Tag Archives: Blackboard

Transferring grades from Blackboard your student information system – a semi automated process

Recently on one of the Blackboard mailing lists someone asked about transferring grades from Blackboard to their student information system.  Now this is something that off and on people keep asking about, there are integrations in America but in the UK none of the big student information systems have been integrated.
Thats not to say people haven’t tried a number of Uni’s have attempted it with varying success – but if anyone has totally solved it I haven’t come across them sharing their methods.  I believe Blackboard corp are even looking at making some integrations themselves but this might take some time.

Now in my last job at City of Bristol College about 6 years ago we did a lot of work moving grades around and I had something that worked well as a “Semi” automatic method.
So I thought I would show people how because with a few tweaks it could work for you.

If you dont use Blackboard the rest is probably a bit boring for you….

Einstein blackboard

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Supporting collaborative learning through technology

Part of my job is providing training sessions for academic staff and one I deliver is “Supporting collaborative learning through technology”

This works well face to face but I also want it available online. So……

First have a think about what collaboration is, use this document to write down

  • What you think collaborative learning is
  • What collaborative activities your students do as part of your class.
  • What ideas you have for an online collaborative task

In the F2F class we would now have a discussion about the following points (you may like to think of short answers as it will help you later on)

  • what it is you want your students to do collaboratively
  • how long it will take (effort and time)
  • what (if any) marks are associated with it
  • how the students will be organised

Working Together Teamwork Puzzle ConceptNow it is fairly common when asking your students to do collaborative work to split up into groups, most VLEs have some form of group functionality.  My VLE is Blackboard and the instructions on creating groups can be found on Blackboard help here.  If you have lots of students you may want to use the Batch Groups Tool.

Using the instructions (find them for your own VLE if you are not using Blackboard) create a group and put you and one student into that group.  You should see a lot of tools available for that group as tick boxes below the group description – leave them all ticked for now and finish making the group.

In a little aside we are going to look at why the internet and some of the tools associated with it make collaborating so much easier now (and yes a lot of you should already know this – the video is 6 years old)

At this point we are going to have a look at the tools available inside the VLE and these are Discussion Boards, Blogs and Wikis.  In Blackboard (and in most VLEs) these tools allow students to post a chunk of html using a WYSIWYG editor so they can add text, pictures, video, flash etc – pretty much anything you can do on the internet.  The key difference in these tools is in how they layout these “posts”

Discussion Board – someone posts (Question), others reply and their replies (Answers) are posted below the first post.   Over time you build up a list of initial posts (Questions) and clicking on a question will show you it and all the replies (Answers) to it.

Blog – someone posts, others can comment on the post.  Each new post stands alone, posts appear down the screen starting with the most recent and going down to the oldest post.  Students often respond to a previous post by making a brand new one of their own (maybe with a link to the first post if it is a fair way down the list).

Wiki – someone posts, this creates a new page.  You can create as many pages as you want and link them together.  Students can edit any post/page and so work together to create the pages.  You can also make comments on pages.

I think the first 2 are very similar and are used for talking about the collaboration (with discussion boards being more formal/organised).  Wikis by contrast allow students to actually work on something together.  At this point you want to consider what tools your students need (and they may need more than 1!) and if they are going to have them for a group or for the whole class.

Beyond the VLE

Now most of this is looking at Google tools (because my Uni has GAFE) but you can do similar things with Microsoft SkyDrive.

You can share & collaborate on all google drive files, you already used a Doc at the start of this session – how about this article on presentations? (has a nice video tutorial at the bottom – I used the instructions on the video to embed my presentation below)

There are also lots of other types of files you can share and collaborate on – lets go to drive – click “Create” and then “connect more apps”.  As you will see there is a lot to chose from, what I particularly like is if you add an app to your drive, share a file of that type with someone else – when they open it, it automatically asks if they want to add that app to their drive.

Students can share with email address OR share “anyone with link” – can put links in the “Group Blog/discussion board” that you gave them in the VLE.

