One of the most common queries we get is from people who aren’t enrolled on modules in Blackboard. Our standard answer is that staff and students should be enrolled on the module in the module record in AstRA. Once this is done, it takes about an hour for that enrolment to make its way to Blackboard.
But we know that there are still times when students and staff are added manually to modules. We’d like to reduce this as much as possible, so we need to understand when and why it happens. Our short survey will help us do this. The results of this survey will help us to see if we need to make changes to our processes to make it easier for everyone who needs to be on a module can get access quickly and easily.
It can be tempting to just manually add someone to a module, especially if you are in a rush or can’t find someone to make the change for you. However, there are reasons why we take all our enrolments from one source:
- Who has access to a module is transparent. This is particularly important for staff enrolments as staff have access to marks and student details. If all our records are taken from AStRA we know that someone should have access to the module; their enrolment has been approved. Also, there are checks within AStRA to make sure that only staff IDs can be given teaching permissions to a module. This avoids mix-ups with logins or typing mistakes which could see students accidentally being given access to grades (for example).
- Students only get access to modules they are registered to. Although we encourage students to check their student record, they will often go by the modules they are registered on in Blackboard. So, if a student is manually added to a module in Blackboard, but not properly registered in the Student Record, this can cause all sorts of issues. Especially when we reach exam board season.
- Enrolments can be re-built if needed. If a problem with Blackboard we can easily rebuild permissions to modules quickly and easily as there is a central source for them. Any manual enrolments will not be included in this process and could lead to delays with access.
If you manually add staff or students to modules (or ask someone else to do it for you) please take a few minutes to complete our survey.
A small number of users are having problems with the new Content Editor in Blackboard. This may stop you being able to add or edit text.
We are working closely with Blackboard to resolve this problem as quickly as possible.
Over the summer, Information Services have made some changes to equipment in teaching rooms:
- Whiteboard capture with Crestron Airboard cameras
- PowerPoint Presenter Mode with screen mirroring
- Interactive whiteboards with CleverTouch screens
These tools are available in a selection of rooms around campus.
Whiteboard capture will project everything you write onto the screen. You can also use it to record your whiteboard notes.
Whiteboard capture is available in:
- IBERS 0.30,
- IBERS 0.31,
- Edward Llwyd 3.34
- Hugh Owen E3
- Hugh Owen C22
After you have logged into the computer:
- Click on the Crestron Airboard icon on the desktop
- There is a Crestron unit on wall near the whiteboard.
- When the button on unit flashes blue, press it
The Crestron page will then appear on screen and will display your handwriting on the screen. You can share a link to this page with your students. They will be able to see your handwriting on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
If you want to record the handwriting with Panopto, you will need to make sure that you select to capture the computer screen as well as any PowerPoint you are using when starting your recording. You will need to make sure that the Crestron web page is the main window open on the computer when you are writing on the board.
You can use Presenter Mode to show your PowerPoint slides to students, and see the speaker’s notes yourself on from the teaching room machine.
- Edward Llwyd 3.34
- IBERS 0.30
- IBERS 0.31
- IBERS, 0.32
- Hugh Owen Language Labs (BA8 and BA9)
- Hugh Owen C22 (permanently in presenter mode with two monitors)
- All teaching rooms in Penbryn 5.
When you go into the PC it will default to screen mirroring. This means that the display on the monitor will be the same as the display on the projector screen. If you want to use PowerPoint Presenter Mode (speaker notes on the monitor and slides on the screen):
- Click on Extend Display on the desktop
- To record the slides but not the notes, set up Panopto to capture Second Screen and not the Main Screen.
- You can move windows from your main screen (monitor) to the Second Screen (screen) by dragging it to the left-hand side of the monitor
- To go back to normal, click on Mirror Display
- All teaching rooms in Penbryn 5.
To use the CleverTouch boards just as a whiteboard:
- Tap the bottom of the screen > choose Lux
- Tap left or right arrow > choose Note
This will then open a whiteboard application and you can annotate it. Be aware that it isn’t possible to record these screens with Panopto.
