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Admin I.S. Newsletter
5/6/2005

Feature Article:
Blackboard
Adapted from the Blackboard Team's documentation at http://www.dowling.edu/mydowling/tech/bbdocs/

Blackboard assists Dowling faculty by functioning as a class management and communication system. Its key features are:

  • curriculum-driven content management and content sharing,
  • the ability to electronically manage the collection and organization of assignments,
  • an assessment management system,
  • a gradebook,
  • discussion boards.

At Dowling, many faculty use Blackboard to augment normal day-to-day exchange of information with students enrolled in their classes. We also have administrative committees and faculty governance groups operating within Blackboard -- they use it to keep meeting notes and agendas, working documents and to facilitate discussion and communication among the members.

Many faculty will want to use Blackboard in the Fall semester. You can "beat the crunch" in the weeks surrounding the start of classes by beginning the process now.

How do I get started?

There are four events that must occur before you can begin using Blackboard for a particular course:

  • First, you consult with Tim Kelly to determine your needs.
  • Second, you request the course, giving complete information.
  • Third, our staff creates the "course shell" and populates it with registered students.
  • Finally, you receive your "Welcome" email, login to the course shell and communicate to your students.

At http://www.dowling.edu/mydowling/Tech/bb-docs.html we have posted several documents, both for faculty and for students. These are good starting points for everyone.

Consult with Tim

The Office of Instructional Technology Support Services, in the person of Tim Kelly, provides first-line support for faculty who need to learn to use Blackboard effectively. You will frequently find Tim doing one-to-one training sessions for faculty members -- feel free to partake, by calling Tim at (631) 244-3157 to schedule a meeting. This is a necessary prerequisite for first-time users of Blackboard, and is recommended even for experienced users; having worked in numerous situations with many faculty members, Tim can suggest ways to use Blackboard that you might not have thought of.

Send Us Your Request

Tim will help you frame your request for a Blackboard "shell" correctly. If you provide correct and complete information in your initial email request, you can be ready to use your Blackboard shell in a matter of days. Incomplete or incorrect information may cause serious delays; once again, we we urge you to consult with Tim, who can help you get it right from the start.

It is essential that we receive three key pieces of information from you:

  1. The Catalog number of the course, e.g.: CIS6261
  2. The name of the course, e.g.: Information Technology for Managers
  3. The CRN for the course, e.g.: 80232

Absent these key elements, we cannot proceed. Additional information is always welcome, but these three are absolute requirements.

Normally, when we receive your request, we are able to respond within two days. However, the large number of requests around the start of each semester are handled on a first-come, first-served basis, which means you can expect a much longer response time. If possible, it is to your advantage to make your request some time during the Summer, well before the rush.

We Setup Your Shell

A Blackboard course associated with a CRN is called a "shell". Course shells are the framework within which you build your course content. They can persist across semesters, and can be recycled from semester to semester; you can retain students, content, neither or both.

Generally we create shells named "Catalog-Instructor," where "Catalog" corresponds to the number of the course in the College catalog, and Instructor is your network / email / Blackboard login name. So, for example, Prof. Rivera's Graduate-level finance course is named FIN6349-RiveraL. Some variations of this naming scheme are found within http://www.dowling.edu/mydowling/Tech/bbdocs/bb-fac-procedures.pdf .

Now You Can Get Started

You will receive our standard "Welcome to Blackboard" email after we have created your shell. We have posted a sample here. This is your cue to login, start communicating with your students, and start adding course materials for your students.

Tim Kelly remains available throughout the semester, of course, to assist and advise you. While he is working with you he may determine that you are having a technical problem, at which point he may connect you with our Blackboard technical staff either by email or phone.

Yes, WE CAN!

We can be really creative with shells and will try and meet your every need. Talk to Tim Kelly if you have a special way you would like to use Blackboard, and he will try and help you. A few examples:

  • Multiple instructors for a course (tandem teaching).
  • Creating "reference" courses, e.g.: All art history students are enrolled in a shell that contains all the required visuals. This saves each of the art professors from having to repeatedly upload the same material into their courses.
  • Creating "Master Templates". Need a group of instructors to follow a predefined course design and course content? Make a template, and upon request, we can "clone" the template for new sections of that course on Blackboard.

Although some methods might require that we spend some time and effort to research, we are always looking for new ways to make Blackboard a more effective resource - we consider it time well-spent.

