Improving Accessibility of Digital Services

Providing students with the best learning experiences is a priority for Wentworth. Approximately 12% of students in each incoming class have disclosed a disability*:

  • Mental health issues, including ADHD: 44%
  • Learning disabilities: 31%
  • Physical/medical disabilities: 13%
  • Autism spectrum disorders: 9%
  • Sensory disabilities: 3%.

In order to improve student experience, Wentworth Institute of Technology has partnered with the Carroll Center for the Blind (CCB) to proactively test accessibility of digital services from the student perspective. The areas to be tested include but are not limited to evaluating prospective programs on the public facing website, applying for admission, accepting financial aid award, registering for courses, checking schedules and grades in Leopard Web, paying tuition and accessing instructional materials in Blackboard. In addition to providing qualified testers with variousdisabilities, CCB will assist in creating a roadmap to a more accessible digital environment. This roadmap, based on current research and best practices, will eventually inform how we design policies and processes, particularly in regard to software procurement and 3d party vendor evaluation.

For more information, please contact Ella Epshteyn at LIT@WIT.EDU.

Additional Resources

*According to the data collected by the Disability Services at Wentworth Institute of Technology in 2010 – 2013

Blackboard Challenge – Coding Assignments

Challenge (Joey Lawrance): Using Blackboard for coding assignments

I’d like to use Blackboard the way I use Github, Bitbucket, or Gitlab: by using git, a version control system used widely in industry. Computer science students benefit from learning git and version control through experience, but since Blackboard does not support git or any other version control system (as Github, Bitbucket or Gitlab do), I avoid it.

Blackboard does have a content system that has versioning. At present, we have not implemented it widely. However, while we might be able to use it for this application,  it may make more sense to use Github, Bitbucket, or Gitlab. There is a benefit to students to use the tools used in the industry they will work in.

Blackboard assignments are geared toward text documents – MS Word and PDFs. For these assignments, Blackboard assignments work. For other types of assignments, video, audio, images, other tools work better. Some of these have tools that can be integrated into Blackboard – for example Turnitin has an integration that allows students to submit assignments that are plagiarism checked using the Turnitin tool. Instructors grade the assignment in the Turnitin interface within Blackboard and the grade is sent to the Blackboard Grade Center.

Could Github, Bitbucket, or Github be integrated into Blackboard? It’s possible. Submit a suggestion to Blackboard at: Tell Blackboard what tools you need integrated into the system to make it work for you and your students. Blackboard uses the frequency of suggestions to prioritize adding new features to the product. Input from faculty using Blackboard or who would use Blackboard if it had the needed features is given weight. So encourage other faculty in your subject area to submit suggestions for desired tools to increase the likelihood that the tools you need are incorporated into a future release.

Blackboard Challenge – Grade Center – Part 2

Challenge (Beth Ann Cooke-Cornell): Gradebook versus Excel

In Excel can have a different formula for each student to accommodate those individual circumstances, can drop the lowest two quiz grades easily, have multiple grading sheets that are readily available, have all the assignments listed at the top and and a clean sheet with just numbers and dropped quiz grades and extra credit, and can’t upload Excel spreadsheets or columns to Bb.

Part 2: Grading in Blackboard

Blackboard has tools that allow you to drop lowest grades, have different views for homework, papers, exams, and other categories. Blackboard can even handle extra credit.

Whether you use Blackboard for tests and assignments will determine whether you need to manually create columns. When you deploy tests in Blackboard or create an assignment, a Grade Center column is automatically created for the assessment item. The same is true for discussion boards, journals, blogs, and wikis or other gradable items created through building blocks or LTI add ins.

If you want to drop grades, assign each column to a category. Some categories already in the Blackboard grading system include, tests, discussions, and assignments. You can add custom categories as well. More information on creating and managing categories is available on the Blackboard help site.

Calculating Weighted Grades

Select Edit column information from Column contextual menu

Select Edit Column Information

Use the default “Weighted Total” column to calculate the grade. The default weighted total does not have any columns or categories selected. Edit the default “Weighted Total” column by clicking on the item menu and selecting Edit Column Information:

Select how you want the grade to display in the grade center in section one of the “Edit Weighted Column” page.


Selected categories and options

Selected categories and options

Under Select Columns, on the left side highlight which categories to use to calculate the grade and click on the selection button to move them to the selected “columns” pane:

On the right side of this section you can also select which grades to drop. You can also select whether to weight columns within the category proportional to the points possible or equally.

Next select whether you want the column to calculate as a Running total or not. The running total only includes columns that have an attempt. If you choose to display a running total you may also want to create a second column that is not a running total so students can see what their grade would be if they submit no additional gradable items.

Extra credit can also be included in Blackboard calculated grades. More information on creating extra credit columns is available on the Blackboard help site.