To go back to the PC tap the bottom of the screen and then select HDMI.
To annotate PowerPoint etc on PC (HDMI mode)
- Click on the left or right arrow on the board
- Click on the pen icon
- This will provide an image of the screen that you can’t interactive with, but you can write on it.
- To move onto the next slide, click on the left or right arrow on the board
- Click on the cross icon
This will lose your annotations. Note that the annotations will disappear when you move to the next screen. Also, annotations aren’t captured with Panopto.
When you go to https://blackboard.aber.ac.uk you will now see the Login@AU page. Use your AU username and password on this page to access Blackboard.
If you have set your Language to Welsh in ABW or your Student Record, you will automatically see the Welsh version of Blackboard. If you want to change your language setting have a look at the FAQ.
If you have problems using the Blackboard app:
- Logout and close the app.
- Search for Aberystwyth University and click on the name.
- You will be told that you are logging in through the AU website
- Click Got it
- Login with your AU username and password
Blackboard will update at the beginning of every month. These monthly updates mean that we don’t need to take Blackboard out of service for maintenance any more.
Update dates for semester 1:
- 5 September
- 3 October
- 7 November
- 5 December
- 2 January
You may notice that things have changed, or new features appear. We’ll try to keep you updated with major changes through the blog. You can also find out more at https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Administrator/SaaS/Release_Notes
Retention and Backup
Blackboard keep deleted material for 30 days. If you have deleted something from Blackboard and you want to get it back, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. This includes course materials, users and grades.
Dealing with Queries
As Blackboard is now managed in the cloud, e-learning support staff may need to refer your query to central Blackboard support. We may need to:
- Ask you for more details than normal about the problem – we may need to ask you for a detailed breakdown of the steps you took
- Give Blackboard support staff access to your module
It may also take a little longer to get a reply but we’ll try to keep you updated on the progress of your query.
The move to Blackboard SaaS is now complete. Blackboard is no longer read-only.
The Blackboard login page has changed. When you go to blackboard.aber.ac.uk you will login using the Login@Aber screen.
If you have any queries regarding this process contact email@example.com / 01970 62 2472.
Thank you for your patience.
Da iawn ni! The big development of this month has been a working version of the Welsh language interface. After a lot of thinking, and some investigations we have managed to
find a way to recreate our Welsh language tabs and boxes on the new SaaS environment. As users you won’t notice anything different, but for us it’s a major step forward. And it’s all nicely documented (all 9 pages of it!) to make sure that anyone in the team can do it, should we need to. It’s nice to see Blackboard back to its bilingual normality!
We’re also looking for teaching and administrative staff to help test the new Blackboard SaaS environment. If you are interested, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll give our testers access to copies of their Blackboard modules on the SaaS site. We will then ask you to
- Look at the course materials and check they work as you expect
- Use some of the Blackboard tools to make sure they are working normally
- Spot and report any problems or issues
All staff are welcome to join the testing. We are especially looking for staff who use Blackboard in Welsh or who use tools like tests and discussion boards.
If you would like more information, you can email email@example.com
The focus of most of our testing over the last month has been making sure that our local settings in Blackboard work correctly. We’ve spent a lot of time working on the Welsh language translation. Our translation files are quite old and need updating, so we’ll be spending time getting the Welsh interface working correctly.
We’re also checking all the main Blackboard tools to make sure that they work as we expect – and for that to work properly we will need your help. We plan to invite staff to test the new SaaS environment to get more feedback – look out for an email inviting you to join the testing group.
In the last blog post we mentioned we are planning downtime for the final data transfer. It has been quite hard to find a suitable time that isn’t either too early or disruptive during the supplementary exam period. We believe that we’ve now found a suitable date. Our plan is to take Blackboard out of service on 29th August. It should take a couple of hours to transfer the data and when we bring Blackboard back into service it will be read-only until 2nd September. If staff need access to update anything between 29th August and 2nd September, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a FutureLearn course called Using Technology in Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning. It’s run by the Chartered College of Teaching and focuses on the use of learning technologies in primary and secondary education. Although the context is different to higher education, it’s been a really interesting and enlightening course. It’s been useful to find out more about the education system that our students have come from, and it’s also good to find out about different tools and technologies that we may not use so much in universities.
