Include Tool Usage

    OIT has published the Summer 2007 "Most Active Blackboard Courses" reports for all categories of usage (e.g., all courses, graduate courses, undergraduate courses, communities, etc.).

    In addition, we have published the specific "tool usage" metrics for the top 50 courses in all categories. Future plans include providing this for all courses.

    Reminder: Course activity alone is not a measure or endorsement of quality. These reports are merely provided as a way for faculty to seek each other out about what works (or doesn't) in using Blackboard.

    Posted by fritz at 1:39 PM | TrackBack

    August 28, 2007

    Blackboard Will Be Down 9/1 (9 p.m.) to 9/2 (9 a.m.)

    To extend a fix of recent "database connection" errors that have increased during the busy days leading to the start of semester today, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) needs to take Blackboard down from 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, to 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 2.

    Working with Blackboard, OIT has developed a short-term fix to the "database connection" errors, but needs extended downtime with no user access to address an underlying issue with the production database. No content has been lost, nor is it expected. But the production database that runs Blackboard needs to be "cleaned up" so performance does not degrade throughout the semester, when the user load will only increase. We are also continuing to work with Blackboard to identify existing processes that may be contributing to the problem.

    Currently, we believe overall performance is stable. If we find otherwise, we will post an update on the OIT News site at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/news which you can also subscribe to by RSS feed or view in myUMBC. If you encounter system performance problems, please send email to helpdesk@umbc.edu.

    We understand this is a busy time of year, and appreciate your patience as we address these system issues to maintain acceptable performance during the semester.

    Posted by fritz at 2:18 PM | TrackBack

    August 18, 2007

    Storage Failure Results in Blackboard and Additional System Outages

    On Tuesday, September 18th at approximately 5pm there was a failure in our campus file storage system that caused Blackboard and other Windows services to be unavailable until 8pm. This storage outage impacted a number of other campus services in addition to Blackboard, such as:

    Blackboard Pilot Server (OIT)
    Content DM (Library)
    Illiad (Library)
    Reslife Server (ORL)
    Coldfusion (CPS)
    iStrategy (PeopleSoft)
    Counseling Services Scheduler

    This error was the result of a storage hardware failure, which combined with a software error, caused the storage system to go offline. This error was completely independent of Blackboard and the Windows services noted but nonetheless resulted in them being unavailable. We apologize for any impact this had on courses and other campus business.

    OIT fully understands that these systems, especially Blackboard, are a critical campus resource and we are reviewing this incident to make certain this does not happen again. We have included additional details below for those that are interested.

    Details
    Over the summer OIT installed a new redundant file storage system that is housed in two separate facilities. This redundant file system is used for critical services, such as blackboard, and insures that in a disaster such as a fire or flood we will have the data associated with service available and be able to restore service in the other facility within a few hours. Earlier this week a hardware failure occurred on one of the fiber optic links that connects the two facilities. In replacing the failed hardware component the system should automatically fail over to an alternate fiber optic link and remain up. This time, when the component was replaced a software error caused the file storage system to go offline.

    We are working with our storage vendor to fully understand how this occurred and will adjust our procedures to make certain that this kind of error does not happen again. We are committed to providing a robust set of services that you can depend on.

    Posted by mikec at 10:14 PM | TrackBack

    August 17, 2007

    Blackboard Down 0n 8/18 to Apply Patches

    Blackboard will be down and unavailable to users from 6am to noon on Saturday, August 18, 2007. OIT is applying patches that are needed to keep the current version of the application up-to-date.

    Thank you for your patience and if you have any questions or concerns, please contact Bob Armstrong at 410.455.3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu or send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:54 AM | TrackBack

    August 6, 2007

    Blackboard Update - Fall 2007

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard, visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. Fall 2007 Blackboard Course Shells Have Been Created


    2. Audience Response "Clickers" on Campus


    3. New Report Lists Most Active Blackboard Courses and Communities


    4. OIT Seeks Faculty to Pilot New Version of Blackboard


    5. Blackboard Training Workshops


    6. 8/22 Hybrid Training Workshop


    7. Reminder: Classroom Technology Requests Deadline 8/17 for Mobile Carts


    8. FYI: Call for Presentations: 10/2 MDBUG Conf. @ UMBC Tech Center

    Posted by berman1 at 10:07 AM | TrackBack

    Call for Presentations: 10/2 MDBUG Conf. @ UMBC Tech Center

    The Maryland Blackboard Users Group (MDBUG) is now accepting presentation proposals for its first-ever conference on Tuesday, October 2, 2007, at the UMBC Technology Center (proposal deadline is Friday, September 7). This is a great, local opportunity to meet other Blackboard users and share effective practices.

    To propose a presentation, you MUST use the attached form and submit it on the MDBUG "Connections" site at http://communities.blackboard.com (a free Blackboard "connections" userid is required to login, find and "self-enroll" in the MDBUG site). In addition to traditional lecture, workshop and panel presentation formats, the MDBUG conference will also offer a "Five Minutes of Fame" slot, modeled after the popular format at the annual New Media Consortium conference.

    The MDBUG was formed in March 2007, and has 80 members from more than 30 public and private institutions in Maryland who are using or supporting Blackboard on their respective campuses. In addition to the space on Blackboard's own "Connections" site (which always runs the latest version of the Bb software), the MDBUG also maintains a member email listserve (see https://lists.umbc.edu/lists/info/mdbug for more information).

    For more information about MDBUG or to consult on a conference proposal idea, contact John Fritz at 410.455.6596 or fritz@umbc.edu or Ellen Borkowski at 301.405.2922 or eyb@umd.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 6:17 AM | TrackBack

    August 3, 2007

    Fall 2007 Blackboard Course Shells Have Been Created

    OIT has created empty Blackboard course shells for all Fall 2007 courses listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes with assigned instructors. Courses that don’t have assigned instructors will be created as they are added to the Schedule of Classes by the Registrar’s office. Only officially registered students will be automatically enrolled in all Bb courses.

    Note: Because some students (and faculty) have mistakenly enrolled in a Bb course shell as official UMBC course registration, OIT has turned off the “self enrollment” function in all new Blackboard shells.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:54 AM | TrackBack

    OIT Seeks Faculty to Pilot New Version of Blackboard

    OIT is looking for faculty that would be willing to pilot the new 7.2 version of Blackboard. Participants will be asked to give OIT feedback on how the system is working and to keep us informed of any issues that arise.

    The 7.2 version contains several new features that add to the functionality currently available in Blackboard.

    • Student early warning system to monitor student performance
    • Comments section in gradebook that allows faculty to give individual feedback on assignments
    • The option to send an email to students when new announcements are posted.

    As in past UMBC Bb pilot programs, faculty who want to use the most recent version should consider the following:

    OIT will place an announcement in your pilot course describing what you and your students need to do if you encounter a problem in the version 7.2 pilot environment. We would ask you to make this a “permanent” announcement in your course throughout the semester.
    • Throughout the semester, you and your students may be asked to complete a survey about your experience with the software.
    • Your course will not be compatible with the regular production server until it is migrated to the version 7.2 software. Currently, OIT plans to migrate all courses to version 7.2 in January 2008.
    The pilot server can be found at http://bb-pilot.umbc.edu.

