Upgrades, the good and the UGLY!

In spite of testing before upgrading, it seems we always find something that wasn’t quite identical between the test and production systems that comes to light AFTER the upgrade. And while the upgrade itself went smoothly and initial testing indicated no major problems we did encounter some ugly problems caused by a custom theme used across all of our courses.

The custom theme was based on an old version of the default Bb Learn theme. What we didn’t know was there were updates in the theme that we did not see (or maybe ignored) on the test system. As a result, the old custom theme did not contain all the updates AND caused some courses to have invisible menu items. Not a good way to start the term.

After some exchanges with Blackboard Technical support, we were able to identify the cause of the problem and replace the custom theme with the stock theme that comes with Blackboard (and which will be updated with new releases). In future, we will no longer customize the theme, the benefits of highlighting that is more consistent with our color scheme are not worth the work tracking down the source of new problems during the very brief windows we have for our upgrades.

Other changes: If you use the Qwickly attendance tool, you may have noticed a new attendance tool in the course tools section of your course control panel. This is Blackboard’s new tool which LIT has evaluated as less useful than the Qwickly tool. We have turned this tool off for that reason. (So if you saw it and now it’s gone, you weren’t hallucinating).

Other changes that came with this upgrade:

  • Students now can clear selections from multiple choice questions to avoid a penalty if there are negative points associated with an incorrect answer choice.
  • Instructors can now allow additional attempts when a prior attempt can’t be cleared due to an anonymous grading state.
  • Students and instructors can now copy files from cloud storage solutions to Blackboard.
  • Instructors can now create audio/video recordings for the feedback in assignments, tests, graded discussions, wikis, blogs, and journals and also as feedback to manually graded grade center columns.
  • Instructors can now delete multiple grade center columns at once.

The work towards reviewing and selecting the next LMS for Wentworth continues. Watch for additional information sessions as the process continues.

Post Course Copy Reminder – Spring 2019

Reminder: Once you’ve copied a past course into the current term, while most of your prep work is done, you are not quite finished. There are some important housekeeping items to remember:

    1. Check Content and assessment items  and revise/replace as needed. Make sure content is in the appropriate location. Consult your department for any specific requirements.
    2. Run Date Management and correct due dates and release dates associated with items.
      Documentation for Date Management
    3. Use Link Checker to Check all External Links
      Documentation for Link Checker
    4. Check all links embedded in content items – Link Checker does not check these links.
    5. Check YouTube and other Mashup Content, is the media still available? Choose replacements as needed. Check other third-party content like Atomic Learning and Lynda/Linked in videos, too. As we refine the academic technology toolkit, some tools may be replaced and content will also need to be replaced.
    6. Grade Center Clean-Up – Remove (don’t just hide) any unneeded columns (from quizzes/tests/assignments that have been removed) and make sure grade calculations include the correct columns/categories and weighting. If you are adding assignments, make sure the grades calculate properly. CPCE courses are based on 1000 points. Added assignments can inflate this value.
    7. Remove any grading Schemas not in use. Wentworth changed it’s undergraduate grade schema starting in Fall 2018. If you’ve copied your course, you may have copies of the older schema that can impact how grades are displayed in your course.
    8. Check to make sure settings on Discussion Forum are appropriate for your course and allow students to create new threads. We discourage allowing students to delete their own posts because most online and hybrid courses require students to reply to other students’ posts and deleting posts with replies could impact grades of other students.

This information is available as a pdf.

Follow these steps and you’ll be off to a good start of the semester.

Spring 2019 Course Development Institute

Building a new course? Redesigning an older course? Want to align program and course goals to assessments and teaching strategies? Then Course Development Institute is for you!

Use proven methods to increase engagement and student outcomes by attending the 3-day Course Development Institute in February-March 2019. LIT will customize the 3-day schedule based on your schedule. Seats are limited so email lit@wit.edu to enroll by January 25th, 2019.

course design books

Course Copy Best Practice

Copying a previous course is a great way to save time in preparing your course. However, copying can also create some problems. But with a few steps, you can streamline your course prep and have a fully functioning course.

Keep in mind when you copy a course, everything can be copied. That means all assignments, tests, discussions that appear to the students in the course as well as those that are visible only to the instructor. That can mean confusing due dates – they copy exactly from the previous offering, extra columns in the grade center and grades that don’t display properly.

LIT has prepared a checklist to help you through this process:

  1. Check Content, Revise/Replace Documents as needed. Make sure content is in the appropriate location. Consult your department for any specific requirements.
  2. Use Link Checker to Check all External Links
    Documentation for Link Checker: http://tinyurl.com/zsgz9s6
  3. Check all links embedded in content items – Link Checker does not check these links.
  4. Check YouTube and other Mashup Content, is the media still available? Choose replacements as needed. Check other third-party content like Atomic Learning and Lynda/Linked in videos, too. As we refine the academic technology toolkit, some tools may be replaced and content will also need to be replaced.
  5. Check Quizzes/Tests/Assignments – Revise/Replace as necessary.
  6. Revise and Replace Syllabus – Don’t leave a previous semester’s syllabus in your course. Please include the word “syllabus” in the name of the file and attach it in the content item’s “Attachments” section.
  7. Grade Center Clean-Up – Remove any unneeded columns (from quizzes/tests/assignments that have been removed) and make sure grade calculations include the correct columns/categories and weighting. If you are adding assignments, make sure the grades calculate properly. CPCE courses are based on 1000 points added assignments can inflate this value.
    Remove any grading Schemas not in use: https://wp.me/a68PO8-qu
  8. Run Date Management and correct due dates and release dates associated with items.
    Documentation for Date Management: http://tinyurl.com/z9p25gg
  9. Check to make sure settings on Discussion Forum are appropriate for your course and allow students to create new threads. We discourage allowing students to delete their own posts because most online and hybrid courses require students to reply to other students’ posts and deleting posts with replies could impact grades.

This information is available as a pdf.

Follow these steps and you’ll be off to a good start of the semester.

New Grade Schema not calculating correctly?

If you routinely copy courses in Blackboard, you may find that although we corrected the grading schema in all fall term courses in August, your grades may not display correctly when using the WIT grading schemas. You may have a schema with the old grade equivalencies.

How can you get the grades to display correctly? You’ll need to remove the old schema(s).

  1. Navigate to the course in Blackboard that has been copied (or where you notice the letter grades don’t seem correct).
  2. Open the Full Grade Center.
  3. In the Full Grade Center, select Grade Schemas from the Manage Menu.
  4. From the Grade Schemas action menu, select Edit for the Schema you want to examine.
  5. In the Edit Schema Menu, examine the settings and determine if the schema is the old or new schema and then change the name or enter a description indicating which schema is old. In the example below the description is modified. Do not modify the name of the correct schema, it must remain “WIT Undergrad Letter” so the Banner Grade Submit tool recognizes it. If you have a Graduate course, the “WIT Undergrad Letter” Schema must still be in place. Do Not Delete the current undergrad schema.
  6. Save the schema. Repeat for any additional schemas.
  7. Back on the Manage Schemas page, select Delete from the Grade Schema action menu to remove old schema from your course. Remove any schema named “Letter” these predate the Banner integration and are not correct.
  8. Now the Banner Grade Submit should correctly display letter grades.

Here’s a pdf containing the steps with illustrations.