Learning Centered Technology

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Archive for August 2016

The First Week of the Semester

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Week One

Welcome to the first week of the semester. The students are back and the fun begins. It is said that the start of the semester is the busiest time of the year for online faculty, while the end of the semester is the busiest time for traditional classroom instructors.

By this time, you should have your classes moved over for the new semester and all the updating complete, but your duties have not ended. Week One activities are just beginning.

During the First Week of Class Online Instructors need too…

  • Provide online classes with a self-introduction discussion.
  • Introducing yourself to the class and ask students to post an introduction. It is a good way to break the ice and build a sense of community. This is also a great way for the instructor to get a feel for students, who they are and what experience they bring to the class.
  • Review the personal introductions that students post and respond to each, this shows students that a live person is present and teaching the class. It helps build community.
  • Check the class roster often, that first week is typically a drop/add period. You do not want to leave anyone behind nor allow students to continue when they are not enrolled. Some students may be unaware of their enrollment status in the class so send private emails if you see a potential problem.
  • Contact students who have not yet accessed the class. You can easily see who has, and has not, accessed your class in the Grade Center. If a student has not accessed the class, there may be a problem that needs your attention. You can use the send email tool to contact students outside of blackboard. Early intervention helps prevent larger problems down the road.
  • Have at least one graded activity for the students to complete. Since you cannot physically see students, attendance is harder to take. We do not use last login date as proof of attendance. Attendance is determined by last activity performed by students. (You may use the self-introduction discussion as the graded activity.)
  • Take attendance in all online classes and report those to the Registrar via the MyBridge account. The Registrar will note the absence and contact the students. Any student who has not attended class by the end of the fourth week of the class will be notified of their unsatisfactory progress and provided directions on how to withdraw from the class and/or institution. (For more information see Operating Policy D-OP-6-14)
  • First date for verification of attendance check is at end of the 1st week of a term. Any student that has not attended classes will have their record flagged with a grade of NGR (no grade reported).
  • Financial aid will not be paid until students can provide proof of attendance for all classes. Students reported as not attending must have all instructors sign a proof of attendance form indicating that the student has begun attendance.


In addition to the first week start up activities, you may want to check out the post Daily Activities at Daily Activities and Weekly Activities at Weekly Activities. These post will help get you on track to have a fantastic semester.



Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

August 22, 2016 at 9:00 am

Semester Start Up Checklist

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Welcome Back Faculty

Today I am interrupting the Grade Center Series to focus on the semester start up process.  The Grade Center Series will continue as soon as the semester gets under way.

For preparation of students return to campus, online faculty need to get their courses ready. If you have not already done so, content from the old semester needs to be copied to the current term shell and updated. Check out my handy “Startup Checklist” at Startup Checklist. This document contains all the instructions to copy content from semester to semester and the things you need to address in the new course like due dates and syllabus.

In addition, you will want to check out the “One Week before Class Starts” post located at One Week before Class Starts. This posting addresses a vital commutation you should have with your students prior to the the first day of class.

Welcome back faculty, I hope you have a great year!


Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

August 15, 2016 at 9:00 am

Blackboard 9 Grade Center Series: Delete Grade Center Columns

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A question I am often asked is how to delete specific columns from the grade book. There are basically two things you need to keep in mind when trying to clean up the grade center and eliminate unwanted columns.

First, you cannot delete the default user columns and the external grade column. If you set a grade or calculated column as the external grade column, you must select another column as the external grade column before you can delete the first one.

To check to see if the column is an external grade, go to the full grade center, if there is a green checkmark to the left of the column header it means the column is an external grade column. You can also click the action link beside the column header and select Quick Column Information to see the column properties.

Quick Column Information

Quick Column Information

If the column is External, you must change it before you can delete the column. To change the column for External you just need to mark a new column External. Select a new column and click the action link beside the header column. Click Set as External Grade. The previous external column will no longer be external and can be deleted. The new column will be marked as external.

