The future of Blackboard

Watch Stephanie Weeks talk about the new Blackboard user experience at the annual Blackboard World Conference in Las Vegas last month.

It will be some time before this experience comes to Blackboard at NUI Galway, but we’re looking forward to it.

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Blackboard Summer Festival 2014

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by

The CELT Learning Technologies Team has been working hard to put together a schedule for our 2nd annual Blackboard Summer Festival. We aim to cater for all staff who use Blackboard, no matter what your level of experience. So, whether you are completely new to Blackboard, a regular who would like to know a little more, or an expert, we are confident that you’ll find something of interest in our programme.

Events include one- and two-hour workshops and demonstrations on topics that cover start-of-semester course set-up, using Blackboard for assessment, interactive tools and teaching online. If you’d just like to get some tips on using Blackboard more effectively, we have a special “Quick Hits” demo session. We’re also scheduling three Drop-In sessions, when team members will be available to answer your questions.



Descriptions of the workshops and demonstrations are below.

To sign up for any of these events, please use the online registration form. Note that you do not need to sign up for Drop-In Sessions.

Event Descriptions

Introduction to Blackboard

Level: Beginner

Event Type: 2 hour workshop

This popular workshop is targeted at users who are new to Blackboard and is aimed at getting participants up and running with the system. All attendees are provided with their own Blackboard training course shell, which they populate with a variety of content during this hands-on workshop session.

Goes well with: Setting up the Grade Centre.

Blackboard do Thosaitheoirí

Leibhéal: Tosaitheoir

Cineál Ócáide: Ceardlann dhá uair an chloig

Tá an cheardlann seo dírithe ar úsáideoirí nach bhfuil cleachtadh acu ar Blackboard agus é mar aidhm againn na rannpháirtithe a chur ag úsáid an chórais. Tugtar creatlach cúrsa oiliúna Blackboard do gach rannpháirtí, agus cuirfidh siad ábhar  air seo le linn na ceardlainne praiticiúla seo.

Feiliúnach le déanamh le: An tIonad Grádála a shocrú

Getting Started with Blackboard Collaborate

Level: Beginniner (to Collaborate)

Event Type: 2.5 hour workshop

Blackboard Collaborate is an online collaboration platform which provides a Web Conferencing interface. The highly responsive audio and video features, along with the instant chat and interactive white board features, creates a real time environment for all users. Blackboard Collaborate sessions can be created inside a Blackboard course and are ideal for virtual classrooms or virtual office hours.

Come along to this introductory hand-on session where you will experience Blackboard Collaborate from both student and instructor perspectives. In the workshop you will create your own Blackboard Collaborate meeting room, use a range of learning tools (e.g. live voting), and learn how to record/archive your online learning sessions.  The session will conclude with useful tips and tricks on how manage your online learning experience and an overview of how Blackboard Collaborate is being used throughout NUI Galway to enhance the student learning experience.

Goes well with: Course Design to Enhance the Student Experience.

Course Design to Enhance the Student Experience

Level: Intermediate

Event Type: 2 hour workshop

Suitable for instructors who have already been using Blackboard, but would like to bring their courses to the next level. In this hands-on workshop, find out how to customise your Blackboard course to increase student engagement.

Goes well with: Copying Content between Courses; Quick Hits in Blackboard; Kaltura Video in Blackboard; Assessment Options in Blackboard; Getting Started with Blackboard Collaborate

Using Turnitin on Blackboard to deter Plagiarism/Blackboard agus Turnitin

Level: Intermediate

Event Type: 2 hour workshop

Turnitin’s Originality Check helps instructors check students’ work for improper citation or potential plagiarism by comparing it against the world’s most accurate text comparison database. Turnitin has been fully integrated into Blackboard to make it easier for staff and students to use. A Turnitin Assignment can be created so that students can each submit their own work for automatic scanning. Any instructor on the course can then view the results and check the reports for signs of plagiarism.

Copying Content between Courses

Level: Beginner

Event Type: 1 hour workshop

Do you want to re-use your materials from last year, but need a little help to copy the content and tidy up materials? Come along to this hands-on workshop which goes through the steps and gives you the chance to complete this task with a little support from the CELT Learning Technologies team.

Goes well with: Course Design to Enhance the Student Experience; Setting up the Grade Centre.

Setting up the Grade Centre

Level: Beginner

Event Type: 1 hour workshop

Do you intend to use Blackboard to return continuous assessment marks or provisional results to students? Find out how to set up the Grade Centre from the start of term so that you understand and control exactly what a student can see in My Grades. This hands-on workshop will go through the steps and give you the chance to complete the task with a little support from the CELT Learning Technologies team.

Goes well with: Introduction to Blackboard; Copying Content between Courses; Assessment Options in Blackboard; Creating a Blackboard Survey.

Getting Started with MCQs

Level: Intermediate

Event Type: 1 hour workshop

MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) can be used for self testing or for continuous assessment as part of an overall assessment and feedback strategy. Some disciplines use MCQs, or other question types, for high stakes assessment. This hands-on workshop will give you the chance to create and deploy an MCQ test in your Blackboard course, covering recommended test settings, with a little support from the CELT Learning Technologies team.

Goes well with: Course Design to Enhance the Student Experience; Returning Marks in the Grade Centre; Assessment Options in Blackboard

Creating a Blackboard Survey

Level: Intermediate

Event Type: 1 hour workshop

Would you like to find out how to use the Blackboard Survey tool to create and deploy surveys to your students, and access the results through the Grade Centre? A survey at the start of the semester can be used to find out more about your students and their current level of knowledge in a topic. Bring along some sample questions and this hands-on workshop will give you the chance to create and deploy the survey with a little support from the CELT Learning Technologies team.

Goes well with: Course Design to Enhance the Student Experience; Setting up the Grade Centre; Assessment Options in Blackboard.

Quick Hits in Blackboard

Level: All

Event Type: 1 hour demonstration

In this one hour session, the CELT learning technologies team will demonstrate some of our favourite time-saving features and tricks in Blackboard. This will include: how to post announcements and send emails to multiple courses simultaneously, using the Qwickly Tools; how to organise and access your courses quickly and easily; how to change the theme of your course to give a fresher, more engaging look; how to access global tools to more easily monitor student activity and organise your calendar.

Goes well with: Introduction to Blackboard

Assessment Options in Blackboard

Level: Intermediate

Event Type: 1 hour demonstration

Blackboard at NUI Galway provides a range of options to support student assessment, including: online submission of student work; support for marking and the return of feedback; interactive tools to support reflection and collaboration; originality checking; video assignments; multiple choice quizzes; and more. This one hour demo will give a very quick overview of the tools available and direct you to resources where you can find out more.

Goes well with: Setting up the Grade Centre; Getting Started with MCQs

Kaltura Video in Blackboard

Level: Intermediate

Event Type: 1 hour demonstration

Find out how you can use the Kaltura building block in Blackboard to upload you own video content and share it across multiple courses; create simple screen recordings; or record a short message from your webcam. You can also create video assignments for your students; they upload their videos and you can easily moderate them before adding them to a course gallery.

Goes well with: Course Design to Enhance the Student Experience; Quick Hits in Blackboard

Drop-In Sessions

Level: Any

Event Type: Drop-in

Do you have a specific question and need a little bit of hands-on help from the CELT Learning Technologies team? Why not come along to one of the scheduled drop-in sessions.

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Blackboard Upgrade News

The Blackboard Upgrade originally scheduled for the 28th July (see previous post) has been postponed. Prior to all upgrades, staff in ISS and CELT subject the new version to rigorous testing on a test server and liaise with the wider (international) Blackboard user community. During this testing an issue was discovered around simultaneous uploading of assignments and it was felt that until this issue is resolved we should not go ahead with the planned upgrade. Blackboard is working on a solution and are hopeful that this will be implemented shortly.  Given the ‘mission critical’ nature of Blackboard to our operations, we will hold back on upgrading until this is satisfactorily addressed. If possible, then we will upgrade prior to the end of August, but if there is a delay in obtaining a solution we will defer the upgrade until after Semester 1.

Please note that this has no impact on the ‘rollover’ process. In other words your fresh, new modules for AY 2014-15 will be online, students enrolled, etc as normal. It simply means we will be running with the current Blackboard version and won’t yet be able to avail of the small number of improvements (eg. ‘Student view’) which were anticipated.

Further information will be posted as it becomes available.

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Blackboard Upgrade and Rollover – Summer 2014

I’m pleased to let you know that our Blackboard Learn system will be upgraded at the end of this month, in preparation for the new academic year. We expect that this will happen in the week beginning 28th July. For confirmation and updates, watch the Blackboard Login Page and ISS bulletins.

Why upgrade?

