Blackboard FAQs

Managing a Course Site

 

How do I find my official class roster? Is it in Blackboard?

Official class rosters are available from the Faculty Center area on the My Services menu. Class rosters are distributed from the new PeopleSoft system and are not part of the Blackboard system. Rather, PeopleSoft class rosters are used to populate membership in Blackboard course shells. Please review the Blackboard course maintenance procedures for more information.

The Blackboard course areas you control are available on your Courses page. The rosters for these course areas are unaffected by the change in the official roster application. Rosters in the Blackboard course areas will continue to be present until the course is removed from the Blackboard server.

  What if I am the instructor for a course but the My Official Class Rosters does show my section in the list?

Faculty should contact their department secretary and request that they be loaded as the instructor of the course. The change should be immediately reflected in Blackboard.

  I noticed that Blackboard course shells have been created for classes I am teaching this semester but I didn't request course shells.

The Blackboard course shell creation process has been automated. Starting Fall 2002, course shells are automatically being created for courses in the SIS system.

  What if I am the instructor for a course but course shells do not appear in Blackboard?

Faculty should contact their department secretary and request that they be loaded as the instructor of the course. The change should be reflected in Blackboard the next time instructor enrollments are updated which is usually the following morning.

  Are students going to be automatically enrolled in the Blackboard course shells for classes they are registered in?

The student enrollment process has also been automated for course shells created from PeopleSoft. Students will no longer be able to self-enroll in any courses. The process will run daily through the add/drop period. After that the process will be run weekly. Students who have added or dropped your course will be updated and the change reflected on the class roster the following day.

Students who have dropped your course will still appear on the class roster you see in the course control panel, but the name(s) will be grayed out and a life preserver with a red slash through it will appear next to the name(s). You cannot remove nor re-enroll the student(s) who have dropped your course by using the Remove User option. The roster that appears in the course content area will accurately reflect active enrollments.

Note that enrollment in Blackboard terms means that you have the ability to participate in the class web site and use all of its features (get announcements, see events on the calendar, post messages to discussion boards, enter the chat room, etc.). Academic credit can only be awarded for classes officially registered through the Office of Registration and Records.  Participation on a Blackboard course shell does not qualify students to receive academic credit without an official registration.

  Under the current course maintenance schedule, what stages do course shells created through the automatic creation/enrollment function progress through during their life cycle?

Under the current course maintenance schedule, Blackboard course shells created through the automatic creation/enrollment function have a 4-stage life-cycle.

Creation/Enrollment: Course shells are created 4 weeks prior to the start of a semester.  Instructor enrollment begins as soon as course shells are created, students are enrolled at the end of registration period or upon course shell creation, whichever is later.  Enrollment takes place daily during active registration periods.

Expiration: All course shells with a current term prefix, e.g. 20041, will be made unavailable at the end of the current term. This action will remove the link from your students’ Courses page. This action will not be taken if your course shell has a suffix code of C, D, G, T or U. Faculty teaching these courses will need to manually make the course shell unavailable.

Disable: All expired course shells with a term prefix, e.g. 20041, will be removed from the instructor's Courses page after the 3rd week of the following semester. Courses can be recalled by e-mailing your request to blackboard@bgsu.edu.

Delete: All disabled course shells with a term prefix code will be removed on the 1st anniversary after disappeared from the instructor's Courses page.

This maintenance cycle does not apply to development shells or course shells created before automated course shell creation was implemented in Fall of 2002.

  What are the end of the semester tasks that I need to perform?

Use this checklist to remind yourself of the tasks you need to perform at the end of the semester if you are using a Blackboard course shell.

  • Download  your Grade Center. The Blackboard Grade Center can be downloaded and saved as tab-delimited file that can be opened in Microsoft Excel. You can then use that spreadsheet to make your final computations and letter grade determinations. You also have access to these grades long after your course shells are removed.  See instructions for Macintosh - Windows.
  • Submit your grades
  • Print your course statistics page. Regenerate and print any course statistics you've used in your grade determination. Your printout becomes the official record if ever a grade is challenged.
  • Save your discussion board as an Adobe Acrobat PDF.  This action is recommended because it will produce a document readable by most every workstation/desktop environment.  The file format is also widely used on the Internet.  Every workstation ITS provides is capable of creating a PDF file.

