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Teaching Virtually: Blackboard

Getting Started with Blackboard

Logging in and Accessing your Class

If you haven't used Blackboard yet, you'll need to access it through the MyGRCC single sign on portal. Visit signin.grcc.edu and sign in with your GRCC credentials - the same username and password you use to log in to your GRCC email - to get started. See IT's help page on the portal for further instructions and information if you have trouble.

Once you've signed in, Blackboard is the first option on the list. Click the Blackboard icon to log in.

Your list of courses will be in the third column on the right, organized by term. Fall 2020 courses will be at the top, with older courses below. Click on a course's name to access that course in Blackboard.

The Blackboard Interface

Announcements

By default, the landing page for your course will be the Announcements page. Announcements in Blackboard are communications from you to all of your students - use them to notify students of upcoming assignments, tests, or any other course information they need to know. The Announcements page will look something like this:

The Announcements page of a Blackboard course.(click to enlarge screenshot)

  1. The course menu on the left-hand side of the screen lets you navigate between course pages. Your courses will likely look different than this, as you can customize this top part of the menu based on the needs of your course.
  2. Click this button to create an announcement. As the page says, announcements will appear below the dotted line. The most recently-created announcements will appear first.
  3. Your announcements will look like this - the subject line is in bold at the top with the date of creation, with the text of the announcement below.
  4. The Course Management options will be the same in each course. Access your gradebook, roster, and several other important course functions from this part of the menu.

Content Areas

Most of the content in your Blackboard course will be housed in Content Areas. On the navigation menu, most of the options will lead to these content areas:

A Blackboard ASSIGNMENTS content area

(click to enlarge screenshot)

  1. This is the Assignments content area for this course. Clicking the ASSIGNMENTS link on the nav menu takes us here.
  2. To add content to a content area, use the Build Content menu here. Other options on this toolbar will add tests, assignments, or external tool links to content areas as well.
  3. The items, links, folders, and other content you add will appear in the content area here. In this case the content area is organized into folders, which serve as sub-areas for additional content.
  4. The drop-down menu next to content in a content area serves several key functions, including editing an existing content item, making content available or unavailable to students, or delete unnecessary content.

Blackboard Basics

DLIT offers an online, self-paced Blackboard Basics workshop that provides step-by-step instructions for many of the Blackboard tools and processes you'll need to use to finish the remote semester. Register for Blackboard Basics ONLINE at the CTE Faculty Professional Development page to get started.

Communicating with Students

Creating Announcements

When you click the Create Announcement button, you'll see this menu:

The Blackboard Announcement creation menu(click to enlarge screenshot)

  1. The Subject will be the title of your announcement; type your text in the Message box. With the Blackboard content editing tools you can add videos, audio, attach files, etc.
  2. If you want the announcement to appear at a certain time - if you have a beginning-of-the-week message, or want to send a reminder about test availability or something similar, you can set a date range for the announcement to appear. 
  3. By default, Blackboard will send an email to your students that there is a new announcement in their course, linking to that announcement. If you check this box, Blackboard will include the text of your announcement in that email. However, if you have the announcement set to post at a certain date, Blackboard will still send that email right away. The link will be broken and likely confusing to students - as a result, we recommend leaving this option off for pre-scheduled announcements.
  4. The Course Link feature lets you link from an announcement directly to a content area, assignment, deployed test, or many other areas in your Blackboard course. This is a useful feature but can be tough to navigate.

For more information, view this video from DLIT's Blackboard Basics training:

Using Discussions

A Discussion Board is a tool for sharing thoughts and ideas between students and instructors in a course on an asynchronous basis. Asynchronous means that participants do not need to be online or in the same location at the same time. They also allow students time to thoughtfully consider their own responses carefully before sharing.  A well designed discussion board will duplicate the discussions that would have taken place in a traditional classroom. Additionally, discussion boards allow you to:

  • Have students meet with peers for collaboration and social interaction
  • Pose questions about homework exercises, readings, and course content
  • Have students demonstrate understanding or application of course material

To better understand the structure of Discussions in Blackboard you should think along the lines of different levels. In each Blackboard course there is one Discussion Board. Within the discussion board are many Forums.  Forums are the individual topics that you wish to talk about in a course.  A typical course will have several Forums. Threads are the individual posts that students create in response to the topic or prompt in a single Forum; students can post back and forth within these threads in Replies, student (or instructor) responses to Threads that have been posted to a Forum.

See these videos for more information on creating and managing Discussions in your course:

Assignments and Assessments

Creating Assignments

Creating an Assignment in Blackboard creates a dropbox to which students can submit their work. It will also create a gradebook column for the assignment and let you use the Blackboard Annotate in-line grading tool, making it easy to give students feedback and grades. If you have students turning in a paper, presentation, or any non-exam deliverable, Assignments are the way to go. To get started, navigate to a Content Area in Blackboard, mouse over the Assessments drop down in the action bar (next to Build Content), and select Assignment.

