Update on Blackboard, Blackboard Mobile, Echo, Campuspack, Printing and other items
The current version of Blackboard has some particularly useful features that we noted in the spring newsletter. To reiterate items of particular note for faculty, the following provide significant enhancement.
- Multi-Course Management – Multi-Section Management & Crosslisting: Multi-Section Management enables instructors to manage their courses (across multiple sections) and communicate across multiple courses. Crosslisting makes it possible for administrators to deliver two or more courses as a single combined course.
- Negative Marking: It is now possible to apply negative point values for incorrect answers on Assessment questions. For example, one could provide 1 point for a correct answer, a fraction off for non-correct items in multiple answer questions.
- Regrading: It is now possible to regrade answers after an exam is completed. For example one could correct questions where a wrong answers is marked as correct, etc.
UNMC Blackboard Fixes and Help
- Disappearing Menus fixed in pre-fall semester update: Over the past few months a problem with the left main menu in blackboard has appeared. Several users reported that the menu disappeared or had been minimized so that it was not visible. To resolve this issue, when one first goes into a course now, the menu will always be expanded and visible.
- Online Help Resources: A set of training materials in text and video formats are now available for faculty use. You can access these at unmc.edu/its/bb_help_faq.htm or from the login page of my.unmc.edu. Most of these materials are external to UNMC but we are working on a campus faq at faq.unmc.edu that will cover basic help for common questions about Blackboard or other campus supported educational software.
During the past year, Blackboard Mobile access has been available to faculty, students and staff on smartphones, iPhones, iPad and other mobile devises. UNMC used the free version which allowed these devices to access Blackboard via ethernet connectivity. As of 9/10/2012, Blackboard is no longer offering the free option as their contract with Sprint expires. Institutions have the option of paying a significant annual fee for the whole campus or allow individuals to purchase and use the tool. UNMC is currently opting for the individual option, which will cost ($2.00 per year per user) or $6.00 per use for a perpetual license. Individuals can purchase this through either the Apple store or Droid store accessible via their portable devices. As of August 1, twelve hundred UNMC individuals had downloaded the current Mobile App.
Notable new features of Blackboard Mobile
- Audience Response: The current Blackboard Mobile can be used to provide audience response during classes and educational sessions by using the survey and test capabilities of Blackboard.
- Testing: Blackboard tests and surveys can be taken using Blackboard Mobile. Basic question types including multiple choice and text response can be used.
- Notification: New push notification capabilities have been added to both the main Blackboard system which allow notification to mobile devices via text messaging as well as email. and the main Blackboard system which allow notification to mobile devices via text messaging as well as email.
The Echo360 classroom recording system is now installed in over 30 classrooms and conference rooms across campus. The Echo server was upgraded to a new server using 64bit architecture to provide increased speed in the adding of and playing back of lectures and other video recordings. Starting in July, replacement of existing Echo360 units with HD Echo360 units has begun. These units provide enhanced, high resolution capabilities.
The latest version of Echo360 was installed on the server in July. The new version of Echo360 software includes live streaming as well as viewing previously recorded sessions. It also will allow more ways to record session without requiring the use of Echo360 appliances to record basic video in the room being recorded. The ability to live stream from a class or event is expected to be available sometime this summer.
A new feature is also available that allows viewers to collaborate, comment and bookmark recordings. Collaboration between viewers of videos, allows the addition of personal notes and responses that can be added by students and faculty in a shared environment or only used for private notes and bookmarks. This feature is individually controlled by course or event and must be requested to be turned on for any courses or events. Faculty who would like to test this with their students can request this option when requesting the scheduling of Echo for course lectures or events.
The Campus Pack Summer 2012 release is live with additional features, enhancements, and fixes.
- Moved the datacenters to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to achieve better performance and greater scalability
- New features like Activity Stream, Reporting Center, and Google Analytics.
- Over 40 bugs fixed, which are noted in the Release notes.
There are free webinars on what’s new in Campus Pack 4.8 and how you can use each of the following areas in Campus Pack to engage your students in and outside of the classroom. To view the tutorials:
- Understanding Personal Learning Spaces – Wed, August 15 2012, 3:00 PM EDT
- Understanding Personal Learning Spaces – Thu, August 16, 2012 5:00 PM EDT
- Ideas for Group Spaces – Tue, August 21, 2012 10:30 AM EDT
Beginning with the Fall semester, student printing has been changed to allow each student 500 pages of printing per semester. If a student needs to print more than 500 pages, a student can purchase additional pages at a rate of $.05 per page with a minimum purchase of an additional 100 pages for $5.00. Larger numbers can be purchased if the student wants more pages. This change is being made to more equitably provision student printing. The relatively few students who need to print large numbers of pages during the year will pay for the extra pages that they need and the majority of students can still print a limited number of pages during the year.
During the 2012 summer, computers were upgraded in Sorrell 1010 (72 computers) and the Sorrell interaction rooms (22 computers). The 2 printers in the Sorrell cluster were equipped with new, high-speed units. Instructor workstations were also replaced in Sorrell 1010, 1012, 4053. Of particular note for students is the replacement of computers in the Student Life Center computer cluster. These units are new, low-cost thin client computers (minimal workstations that run software on an external server). These computers provide for easier updating and addition of software and can provide even more power than traditional workstations do. They also reduce the cost and energy consumption of the individual workstations.
- The Sorrell 3002 echo recorders have been upgraded to allow for the recording of video inputs and the computer at HD levels.
- Upgrade streaming video infrastructure with new dual recording streaming encoders and new distribution server with portal and universal import capabilities.
- New Helix server for delivery of content and uploading new content for distribution.
The campus contract for Respondus 4.0 test creation and transfer software was not renewed for the 2012/2013 academic year. Individuals can purchase individual copies of the software directly from Respondus.
To meet the need for collaboration and file storage space, LEIS is testing an open-source resource AlFresco, a collaboration system. It contains file editing and repository, blog, wiki, discussions and other tools for groups and individual. Areas wanting to pilot can contact Dan Moser at firstname.lastname@example.org.