    At the end of the semester simply perform the following steps to archive your discussion boards as a PDF:

    • Click the link to the discussion board
    • Click the Select All button (at the bottom of the page)
    • Click the Collect button
    • Choose sort .  Select Thread to sort by discussion.  Otherwise, choose Author, Date or Subject.
    • Select the frame by clicking on it
    • Now print this page.  Precise steps are dictated by the browser you are using.  Basically I would simply print only the frame with the discussion board content.   Be sure to use the PDF print driver for your operating system.
  • Save a back-up of your course content online in a development shell or export your course content to your desktop computer.

    If you need a course shell to serve as a holding area for content to be re-used for a future course, we suggest you request a development shell.

  What is the difference between a development shell and a course shell?

You can use the development shell to save your course content for a future course or develop your content well in advance of the date the specific course shell is generated. When a course shell is created for the course you are going to teach, you can use Course Copy to copy any content area from your development shell to the course shell. Your development shell will not be removed from the system unless you specifically request that.

The course shells we automatically create each semester are meant to service course activity for 1 term and are automatically included in the course shell maintenance schedule. The information from these term-specific shells can be used to determine grades and provide a historical record of the student's performance. Links to courses are removed at the end of the semester so the Courses page of instructors and students is not cluttered with courses that have ended. Disk space is limited so we can only store information associated with a specific course for 1 year.

  How do I request a development shell for a specific course?

To request a development shell for a specific course, send e-mail to blackboard@bgsu.edu.

  My department made some teaching assignment changes at the last minute. Will I have to contact someone to make sure I have access to the Blackboard course shell for this course?

The third piece in the automatic creation of Blackboard courses is the addition of the faculty member that is assigned to the course (and any TAs that have contracts for assisting faculty with their courses). As soon as the faculty member has a contract and has been identified in SIS as a class instructor, the change will be made in Blackboard automatically when instructor enrollments are updated the following morning. See your department secretary if the change does not appear to be made in Blackboard.

  If my TA does not have access to my course site, how can I enable it?

If your TA is officially assigned as your teaching assistant and does not have access to your course, you should contact your department secretary and request that this person be loaded as the teaching assistant of the course. That change should be reflected in Blackboard the following morning when enrollments are updated.

If someone is just assisting you in the creation of your Blackboard site, you can give them access to it by manually enrolling the person and changing the person's role from student to TA.

To manually enroll the person:

  1. Click on the Courses tab.
  2. Click on the link to your course.
  3. Click on your Control Panel button.
  4. Click Enroll User link in User Management area.
  5. Search for the user and click the checkbox next to the user(s) you want to enroll.
  6. Click the Submit button.

To modify the person's participation role:

  1. Click on the List/Modify Users link also in the User Management area on the control panel.
  2. Search for your participant(s).
  3. Click on that participant's properties button.
  4. Change that participant's role from student to teaching assistant and press the submit button.

  How do I grant access to my course for individuals without BGSU Accounts?

Access to Blackboard course and organizations can be permitted in two ways. The first way is enacted by default. Once a course or organization shells is set to Available status, all members of the shell can see a link on the Courses or Community tab. The second method allows you to open anonymous access to your course or organization shell. In this mode not all of Blackboard tools are available to the user. Use the Manage Tools link from the Control Panel to manage the availability of these tools to these “guest” users.

As a result of these methods, there are 3 ways to permit a user to access your course or organization shell.

