Cool Tools for Blackboard

For faculty who use Blackboard there is a whole set of resources to help you make the most of this powerful teaching tool. The Faculty Resource Tab:

Blackboard Faculty Tab Location

 

 

Check out the Quick Start Guides on that page, which has one-page guides on the crucial stuff:

  • Work with Respondus Test Building software
  • Request a Combined Course
  • How to copy course materials from one course to another
  • Use Blackboard Collaborate
  • Request a Blackboard Organization
  • Request Echo Personal Capture
  • Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor
  • Where to go for help (who to contact)

On the Blackboard Videos tab there are tons of videos that will guide you through how to do things like:

  • How to View the Course Roster
  • How to Apply a Course Theme
  • How to Create the Course Tracking Reports
  • Create a Grade Center Column
  • Delete a Grade Center Column
  • Create Grade Center Color Codes
  • Create New Categories

Remember, if you ever need personal assistance, please contact the Blackboard Support team at bbadmin@wayne.edu.

Some additional notes about Outlook 365

By the time you read this, many of us will have been switched over to the new Microsoft-based email system. And, of course, with any new system, there are both things to learn, new features that are cool, old features whose absence is annoying, and the occasional bug. Here are a few things to be aware of.

The interface (how the program looks) is somewhat configurable. You can choose to have a reading pane on the right, below your list of messages, or not at all. You control this through the pull-down marked by a little gear symbol on the upper right.

Gear

If you click that you can choose ‘Display Settings’. You get two sets of options—where the reading pane appears, and whether the system opens the next message or the previous one if you delete a message.

You can also control a lot more things by choosing ‘Options’ under the same menu. There you can choose a number of items associated with Mail, including automatic replies, what happens when you mark something as ‘read’, and so on. Ignore the button marked ‘Retention policies’—it doesn’t do anything.

Options

Under ‘Layout’ you can choose whether to see ‘Conversations’ (all messages with a common subject line together) or not (all messages solely in chronological order). You can also set up your email signature. If you don’t remember yours, just open an old ‘Sent’ message and copy it, then paste it into the relevant window in the ‘Layout’ area.

I’ll have a few more items in my next posting.

Thoughts and tips on using Academica

Academica has been the University’s official portal for a few days now, and the Feedback section has been filling up with likes, dislikes and assorted comments. I’ve combed through the comments so far and have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

Appearance

First, there is the notion of a ‘portal’. In contemporary computing terms, a ‘portal’ is a webpage that leads you to facilities that permit you to do stuff. It’s different from an organization’s ‘website’, which is a webpage that allows you to find out stuff. So a portal should be interactive, while a website should be like a reference work (an almanac or a phone book, or even an encyclopedia).

Categorization

So, most of the links that appear in Academica are either interactive (‘see my paystub’, ‘check my grades’, ‘search for a journal article in the Library’) or lead to interactive links (‘Benefits and Deductions’).

Of course, some lead to other portals, such as the link to the IRB in the Office of Research, and a few are there even though they are static, simply because of popular demand (‘Campus Map’, ‘Research Compliance’), but the principle distinction was between ‘doing things’ and ‘finding out stuff’.

Finding stuff

If you want to use Academica as your portal for everything, you can use the search box at the top and select (with the drop-down arrow) to search the WSU Website, where you can find anything that is searchable (parking structure maps, English major requirements, General Counsel’s office) on the wayne.edu domain.

Appearance

A number of folks commented on the visual appearance (some in less than complementary terms), and seemed to think Pipeline was more visually appealing—an opinion I’d challenge, myself. However, the main reason Academica looks the way it does it that it was designed from the ground up to be easy to use on any device, and particularly to be easy to use with smaller devices, like phones and tablets. It actually detects the size of your display and customizes itself automatically. The reason for this is that increasing numbers of us use mobile devices as our primary means to access the electronic world. A recent study showed that ninety percent of Wayne State students bring smartphones to their classes, and now they can use their phones to check the status of their bursar’s account, or their final grades, and employees can check their paystubs (I just checked mine with my iPhone 5s in three ‘clicks’).

Why did we do this?

Pipeline is at the end of its development cycle–the company that made it is no longer supporting it. That makes it like a car whose spare parts are unavailable. It could keep running, but if it broke suddenly it can’t be repaired. C&IT decided it was better to replace it before that happened, and our local app-programming gurus built something for the twenty-first century. In addition to being usable on all devices it is very adaptable. It will not break a sweat if twenty thousand students check their grades all at once. Those who used Pipeline over the years know that it tended to roll over if demand got heavy. Academica is pretty resilient and should not do that.