June 2018 Issue



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Making Teaching Easier: Time-saving tools in Blackboard


This has been a particularly busy and challenging year. Now that things are winding down, it’s time to catch your breath and perhaps think about ways to make teaching easier in September so you can concentrate on what matters most- your students. Many professors have discovered features in Blackboard to lighten their workload and improve student outcomes, whether their course is online, hybrid, or in-class.


Here are a few Blackboard features that George Brown professors say has really helped them save them time and improve their interactions with students:

  • Student communication
  • Grades
  • Online assessments (quizzes, tests, exams)
  • Managing groups


Student Communication

Announcements:  The announcement tool in Blackboard is an easy way to send out messages to your class about date changes, upcoming class activities, or reminders about tests and assignments. If a student misses your announcements in class they can easily read them online; anytime, anywhere. No one can claim they didn’t get the message.


Email: You can avoid email hassles by requiring your students to use the Blackboard email tool to communicate with you. These emails come from their official student accounts and contain the course CRN automatically. When you respond you know it is going back to their official student email so there is no worry about privacy issues. This also makes it very easy to track and organize your student emails. No more emails from “swordmaster999@hotmail.com” with no mention of their real name, or what course or CRN they are in!



Students want access to their course grades 24/7. Using Gradebook they can review their grades at any time and, if you wish, each grade can be linked back to the assessment instructions and rubrics. No more dealing with emails from students asking what their grade is. Using Gradebook also speeds up entering and tallying your marks, especially if you are using rubrics to do your evaluations on assignments.


Online Assessments

Running tests in-class costs you time and effort in so many ways. You have to print out and collate the paper tests, use class time to conduct the test, spend time handling the piles of answer sheets, and run the risk of losing a paper. Not to mention having to reschedule tests for students who missed the original dates. Using Tests,Surveys and Pools, you can set up tests, exams and quizzes for students to take online at home or in the Assessment Centre at their convenience over a set time period (usually a week or two). This removes most of the problems of students unable to make particular test days. Accommodations for extra time are easy to set up as well. Multiple choice and true/false questions can be automatically graded by the computer and also entered into Gradebook. This leaves more time for you to concentrate on their short answers and essays.


Managing Groups

The Group tool in Blackboard allows you to preconfigure groups of any size in your class. You can arrange it so students are randomly assigned to groups or manually sign up to the group of their choice. Blackboard also provides a suite of tools for students to communicate within their group, email members, share documents, and create wikis, blogs, and journals.


The logistics of creating and assigning students to groups is handled by Blackboard, not you, which saves you a lot of time and aggravation. However, you can easily adjust group membership should problems arise. No more dealing with students who come to you at the last minute saying they don’t know who is in their group or how to contact them.


Now is a great time to explore one or more of these features and see how you might incorporate them into your teaching before the hectic pace of the fall term starts up. As always, the staff at eLTI are here to help you get started and guide you along the way.


Enjoy the summer weather!





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Dear eLTI


Q. I’m new to Blackboard. How can I get started using more Blackboard features?


A. The best way is to just dive in and start experimenting with a tool or feature in an old course this summer once students no longer have access to it. That way you can try things out with no one but you seeing it. It’s easy to remove any new features you add so feel free to experiment. You can get help through the Blackboard help menus, talk to colleagues, or contact eLTI for Blackboard consultations and training workshops.


Q. I’ve noticed that there is a new button appearing at the top of my course page in between the Student Preview button and the Edit Mode button. It looks like a padlock. What does it do?


A. This new feature lets you quickly make the entire course available (open lock symbol) or unavailable (closed lock symbol) to students with a simple click. This is handy if you are making quick changes to several parts of your course simultaneously and would like to temporarily hide your course from students while you do it. This is easier than having to go to each individual page or section and edit its “make available to students” box. But remember to toggle the button back to Make Available when you are done otherwise students will be locked out of your course!





Tech Tips


Digi Know

Are you frustrated by embedded Youtube videos in your course that automatically launch into other videos about cats or celebrity shopping sprees after students have watched the one you chose for them? Fortunately, there is an easy way to prevent that.


In the “insert/Edit Embedded Media” dialog box, go to the URL for the video and add this string of text to the end of the UR: ?rel=0

Thus turning the original URL from this:



to this:



This bit of code stops the video at the end and prevents youtube from automatically starting up the next suggested video.







We Want to Hear From You!

How do you use educational technologies? If you want to be featured in an issue of our newsletter or have comments to share with us, send an email to elearning@georgebrown.ca.



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