Bb Tip #131: Performance Dashboard

March 4th, 2015

The Performance Dashboard gives instructors a “view at a glance” on how students are progressing within the course. Instructors use the information in the Performance Dashboard to monitor student progress and keep students on track.

image showing performance dashboard

Various types of user activity information is available in the Performance Dashboard. The information includes:

  • Last Course Access: The date and time when the user last accessed the course.
  • Days Since Last Course Access: The number of days that has elapsed since the last time the user accessed the course.
  • Review Status: Displays how many items have been reviewed.
  • Adaptive Release: Clicking on the icon opens a new window showing a directory tree overview of the entire course relative to the user, and the access status.
  • Discussion Board: This column lists the number of Discussion Board comments created by the user. Clicking a number link opens the Discussion Board page listing all of the selected user’s Discussion Board comments in the course.
  • Customize Retention Center: This column shows the number of triggered rules and the number of total rules that may trigger a warning. For example, 3/5 means the user has triggered three rules out of five. Clicking on the data in this column will display a page showing the Retention Center status for the user.
  • View Grades: This column provides direct links to the full Grade Center.

Follow these steps to do it.

To view the Performance Dashboard, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for the course and click on the [Evaluation] link to expand it.
  2. Click on [Performance Dashboard].

To print the Performance Dashboard, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for the course and click on the [Evaluation] link to expand it.
  2. Click on [Performance Dashboard].
  3. Click on the printer icon in the right hand corner of the heading.
print preview performance dashboard

Want more information?

Using the Performance Dashboard [webpage] [video].
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Check out help for instructors at
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Contemplative Engagement with a Text

March 4th, 2015


Two years ago, we hosted a session on lectio divina which married two prominent themes in CAT programming: our campus-wide initiative, “Read Today Lead Tomorrow,” and contemplative practice. The session was well-received but only hinted at the rich possibilities of contemplative reading, and some participants expressed a desire for more information.

Therefore we are pleased to report that noted scholar Robert-Louis Abrahamson has published a guide on “contemplative engagement with a text.” This is not a technique per se; it’s more of an attitude. Nevertheless, Abrahamson does prescribe six steps in a clear pattern, with plenty of substantive advice for teachers.

Download the PDF guide from this page.

Pedagogy for Self and Planet

March 3rd, 2015

Photo by Chase Clow

Here’s a workshop/retreat for which combines two current CAT themes: contemplative pedagogy and the quest for sustainability.

Contemplative Environmental Studies: Pedagogy for Self and Planet
July 26 – August 1, 2015 Location: Lama Foundation, San Cristobal, New Mexico

How can higher education best address global environmental challenges? How can we most meaningfully teach and research about environmental issues? How can we cultivate our inner lives through active engagement with environmental challenges?

This workshop explores the contribution of contemplative practices to scholarly inquiry and teaching in environmental studies. Through discussions with distinguished scholars, focused conversations among colleagues, artistic exercises, and regular contemplative practice (meditation, yoga, journaling, and nature walks), participants will investigate ways to deepen their teaching, research, and lives at this historic moment of environmental intensification.

Part workshop and part retreat, this 6-day summer institute provides an opportunity to step back from the frenetic pace of our lives, and cultivate our inner resources and nurture the resiliency we need as teachers committed to education on a fragile and wild planet.

Learn more

(Photo by Chase Clow)

Why We Stopped Buying Bottle Water

February 27th, 2015

Hopefully by now you’ve gotten in the habit of using your CAT XX water bottle, bringing it with you to CAT events, and refilling it at our shiny new bottle-filling station.

You may wonder why we decided to stop purchasing flats of bottled water.

Here’s why.

(Thanks to Olivia for spotting this amazing video.)

Six Tips for Recording Video

February 26th, 2015

by Janice Florent

Video is a powerful way to make that essential human connection in online courses.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock created this infographic listing six simple tips for recording video as well as a few video recording tools you can use.

The infographic (produced using Piktochart) was originally posted in Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s 6 Tips for Recording Video blog post at Teaching Without Walls.

You can get more information about how to use videos in teaching and learning in these CAT Food blog posts: How to Effectively Use YouTube in eLearning and Bb Tip #108: Videos.

If you are interested in how infographics are being used in education, read this Educause article, 7 Things you Should Know About Infographics.

Adapting Quick Formative Assessment Ideas to an Online Environment

February 26th, 2015

by Karen Nichols

Edutopia’s 53 Ways to Check for Understanding offers several quick and easy activities for formative assessment. While these were established for a face to face environment, I think we can adapt several of them to our online/hybrid courses.

A number of the formative assessments listed require defining, identifying objectives, explaining why a reading is important, etc.  For these types of assessments, Blackboard offers an array of discussion boards, wikis, journals, etc.  They can be set up for students to view other postings and comment, thus providing opportunities for dialogue and collaboration.

Suggestion 20 is to create a collage using the themes from the current lesson.  A word cloud can be used for this activity and it can be uploaded in a discussion board.  Wordle is commonly used, but here is one I created from Tagxedo (Also item 35 in this article)–can you tell the topic I chose?