    If you are interested in participating, please contact Bob Armstrong (ext 5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu)

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:38 AM | TrackBack

    Blackboard Training Workshops

    OIT has added a variety of Blackboard workshops to the training schedule including:

    * Getting Started in Blackboard (Aug. 8)
    * Creating Assessments and Managing the Gradebook (Aug. 10)
    * Building Interactivity with Communication Tools (Aug. 16)
    * Getting Started in Blackboard (Aug. 22)
    * How to Use Blogs & Wikis in Bb (Sept. 26)

    Please visit www.umbc.edu/training for more information and to register.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:35 AM | TrackBack

    Reminder: Classroom Technology Requests Deadline 8/17 for Mobile Carts

    If you plan to use technology in your Fall 2007 face-to-face classes, please submit an equipment request by August 17, 2007. Requests can be submitted using a web form or by calling AV services at ext. 5-2461. After completing and submitting the form, remember that all equipment requests are subject to availability and are not considered confirmed until you receive a return email.

    For future reference: All faculty can determine which rooms have specific A/V equipment by using the "Find Tech Classrooms" link under the "Class Tech Links" mentioned on the myBlackboard tab. However, when scheduling a room assignment from Academic Services (through your department scheduling coordinator), it's best to ask for specific room attributes (including technology) rather than asking for a specific room. Because of demand, you may not get the specific room you want, however, Academic Services will try to provide a similar room if they know what you want.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:49 AM | TrackBack

    May 1, 2007

    SP2007 UMBC Bb Update: Most Active Courses, User Survey

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard, login via myUMBC or visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    HEADLINES

    1. New Report Lists Most Active Blackboard Courses and Communities

    2. UMBC Blackboard User Survey Now Available

    3. How to Add Non-UMBC Users to a Bb Course or Community

    4. Solution to Blackboard Login "Redirecting" Problem

    5. OIT Downtime Notices (Including Blackboard) Available on Blog

    6. "Scholar" Tab Added to Blackboard

    7. Reminder: Make SP2007 Courses Unavailable or Delete Students

    8. Reminder: SP2007 Course Shells Expire on 6/15

    9. Class Technology Request Deadlines: SU2007 (5/18), FA2007 (8/1 for lab software; 8/17 for Mobile AV Carts)

    10. FYI: Goucher to Host 5/30 TLT Conference

    11. FYI: UMBC Launches Maryland Blackboard Users Group

    12. FYI: BbWorld'07 World Conference is July 10-12 in Boston

    13. FYI: 5/16 Hybrid Course Design Workshop "Information Session"

    Posted by fritz at 4:22 PM | TrackBack

    April 29, 2007

    New Report Lists Most Active Blackboard Courses and Communities

    Today, OIT is publishing a new set of reports that, for the first time, identifies the Top 50 most active Blackboard courses and communities by a simple “average hits per user” methodology. While there is no implication of “quality” based on activity alone—after all, students could be struggling to find directions for an assignment—these new reports rank activity across all Blackboard courses (e.g., undergraduate, graduate, by discipline) and by all users (e.g., faculty, students). As such, they allow faculty and students to network with one another about what works or doesn’t work in using technology in teaching and learning. The new Blackboard reports are available on the MyBlackboard tab and directly at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/newmedia/blackboard/stats (login required).

    If you have any questions, contact John Fritz at 5-6596 or fritz@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 1:00 PM | TrackBack

    April 28, 2007

    UMBC Blackboard User Survey Now Available

    Today, OIT is announcing a new survey for all UMBC Blackboard users, available on the MyBlackboard tab “Announcements” or in every course and community. Please take a few minutes to help us help you. The anonymous survey will end one week from today, May 8, and results will be available the following day on the Blackboard Reports page. If you have any questions or difficulty answering the survey, contact Bob Armstrong at rarmstro@umbc.edu or ext. 5-3885.

    Posted by rarmstro at 1:03 PM | TrackBack

    April 27, 2007

    How to Add Non-UMBC Users to a Bb Course or Community

    Have you ever needed to add users from outside UMBC into your Blackboard course or community? OIT has developed an easy way to create temporary user accounts so that guest lecturers and fellow researchers can log directly into Blackboard with their own account. The accounts can be created for 6 month access or one year.

    If you needs accounts created, please send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu and a staff member will contact you.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:53 AM | TrackBack

    April 26, 2007

    Solution to Blackboard Login "Redirecting" Problem

    Sometimes Blackboard/myUMBC users have experienced a "looping" problem where the browser will continue to "redirect" in an attempt to open myUMBC or Blackboard. This is caused by anomolies in the custom authentication scripts written for the two applications. OIT is researching possible alternatives to the current custom login system for implementation in the future. For the time being; the solution is to close your browser and open a fresh one to continue using the applications.

    Should you have questions or concerns, please send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:54 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    April 25, 2007

    OIT Downtime Notices (Including Blackboard) Available on Blog

    From time to time, OIT needs to update Blackboard with patches and fixes that generally take less then an hour to accomplish. These patches are minor fixes and updates to the Blackboard software and are designed to keep users up to date with the newest functionality. These updates function much the same way as the Windows updates that you occasionally see on your home computer.

    In order to keep you informed, OIT will be posting the downtime associated with the updates on the OIT News Blog. If you have questions or concerns, or would like to subscribe to the OIT News blog by RSS feed, please feel free to contact us at blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:52 AM | TrackBack

    April 24, 2007

    "Scholar" Tab Added to Blackboard

    As part of their new "Blackboard Beyond" Initiative, Blackboard has developed a new service called "Scholar".

    Scholar is a social bookmarking service that can be found (beginning 5/29/07) under the new "Scholar" tab in Blackboard and is available to everyone with a myUMBC account. The idea of the service is to give users a place to look at resources bookmarked by others, as well as, allow users to contribute their own bookmarks. Topics that are already online include most major disciplines in higher education.

    To find out more, click on the link to Blackboard.com. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Bob Armstrong at rarmstro@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:58 AM | TrackBack

    April 23, 2007

    Reminder: Make Courses Unavailable or Delete Students

    As we near the end of the semester, here's a checklist of tasks instructors may want to keep in mind (help sheets are available on the Blackboard Help tab):

    Make your course unavailable to students
    Create a backup copy of your course (and gradebook)
    Archive or request to have old Bb course deleted

    For more information or help, send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 12:56 PM | TrackBack

    April 22, 2007

    Reminder: Spring 2007 Course Shells Expire on 6/15

    The Spring 2007 auto-created Bb course "shells" are set to expire on June 15, 2007 after grades are due. This means the course will automatically revert to being unavailable to students, but faculty will still see the course link. This will help students who frequently complain about having numerous links to old courses in Blackboard. They can request ongoing access from the instructor, who can override the duration settings manually. This may be helpful for processing incompletes, but the majority of students will not have to request to be un-enrolled from old courses.

    If you have any questions or concerns, you can send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:00 AM | TrackBack

    April 21, 2007

    Class Technology Request Deadlines: SU2007 (5/18), FA2007 (8/1 for lab software; 8/17 for Mobile Carts)

    If you plan on using technology in your Summer 2007 face-to-face classes, please submit an AV request by May 18, 2007. For the Fall semester, please submit requests by August 17, 2007. Requests can be submitted using a web form or by calling AV services at ext. 5-3885. After completing and submitting the form, remember that all equipment requests are subject to availability and are not considered confirmed until you receive a return email.

    For future reference: All faculty can determine which rooms have specific A/V equipment by using the "Find Tech Classrooms" link under the "Class Tech Links" mentioned on the myBlackboard tab. However, when scheduling a room assignment from Academic Services (through your department scheduling coordinator) it's best to ask for specific room attributes (including technology) rather than ask for a specific room. Because of demand, you may not get the specific room you want, but Academic Services tries to provide a similar room, if they know what you want.

    If you want to schedule a computer lab, please review the reservation process on the OIT web site. Note: If you need to have specialized software installed on all workstations in a computer lab, the deadline to do so is August 1, 2007, for use in the Fall 2007 software. OIT needs this lead time to test, install and incorporate the your software into a base lab “image” or copy that is used to manage all OIT labs. Visit http://www.umbc.edu/oit/classroomtechnology/labs for more information.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:46 AM | TrackBack

    April 19, 2007

    FYI: Goucher to Host 5/30 TLT Conference

    Like to see what other universities are doing with technology and teaching? Visit the Goucher College CTLT Annual Conference on May 30th. The theme for the conference is “Learning Styles: From Theory to Practice” and will focus on learning styles in higher education.

    The newly established Maryland Blackboard Users Group will be meeting directly after the conference.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:55 AM | TrackBack

    April 18, 2007

    UMBC Launches Maryland Blackboard Users Group

    Ever wonder who else is using Blackboard in Maryland? Well, now you can by joining the Maryland Blackboard Users Group (MDBUG) listserv. The list was designed to facilitate communication between and among public or private Maryland educational institutions using Blackboard.

    The MDBUG will be meeting after the Goucher CTLT Conference on May 30th (you do NOT need to register for Goucher’s conference to attend). Also, you may want to “save the date” for MDBUG “User Conference” is scheduled for Thursday, October 4 at the UMBC Technology Center (details TBA on the MDBUG listserve and the Fall 2007 UMBC Blackboard Update). For more information on the MDBUG, visit https://lists.umbc.edu/lists/info/mdbug.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:56 AM | TrackBack

    April 17, 2007

    FYI: BbWorld '07 Conference Registration has Begun

    Registration for the BbWorld '07 conference has begun. The conference is being held in Boston from July 10-12, 2007 and is the first time Blackboard and the newly acquired WebCT will be presented at the same time.

    To register for the conference, just complete the form on the Blackboard website. Several staff from OIT will be attending the conference and we look forward to seeing you there.

    Posted by rarmstro at 9:56 AM | TrackBack

    February 2, 2007

    OIT Discontinues Disabling Students in Blackboard Courses

    Beginning with the Spring 2007 semester, OIT instituted a new procedure that, in addition to enrolling officially registered students in Blackboard course sites, also disables or removes access from students who officially dropped a course in myUMBC. After discovering some conflicts with the Student Information System (SIS), OIT has decided to turn off the drop/disable Blackboard access feature for the Spring 2007 semester.

    As a result, faculty are encouraged to monitor their Blackboard course rosters to ensure that only officially registered students are included. To do so, compare your official course registration using the "Show Class List for a Specific Course" under "Faculty Options" on the myUMBC Academics tab. You can view the Blackboard course roster by going to the course Control Panel -> "List/Modify Users" -> "Search" and you will see the list.

    If you have any questions or need assistance, please send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:05 AM

    January 18, 2007

    "What's New" Module in Blackboard Turned Off

    OIT has attributed recent performance problems in Blackboard to the "What's New" module on the myBlackboard page. The module updates users on content that has been added to their Blackboard courses and has to search for new content each time the user logs in. This search process can substantially affect system performance.

    After consultation with Blackboard.com, OIT has decided to turn off the module. We apologize for any concerns or inconvenience this may cause.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz at ext. 5-6596 or fritz@umbc.edu; or Bob Armstrong at 5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:34 AM

    December 1, 2006

    Blackboard Update - Winter 2007

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard, visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.


    1. Reminder: End of Semester Checklist


    2. Fall 2006 Courses Expire on 1/15


    3. Spring 2007 Course Shells Created on 11/30


    4. Auto Course Enrollment Now Includes Add AND Drop Changes


    5. Blackboard Down for Upgrade 1/12-13 & 1/19-20


    6. Winter 2007 Courses to Operate on Alternate Server


    7. Reminder: Courses Prior to Fall 2002 Moved to Archive Server


    8. Reminder: Instructional Technology Faculty Survey


    9. Reminder: Reserving Mobile AV Equipment for Spring 2007


    10. New Discussion Board in Version 7.1


    11. Learning Objects' Blackboard Wiki and Blog Tool Update


    12. FYI: Summer '07 "Hybrid/Online" Courses RFP (Due: 12/8)


    13. FYI: USM Sponsors Exploration of QualityMatters Rubric (or checklist) for Quality Online Learning

    Posted by berman1 at 11:28 AM

    Reminder: End of Semester Checklist

    As we near the end of the semester, here's a checklist of tasks instructors should keep in mind (help sheets are available on the Blackboard Help tab):

    Make your course unavailable to students
    Create a backup copy of your gradebook
    Send UMBC Blackboard course deletion requests

    While past courses are available online in Blackboard, OIT recommends creating a backup of your Blackboard course gradebook, if you use it. It's also smart to make your course unavailable to students after the semester ends, so it doesn't show up in their list of courses in future semesters--a frequent complaint of students. Exceptions might include keeping the course open to process incompletes, or as a courtesy to students who request to have ongoing access.

    If you have created a backup copy of your course gradebook (online or on your own computer) consider having all older versions of the course deleted if you no longer have use for them. However, keeping your most recent version so you can "copy forward" content into subsequent course shells can save you a lot of work down the road. To permanently remove the course, use the online form on the Blackboard Help tab. When the request has been received, we will send you an email to confirm your request.

    For more information or help, send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:03 AM

    Spring 2007 Course Shells Created on 11/30

    On November 30, 2006, OIT created an empty Blackboard course shell for all Spring 2007 courses listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes (SOC)with assigned instructors. Using the "Auto Enrollment" OIT process, only officially registered students will be automatically enrolled in all Bb courses as they officially register.

    Courses that don’t have assigned instructors will be created as they are added to the Schedule of Classes by the Registrar’s office. If a course has been added to the SOC and does NOT have an instructor, a default "Staff" instructor will be assigned, so the course shell can be created in Blackboard and auto-enrollment from myUMBC enabled.

    If a "real" instructor is later assigned to the SOC (and thus the Blackboard course shell), he or she can "modify" the role of the "staff" instructor to any role below the peer status of an instructor (control panel -> list/modify users), and then remove the "Staff" user from the course (control panel -> remove users). Technically, Blackboard will not allow any user to remove a "peer" user in the system, but the change role status works.

