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In the event of an emergency that disrupts the University’s ability to have classes on campus for an extended period of time, you can be ready to continue your classes online. Here are some things you can do to be prepared should the need arise.

  • Understanding and Building Your Course
    • Getting Started with Course Environment (Video) (PDF)
    • Getting Started with Course Content (PDF)
  • Utilize Blackboard’s Communication Tools
  • Collecting Student Work
    • Getting Started with Assignments (PDF)
  • Utilize Blackboard’s Collaboration Tools
    • Blogs, Wikis, Journals, & Discussion Boards Explained (PDF)
  • Posting Grades
    • Getting Started with the Grade Center (PDF)

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDFs] as well as
on-demand videos.
Signup for Blackboard workshops or request one-on-one help.
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Scalar is a new online publishing platform specifically designed for scholars and educators. It's still in development, with a public beta release not expected until early 2013. This video gives an intriguing overview.

Clearly this is something to keep an eye on. More information is available on the website of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture.


Instructors can see their courses as a student would by turning edit mode off. However, instructors do not get the true experience of navigating the course like a student when edit mode is turned off.

Instructors can now add a test student to their course. The instructor can login to the course as the test student and navigate the course exactly as a student would. While logged in as the test student, the instructor is able to complete assignments, tests, surveys, etc. The instructor would also be able to see the “test student” in the Grade Center. The instructor has the option of removing the test student from the course when the test student is no longer needed.

Follow these steps to do it.
In order to add a test student to your course, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for the course and click on the [Course Tools] link to expand it. Click on [Add Test Student].
  2. You should see the Create Test Student Account screen. Make a note of the Test Student Account’s username, and then enter a password for the test student account. The “enroll this test student on the current course” option should be checked.
  3. Click on the [Submit] button. You should see a message indicating the test student user was created.
  4. You can now login as the “test student” using the username and password created in step 2.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418


During the break between summer and fall semesters Blackboard will be upgraded to version 9.1 service pack 9. Upgrading to SP9 gives us a number of exciting new features as well as a few bug fixes. New features include course-to-course navigation, course structures and course themes, quick setup guide, automatic regrading, negative marking, and updated rubrics.

Course-to-course navigation: You no longer need to navigate to the XU home page or courses tab to access your other courses. You are able to move from course to course by clicking the course-to-course navigation drop down menu in the upper left corner of the page to select the next course.
Course structures: Course structures help you to setup a course in a short amount of time. Pre-built course structures focus on specific aspects of a course including activity, communication, content, systems, and time. You can use the pre-built course structure’s course menu links, instructions, and content examples to jump-start your course organization and create a meaningful learning experience for your students.
Course themes: Course themes provide an easy way to create a visually engaging course environment. Faculty can apply one of the available themes to match their design preferences and teaching methods. Course themes add a background image to the course display and change the color of the interface, including the Course Menu, buttons, and controls. Course themes do not affect the course content and can be changed at any time.
Quick setup guide: The quick setup guide makes it easy for faculty to choose an appropriate theme and structure for their course so they spend less time setting up their courses.
Automatic regrading: This new feature will save time and make it easier to correct problem assessment questions. Instructors can now fix problematic questions by simply editing the invalid assessment question directly. After the question has been updated, the score of all submitted assessments will be recalculated and the updated score will be changed in the Grade Center. Notification will be sent to the instructor and optionally to the students who are impacted by the change.
Negative marking: Negative markings allow instructors to assign negative point values for incorrect answers on assessment questions. Negative points discourage (by penalty) guessing on assessments. Assigning negative points means a student would be penalized when guessing at an answer. Negative markings are available for multiple choice, multiple answer, matching, and hot spot assessment question types.
Rubrics update: The interactive rubrics now include a percentage range type rubric. You can now create a rubric to assess by a percent range.

Want more information?
New features in Blackboard Learn 9.1 [HTML]
Stop by one of the drop-in sessions for one-on-one help.
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Random blocks and question sets allow you to create tests that retrieve questions from pools so that each student does not get exactly the same questions when they take the test. A random block allows you to select question pools to retrieve questions from. You specify the question types (e.g. multiple choice, true/false) and the number of questions to be included in the random block. Question sets, on the other hand, allow more flexibility than random blocks. Question sets can be setup to retrieve questions from pools and/or other tests. Question sets allow you to browse to select specific questions from pools and/or other tests. With question sets, you can also set a filter based on other criteria such as categories, topics, keywords, and levels of difficulty.