  
Blackboard: Avoiding potential bottlenecks

  • You should make the request. We advise that you, the faculty member, make the course request, not a staff member. We will reply to your Dowling email address, not an off-campus address (see #5 below).
  • Complete information. When you email a course request, be sure to include the three critical pieces of information we need: the Catalog numbers, course names and CRN numbers. If any of the three critical pieces is missing, course creation will be delayed until we can contact you and clarify.
  • The more information you give us in your request, the faster we can complete it. In your initial consultation, Tim Kelly will help you include answers to these questions in your first email to blackboard(at)dowling.edu:
    1. If an old shell exists, (i.e., you're a Blackboard "frequent flyer") would you like us to reuse it? If yes:
      1. Should we enroll new students into the old shell?
      2. Should we delete the old students first or leave them there?
    2. If you do not want to reuse an old shell, would you like a new shell that is a perfect clone of the old, but with a slightly different name? (In this case, only the new students will be enrolled.)
    3. If new shells are to be created, would you like:
      1. a single shell for all sections of the course, or
      2. a separate shell for each section?
    4. Any other special requests? For example, some faculty want us to "clone" only parts of an old shell into the new one.
  • Communicate with the right people depending on your needs:
    • blackboard(at)dowling.edu for "back-end" technical or setup issues,
    • Instructional Technology Support - Tim Kelly at x3157 - for "how-to", training or pedagogical issues.
  • Use Dowling’s email system to communicate among Dowling people, whether staff, faculty or students. Thanks to rampant spam, virus and spyware problems on the Internet, communication outside of Dowling’s systems cannot be guaranteed. EVERY student and EVERY faculty member has an email address at Dowling - these are the only addresses we use. More information, both for you and for your students, is on the Intranet:
  • Why are some students missing from my course shell?
    1. AFTER a student registers for a course, there is normally a delay of 1-2 days before s/he is added to a Blackboard course shell. If a student is missing from a Blackboard shell, first determine whether the student is actually registered for the course. This may entail contacting Registrar or your department staff.
    2. If the student registered in a course before the start of semester, but has not shown up in your shell by the second class period, please email blackboard(at)dowling.edu with the student’s name, student ID, and your CRN number.
    3. If the student registered _after_ the start of semester, but has not shown up in your shell, please allow 2-3 business days for the student to appear in your Blackboard shell before contacting us with details as above.
  • CRNs sometimes change. If a new CRN applies to an existing course that already has a Blackboard shell, please email us so that we can add it to our database.
  • No carry-over from last semester. We do not automatically add sections that you are teaching to your course shell in subsequent semesters. For each semester that you teach, you must request the classes for which you are using Blackboard. Requiring new shell requests each semester allows us to provide a much more flexible array of solutions.

  • Flash Drives, the new wave in personal data transfer
    Tim Kelly

    One area of end user desktop computing that has undergone a radical change in recent history is that of portable storage devices. My earliest recollection as a computer user is of the 5 1/4" floppy discs that went into the "B" drive and held a maximum of 360k of information. Then came the 3-1/2" floppy disc which holds 1.4 megabytes of information followed closely by the ZIP disc which originally held 100 megs of data. These were all magnetic storage media.

    Then came optical media such as CD, CDR, CDRW and DVD. These devices vastly increased the amount of data one could save and transport.

    The next and present level of storage is the flash drive, which contain "non-volatile" RAM that behaves like disks: data remains until you intentionally delete it. Presently, data storage capacity ranges from 32 megabytess to 2 gigabytes, and prices can range from $19.00 to $300.00 depending on make, model and capacity.

    Flash drives are a convenient way to move information from computer to computer. They can be clipped to your pocket, attached to a keychain, worn like a pendant or carried in a small holder. Instead of slipping it into a disk drive, you plug your flash drive into the USB port located on the front of newer computers and the back of older units; the computer will detect the device and use it just like a disk drive. The device can be written to like any other drive. When you're done, use the icon on your taskbar (lower right) to "stop" or safely shut down the device. Once this is done, you and your data are on your way!


    Voicemail over the summer

    If you are not planning to check your voicemail during the summer, please ensure that messages do not fill your voicemail box to the brim. Suggestion: setup an "away" message to inform callers that you will not be checking your voicemail, and give them an alternate number to call. Ron Rosso (x3407) can help you setup your mailbox so that pressing "0" exits to an alternate on-campus number. He can also help you setup that "away" message.


    Student Address Book for Faculty and Staff
    Secure your Home PC

    Viruses, spyware, and worms, oh, my! Advice on keeping your PC secure is at http://www.dowling.edu/mydowling/Tech/securepc-v2.html . Geekspeak alert: If you know how to burn a CD from an ISO image you can login and download our Student Help CD at https://my.dowling.edu/intranet/tech/download/stuhelp.iso. It contains even more advice, plus a load of free security software. Login with your network/email password; save the file to your hard drive rather than opening it.