    Alternately, faculty can request to have the "staff" instructor removed by sending email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Note: Because some students (and faculty) have mistaken enrollment in a Bb course shell as official UMBC course registration, OIT has turned off the “self enrollment” function in all new Blackboard shells.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:02 AM

    Auto Course Enrollment Now Includes Add AND Drop Changes

    Since Fall 2004, OIT has employed an "auto enroll" script that automatically enrolls all students into a companion Blackboard course site AFTER they have officially enrolled in the course through myUMBC. However, if a student later dropped the course in myUMBC, he or she was not removed from the Blackboard course site. This lead to some confusion for students and faculty. Starting in Spring 2007, students who offically drop a course in myUMBC, will be dropped from the corresponding Blackboard course site. In actual fact, they will not be removed because Blackboard does not support an event driven batch remove process. Instead they will no longer have access and they will not see the course in their list of Blackboard courses.

    Instructors will still see the students in their Blackboard course under "List/Modify Users" and the gradebook, but students will have a red circle & slash icon next to their name indicating their access has been disabled. Instructor can remove these students if they wish, especially after the add/drop deadline has passed. But at this time, OIT does not support a system-wide process for removal of students. We can only support disabling course access for students who officially drop. If the student later adds the course again, our usual auto-enrollment process will add them. For more information, see the Blackboard help sheet on "Enrollment".

    If you have questions or concerns, you can contact Bob Armstrong at ext. 5-3885, or send an email to rarmstro@umbc.edu or blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:01 AM

    Fall 2006 Courses Expire on 1/15

    As announced earlier in the semester, Summer 2006 auto-created Bb course "shells" are set to expire on September 20, 2006 after grades are due. This means the course will automatically revert to being unavailable to students, but faculty will still see the course link. This will help students who frequently complain about having numerous links to old courses in Blackboard. They can request ongoing access from the instructor, who can override the duration settings manually. This may be helpful for processing incompletes, but the majority of students will not have to request to be un-enrolled from old courses.

    Remember: students can’t un-enroll from Bb courses themselves. If you don’t need your old Bb course site, please consider deleting it by completing the “Bb Course Delete” request form on the Bb Blackboard Help tab.

    Tip: Students and instructors can use the pencil tool in “ My Courses” to hide announcements and course links on the myBlackboard tab.

    Posted by rarmstro at 11:00 AM

    Blackboard Down for Upgrade 1/12-13 & 1/19-20

    On Friday, January 12, 2007 & Friday January 19, 2007, the main Blackboard production server will be down so we can install the newest version (7.1) of Blackboard software and move the application to a new load balanced server. This version update will introduce several new features, fix some existing bugs, and increase system speed and reliability.

    This upgrade will correct issues and introduce revisions in the following areas:

    • Correct problem with emailing large numbers of users
    • Introduce new Discussion Board
    • Provide for better administrative support

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596) or Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:59 AM

    Winter 2007 Courses to Operate on Alternate Server

    Because of the January 12 and 19 hardware and software upgrade when the production version of Blackboard will be down--and to recover a much needed window in the academic year when OIT can apply and test upgrades--all Winter 2007 Blackboard courses will be operating on an alternate Blackboard server called http://bbss.umbc.edu with the new version 7.1 installed. They will stay on this server throughout the Winter semester.

    OIT will create requested course shells for Winter 2007 Bb courses on http://bbss.umbc.edu and move Winter 2007 courses currently on the production server during the afternoon of Tuesday, December 19 and will email all affected professors when the process is complete. We will also be posting notices inside the production server of Blackboard alerting Winter 2007 students that their courses are on a different server. We will also provide a direct link to that server where they should find their courses.

    Note: Because Winter 2007 courses will be on a separate server, they will NOT be auto-created with empty course "shells" as is the case with Spring 2007 courses. Winter 2007 courses will be created upon request by faculty using the course request form on the Blackboard Help Tab. In addition, Winter 2007 courses will NOT be "auto-enrolled." Faculty can either enroll students one-at-a-time, allow students to "self-enroll" or contact OIT for a one-time "batch-enroll" of their course rosters (faculty can then augment the course roster by enrolling or deleting students manually). To request a one-time batch enroll of your Winter 2005 course, send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:58 AM

    Reminder: Courses Prior to Fall 2002 Moved to Archive Server

    As announced on May 17th, 2006, all courses older then one year are gradually being moved from the production server to an alternate archive called http://archive.umbc.edu, where they can be accessed. As of the date of this update, OIT has copied all of the courses prior to Fall 2002. After the 7.1 upgrade in January, OIT will likely delete archived courses from the main production server by the end of the Spring 2007 semester. If you have a course in Blackboard that was created prior to Fall 2002, you can access it by going to http://archive.umbc.edu. Remember that courses copied to the archive server can not be used for conducting classes as students will NOT have access to the archive server. The archived courses should serve as a place to retrieve course content and data from past courses and not a place to conduct classes.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Bob Armstrong at ext. 5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu, or send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:56 AM

    Reminder: Instructional Technology Faculty Survey

    The Blackboard faculty survey that was first introduced prior to the beginning of the Fall semester is still available for faculty to complete. Your participation is appreciated and the feedback will allow OIT to better serve your audio-visual needs.

    To access the anonymous 15-question survey, simply log into Blackboard. If you are a faculty member, look for a link to the Instructional Technology community under "My Organizations". Click on the community link and you will see a link to the survey on the announcements page. Your input is important to us and we appreciate your time in completing the survey. If you have any questions, contact Steve Anderson at sanderso@umbc.edu or 410.455.3680.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:55 AM

    Reminder: Reserving Mobile AV Equipment for Spring 2007

    If you plan on using technology in your Spring 2007 face-to-face classes, please submit an AV request by January 24, 2007. Requests can be submitted using a web form. After completing and submitting the form, remember that all equipment requests are subject to availability and are not considered confirmed until you receive a return email.

    For future reference: All faculty can determine which rooms have specific A/V equipment by using the "Find Tech Classrooms" link under the "Class Tech Links" mentioned on the myBlackboard tab. However, when scheduling a room assignment from Academic Services (through your department scheduling coordinator) it's best to ask for specific room attributes (including technology) rather than ask for a specific room. Because of demand, you may not get the specific room you want, but Academic Services tries to provide a similar room, if they know what you want.

    Classroom Technology can be reached at 410.455.2461 or by sending an email to avservices@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:54 AM

    New Discussion Board in Version 7.1

    The biggest change in the new version of Blackboard that will be available in Spring 2007, is the redesigned discussion board. The discussion board tool, found under communications in each Blackboard course shell, has been redesigned to allow faculty to "grade" student discussion board posts, a new subscription option for individual threads, better administration tools, and a new peer review/rating option where students can rate the posts of others. It also has a different "look" in the way that it displays user posts.

    OIT has developed some flash movies that you can view to better understand the changes that have been incorporated into the new version. You can view the movies by going to here for creating a new forum and here for managing threads.

    If you have questions or concerns, you can contact Bob Armstrong at ext. 5-3885, or send an email to rarmstro@umbc.edu or blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:53 AM

    Learning Objects' Blackboard Wiki and Blog Tool Update

    OIT will be installing the newest version of the Learning Objects wiki and blog tools in Blackboard. The new version includes several new upgrades:

    - Improved site navigation for easier movement between user pages
    - Site search function in the wikis
    - Filters for searching blog entries
    - A calendar feature in the blogs for seeing most recent posts

    OIT has developed some training videos that highlight the new design and the new features. The video for wikis can be seen here and the blog for the blogs can be seen here. Additional help can be found by clicking on the "?" that can be found once you open the application.

    If you have questions or concerns, please contact Bob Armstrong at ext. 5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu or send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:52 AM

    November 8, 2006

    Learning Objects: Wikis and Blogs on 11/15

    Looking for a way to engage your students and foster active learning and collaboration in your Blackboard course? Come and listen to Peter Shipley and Hal Herzog from Learning Objects, makers of the wiki and blog tools that are incorporated into your Blackboard courses. They will be demonstrating real world examples of how these tools are being used by universities across the nation and showing us the new versions that make the process even easier. There will be plenty of time for questions at the end.

    You can sign up by going to http://www.umbc.edu/training. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Bob Armstrong at ext.5-3885 or rarmstro@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 1:55 PM

    November 6, 2006

    11/17 USM Overview of "QualityMatters" Assessment of Online/Hybrid Course Design

    The University System of Maryland (USM) is sponsoring a Nov. 17 half-day "Overview" workshop at Towson Univ. on the "QualityMatters" rubric (or "checklist") of best practices for evaluating online or hybrid course design. The deadline for online registration is 11/16, and will be followed by "hands-on" workshops in January and March. Seating is limited, but many participating USM schools (including UMBC) plan to host on-campus, video conference "viewing sites" for most, if not all of workshop activities. For more information about QualityMatters or the related USM sessions, please visit: http://www.usmd.edu/usm/onlinelearning.

    FYI: UMBC will be using a "self review" version of the "QualityMatters" rubric for the Summer 2007 Alternate Delivery Program (RFP deadline: 12/8/06). Specifically, the QM rubric will be a required final deliverable for the $1,500 "course redesign" award OR as the proposal form for the new $1,000 "peer mentor" award. For more information, see http://www.umbc.edu/oit/hybrid.

    Posted by fritz at 11:02 PM

    Summer '07 "Hybrid/Online" Courses RFP (Due: 12/8)

    The Office of Summer, Winter & Special Programs (OSWSP) invites proposals from UMBC full and part-time faculty to develop online or hybrid courses to be offered during the 2007 Summer Session. This "Alternate Delivery Program" (ADP) includes $1,500 "course redesign" OR $1,000 "peer mentoring" funding as well as support from the UMBC Faculty Development Center (FDC) and Office of Information Technology (OIT).

    APPLICATION DEADLINE: Friday, December 8, 2006
    AWARD NOTIFICATION: Monday, December 18, 2006

    For more information, including ADP requirements, proposal procedures, a list of past participants and a related 11/28 "information session," please visit www.umbc.edu/ssfaculty/adp or www.umbc.edu/oit/hybrid.

    Posted by fritz at 10:49 PM

    August 3, 2006

    Blackboard Update - Fall 2006

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard, visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    1. FA2006 Course Shells Created on 8/3 & "Self Enrollment" Turned Off


    2. Reminder: Faculty Must Turn On Course Shells for Students to See Them


    3. Tip: Students Can "Hide" Old Courses on MyBlackboard Tab


    4. Blackboard Course Archiving to Begin 8/7


    5. OIT Units Merge to Become Instructional Technology & New Media


    6. Instructional Technology Faculty Survey


    7. Reserving V Equipment for Fall 2006


    8. Summer 2006 Courses Expire on 9/20


    9. Problem Sending Bulk Emails in Blackboard


    10. FYI: 9/15 Educause Learning Initiative "Webinar" on Assessment


    11. FYI: Upcoming Blackboard Workshops


    12. FYI: Welcome to Jeffrey Berman

    Posted by berman1 at 10:57 AM

    August 2, 2006

    Fall 2006 Course Shells Created on 8/3 & “Self Enrollment” Turned Off

    Today, August 3, 2006, OIT created an empty Blackboard course shell for all Fall 2006 courses listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes with assigned instructors. Courses that don’t have assigned instructors will be created as they are added to the Schedule of Classes by the Registrar’s office. Only officially registered students will be automatically enrolled in all Bb courses.

    Note: Because some students (and faculty) have mistaken enrollment in a Bb course shell as official UMBC course registration, OIT has turned off the “self enrollment” function in all new Blackboard shells.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:34 PM

    August 1, 2006

    Reminder: Faculty Must Turn Course Sites On for Students to See Them

    Any faculty member who wants to use Blackboard simply needs to log in via myUMBC or http://blackboard.umbc.edu and make his or her course “available” (control panel - Settings - Availability - Y/N). Detailed instructions are available on the Blackboard Help tab. If you do not wish to use Blackboard, do nothing. By default, all UMBC Blackboard course "shells" remain "unavailable" to students until the instructor of record makes his or her course available.

    Reminder: An online instructor manual and student user manual are available inside every Blackboard course and on the Blackboard Help Tab.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:05 PM

    July 31, 2006

    Tip: Students Can “Hide” Old Courses on MyBlackboard Tab

    Many students complain they remain enrolled in old Bb courses that take up space on their “My Courses” section of the MyBlackboard Tab. By clicking on the “pencil” icon, they can hide old courses. Better yet, Faculty should remove students from their old courses or make the course sites unavailable. Students can NOT un-enroll themselves from a Bb course site.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:12 PM

    July 29, 2006

    Blackboard Course Archiving to Begin 8/7

    As announced on May 17, 2006, OIT will begin to archive old courses that have been taking up space on the Blackboard production server. Following discussions with the Faculty Senate’s Computer Policy Committee (CPC) and the University’s IT Steering Committee (ITSC), all courses older then one academic year will gradually be archived and moved from the main production server to an archive server. This process will begin with our oldest courses from 2000 and 2001, starting on August 7, 2006. As a result, archiving should make current courses run faster and aide the normal backup process carried out each day and for planned upgrades. Archived courses will continue to be available to faculty for retrieving content, but will not be available for use by students. For more information, see the white paper OIT developed to describe the problem and the archiving procedure.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:45 PM

    July 27, 2006

    Instructional Technology Faculty Survey

    To better understand in-class, faculty use of technology, OIT has created a Blackboard community containing all campus faculty and an anonymous 15-question survey that should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. To access the survey, simply log into Blackboard and, if you are a faculty member, look for a link to the Instructional Technology community under "My Organizations". Click on the community link and you will see a link to the survey on the announcements page. Your input is important to us and we appreciate your time in completing the survey. If you have any questions, contact Steve Anderson at sanderso@umbc.edu or 410.455.3680.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:25 PM

    July 26, 2006

    Reserving AV Equipment for Fall 2006

    If you plan on using technology in your Fall 2006 face-to-face classes, please submit an AV request by August 21, 2006. Requests can be submitted using a web form. After completing and submitting the form, remember that all equipment requests are subject to availability and are not considered confirmed until you receive a return email. Classroom Technology can be reached at 410.455.2461 or by sending an email to avservices@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:07 PM

    July 25, 2006

    Summer 2006 Courses Expire on 9/20

    As announced earlier in the semester, Summer 2006 auto-created Bb course "shells" are set to expire on September 20, 2006 after grades are due. This means the course will automatically revert to being unavailable to students, but faculty will still see the course link. This will help students who frequently complain about having numerous links to old courses in Blackboard. They can request ongoing access from the instructor, who can override the duration settings manually. This may be helpful for processing incompletes, but the majority of students will not have to request to be un-enrolled from old courses.

