Leicester School of Biological Sciences

13 January 2011

Adding a new menu button on Blackboard

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to — Tags: , , , , — jobadge @ 5:26 pm

To add a new menu button on Blackboard 9.0

  1. switch on Edit mode (top right)
  2. click on the grey + button on the top left of the menu
  3. add content item
  4. name the item (e.g. ‘exam’) and make available to users

You can copy content into the new ‘exam’ area using ‘copy’ on the item or folder of items.

14 September 2010

Quick help with Blackboard 9

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to — Tags: — jobadge @ 1:58 pm

Blackboard was upgraded in August 2010, we are now running version 9.0 SP3.

A quick help sheet is available

9 February 2010

Case Study: using PeerMarking in Turnitin

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to, turnitin — Tags: , , , — jobadge @ 3:04 pm

Dr Richard Badge has used a formative assignment with his MSc Bioinformatics students over the last two years. The aim of the exercise is to help the students improve their writing and use citation and referencing correctly. The course combines molecular biology and programming, so the students need to be adaptable and able to write well to succeed on the molecular biology section of the course. Many are from overseas and working in English as a second language. The students are taught face to face in a lab with networking and use laptops provided by the course for their work.

The students submit short answer questions in a single document through blackboard to Turnitin. These are scanned for non-original text. Once the deadline for the piece of work has passed, the students are given a mark scheme, with detailed answers and grades. They use this in conjunction with the PeerMark system to mark another student’s paper. The students make sure that the work they submit is anonymous (no names on the paper itself in headers/titles/ filenames) and the papers are allocated to each student anonymously by the system.

The students work through the piece of work they have to mark in class on their laptops. Dr Badge stated that the formative assessment using PeerMark allowed the students to work through the marking at their own pace, allowing them ask questions of each other and him as they went along. This promoted in depth questions that related to the content of the answers and their interpretation. In previous years, working through the same exercise on paper was much more stilted and didactic.

Overall the PeerMark system offered several advantages over the paper based system:

  • work was anonymised and distributed automatically
  • students could work at their own pace
  • promoted questions about content, understanding and interpretation over technical issues
  • allowed all the students to see all the papers submitted once the marking was complete

Peermarking in Turnitin

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to, news, turnitin — Tags: , , , — jobadge @ 1:00 pm

PeerMark appeared in the January roll out of a major Turnitin update in January 2010. For a change, this new feature works within the Blackboard integration, so I’ve been taking a look at it. Here is a quick video demonstrating one of the assignments I set up.

There is a full demo of the system available on Turnitin’s support website.

If you want to do anonymous or open peer marking with students, this is certainly a good way to do it.  It was used on the Bioinformatics MSc last week, which has been written up as a separate case study.

I have some usability issues with the system – it is difficult to preview the assignment to know how exactly it will appear to students.  Getting the dates for submission and posting sorted out can be challenging, there are a lot of dependent dates involved and again it isn’t intuitive to know what dates to pick. Overall if you want to do peer marking on work that can be submitted through Turnitin, this is a good option.

21 January 2010

Grademark: still not what we want

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to, turnitin — Tags: , , , — jobadge @ 11:54 am

Whilst looking at the new features on Turnitin that were added this January, I took another look at Grademark. On the face of it, this online marking system within Turnitin is an ideal candidate for us to use for electronic marking. It does many of the things we would want:

  • easy online mark up as text, highlights or symbols (tick/ cross/ speech bubble)
  • pop up or sticky comments
  • clipboard to keep comments for re-use
  • sharable library of comments and quickmark grammar listing/ common errors
  • rubric card, available in grade, criteria or percentage marks for marking to learning outcomes
  • general overall comments
  • timed release for return of the reports to students
  • integration with the Blackboard gradebook

However, the main issue I still have with grademark is the lack of ability to download the grademark reports. Students can print off a copy, which is laid out in a useful format (general comments, a numbered comment list and highlights marked up on their text), but they cannot save the electronic version (as far as I can see). From the staff view, there is no bulk download facility of the marked reports for offline storage. This poses two problems for us, first, we do not work on a cohort system, so our students have access to their blackboard modules for the current year only. This means that they will not have access in the third year to work they did in the second year. Second, we cannot keep offline copies for quality assurance, back up or any other purpose. External examiners would not be able to view the reports without a dedicated blackboard account created for them.

So, whilst this may be used by some of our taught postgraduate courses, that last for 12 months only, I cannot see many of our staff making us of it on the undergraduate courses. It’s a shame, as it is a nice tool and I have a feeling that the students would like it and it would improve our feedback systems substantially.