One of the tools that teachers in school use a lot is called Padlet. We know that Padlet is used in universities and there may be Padlet users amongst our readers. However, it wasn’t something that I’d used much, so I decided to take a look at it.
Padlet (https://padlet.com/) describes itself as ‘productivity software’ which makes collaboration easier. It’s designed around the idea of a wall or a board, to which you and users can add cards or notes. The cards can contain text, images, links, videos and files.
To create a Padlet board you will need to create an account – you can have a free account, which provides you 3 boards and an upload of 10Mb. You will also see adverts on this free version. You can sign-in with Google or create your own account. Students can contribute to the boards without creating an account, although if you want to know what who has posted what they will need to set-up an account. Boards can be private or public, and you can control who you invite to post to the boards. (Have a look at our post on polling software and privacy considerations)
There seem to be two uses that are obvious for Padlet – the first is for curation or research type activities, and the second is for collecting feedback for students.
You can find lots of case studies of schools, colleges and universities using Padlet to allow students to collaboratively collect resources and materials. This could be for group presentations and projects or for seminar preparation. A nice example is with Foundation Year Psychology undergraduates at University of Sussex (https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/compass/article/view/714)
Many of us may also have seen Padlets used to facilitate interaction in lectures or presentations. Students can post up their questions to a Padlet wall during a lecture allowing the lecturer to view comments and questions. Used in this way, Padlet has some of the same tools as other polling software. While it doesn’t allow participants to answer questions, it’s a great way of collecting text-based responses. And these can be used later, or archived for future reference.
There’s a very useful set of resources from University of Derby (https://digitalhandbook.wp.derby.ac.uk/menu/toolbox/padlet/). Do be aware that this contains information specific to Derby staff, but you should find the ideas useful. If you’re already a Padlet users, do get in touch; we’re always looking for guest bloggers. Also, you may want to consider putting in a paper proposal for July’s Learning and Teaching conference.
At the end of last month, we blogged about getting our hands on a test Blackboard SaaS environment. This month we’ve started the process of testing the environment and finding out the differences and similarities between SaaS and our current version of Blackboard.
A lot of the work this month is being done by our Blackboard Project Manager in Amsterdam. Blackboard have taken a full copy of our local version and are importing it into the new SaaS system. Once this is done, we’ll be able to have a look at our existing courses, check that the migration process has worked and that everything is behaving as expected. This will mean looking at existing content, testing all the tools work properly, and running through all the normal daily processes we use.
In the meantime, we are testing all the Building Blocks that have been developed in-house at AU. Building Blocks are the Blackboard name for extension tools – some examples of Building Blocks you’ll recognise are Turnitin and Panopto. A Building Block embeds third-party functionality into Blackboard, for example using Blackboard enrolments to control permissions, and making it easy to display content in a Blackboard module. However, there are other tools that you use every day, but you probably don’t even know have been created at AU. The scrolling banner and My Modules box are examples of these. We also have some tools that we as System Admins use and ordinary users will never see – things that allow us to deliver the NSS information to third year students or provide a Blackboard feed to ApAber.
The testing process has involved documenting what each tool does and how it behaves now. We then use the same tool in our SaaS environment to check that it has the same outcome and behaves the same way. We make sure that all Building Blocks are tested in multiple browsers, as well as on PC and Apple. Where appropriate we’ll also test on a mobile device. And of course, we check in both English and Welsh. Once this has been done, we’ll pass feedback to our local developers for any changes that might be needed. And then the process starts again.
We’re also getting used to the continuous deployment cycle that we talked about in the last blog post. This means making sure we receive the emails that come from Blackboard and read them closely to look at what’s changing for our environment. We may have fixes for problems we’ve reported or new / updated tools. Once the deployment has been installed, we then need to test each of the new items to make sure it does what we expect it to do as well as making sure that our bug has been fixed where appropriate. We may also need to update our documentation, FAQs etc to reflect the changes that will be made.