    Remember: students can’t un-enroll from Bb courses themselves. If you don’t need your students to see old Bb course sites from any past semester, please consider making them "unavailable". If you are finished with a course and don't need the content, student submissions or gradebook, consider deleting it by completing the “Bb Course Delete” request form on the Bb Blackboard Help tab.

    Hot Tip: Students and instructors can use the pencil tool in “ My Courses” to hide announcements and course links.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:23 PM

    July 24, 2006

    Problem Sending Bulk Emails in Blackboard

    OIT has identified a problem with sending bulk emails to more then 100 users through courses/communities in Blackboard. The problem appears to allow a user to send an email to more then 100 users, but in reality, the emails are not being successfully sent through the system. This is because OIT has recently enabled a personal email setting that restricts any UMBC user from sending email to more than 100 users. Also, Blackboard recently changed its own email delivery system by eliminating a setting that “chunked” bulk emails to mini-distributions of 25 users or less.

    After consulting with Blackboard, OIT could eliminate the 100+ personal email filter (which does help fight internally generated spam), or wait to upgrade to the latest version of Blackboard, which will allow us to manually set the mini-distribution “chunks” to a number below OIT’s maximum personal email distribution setting. In keeping with past practice, OIT will upgrade during the winter semester, to ensure the least amount of interruption and unforeseen issues during the fall and spring semesters.

    In the meantime, instructors and community managers can workaround this problem by using the “Advanced Group Management” tool, to divide large Bb sites into groups smaller then 100 users and email to those groups independently. You can accomplish this by following the directions on the advanced group management help sheet.

    We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and we expect to resolve the issue during the winter session when we do our normal major upgrades. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885) or John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:31 PM

    July 22, 2006

    FYI: Upcoming Blackboard Workshops

    The following Blackboard workshops will be offered during the month of August. To sign up, just go to http://www.umbc.edu/training and click on "Blackboard" to see the workshops.

    Getting Started with Blackboard

    This 90 minute hands-on workshop will get you started using Blackboard at UMBC. The workshop will cover how to access your course, basic course design, posting a syllabus, adding content, and managing users in your course. (Please bring an electronic copy of your syllabus if you have one.)

    Prerequisites:

    1. Active UMBC account


    Interactivity with Blackboard Communication Tools

    This 90 minute hands-on workshop will introduce you to the various communication tools in Blackboard and discuss how they can be effectively used. Topics we will cover include how to create discussion boards, use of the "Assignments" feature, effective ways to use groups, Turnitin, and email. (Please bring an electronic copy of your syllabus if you have one.)

    Prerequisites:

    1. Basic knowledge of Blackboard
    2. Active Blackboard course/community

    If you have any questions, or can't make the training and need some Blackboard help, please send an email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 3:33 PM

    July 21, 2006

    FYI: Welcome to Jeffrey Berman

    Join OIT in welcoming Jeffrey Berman as our new graduate assistant. Jeffrey has just completed his BS in Information Systems here at UMBC and he is continuing on in the IS master's program with an emphasis in human centered computing. He has worked as a TA in Karin Readel's Science 100 classes for the last three years. Jeffrey will be working on Blackboard support and special projects.

    You can contact Jeffrey at berman1@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:59 AM

    May 18, 2006

    Blackboard Update - Spring 2006

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard, visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    1. Reminder: End of Semester Checklist


    2. Spring 2006 Courses Expire on 6/15


    3. Summer 2006 Course Shells Created on 5/18


    4. Digital Drop Box to be Discontinued on 6/30


    5. OIT Seeks Faculty Volunteers for Bb Version 7.1 Summer Pilot


    6. Alternate Delivery Program Winter 2007 RFPs (deadline 5/19) <


    7. Wimba Tools Pilot Extended One Year; Live Classroom Ends December 2006


    8. Growth of Blackboard Research Communities


    9. Bb Courses Older than One Year to be Archived this Summer


    10. FYI: Goucher Technology Conferences

    Posted by berman1 at 10:05 AM

    May 17, 2006

    Blackboard Courses Older than One Year to be Archived this Summer

    Currently, we have over 8,000 courses and 270 communities that are stored on the Blackboard production server. Most of those courses are older then one year, and many date back as far as Fall 2000. As a result of this growth, during the summer, OIT will be archiving all courses older then one year. The courses will be placed on a seperate server and gradually removed from the production server. Doing this will accomplish several things:

    1. It will reduce the load on the production server and could improve performance during peak use times.

    2. It will reduce the number of courses that appear on the "myBlackboard" tab of students, and faculty.

    3. It will reduce the amount of time it takes OIT to complete a course backup. Again helping to reduce stress on the system cpu and overall system performance.

    All of the archived courses will be available to faculty but not to students and content from these courses can continue to be copied into existing or future courses.

    OIT has developed a white paper that outlines the entire process in detail. Please feel free to review it for more information.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz at fritz@umbc.edu, or Bob Armstrong at rarmstro@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:35 AM

    May 5, 2006

    FYI: 5/25 Goucher Technology Conference

    Like to see what other universities are doing with technology and teaching? Visit the Goucher College CTLT Annual Conference on May 15th. The theme for the conference is “Group Dynamics and Collaborative Learning” and will focus on group dynamics and collaborative learning.

    Posted by rarmstro at 8:53 AM

    May 2, 2006

    Growth of Blackboard Research Communities

    Blackboard communities have traditionally been used as communication and document storage tools for campus organizations and departments, as well as being a convenient venue for campus elections and surveys. Over the last year or so communities have also become an easy to manage place to post research materials and serve as communication hubs for those involved in campus research. Examples of very successful research communities include the Lameness Project managed by Uri Tasch, professor, Mechanical Engineering and the Ecological Research Lab which is managed by Chris Swan, assistant professor, GES.

    If you are interested in having a space for your research, please contact Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885) or John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    FYI: Armstrong and Fritz presented "Using Blackboard for Collaborative Research" at the 2006 Blackboard Users Conference in March, 2006.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:44 PM

    Reminder: End of Semester Checklist

    As we near the end of the semester, here's a checklist of tasks instructors may want to keep in mind (help sheets are available on the Blackboard Help tab):

    Make your course unavailable to students
    Create a backup copy of your course (and gradebook)
    Send UMBC Blackboard course deletion requests

    While past courses are available online in Blackboard, OIT recommends creating a backup copy, too. It's also smart to make your course unavailable to students after the semester ends, so it doesn't show up in their list of courses in future semesters--a big complaint of students. Exceptions might include keeping the course open to process incompletes, or as a courtesy to students who request to have ongoing access.

    If you have created a backup copy of your course (online or on your own computer) consider having all older versions of the course deleted. You can then create your future course from your backup or the most recent version online. This way, you always "copy forward" the most recent version, and can get rid of past versions that are just taking up space--and probably still appear in past students' course lists. To permanently remove the course from your list, use the online form on the Blackboard Help tab. When the request has been received, we will send you an email to confirm your request.