19 January 2010

PeerMark in Turnitin

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to, news, turnitin — Tags: , — jobadge @ 2:59 pm

Peermark is a system within Turnitin that enables you to distribute student submitted work back amongst the cohort for peer review. The students review work already submitted to an existing (or newly created) Turnitin assignment.


1. Allows anonymous peermarking using a set of questions set by the instructor. The questions can be rating (is this paper good/poor) on scale of 1-5, open text answers.

2. Good control over the distribution of the work amongst students. You can set how many scripts each student reviews. These can be randomly assigned by the system, chosen by the student. You can pre-assign students in pairs or exclude students from the process altogether.

3. Instructors can write a review of the student work themselves and comment on the reviews the students have undertaken.

4. Students can see reviews written by others on their work easily

5. Students can download reviews of their work.


1. As we re-use our courses year on year in the Biological Sciences undergraduate courses, the links to the peermark assignments will be lost at the end of each year

2. I can see no way to keep any of this work ‘offline’ after the fact (easily) for staff/ QA/ External examiners

If you would like to use Peermark please feel free to get in touch with me.

Demonstration of setting up peermark by Turnitin

26 June 2009

Summer updates to Turnitin

Filed under: Blackboard, news, turnitin — jobadge @ 8:02 am

Several updates are coming to Turnitin this summer. I’ve highlighted some of them below:

Global exclusion Bibliographic materialTIIbibliography

Default setting for all new assignments will be to exclude bibliographic and quoted material from the Similiarity Index

Currently, within an individual originality report, instructors must choose to exclude bibliographic and quoted material. When this new feature launches, instructors will be able to indicate their preferences at the assignment level. The default for all newly created assignments will be for this content to be excluded. (Originality reports generated prior to the feature’s launch will remain unaffected; whatever exclusion preference was set for each individual original report pre-launch will remain post-launch). This assignment-level preference can be changed up until the first paper has been submitted. In all instances, as currently, an instructor can view an originality report and change the individual paper’s settings to include or exclude bibliographic and quoted material.

Optional Exclusion of Small Matches in the Originality Report

Instructors may choose to indicate that the similarity index for every originality report for an assignment should exclude matches equal to or less than a certain percent (1% – 100%).  The default setting is that ALL matches are shown.

The size of matches that have been excluded (if any) is clearly indicated on each originality report. Instructors can adjust the size of matches to exclude while viewing each originality report and those adjustments are immediately reflected in the originality report.

Instructors may sometimes find limited value in seeing large numbers of small percentage matches for an assignment. Now instructors have the flexibility to choose what level matches should be included in the computation of the similarity index and highlighted in the originality report.  This flexibility provides instructors with an additional degree of control in evaluating student assignments.

Improved Handling of Document Submissions and Multiple File Uploads

New productivity and usability enhancements for submissions that:
•    Double the size limits for individual file submissions (from 10MB to 20MB) as well as zip file (batch) uploads (from 100MB to 200MB).
•    Improve user notification for submissions that exceed the maximum sizes (and guidance to help fix the issue);
•    Streamline the process for uploading zipped files of multiple documents.

Currently, instructors must repetitively select and tag each document (author name, email, paper title) for upload. Now instructors will select multiple files and conveniently enter document information into a table.

15 June 2009

Changes to Blackboard 9

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to, news, turnitin — Tags: , — jobadge @ 1:00 pm

On 1st August 2009 Blackboard will undergo a major upgrade (from version 7 to 9).

What action do I need to take now?

  • Make sure that you are using Internet Explorer 7 to access Blackboard 9. If you have upgraded to Office 2007 this is part of the upgrade. If you need to access Blackboard from home or a non-cfs PC you will need to upgrade those machines. Office 2007 for home is available from ITS for £17. IE7 is available free to download from Microsoft
  • IE 8, Firefox 3 and Safari 3 are also supported.

What will stay the same?

  • Your courses will be automatically transferred to the new software
  • Jo Badge will still recycle them ready for the new academic year (remove the 2008/9 students and enrol the 2009/10 cohort)
  • You will still be able to use the TurnitinUK system for submitting work for plagiarism scanning. I strongly recommend that you create new TurnitinAssignment items for students to submit work rather than re-use previous links.

What will change?