In the session we would have a discussion about the ownership and retention of evidence of work
You need to consider that when you use things outside of your VLE (ie the google tools), the person that creates them tends to have ownership and this person is often the student. This means the students can continue modifying and improving whatever has been created.
You do need to think about what you are going to keep as evidence and how you are going to get it (example google sites – you cant download the websites that are created in it)

For the adventurous

There is google sites – make your own webpage (and collaborate doing it)
Youtube – make and share videos, comment on them (can use some of the Blackboard options (blog/disscussion etc) to allow students to link/embed in the course
And for the really brave Google+ (which has Hangouts!)
Finally although its a secondary school class check out this blog post for more Googly ideas

If you do use G+ 
My Uni does not (yet) provide staff with the ability to get g+ from their work email.
The alternative is to setup a G+ from your personal gmail (this has the advantage that you can take your network of contacts with you if/when you move jobs)
To get yourself to a flying start you may want to read this http://www.scribd.com/doc/120588609/What-the-Plus (its more about how to get the most out of G+ personally rather than for teaching but you will find it helpful (and your students might too))

Followup and Consultation

Of course, if this was my face to face class you would be now have an outline of what you were going to do (based on the various discussions), I would book a follow up session where I pop’d into your office to look at what you had setup and to discuss any problems and the next stages.  Of course I cant do that on the blog (but if you work where I do feel free to ring me) however if you are doing collaboration with your students and want some advice then add a comment and I will see what I can do for you.


The case for social spaces in VLEs and outside VLEs

At my work we are planning our summer upgrade of our VLE, this year Blackboard have included social networking in the VLE.  Our team is currently debating if we should switch the social tools on, I am very much pro switching on and below is a copy of my initial thoughts which I shared with the team.  I thought it might be of some use to others of you thinking about these things 🙂

You will find these 2 recent blog posts helpful in setting the background to why social is a key part of the (modern?) learning experience

VLE as preparation for web http://dllearner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/catching-up-with-octel-week-5-new-role.html

Beyond Digital Literacy to Digital Leadership http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3902

Potential issues (like all institutions we have a duty of care to our users so this has to be taken seriously – however it should not be used as an excuse to do nothing)

All users have their details stored in the cloud (Blackboard have the normal safeguards – datahaven rules?)

Until they click on “Edit my Profile” students can not be found on the system by anyone.  Once they click edit they will be created default as private

  • students can only be found by others enrolled on the same course or organisation – they will see name, placeholder photo and can send a message to them.

There are other options from hidden (no one can find or do anything) to visible to all blackboard cloud users – this includes Blackboard users at other institutions.

A simple awareness/training handout/video should be sufficient to make students aware of the issues.


Everything in one place (Red Number!)- All course (blackboard tool) posts go to the feed in “My Blackboard” dropdown.  If social is on then any post from spaces or students you are following end up here as well.

We should encourage students to use the spaces function – its like having a coffee after a lecture, create a space, invite a couple of people and post your thoughts & links.  No need to become facebook friends.  You can close a space if you are finished with it or keep it in case you wish to talk more.

If there are particular students you want to work closely with you can follow them (with their permission) and so will get all their profile posts.

When you go to Blackboard to do academic work then your academic conversations will be waiting for you.

Comparison of purpose of different social networks

  • Facebook is for friends
  • Linked-in is for getting Jobs
  • Blackboard social is for learning
  • Google+ is for connecting to people around particular interests.

It is highly likely that what you are studying is an interest and as such you may wish to use google+ instead of/as well as Blackboard social.  You will be kept up to date on your google+ posts in exactly the same way as for Blackboard social – its just the red number will be on your Gmail page instead of your Blackboard page.

Similarly posts by people you follow will show up in your G+ feed just like they do in your Blackboard feeds

You can also create Google+ communities that work in much the same way as Blackboard spaces, and again post in your communities will turn up in your feed.

While we are looking at social we should consider student blogs

Inside Blackboard they can use the learning object blogs (I bet there will be Blackboard Blog in cloud function at some point in the next year…)

Outside they could use something like wordpress

Here are reasons our students should blog http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3721

Again like social they would start within Blackboard and move out as they become more confident.

Wild Waves Water Park poolThink of paddling pool and ocean – our students learn to blog and socialise and make initial mistakes in the safe environs of the VLE before moving out into the wider web as their studies progress and their confidence and understanding of their subject and digital literacy increase.  By the time they leave they are confident representing themselves online and if “googled” will show positive reflections on their expert subject instead of (as well as?) drunken pictures on facebook.