    For more information or help, send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:43 PM

    Digital Drop Box will be Discontinued 6/30

    As OIT announced on February 10, 2006, and November 28, 2005, the Assignments feature in Blackboard is a tool that was designed to replace the Digital Drop Box by allowing the instructor to create individual assignments for each student submission, rather than have all of the submissions for the course submitted into one place. This allows for easier document management—no more need to delete Digital Drop Box files one at a time—and no more confusion by students about whether they've POSTED an assignment to their drop box, or SUBMITTED it to the instructor's drop box. The Assignment function even creates a column in the Gradebook for easier management of grades.

    With the upgrade to version 6.3 we are terminating the use of the Digital Drop Box on June 30th, following the spring 2006 semester, and will focus exclusively on the Assignments feature.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596) or Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:36 PM

    Wimba Tools Pilot Extended One Year; Live Classroom Ends December 2006

    The Wimba “Voice Tools” will continue to be available for use in Blackboard. The “Live Classroom” pilot, however, will be discontinued in December 2006.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596) or Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:29 PM

    OIT Seeks Faculty Volunteers for Bb Version 7.1 Summer Pilot

    OIT has installed the latest version of Blackboard (version 7.1) and is looking for faculty volunteers to pilot this system. New features in this version include the following:

    1. Expanded Discussion Boards including subscriptions, grading and forum moderation
    2. Assessments allowing multiple attempts can be viewed all at once

    As in past UMBC Bb pilot programs, faculty who want to use the most recent version should consider the following:

    • OIT will place an announcement in your pilot course describing what you and your students need to do if you encounter a problem in the version 7.1 pilot environment. We would ask you to make this a “permanent” announcement in your course throughout the semester.

    • Throughout the semester, you and your students may be asked to complete a survey about your experience with the software.

    • Your course will not be compatible with the regular production server until it is migrated to the version 7.1 software. Currently, OIT plans to migrate all courses to version 7.1 in January 2007, but may considering doing so for fall 2006 if we get acceptable results during a substantive pilot program this summer.

    The pilot server can be found at http://bb-pilot.umbc.edu.

    If you have any questions or concerns, or just want to explore the new version, please contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596) or Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu and we would be happy to create you an account.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:24 PM

    Spring 2006 Courses Expire on 6/15

    As announced earlier in the semester, Spring 2006 auto-created Bb course "shells" are set to expire on June 15, 2006 after grades are due. This means the course will automatically revert to being unavailable to students, but faculty will still see the course link. This will help students who frequently complain about having numerous links to old courses in Blackboard. They can request ongoing access from the instructor, who can override the duration settings manually. This may be helpful for processing incompletes, but the majority of students will not have to request to be un-enrolled from old courses.

    Remember: students can’t un-enroll from Bb courses themselves. If you don’t need your old Bb course site, please consider deleting it by completing the “Bb Course Delete” request form on the Bb Blackboard Help tab.

    Hot Tip: Students and instructors can use the pencil tool in “ My Courses” to hide announcements and course links.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:15 PM

    Summer 2006 Course Shells Created on 5/18

    On May 18, 2006, OIT will create an empty Blackboard course shell for all summer 2006 courses listed in the UMBC Schedule of Classes with assigned instructors. Courses that don’t have assigned instructors will be created as courses are added to the Schedule of Classes by the Registrar’s office. Students will be automatically enrolled in all Bb courses as has been done in the past.

    Any faculty member who wants to use Blackboard simply needs to login via myUMBC or http://blackboard.umbc.edu and follow the instructions on the Blackboard Help Tab. If you do not wish to use Blackboard, do nothing. By default, all UMBC Blackboard course "shells" remain unavailable to students until the instructor of record makes his or her course available. Starting this semester, we will also turn off the student “self enrollment” feature in all new Blackboard shells. This can be turned back on by instructors if so desired. Please Note that self enrolling in a Blackboard course does not constitute official registration in a UMBC course.

    NOTE: An online instructor manual is available inside every Blackboard course in the course's "Control Panel" and on the Blackboard Help Tab.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596) or Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 2:08 PM

    April 12, 2006

    Alternate Delivery (Online & Hybrid) Winter 2007 RFPs (deadline: 5/19)

    The Office of Summer, Winter and Special Programs (OSWSP) is sponsoring a program to increase the number of alternate delivery courses - specifically, hybrid and online courses - offered during special sessions (winter and summer terms) in 2007.

    Supported by OIT and the Faculty Development Center, the OSWSP invites proposals from UMBC full and part-time faculty to develop online or hybrid courses to be offered during the 2007 Winter Session. Course development funding, high speed Internet access, technical support, and the opportunity to participate in a faculty learning community are available through this program. The application deadline is Friday, May 19, 2006 (recipients will be notified the week of May 24, 2006). For more information, visit http://www.umbc.edu/ssfaculty/adp.

    Posted by at 4:13 PM

    March 23, 2006

    Blackboard Down for Service Pack Upgrade (3/24/06)

    On Friday, March 24, 2006 from 7-8am, Blackboard will be down so we can install a Blackboard service pack. This service pack will not introduce any new features but will fix various issues that have been reported by other Blackboard users.

    This service pack will correct issues in the following areas:

    • Login and the HTTP 404 error message
    • Course and Community quota management
    • Gradebook weight calculations
    • Adjustments to the Copy Course feature
    • Various administrative tasks not available to users

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu or 5-6596) or Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu or 5-3885), or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by rarmstro at 3:05 PM

    February 10, 2006

    Blackboard Digital Drop Box Will Be Discontinued

    Per OIT's 11/28/05 announcement, all users should no longer plan to use the Digital Drop Box (DDB), which Blackboard replaced with the assignment function in version 6.0 (UMBC is running version 6.3). The DDB was problematic for both students and faculty, and Blackboard doesn't offer or support it in version 7.0, which UMBC will migrate to in the 2006-07 academic year. For help, see the Blackboard Help tab or send email to blackboard@umbc.edu.

    Posted by fritz at 9:40 AM

    February 1, 2006

    Bovine Benefit from Blackboard Community

    Blackboard communities are great places for students and their professor to share classwork. But at UMBC, innovative people have found ways to use Blackboard’s communities to solve complicated communication problems.

    Uri Tasch figured out how to help cattle farmers solve a problem they had been complaining about for 100 years. The UMBC engineering professor invented a machine that can detect lameness in cows.

    Uri TaschThe problem costs dairy farmers $10,000 a year for every 100-cow herd because lame cows produce less milk. But until the problem is detected, the cows can’t be helped and if detection comes too late, there may be no treatment that will cure the lameness. Found early, the solution is sometimes as simple as removing a stone from the cow’s hoof. And the result is a vast increase in milk production.

    Tasch began the Bovine Lameness Project in 1995 with excellent results. The machine worked. He patented and licensed the technology to Bou-Matic, LLC, which sells it to farms around the world. Those farms began tracking their results.

    The positive results piled up. What Tasch and his fellow researchers couldn’t figure out, though, was how to safely share the information among themselves, from their various locations, so they could track their work and collaborate.