  • Option 1 – Enroll the User Account. This option is essentially the default method to permit access. Enroll the user’s account via the control panel. For non-BGSU affiliated members, you can request temporary guest accounts on MyBGSU and Blackboard. These accounts can be created for one semester by contacting Beth Ann Rife in Human Resources. Once the individual receives the account you can enroll the user into the course or organization shell.
  • Option 2 – Enroll the Generic User Account. This option allows you to enroll a generic account. The account name is bbguest1. You can search for the account using the username bbguest1 or the last name Blackboard. Once the account is enrolled, anyone using this login can access your course or organization shell. Clients are advised not to provide this account with an administrative or control panel access since these credentials are routinely available to anyone. Contact the Technology Support Center for more information on this account.
  • Option 3 – Enable Anonymous Access. This option opens your account to anyone on the Internet. Use the Guest Access form from the Settings link to activate this option. Once it is available, anyone can access your course or community through the Course or Organization Catalog on the Courses or Community tab respectively. Individuals can simply access the BG1 Card deposit URL to access Blackboard as a guest and then navigate to the catalog by clicking the correct tab.

  How do I use Course Copy to move content from one course shell to another? I have a course shell from a previous semester which I have spent months developing and refining and don't want to start all over again with the new course shell!

You can use Course Copy to move all or any part of your content from one course shell to another.

To use Course Copy:

  • Go to the control panel of the course you want to copy.
  • Under Course Options, select Course Copy.
  • If you want to limit your search for the Destination Course ID, enter any text in the Destination Course ID (e.g. year or course number) for Select a Course.
  • Click the browse button to locate the destination course.
  • Fill out the form selecting the features of the course you want copied. (Hint: To copy deployed tests, you must select the Content Area, Grade Center items, and the Tests in order to achieve the desired result.)
  • Click on the submit button.

  Known Issue with Course Copy

With Blackboard 7, the internal representation of the course menu items changed. The change is effective for NEW courses and organizations created after the upgrade to Blackboard 7 on May 13, 2006. The result of the change is that some content areas copied from shells created before the upgrade may not copy as expected.  No content is lost or duplicated, but the symptom is simply that an additional menu area is created due to the difference in internal representation. This situation occurs even when the names of the areas are the same.  

You can prevent future occurrences of this problem by modifying the course menu of the source course shell before you use Course Copy and selecting the predefined names from the list.

To modify the course menu of a course shell created before May 13, 2006:

  • Go to the control panel of the course you want to copy.
  • Under Course Options, select Manage Course Menu.
  • For each of these areas (Course Information, Staff Information, Course Documents, Assignments, Communication, External Links)
    1. Click on the modify button.
    2. Modify the names of the default areas by selecting the same name from the pull-down menu.
    3. If a change was made, click submit. If not, click cancel.
  • Click OK to return to the control panel.

      Now you should be able to copy your course without creating duplicate menu items.

If you have already copied your course and have extra course menu items to remove:

  • Go to the control panel of the course.
  • Under Course Options, select Manage Course Menu.
  • On your browser's File menu, select New Window so you have 2 windows open (one with your student view and one with Manage Course Menu). For Internet Explorer, those windows should now be open but for other browsers, you may need to login to Blackboard again in the second window.  The list of menu items in your student view should correspond to the order of items in Manage Course Menu.
  • To identify duplicates, click each menu item in your student view. For items that are empty, delete the corresponding item listed in Manage Course Menu by clicking on the remove button.  Then click Refresh in your student view to see the change.  The Refresh button is located below the navigation menu near the button to access the control panel. 
  • If desired, re-arrange the order of items on your course menu by changing the numeric value in the pull-down menu.
  • Click OK to return to the control panel.

There is no issue when copying content if both the source and destination course shells were created after the upgrade to Blackboard 7.

  I am teaching multiple sections of the same course. Is there any way to combine sections? All of the materials that I will be posting apply to all sections. I would rather maintain just one course site!.

Blackboard offers enhanced course management that allow faculty to effectively manage content across multiple sections. The Course Copy command on your course control panel allows you to freely move content areas or entire shells. A single item copy allows you to update one shell and copy the change to other shells. Finally, a recycle course link allows you to delete a content area before copying new materials to it.

What that means to you is that you have multiple options to managing your courses. We recommend that you evaluate your needs in order to develop a course management strategy. We believe the single most important criteria is the number of sections and total enrollment for those shells. For instance, if you control multiple course shells whose total enrollment is less than 100 students you should probably opt to use one shell. If your enrollments are greater than 100, then it would be best to utilize the separate shells for your content and grade center. If you rely heavily on e-mail content, then you may want to request the creation of an umbrella shell where the enrollments for all of your sections will be combined for you.