I’ve successfully used Item 45, Bio Poem, in my French classes.  In my case, I used this idea for the students to practice using newly learned French vocabulary by describing themselves, but it can certainly be used to as a formative assessment check to make sure the students understand literary characters or historical figures.  For those unfamiliar with the Bio Poem, here are the items to include:

Line 1:  First Name

Line 2: 3-4 adjectives that describe the person

Line 3:  An important relationship

Line 4: 2-3 things, people or ideas that the person loved

Line 5: 3 feelings the person experienced

Line 6: 3 fears the person experienced

Line 7:  Accomplishments

Line 8: 2-3 things the person experienced or wanted to see happen

Line 9:  Person’s place of residence

Line 10:  Last name

Let’s be creative ourselves!  Complete this bio poem about yourself or a literary or historical figures and share with us in a post!

Social Media Tools for Teaching and Learning

February 25th, 2015

by Janice Florent

image showing social media icons

Social media has evolved into more than a simple tool to stay in touch with friends or to share vacation pictures. Educators are finding interesting ways to use social media in their teaching and learning. Benefits to using social media in teaching and learning include putting concepts into context, keeping course content up-to-date, and fostering a sense of community both in and out of the classroom.

Facebook and Twitter may be ubiquitous, but there are many other social media tools out there that can enhance teaching and learning.

Facebook and Twitter are social media tools that are familiar to most people. Here are a few other social media tools that are being used in education:

You can read more about how three educators are using these social media tools in the Campus Technology article, 6 Alternative Social Media Tools for Teaching and Learning.

Bb Tip #130: Lock Discussion Threads

February 23rd, 2015

If you setup a discussion forum with date and time restrictions, once the scheduled available time has passed the forum becomes unavailable and disappears from the student’s view. If you would like students to be able to read posts once the date restriction has past but not be able to submit new posts, you can “lock” the discussion thread to prevent new posts. Students may read the threads but not make any additions or modifications.

image showing how to lock db thread

Follow these steps to do it.

To lock discussion board threads, you should:

  1. Open the Forum in the Discussion Board.
  2. Select the threads you want to lock (you can select all threads by checking the box to the left of “Date” in the header).
  3. Click the [Thread Actions] menu button and choose [Lock] from the list. Verify the status under the discussion board shows “Locked”.
  4. Once you have successfully locked the thread, remember to go back and edit the forum to remove the date and time restrictions so that the students can see the threads.

Want more information?

Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Drip-feeding course contents to students.
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Check out help for instructors at
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.

Using QR Codes in Education

February 20th, 2015

by Janice Florent

QR (QR being short for Quick Response) codes were first created in 1994 by Toyota to track vehicles in manufacturing using a small barcode that allowed for high-speed component scanning. Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR code technology is experiencing a revival — but not in the automotive industry. The small, square codes are ubiquitous, showing up on everything from billboards and flyers to food packaging.

image of a QR code

QR codes allow people to connect to video, audio, pictures, web sites and more by linking the individual to content on any supported smart phone or with a desktop reader. With the increasing use of mobile technology, QR codes are becoming more common in business and educational settings. The possibilities for their use are endless, and many translate into the classroom, offering a fun and exciting way for students to use technology for learning. If you are interested in how you might utilize QR codes in teaching and learning, read more in this article 50 Great Ways to Use QR Codes in the College Classroom.

Also, here is a link to my Prezi from a past CAT workshop on Educational Uses for QR Codes.

Are you using QR codes? If so, we would like to hear about it. Please feel free to leave a comment telling us how you are using QR codes in your teaching and learning.

Bb Tip #129: Course Calendar

February 19th, 2015

You can use the course calendar to provide students with dates for course-related events. Instructors can create events on their respective course calendars. Everyone who is enrolled in the course will see the course-related events in their calendar.

The calendar displays a consolidated view of all institution, course, organization, and personal calendar events. You can view events by day, week, or month. Color coding makes it easy to distinguish which course each event is tied to.

image of a Blackboard calendar

Common calendar entries include:

  • Instructor office hours
  • Due dates for assignments
  • Exams
  • Guest speakers
  • Meetings

Course items with due dates are automatically created in the course calendar. If an instructor edits an item to change the due date, the calendar gets updated as well.

Drag and drop works in the calendar. Instructors can drag and drop an item onto a new date to change the due date.

As a shortcut to view, edit, or grade attempts for an item, instructors can simply click on the item in the calendar.

You cannot import external calendars into Blackboard. However, you can import your Bb Learn calendar into an external calendar application (i.e., Google Calendar, iCal).

Follow these steps to do it.

To create a new event on the course calendar:

  1. On the calendar, click the plus (+) to create a new event or click a specific date to create an event.
  2. Type the New Event Name.
  3. Select the course calendar to associate the event to.
  4. Select the Start and End times.
  5. Type the Event Description.
  6. Click [Save].

To add a course item with a due date to the course calendar:

When you create items with due dates, the calendar event automatically appears on the course calendar. Content items with adaptive release and availability rules are shown on the calendar at the appropriate time, ensuring that the release of an item on the course calendar is in sync with the availability rules you set.

To edit or delete an event:

Click the event to edit or delete it. OR

Click and drag the event to another date in the main view (or on the smaller monthly view) to change the due date of the event. The time of the event and calendar it is associated with remain the same.

If the event is a course item that has date availability rules set, you should edit the item to adjust the availability dates.

Want more information?

Working with the Calendar
Using the Blackboard Calendar (video)
Explore Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center.
Check out help for instructors at
Try these Blackboard How-To documents.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or schedule a one-on-one session, email, or
call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418.