  • The major change is to the way that you add and edit information on course sites. This now predominantly occurs through in-context menus (i.e. click on an item to change it). The control panel is also accessible from the main course page .
  • Interactive screenshots of an instructor view and edit mode in Blackboard 9
  • Some things will disappear: electronic blackboard, digital drop box, signup list, student homepages.
  • Some things will get better: the gradebook is much enhanced and requires far less clicking to operate

Interactive instructor view

Interactive instructor view

Interactive instructor EDIT view

Interactive instructor EDIT view

What support is available?

  • ITS are providing quick overviews of the changes on: Tuesday 23rd June: 11am – 12pm and Monday 7th September: 2pm – 3pm (Book via staffdev@le.ac.uk )
  • Jo Badge will be running an overview of the changes that affect academic and support staff in the School in the week beginning 14 September 2009. Location and further details will be announced soon.
  • A meeting with MSc convenors has already been arranged for 25 June to take account of the MSc’s earlier start in the academic year.

More information on the upgrade is available from ITS

11 June 2009

Blackboard 9.0 available on test server

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to — Tags: , , — jobadge @ 10:06 am
Bb9.0 instructor view

Bb9.0 instructor view

The Blackboard version 9.0 test system can be accessed via: http://bbtest.le.ac.uk/

please note:

  • The new service requires the use of Internet Explorer version 7. If you have upgraded to Office 2007 on a PC, you will automatically be running IE 7 .To install version 7 on a private CFS client log on to the CFS service and select start | All Programs | Install CFS Software and then select Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 – Upgrade. Next click on Run and the installation will begin.
  • The new system sees the removal of: the Electric Blackboard; the Digital Drop Box and Student Home pages. We shall be communicating separately with the users of Electric Blackboard and we shall be informing students of the loss of their home pages but you may be aware of staff that are making use of the digital drop box. We shall say more about this in the communiqué to all Blackboard course instructors.
  • We are not linking any course assignments on the test system to the TurnitinUK plagiarism detection service. This is to avoid the accidental deletion of any live data that is being held on the TurnitinUK service.
  • The Sign-up List tool will not be available under Version 9.0 as it is replaced by a Blackboard built-in tool within the Group function. The contents of any existing sign-up list will be lost during the final upgrade. We have a Web site where  Known Issues with Blackboard Version 9 can be found.

Finally, if you experience any problem with the test system please report then to the IT Services Help Desk (email ithelp@le.ac.uk; tel 2253) but clearly state that the problem is with the Bbtest system.

Note: this test service is subject to disruption if it is required for investigation of issues or bug fixing.

1 June 2009

Upgrading to IE 7

Filed under: Blackboard, how_to, news — Tags: , , , — jobadge @ 10:06 am
photo credit: flickr jeffwilcox

photo credit: flickr jeffwilcox

ITS are pushing us to upgrade to Internet Explorer 7 – if you use IE for your web access and use Blackboard you MUST upgrade to use the new version of Blackboard coming over the summer for use in the next academic year.

From ITS:

7 reasons to change to Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) – upgrade now

It’s easy to upgrade from IE6 – find out about the new features in IE7 and how to install it

To find out which version you are using, open Internet Explorer and press F1 to open the help dialogue box. If the logo on the right displays an ‘e’ in a square box and doesn’t state the version number, then you are still using IE6.

There are plenty of reasons to change to Internet Explorer 7 and it’s easy to install:

1. Tabbed browsing

If you want to keep your current page open and browse for something else, just start a new tab. This means there’s only one copy of IE7 open (which uses less PC resources) and you can easily jump from one page to the next. You can open multiple tabs then close them individually or all in one go.

Even better than tabbed browsing – if you have a lot of pages open in tabs already you can view thumbnail previews of them to help you navigate to the correct one more quickly

2. Supports Blackboard 9

Blackboard 9 is being introduced in August 2009. Certain functions will not work with IE6, so why not upgrade now so that you’re ready for the changeover. IE6 will not be supported after October 2009.

3. Page zoom

You can quickly zoom in on a web page to make it easier to read. The whole layout including the navigation, pictures and text can now be magnified.

4. Improved printing

IE7 will automatically scale the page to fit when printing whereas if the page if it is too wide to fit the print area in IE6 then text will be lost.

5. Instant search box

The Google search box appears on the toolbar so you don’t need to navigate to your search engine first – just start a new tab, type in your search & go.

6. Newer and improved security

Improved security is available in IE7. Malicious coders look to exploit vulnerabilities in older browsers – you are more at risk from viruses, malware and hacking if you don’t have the latest supported version.

7. End of support

Support for IE6 will be phased out from the beginning of the new academic year 2009/10

What’s new in IE7

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.