Another significant criteria to consider is your need to continually update course content throughout the semester. If the bulk of your work is done, then using the course copy feature needs only to be done at the start of the semester. Individual items can be copied using the copy feature within each content area. Entire areas can be moved by using the Recycle Course feature on the target course to remove all content in a content area and then using the Course Copy feature to copy just that content area from the source course. Remember that you do lose course usage statistics if you utilize the Recycle Course feature.

Included here are three possible scenarios for instructors teaching multiple sections, cross-listed courses, and courses that have a lab component as well as a classroom component. Each of these solutions has drawbacks and benefits. Each instructor will have to decide which fits his/her needs best. Students will see a link to any course in which they are enrolled when the instructor makes the course available.

Scenario 1 - Move all students into one course shell:

Use this method if you are combining two sets of enrollments into one course shell. Only make one of the course shells available to students. See "How do I remove a Blackboard course from my view?" for directions on removing the unused course shell link from your display.

Benefits:

  • Single point for course content updating.

Drawbacks (depends upon the total number of students in one course shell):

  • Student enrollment would only be updated automatically for students registered for the section the shell was originally created for. Enrollment for other sections would have to be maintained manually by using Course Copy to initially copy enrollments from the section shells that are not being used into shell being used for the course. Students dropping the course in sections where the shell is not used would have to be removed manually.
  • All students in a single grade center - in alphabetical order. No way to sort the students by section.
  • All students participating in one discussion board - becomes problematic if you intend to make extensive use of the discussion board. Imagine a committee meeting with 110 people trying to be heard!
  • All student assignments in a single Digital Drop Box. Again, no way to sort the students by section.
  • In general, reduced flexibility.

Scenario 2 - Request an 'umbrella' shell when you are combining enrollments of multiple undergraduate sections:

The umbrella shell would be the main course content shell.  An umbrella shell is a shell that is separate from the automated shells.  This feature gives you the benefit of either using or not using the shells for the separate sections.  Request an umbrella shell by contacting the Technology Support Center at 2-0999.  When your umbrella shell is created, you may need to use the Course Copy link to initially populate the course shell enrollment.  We can automate the enrollments of these umbrella shells if you are combining 3 or more sections into a single shell.  Before the semester starts send a list of the sections you wish to combine to blackboard@bgsu.edu and we'll take care of the rest.

Scenario 3 - Leave all students in their respective sections, use Course Copy to copy content from one course section to the others.

In this scenario, the course shells created through the automated process would be used. One course section would be developed then used as the source course for copying settings, content, etc. to the other course sections. Enrollment should not be copied.

Benefits:

  • Student enrollment would be automatically updated.
  • Each section would have a separate Digital Drop Box, Grade Center, Discussion Board, etc.
  • Single point for updating course content that is then copied to other shells.
  • Greater flexibility in personalizing instruction across sections.
  • Overall easier course management.

Drawbacks:

  • Remembering to copy data from the source course to the other sections.

Click here for directions for using Course Copy.

  How do I make the course available when I am ready to allow the students access to the course site?

  1. Click on the Control Panel button in your course
  2. From the Course Options module, choose Settings
  3. Choose the Course Availability link
  4. Change the Make Course Available radio button to Yes
  5. Click on the Submit button

  Why are file extensions required for both PC and Macintosh users who upload files to Blackboard?

A file extension is a set of characters preceded by a period at the end of a file name used to identify the file type. Since file extensions are required for viewing files on a PC desktop, using file extensions is a familiar concept for PC users. Although file extensions are not required for viewing files stored on a Macintosh desktop, they are required for files uploaded from a Macintosh to Blackboard. When you click on a link to a file in your browser window, the web server needs to know what application to tell your browser to launch for you. Without the proper file extension, the server won't recognize the file type. If a web server does not know what the file type is, it tells the browser to display the file as text.

These are the file types recommended:

  • Word document: .doc
  • Excel document: .xls
  • Power Point document: .ppt
  • Power Point Slide Show: .pps
  • Portable Document Format: .pdf
  • Graphics: .gif, .jpg, and .jpeg
  • Video: .mpeg, .mov, and .avi
  • Audio: .wav and .aiff
  • Multimedia (Shockwave Flash): .swf

  Can I upload course cartridges to my Blackboard course site?