External Grade

External Grade

The second thing you need to know is the Grade book automatically creates columns in the Grade Center when you use some of the tools within blackboard. Some of the tools that automatically creates columns include:

  • Tests
  • Surveys
  • Self and Peer Assessments
  • Assignments
  • Discussions
  • Journal
  • Blog
  • Wiki

The only way to delete these auto-created grade columns from the grade center is to delete the gradable items or make that item not gradable. As you can see from the image below, the Word Discussion column is associated with the tool. When you select the action link and look at the menu, you can only hide the column. In the second image, Participation, there is a delete option. This means the column is not associated with a tool and can be deleted.

Delete Column

Delete Column

In order to delete the Word Discussion, you must first disassociate it from the tool. Unfortunately clicking on the Edit Column Information in the grade center will not permit you to disassociate the column. The Edit Column Information link in the grade center is a scaled down version of the discussion edit function. You must go and edit the discussion from the discussion tool.

Click on Course Tools> Discussion Board> and find the correct forum. From the action link beside the forum name click Edit. In the Forum Settings section, select No Grading in Forum.

Forum Settings

Forum Settings

When you select submit, to save the changes, you will receive a warning message letting you know the grades will be deleted.

warning message

warning message

When you return to the Full Grade Center the Column will be gone.

Not all tools will allow you to disassociate a column; things like Assignments and Test are set automatically with grades. With these tools, you must either delete the assignment or make it unavailable. If you make the assignment or quiz unavailable to the students, it will not show in the student grade book, but it will show on the grade center page.

To make it disappear from your view, from the full grade center click the action link beside the column header and select Hide from Instructor View.

Hide from Instructor View

Hide from Instructor View

The column will still exist but you cannot see it. To access it in the future from the full grade center click Manage> Column Organization.



You will see the column is marked Hidden. You will just need to select the column and click Show/Hide to bring the column back to your view.

If you know you will never use the assignment or test again you can delete it, but keep in mind once it is deleted it is gone forever.

Always use caution when deleting gradable content in your course; you must carefully consider what the ramifications may be. Student work, such as test and assignment submissions, is deleted along with the deletion of the content item in your course. The action is final.


Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

August 8, 2016 at 9:00 am

Blackboard 9 Grade Center Series: Letter Grades using Grading Schemas

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To assign letter grades to column in the grade book you can use Grading Schemas. A grading schema takes the actual points scored and compares it to the total points possible for a percentage. Once defined the percentage will show up as a letter grade. For example A = 90-100%, B= 80-90%, C= 70-80% and so on.

This is a two-step process, first you must create the Grading Schema, and then you must apply it to a column.

Creating a Grading Schema

From the any grade center view click Manage> Grading Schemas.

Grading Schemas

From the Grading Schemas Page you can copy an existing schema by clicking on the action link beside the Schema Title and selecting Copy from the pop up menu.


The new schema will appear with a number following. Click the action link beside the new schema and click Edit. On the Schema page, edit the Name and Schema Mapping.


  1. You must provide a name for the copied schema.
  2. Modify the percentages.
  3. You can delete rows clicking on the Delete Row Button
  4. You can insert rows by clicking the insert button. Click Submit when finished.

Creating a New Schema

You can create a new schema by clicking the Create Grading Schema Button on the Grading Schemas Page. By default, the new schema will be similar to the copied schema in the name and description aspects, but the Schema Mapping will only contain two rows.


Rows can be inserted and deleted the same way you do in the copied schema. The will Calculate as column is for grades entered manually. If an instructor types in the letter A for a student’s grade, the student would receive a 95% (or whatever you determine) for their grade. In the example below, I have created a grading schema for a standard 10% scale.


Once your schema is complete, you will need to add it to individual columns in the grade center. Go to the full grade center, click the action link beside the column title, and select Edit Column Information.


On the Edit Column Information page scroll down to the Secondary Display Option and choose the name of the schema, in this case it is Letter Grade for Final.


Once you have selected the secondary display option click, submit. The points will appear with the letter grade as a secondary display.


If you had chosen the letter grade as the primary display the column in the grade book would appear with just the letter grade.



Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

August 1, 2016 at 9:00 am

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