The Blackboard Assignment creation interface(click to enlarge screenshot)

  1. Give the assignment a title and paste or type the assignment instructions into the Instructions field.
  2. Alternately, if you have the instructions in a separate document, you may attach them with the Attachment options in the dashed box below the Instructions field.
  3. Students may still submit assignments after the Due Date, but they will be marked late.
  4. Set the points possible and, if you have one, add a rubric here.

Some additional Assignment options you may want to explore:

Additional Assignments options in Blackboard.(click to enlarge screenshot)

  1. The number of attempts will limit the number of submissions a student can make. If you give a Single Attempt, students will only be able to submit one file and won't be able to correct or resubmit unless you clear the attempt. We recommend allowing multiple or unlimited attempts for this reason.
  2. If you would like to enable the SafeAssign plagiarism checker, those options are in the Submission Details dropdown as well. This is not required but can be helpful; if you do use it, make sure to check the box to allow students to see their SafeAssign reports as this option is not on by default.
  3. When the assignment is ready, check the box to make it available. If you want to set a window of availability that closes after the due date (disallowing late submissions), use the Display After and Display Until options. These options are common across Blackboard and can be used for tests, content items, and more.

Blackboard Tests

Creating a Test

To set up a test in Blackboard, you first create it from scratch and then deploy it to a content area. To get started creating a test, navigate to the Course Management area of the left-hand navigation menu. Click the arrow to expand the Course Tools options and select "Tests, Surveys, and Pools." At the next menu, select "Tests" and then click "Build Test."

Take a look at this video from Blackboard to see how to get started building tests:

NOTE: If you have tests in Word document form that you need assistance importing into Blackboard, please contact us at DLIT@grcc.edu - we can help!

Deploying a Test

Once your test is created (or converted and uploaded), you must deploy it to a content area for students to be able to take it. To get started, navigate to the content area where you want your test to appear. Mouse over Assessments in the Action Bar and select Test. At the next menu, select the test from the list of options next to Select an Existing Test and Submit. You'll see the Test Options screen for that test:

The Blackboard Test Options menu

(click to enlarge screenshot)

  1. Like Assignments, you can set a test to allow multiple attempts - Blackboard will grade the highest score, first attempt, or most recent attempt depending on your settings.
  2. The Force Completion and Timer settings deal with the allotted time for the test; Force Completion will disallow saving and continuing later (so students have to finish once they start), while the Timer will set the maximum time a student has to take the test. Note that unless you turn Auto-Submit ON, the student may continue after time expires.
  3. Also like Assignments, tests can have availability windows. These are effective when combined with timers: if you set a 60-minute timer on a test and check Display After Friday and Display Until Sunday, the student will have an hour to take the test but may start it any time on those days.
  4. Do not worry about a password for your Blackboard exams. We recommend using Availability instead. If you choose to use Respondus Lockdown for proctoring, Respondus will need to create its own password in this field as well.

There are some other options on this screen, covered in the above Blackboard video walkthrough. If you have questions about these options, please email us at DLIT@grcc.edu.

Proctoring Options

Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor

Respondus Lockdown Browser is our main remote proctoring software. The lockdown browser will keep students in the Blackboard page and prevent them from opening or accessing other programs and websites while they're taking the test. Students can download the browser from this link, or from their Blackboard home page. As the instructor, you do not need to download the browser; you'll activate and set options for proctoring through Blackboard.

Respondus Monitor is not a separate program; Monitor options enable video proctoring in Respondus, using a student's webcam. Monitor will flag events for your attention that may indicate student cheating.

Activating Respondus

To add Respondus monitoring to a test, navigate to the Course Management > Course Tools menu on the left-hand navigation options as you would to create a test. From the Course Tools menu, select Respondus Lockdown Browser. Blackboard will show you a landing page with some welcome information and tutorials. Click the orange Continue to Lockdown Browser button to continue, and you'll see a list of the Tests in your course with drop-down arrows next to each one.

The Respondus Lockdown Browser settings in Blackboard

(click to enlarge screenshot)

  1. Click the drop-down arrow next to a test's name and select "Settings" to open this larger menu.
  2. By default, Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor are disabled; select the "Require Lockdown Browser" and "Require Respondus Monitor" circles to expand the options for each program.
  3. We do recommend enabling both Lockdown Browser and Monitor if you are remotely proctoring an exam. 

Lockdown Browser: Advanced Settings

We recommend enabling just a few of the Advanced Settings for Lockdown Browser to make your proctoring more effective. You should definitely enable Allow students to take this exam with an iPad and Allow students to use Lockdown Browser for Chromebook; depending on your needs, you may want to turn on the Calculator and "Allow access to specific external web domains" options. 

Additional Support

Blackboard Help

Blackboard has provided video and written tutorials and information for all major Blackboard course functions. Visit Blackboard Learn Instructor Help to get started.

For more specific questions, or anything not covered in Blackboard's tutorials, email us at DLIT@grcc.edu