A course cartridge is content already readable by Blackboard available from a text book publisher. See http://www.blackboard.com/extend/ccart/. You can upload a course cartridge but be aware of the amount of disk space required. Some cartridges are huge files and may cause you to exceed your disk quota.

  What is the disk quota for courses on Blackboard?

The disk quota for a course is 262,144 K or 256 Mb. You will receive an e-mail message warning you that you are close to the absolute limit when you reach 248 Mb.

  What is the maximum file size for uploading to Blackboard?

The recommended maximum file size for uploading to Blackboard is 50 MB.

  How can students access my course on Blackboard?

Course shells are automatically loaded for all classes in SIS but they are loaded as unavailable and will not appear to any students until the instructor makes the course available. To do that, follow these instructions. Then the students will see a link to your course in these two places:

  • on their Blackboard page in their My Blackboard Courses module
  • on their Courses page under "Courses in which you are participating:"

  What variations will appear in my course site for students who restrict the display of their personal information in Blackboard to protect their right to privacy?

Student at BGSU have the right to withhold their personal information from Blackboard's user directory. See what variations to expect in your course site in  Student's Right to Privacy information.

  What if I don't want to, or am not ready to, use Blackboard with my course(s) at this time?

The status of all course shells when they are created is "Unavailable" to allow time for course development. You will see this unavailable status if you go to the Courses tab in Blackboard and look at the Course List - Courses you are teaching: section. The course title will appear with (Unavailable) next to it. You can see the course link but your students can not. If you don't want to or are not ready to use Blackboard at this time, leave the course set to "Unavailable".

  I have used Blackboard for the past two or three semesters and the Courses I am teaching list is getting so long; it's confusing! Can you delete the old courses for me or change the naming convention so that I see the courses I am currently teaching listed first? What's going to happen to those previous semester course shells anyway?

A plan for removing course shells was developed in conjunction with the automatic course shell creation. Each course shell will stay on the system for 1 year. However, they will be disabled periodically to reduce the number of links you will see at any one time. At most, you will only see course links for 2 semesters. Normally, you will see links for the current semester. You will see links for the next semester as we approach the end of the current semester. If you ever need access to a course shell that has been deactivated simply e-mail blackboard@bgsu.edu to request activation.

There is no way to re-order the courses as they are listed under your Courses tab. If you are sure you do not need or want the data/content that is stored in previous semester's course shells, you can request that the course shells be deleted.

  Can I create a copy of my course site?

If you plan to use the content from this course for future courses at BGSU, you should save a copy of your content on the Blackboard server in a development shell. Development shells are created for you when requested. When your shell is created, you can copy your own content without the enrollment data into it. For more information, see:

If you want to share all or part of your content with a colleague or take your content with you when you leave BGSU, you can do that by selecting Export Course on that course's control panel under Course Options. On the Export Course form, you can choose what parts of your course to export. Export Course creates a .zip file of the parts of the course content you specify.

When you or your colleague are ready to upload the content into a Blackboard course shell, you can do that yourself by selecting Import Package on that course's control panel in the Course Options area. On the Import Package form, you can also select the parts of the course to import.

  Why should an instructor refrain from changing his/her role to a student?

An instructor should not change his/her role to a student to see what that view is like because doing that removes the control panel. Without the control panel, the instructor cannot make any modifications to the course site. If you have removed your control panel, you will need to contact the system administrator to change your role back to instructor.

  Who do I contact if I want to put my course on Blackboard?

Because Course Shell Creation, Enrollment and Assignment of Instructors/TAs for courses in SIS are automated processes, you should not need to contact anyone unless you need help. If you cannot find the answer to your question from the information and links to resources posted here, faculty may contact the Technology Support Center, 2-0999 or tsc@bgsu.edu for help.

  If I am the instructor, how do I remove links to my course shells from my Blackboard Courses tab?