    The project depended on a relatively simple procedure: Cows walk through a machine that measures the weight exerted by each leg. Lame cows put much less pressure on one leg, and ultimately, the lameness results in lower milk production and other ailments that hurt the animal and cost the farmer money.

    bovine.gifBut to prove the concept, the measurements had to be submitted, analyzed and the results shared. Doing that proved tricky. The various researchers located all over the world needed a secure area they could easily access.

    “We started through e-mail but the files became too big,” Tasch said.

    So he decided to use a Blackboard Community.

    He created a community and added all of the various researchers at other institutions and. It worked like a charm.

    Community members throughout the world are now able to upload talks, share documents and databases, log their statistics and work on collaborative publications through the secure online community. The list includes five individuals in two departments at UMBC, four at Bou-Matic in Madison, Wisconsin, two at University of Delaware and two scientists in Israel.

    “It has worked so well for me at Bou-Matic,” said Parimal Rajkondawar, project engineer. “Earlier, we used to burn CDs to exchange information and it used to take couple of days to get the results. Now we use Blackboard.

    “Tasch uploads the results with instant access to me in Madison. A lot of times during company presentations, I provide data and results on Blackboard.”

    Posted by at 3:54 PM

    December 11, 2005

    Blackboard Update

    UMBC Blackboard update is provided by the Office of Information Technology for students, faculty and staff using Blackboard at UMBC. If you have questions or suggestions, contact John Fritz (at fritz@umbc.edu or 410.455.6596) or Bob Armstrong (at rarmstro@umbc.edu or 410.455.3885). For more information about using Blackboard, visit http://blackboard.umbc.edu.

    Fall 2007

    1. Fall 2007 Blackboard Course Shells Have Been Created


    2. Audience Response "Clickers" on Campus


    3. New Report Lists Most Active Blackboard Courses and Communities


    4. OIT Seeks Faculty to Pilot New Version of Blackboard


    5. Blackboard Training Workshops


    6. 8/22 Hybrid Training Workshop


    7. Reminder: Classroom Technology Requests Deadline 8/17 for Mobile Carts


    8. FYI: Call for Presentations: 10/2 MDBUG Conf. @ UMBC Tech Center




    Spring 2007

    1. New Report Lists Most Active Blackboard Courses and Communities


    2. UMBC Blackboard User Survey Now Available


    3. How to Add Non-UMBC Users to a Bb Course or Community


    4. Solution to Blackboard Login "Redirecting" Problem


    5. OIT Downtime Notices (Including Blackboard) Available on Blog


    6. "Scholar" Tab Added to Blackboard


    7. Reminder: Make SP2007 Courses Unavailable or Delete Students


    8. Reminder: SP2007 Course Shells Expire on 6/15


    9. Class Technology Request Deadlines: SU2007 (5/18), FA2007 (8/1 for lab software; 8/17 for Mobile AV Carts)


    10. FYI: Goucher to Host 5/30 TLT Conference


    11. FYI: UMBC Launches Maryland Blackboard Users Group


    12. FYI: BbWorld'07 World Conference is July 10-12 in Boston




    Winter 2007

    1. Reminder: End of Semester Checklist


    2. Fall 2006 Courses Expire on 1/15


    3. Spring 2007 Course Shells Created on 11/30


    4. Auto Course Enrollment Now Includes Add AND Drop Changes


    5. Blackboard Down for Upgrade 1/12-13 & 1/19-20


    6. Winter 2007 Courses to Operate on Alternate Server


    7. Reminder: Courses Prior to Fall 2002 Moved to Archive Server


    8. Reminder: Instructional Technology Faculty Survey


    9. Reminder: Reserving Mobile AV Equipment for Spring 2007


    10. New Discussion Board in Version 7.1


    11. Learning Objects' Blackboard Wiki and Blog Tool Update


    12. FYI: Summer '07 "Hybrid/Online" Courses RFP (Due: 12/8)


    13. FYI: USM Sponsors Exploration of QualityMatters Rubric (or checklist) for Quality Online Learning





    Fall 2006

    1. FA2006 Course Shells Created on 8/3 & "Self Enrollment" Turned Off


    2. Reminder: Faculty Must Turn On Course Shells for Students to See Them


    3. Tip: Students Can "Hide" Old Courses on MyBlackboard Tab


    4. Blackboard Course Archiving to Begin 8/7


    5. OIT Units Merge to Become Instructional Technology & New Media


    6. Instructional Technology Faculty Survey


    7. Reserving V Equipment for Fall 2006


    8. Summer 2006 Courses Expire on 9/20


    9. Problem Sending Bulk Emails in Blackboard


    10. FYI: 9/15 Educause Learning Initiative "Webinar" on Assessment


    11. FYI: Upcoming Blackboard Workshops


    12. FYI: Welcome to Jeffrey Berman





    Spring 2006

    1. Reminder: End of Semester Checklist


    2. Spring 2006 Courses Expire on 6/15


    3. Summer 2006 Course Shells Created on 5/18


    4. Digital Drop Box to be Discontinued on 6/30


    5. OIT Seeks Faculty Volunteers for Bb Version 7.1 Summer Pilot


    6. Alternate Delivery Program Winter 2007 RFPs (deadline 5/19) <


    7. Wimba Tools Pilot Extended One Year; Live Classroom Ends December 2006


    8. Growth of Blackboard Research Communities


    9. Bb Courses Older than One Year to be Archived this Summer


    10. FYI: Goucher Technology Conferences

    Posted by berman1 at 11:40 AM

    December 9, 2005

    Bb 2006 User Conference Proposal Deadline Extended: 12/16/05

    The 2006 Blackboard World Conference call for proposal deadline has been extended from 12/9 to 12/16. For more information, see the following:

    http://blackboard.com/company/events/bbworld/

    Posted by fritz at 11:25 PM

    Blackboard Announces $50k Innovation Award (Deadline: 1/6/06)

    Blackboard has announced it's "Greenhouse" project to "cultivate innovations in e- learning, support the organic growth of knowledge within the Blackboard(R) community and recognize exemplary campus service programs."

    According to Bb's 11/29/05 press release . . .

    "Three Award Programs Will Offer a Total of $50,000 to Winning Submissions"

    "Applications and details on the awards are available on the Blackboard Connections Web site (http://connections.blackboard.com), a central hub where users can collaborate, share best practices and deepen their knowledge and expertise related to Blackboard.

    "The deadline for submissions is January 6, 2006. Eight winners, in total, for all three awards, will be selected by February 3, 2006 and invited to attend and speak at the 8th Annual Blackboard Users Conference, Bb World, in San Diego from February 28 - March 2."

    Posted by fritz at 11:20 PM

    September 21, 2005

    OIT Seeks New Media/Web Standards Specialist

    The UMBC Office of Information Technology (OIT) seeks a New Media and Web standards specialist. The incumbant will serve as a Web developer, evangelist and consensus-builder to lead technical development of UMBC’s web presence and institutional adoption of Web standards as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium. Specific duties include: developing and supporting web applications on university and departmental web sites; leading the technical redesign of UMBC’s external Web site; leading development and implementation of scalable, device-independent Web solutions; producing or providing end-user support through online documentation or training; working with a diverse range of end-users as well as content editors, graphic designers, and systems administrators, to devise clean, standards-compliant, usable web sites; and performing other duties as assigned. More information.

    Posted by fritz at 4:05 PM

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