To control what columns display in your grade center use SmartViews. Smart Views can include a subset of the columns to show, for example, only homework, only exams, or components of a project. More information on creating and managing Smart Views is available on the Blackboard Help site.

Blackboard Challenge – Grade Center Challenge

Challenge (Beth Ann Cooke-Cornell): Gradebook versus Excel

In Excel can have a different formula for each student to accommodate those individual circumstances, can drop the lowest two quiz grades easily, have multiple grading sheets that are readily available, have all the assignments listed at the top and and a clean sheet with just numbers and dropped quiz grades and extra credit, and can’t upload Excel spreadsheets or columns to Bb.

Part I: Grade with Excel, upload to Blackboard

If using Excel is the best option for you to calculate grades by leveraging Excel’s unique capabilities, you can upload a file from Excel to Blackboard. You can’t, however, upload an Excel file. The best procedure for using Excel with Blackboard is to download the student information from Blackboard and then periodically save comma-separated-values (CSV) files and uploading those to Blackboard.

Grade Center Work Offline Contextual menu

Grade Center Work Offline Contextual menu

First, download the student information by clicking on the work offline contextual menu and selecting “Download”:




Select User Information

Select User Information only

Next, in the download Grade Center page, select “Student Information Only” from the data options:




Under file type, select tab-delimited for an Excel formatted file. (Remember, you need to upload a csv file to Blackboard but you can use an xls file in Excel to calculate grades.)

Select “My Computer” as the save location and click the “Submit” button to create the download file. On the next page, click on the download button and note where the file is saved on your computer.

You can now use the Grade Center Excel file as you use any Excel file, including formulas. Remember, however, to leave the information in the file when you download it intact. Blackboard needs the student information in the same format when you upload the grade data.

Select Comma-Separated Values (.csv) as the format

Select Comma-Separated Values (.csv)

Before saving for upload, save the file in Excel format. To save the file for upload to Blackboard, select “Save as” from the file menu in Excel. Choose comma-separated values (csv) for the file type and save. When Excel asks do you really want to save in this format, choose yes/continue.

The csv file is a one use only file that you can delete when you’ve uploaded the column(s) that you’ve updated. If prompted to save the file before exiting Excel, make sure you’re saving as an xls or xlsx file to retain formulas.

Upload the csv file: To upload the file with new grade columns, select “Upload” from the Work Offline contextual menu. When prompted, browse to the file and select it. Click the submit button and you will be prompted to confirm which columns to upload:

Upload Grades page

Upload Grades page

By default, every column that is new will be selected. If you have some columns you don’t want uploaded, deselect them before submitting.

When you return to the Grade Center, scroll to the right to see the new columns and the grades that have been added.

More information on grading offline can be found on the Blackboard Help site.

Blackboard Challenge – Rubric and Assignment Feedback

Challenge (Joe Martel-Foley): How to use Rubrics and comment on student work

Can you explain the process for how to use a rubric I created for grading lab reports? Can I use this is a later class?

Is there any way to comment within the files turned in through blackboard to give specific comments on sections of text?

Using a Rubric for Grading

Add Rubric button in Grading options

Add Rubric button in Grading options

Once you’ve created a rubric, you need to attach it to the appropriate assignment. When setting up an assignment there is an option to associate a rubric in the grading section of the assignment set-up page:

Click on the Add Rubric button and select the rubric you created. Select Grade By for the type of rubric.

Select any additional grading options and submit the assignment.

When you grade the assignment you will go to the Grade Center and grade using the inline grading tool. Instead of entering a single score for the assignment you can select rubric cells and add feedback to the student. After you’ve selected the levels of achievement for each criterion, save the rubric to update the grade in the grade center. See Blackboard’s full instructions on grading with rubrics.

Show Rubric to students options

Show Rubric to Students Menu

To make sure students can see the rubric and any associated feedback,  select one of the “show to students” options when associating the rubric:





Using a Rubric in Another Course

To use a rubric created for one course in another you can export the rubric and then import it into another course. Alternatively, if you copy a course with a rubric into a new shell, you can select the rubrics as an option to copy. Exporting rubrics is the best way to share rubrics with colleagues.

Commenting on Student Submissions

Using the inline grading tool you can comment on student work. Students must submit in one of the accepted formats, however. These formats include MS Word, pdf, txt, MS PowerPoint, and MS Excel. (Note: PowerPoint and Excel do not have interactivity. To assess interactivity in a PowerPoint or see formulas in Excel files you will need to download and open the files.)

When you open an assignment using the inline grading tool – either from the Grade Center Column or from the Needs Grading page – you can add text comments, highlight, or draw on the submission. Click on the Comment button to display the Commenting tool bar.

Inline Grading - commenting tools

Inline Grading Commenting Tools