There are two different processes to remove links to course shells from your Blackboard Courses tab -- one for course shells for the current (or upcoming) term and one for course shells for past terms. Shells for the current (or upcoming) term are updated daily so there is a special process to follow to remove links for course shells in the present term if you are assigned as instructor for the course in SIS.

Current (or Upcoming) Term: Disabling an instructor enrollment record from a Blackboard course shell

  1. Click the link to the shell on the Courses tab.
  2. Click the link to the control panel.
  3. Make sure the course shell is unavailable. This is needed if you are the only instructor listed and you are making your enrollment record unavailable.
  4. Use the List/Modify Users link to identify the membership record, click Properties.
  5. Set the Availability to No. Click Submit.
  6. Return to the control panel and use the Remove Users link to remove the demoted enrollment. You get an error message when you return to the course shell if you are deleting your enrollment record. This is expected. Just click on the Courses tab to review your list of assigned shells.

Past Term: Removing an instructor enrollment record from a Blackboard course shell

Contact the Technology Support Center at 419-372-0999 and request that the course shell be disabled or deleted.

  Can I keep a separate copy of my Grade Center for a Blackboard course for reference when a course ends?

If you wish to keep a copy of your grades for a Blackboard course, you need to download your Grade Center. To do this,

  1. Click on your course's control panel.
  2. Under "Assessment", select "Grade Center".
  3. Mouse over "Manage"  on the toolbar to display its menu and click "Download".
  4. Click 'Submit' on the form to save the data in your Grade Center to a file you can open in Excel.
  5. Click the Download button and save the file locally.
  6. Click OK to return to the Grade Center.

Your downloaded file can be viewed in a spreadsheet program such as Excel.  

Note:  Ignore the error you get when you try to open your Grade Center file in Excel. 

Are there limitations using Blackboard equation editors, WebEQ and MathML?

The WebEQ and MathML editors are not available on Macintosh systems. However, equations created on Windows systems are displayed correctly for Macintosh users. Macintosh users can create equations by using the MathML language in the content item editors.

Here are some links to MathML resources:

  I am using Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP, and get an error when adding a question to an assessment.

An error occurs following a very specific set of steps in the Bb 6 Test Manager. At the Add Question prompt, you must be careful when selecting "From a Pool or Assessment" and then clicking Go. Do not select the words --TESTS-- or --POOLS-- and then click search. In Internet Explorer 6, the items look selectable. They are not useable. You will get the message "Unable to generate id. The provided key value is invalid. Unable to parse provided Pkid string[]." You cannot select all of the test. Instead, you need to select entities individually. For all browsers, use the Ctrl (PC) or Shift (Mac) keys to select multiple entities.

  I can't get the Collaboration Tools, Virtual Classroom and Lightweight Chat, to work.

The Collaboration Tools in Blackboard have specific software requirements. Click here to see the supported browsers and Java 2 applications for the platform you use.

  • Mac OS X 10.x: See supported browser list for more information.  The collaboration tools are available to all Mac OS X users. 
  • Windows XP: You should have JRE 5.0 Update 11 installed in order to run either tool.

  If I am an instructor uploading a course to Blackboard, where should I go for help?

Check out these online help options:

  • Blackboard Self-Help page: the Technology Support Center's page of quick reference guides, user guides and FAQs about Blackboard.
  • Center for Online and Blended Learning: a resource for BGSU faculty and is intended to be a place where faculty who currently teach online or who will be teaching online can go for information about distance learning at BGSU. Resources and information about services for faculty teaching online including training, course design, using multi-media, copyright information, and much more are provided.
  • Atomic Learning Video Tutorials on Blackboard 7 are available for both Instructors and for Students. A tutorial for Blackboard 8 should be added to the site soon.  Note: If you or your students wish to access this site from off-campus computers, you must contact StudentTech by phone at 419-372-9277.
  • Blackboard Instructor Manual (PDF Version):  You can also access a clickable version using your control panel by selecting Manual under Support. That version is kept current.
  • Behind the Blackboard: Blackboard's resource site for faculty

If you cannot find the information you need in the online resources, faculty may contact the Technology Support Center, 2-0999 or tsc@bgsu.edu.