Question sets may be particularly useful when working with publisher supplied test banks (question pools). The publisher supplied question pools are likely to be based on the book’s chapters and therefore may include questions in more categories and/or topics than you want to include in your test.

For example, let’s say you have a publisher supplied test bank (question pool) that has a total of seventy-five questions covering four different topics related to Chapter 4. You want each student to take a test that includes 3 questions from a possible 15 on one topic; and 2 questions from a possible 10 on another topic. All five test questions the students are to receive will be drawn from the same "Chapter 4" question pool. You can setup two question sets when creating your test to accomplish this. Using the “Chapter 4” question pool, you would setup the first question set selecting the first topic and number of questions to be randomly drawn from that topic. Then setup the second question set selecting the second topic and number of questions to be randomly drawn from the second topic. Attempting to create a test like this with random blocks would require you to split up your “Chapter 4” question pool into multiple pools to accomplish it.

When creating tests, you can include a combination of question pools, question sets, and static questions that all students will receive when taking the test.

Want more information?
Building/Using Question Pools [PDF] [Video].
Creating Question Sets [PDF].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

A quick note to Xavier faculty: CAT has upgraded our Vimeo account to Vimeo Plus. (If you don't know, Vimeo is like YouTube, only better.) So if you need increased upload capacity to get a teaching-related video online, we may be able to help. Please note that Vimeo is strictly for publishing original works, not copyright violations.

As an example, here is a video recently produced in collaboration with the Chemistry Department, "How to Use a Buret for Titration."

Download Conversation #16

Gloria Mark

A conversation with Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, on teaching, learning, multitasking and social media.

We found that people switched activities on the average of every three minutes. So that's day in and day out, from morning til night, every three minutes they would switch tasks. It's a very robust finding. Even with doing further research we still come up with this three minute number.

Links for this episode:

You likely begin each workday by checking your professional e-mail account. The paper you assigned in your senior seminar course is due today, and you are expecting to receive some e-mails from students regarding this assignment. You relax into your desk chair with a cup of coffee and begin reading the new messages in your inbox...

Sound familiar?

A new article from the Association for Psychological Science presents some interesting data on student e-mails and offers suggestions for maintaining your sanity as they pile up.

You should download your gradebook to your local computer after you submit your final grades. Student access to Blackboard courses is removed two weeks after the end of the semester. During this process Grade Center records are deleted. All your Grade Center records will be lost if you do not download your gradebook before student access is removed from Blackboard courses.

Follow these steps to do it.
In order to download (export) the gradebook for a course, you should:

  1. Goto the [Control Panel] for that course and click on the [Grade Center] link to expand it. Click on [Full Grade Center].
  2. Move your mouse over the [Work Offline] button on the menu bar and then click on the [Download] link.
  3. Under [Data] section, select the [Full Grade Center] option, under the [Options] section, select [Tab] as the delimiter type and [Yes] to include hidden information.
  4. In the [Save Location] section, choose [My Computer] and then click on the [Submit] button at the bottom of the page.
  5. On the next page click on the [Download] button. You should get a dialog box with a request to save the file. Save the file to a location where you can find it later. The file you saved can be opened with Microsoft Excel.

Want more information?
Step-by-step instructions are available [PDF].
Explore Blackboard's On Demand Learning Center [HTML].
Visit the Blackboard FAQs for additional blackboard information
or email or call Janice Florent: (504) 520-7418

Download Conversation #15

Sarita Cargas

A conversation with Sarita Cargas of the University of New Mexico on teaching, learning, and social justice.

We just have to teach them what the issues are, and help them be informed. You don't have to reveal your political leanings to do that. Just to raise awareness of things that they should be concerned about and things they might want to take a stand on, no matter what their stand is, but that they're responsible for our country. They're responsible for the direction it moves in.

Links for this episode: