Capitals in “http” cause red error message

Some staff have been reporting intermittent red errors when adding content to Blackboard.  We have tracked this down to a bug around “http” web links.

On the internet all “http” should be in lower case, however sometimes staff are entering HTTP or Http at the start of their links.  Most systems pick this error up and change the link to “http” all lower case.  If fact Blackboard has always done this in the past.  However there is currently a bug in the code and Blackboard is no longer setting these to lower case.

You can avoid this problem by making sure that if you add a link it starts with “http” in lower case.

Hub Courses – need to know

Rationale

Blackboard is based around SITS units, with a single Blackboard course being created for every SITS unit that is running in the current year. Sometimes staff may require a Blackboard course that has students from more than one SITS unit on it (in addition to the normal SITS units). If you want a course like this, please fill in a  “hub course” request form.

Setup

Once the form is completed, your new hub course will be created in 3-5 working days (more at start of term). You will be sent an email when it is ready.

Students: Those who are enrolled on any of the SITS units included on the form will be automatically enrolled onto the hub course. Students that enroll in those units later will also be enrolled onto the hub course, 3-5 working days after their enrollment on SITS.

Staff: As the hub course requester, you are automatically added to the hub course as an Instructor, with the ability to add other staff. To add other staff (instructions from Blackboard):

  • In the control panel in the hub course, Click on “Users and Groups”, then “Users”
  • Click the blue button “Find other users to enrol”
  • If you know your colleagues’ user names, put them in the user name box (otherwise use the “Browse” button to search for them by name)
  • Set the role to “Instructor” (or whatever level of access you want them to have)
  • Click “Submit”

Content

The hub course will be a copy of the first unit course in the list you submitted via the form. So if you submitted THRS10034, THRS20102, and PHIL20052, it will be a copy of THRS10034_2015. In future years, the hub course will be a copy of the previous year’s hub course.

SITS unit courses

Your normal SITS courses will still be on Blackboard, and you may make them available to your students in addition to your hub course. There are a number of University tools that only work (or work best) in the SITS courses, which include:

  • eReserves
  • Lecture capture recordings
  • Library reading lists
  • Online submission of essays (particularly when this is part of a school-wide process)

Tidying up your SITS courses

If you switch on the SITS courses, and if they contain content, then you need to hide that from your students to avoid confusing them with duplicate materials. The easiest way is to hide whole menu items is:

  • Move your mouse over the menu item and click on the drop-down arrow
  • Click “Hide link”

It is also good practice to add an announcement to the SITS courses, telling students that the materials are held in the hub course and letting them know what you will be using the SITS courses for (eg accessing eReserves).

Switch on the courses

Finally, you will want to switch on the courses for your students. Use Qwickly to do this.

Blackboard course roll-over 2015 complete

The Blackboard course roll-over is now complete.  You will see a new Blackboard course for every SITS unit that is running next year – these are in the format HISP21309_2015

You will find it much easier to distinguish between courses for different academic years by using these instructions “Group your courses by year: learn how to simplify your My Courses in 18 seconds.”

All new courses are created as “Unavailable” so students will not be able to see them yet.  When you wish to switch them on simply look for the course availability on the “Qwickly” module on the home page of Blackboard and switch the course to “On”.

Also this year you will see an additional hidden menu item at the bottom of your menu called “Reading List”.  From this menu you will be able to upload your reading list for library staff to access it and when the reading list has been uploaded it will appear on the page for students to see.  See this message from the library

“A reminder that the University is undertaking an early implementation of a reading list management policy, as reading lists are currently provided to students and library staff in a variety of ways leading to inconsistent student experience. The early implementation uses Blackboard to help provide reading lists  in a uniform manner. More information can be found using the ereserves/reading list tab in Blackboard.” 

All staff will have been added to the new versions of courses that they were attached to last year.  Students are being added as they are enrolled on SITS.

We also provide “Hub” courses for areas where more than one Unit code of students are being taught together – we are in the process of copying last years Hub courses and these should be available early next week.

Questionmark Perception maintenance 29th April 2015, 2 – 3 pm

Dear Colleagues,

There will be a scheduled outage of Questionmark Perception on Wednesday 29th April, between 14:00 – 15:00.
This is to carry out some essential maintenance work, and the service will be unavailable during this time.
Care has been taken to work around critical dates supplied by staff earlier in the year, however, if you have any questions or critical activity scheduled that will be affected, please email tel-help@bristol.ac.uk
Kind regards
Roberta

More targeted phishing attacks involving Blackboard

We continue to receive a number of reports of staff and students receiving emails which appear to have been sent from Blackboard, or other University services such as the Library, asking them to provide their log-in details or directing them to a website that pretends to be a Blackboard website and asks them to login.

These emails are, in some cases, bypassing the spam filter by using addresses which appear to be from bristol.ac.uk. IT Services have been made aware of this and are looking into the matter.

If you receive reports of this from students, please ask them not to provide any information – we never ask for log-in details – and to delete the emails. If you are unsure about the origin of a message, please let us know and we can advise you whether it is genuine or not.

If you have any questions, please email TEL-help@bristol.ac.uk

eReserve Request system – unavailable 12:00 – 15:00 on 27 May

Dear All
As you may be aware from the IT Services blog http://www.bris.ac.uk/it-services/news/2014/apex2may.html the system that supports eReserve requests will be unavailable 12:00 – 15:00 on 27 May.

What this will means is that you will not be able to request any new eReserves for that 3 hour slot. However any eReserves that have already been placed on Blackboard will be available to staff and students as normal. Blackboard will not be affected in any way.
Regards
Joseph Gliddon
Learning Technologist

Turn it in – submissions now working

Dear All
Turn it in now report that they have fixed the problem with slow submissions on their system. Students should now find that the speeds are normal/acceptable.
Staff will still experience delay in the processing of the % matches (the system has a few days backlog to process) so expect a delay of several hours to 2 days after your students have submitted before you see the % match appearing.
Regards
Joseph Gliddon
Learning Technologist

Turn it in problems

Dear All
The “Turn it in” software provider are currently experiencing problems with all UK submissions http://submit.ac.uk/en_gb/services/system-status
We are monitoring the situation and will update you as soon as we have more details.

If you are submitting an essay to Turnitin via our Blackboard system you are likely to experience delays (the pages will load slowly). For staff you will find that the originality reports will take a significant time to appear.
Regards
Joseph Gliddon
Learning Technologist

Wikis and blogs (Campus Pack) working again – 3rd March

UPDATE: The wikis and blogs are working again – Learning Objects have fixed the problem with their website.

The third-party wikis and blogs that are integrated into Blackboard are not currently working (in simple terms the website that hosts these appears to be offline). This will mean when you go into a Learning Objects or Campus Pack wiki or blog then you will see a “Page not available” error. We have contacted the vendors and expect to see the website back up and running shortly – we will update this post when they are.

BbDrive – available for all staff on request

After a successful pilot we are pleased to announce that BbDrive is now available to all staff to use with Blackboard on both their work and home computers.  We should also like to thank those staff that participated in the pilot for their feedback.

One of the more interesting results from the pilot was that those that had problems were those staff who tried to do too much on BbDrive.  It makes your Blackboard courses work a bit like a network drive allowing you to open and edit your files directly from Blackboard – however as you are accessing your files at a remote location over the web it is slower than if you are using files on your local pc.  For most of the pilot participants who would go to Blackboard make a couple of small changes to a file and leave this worked fine. By contrast some participants moved the majority of their files onto Blackboard and attempted to do significant amounts of work on there (such as creating a 20 page powerpoint from scratch) and they found the slowness problematic.

As such if you are planning on using BbDrive we should stress that it is ideal for adding files  and making small changes to files you have already added to Blackboard, it is however not ideal for making extensive changes to files (such as typing in a word document for 20 minutes).

Regards

Joseph Gliddon
Learning Technologist
Technology Enhanced Learning Team

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BB Drive is a desktop application available on request that you can install onto your PC which makes dealing with your files on Blackboard easier and more efficient.

When you wish to update a file in Blackboard you no longer need to take a copy, edit the copy, save it, delete the original and upload the copy. Instead you just open, edit and save.
Watch this video to see how simple it is.

It is also possible to open your whole course as if it was a network drive, allowing you to drag in new files, move files around, create folders and update files, as demonstrated in this video.

We think that this has the potential to save staff time both when creating and updating their courses. This longer video follows someone through the process of setting up their course.

If you have any questions or would like to use BbDrive please email us at tel-help@bristol.ac.uk telling us your work computer name and we will have it installed on your work computer. If you wish to use it at home we can send you the exe file.