Blackboard is an increasingly important tool in the academic and student life on campus.   Since Blackboard became a mainstream, fully supported service in September 2007 its uptake by teaching staff and students has been astounding. This upgrade is relatively minor but has some welcome new features including:

  • Student Preview – allowing instructors see all aspects of a course from the student’s perspective, including the submission of assignments and feedback/results.
  • Anonymous and Delegated Grading – allowing instructors to hide student names while grading, or to delegate grading of particular assessments to multiple graders.

More detail on these features will be available during the month of August. Check out our blog for some more information about the Student Preview feature:


Availability of Courses for 2014-2015

We aim to create and provide access to 1415 courses on Blackboard during the first week in August. As in previous years, if you are currently an instructor on any 1314 course, you will automatically be given access to the equivalent 1415 course.

For more information about the annual rollover, please see our Blackboard help resources.


Cleardown of Courses for 2010-11

All staff and students currently have access to 4 years’ worth of courses on Blackboard. During the rollover period, all 1011 courses will be cleared from Blackboard.

If you have any content contained (only) within a 1011 course, it is important that you take a copy of this content before Friday 25th July. Individual items can be saved locally, or you may choose to export your course as a package suitable to re-use in another Blackboard course. For assistance, please contact


Support and Training

Please visit the Blackboard help resources for staff, for useful guides and videos.

Remember also to check our Blackboard blog for regular updates, tricks and tips.


Blackboard Festival 2014

We will soon be announcing an exciting schedule of events for our annual Blackboard Festival, a week of training opportunities on various aspects of Blackboard, including drop-in sessions, information sessions and workshops. The Blackboard Festival will take place this year from Wednesday 20th to Tuesday 26th August.

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Coming Soon – Student Preview

Last week I was at the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference, which took place at UCD. Among some other updates, I was really excited to learn that a Student Preview feature is on the way. All going well, this will be available to all course instructors when we upgrade our systems during the Summer.

The Student Preview feature is something that we get asked about all the time, especially when it comes to viewing assessments, tests and grades. In the following video, you’ll get a glimpse of how it will work with adaptive release.

From my understanding, student preview means that you will view the course from a particular (dummy) student perspective. Each Blackboard course will have its own dummy student enrolled, and the instructor can switch to viewing the course from his/her perspective. You’ll even be able to submit work, or complete tests or surveys (as in the video), on behalf of the student. Then, when you grade that submitted work, and give feedback, you’ll be able to see how it appears from the student preview.

It seems that Blackboard has put a bit of thought into this new feature and I’m really looking forward to experiencing it.

Posted in Assessment and Grading, Monitor Users, Student Preview, Upgrade | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Blackboard Collaborate April Showcase

Collaborate logoCELT is delighted to invite you to participant in the NUI Galway Blackboard Collaborate April Showcase presentation series.

About the April Showcase Series

The series will feature live online presentations from NUI Galway colleagues who have utilised Blackboard Collaborate live meeting rooms to engage with their students during this academic year.

The presentations will address pedagogical, practical and logistical considerations when engaging in live synchronous teaching and learning sessions, and will offer useful advice and recommendations to colleagues interested in adopting this approach in their own practice.

These presentations will be of interest to colleagues currently using, intending to use, or wish to have an awareness of the potential of the Blackboard Collaborate platform to support live online teaching and learning.

About Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate provides a real-time bridge to geographically distributed students and staff through online meeting rooms which can be used in a variety of ways (e.g. webinars, online tutorials, student project work, project meetings and facilitating expert presentations with live Q and A sessions).  Blackboard Collaborate sessions can be recorded for archiving and reviewing purposes.

Blackboard Collaborate is integrated into the Blackboard Learn VLE platform. Meeting rooms can be created by all Blackboard instructors from within their modules for student access. It is also possible to request that the creation of non-Blackboard based meeting rooms for wider institutional or external collaboration (e.g. for international project teams) from CELT.

NUI Galway is the only higher education institution in Ireland that has invested in campus-wide access to Blackboard Collaborate for all students and staff.

The April Showcase Schedule

Using Blackboard Collaborate with Nursing & Midwifery Post-Graduate Students

Presenter         Siobhan Smyth, School of Nursing and Midwifery

Date                   Tuesday 22 April 1:00 – 2:00


Using Blackboard Collaborate in Online Italian Courses

Presenter         Laura McLoughlin, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Date                   Wednesday 23 April 1:00 – 2:00


Using Blackboard Collaborate with Advanced Language Learners

Presenters        Dorothy Ní Uigín & Éamon Ó Cofaigh, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge

Date                   Tuesday 29 April 1:00 – 2:00


Implementing Blackboard Collaborate at NUI Galway: 2013-14 Review, Supports, and Future Plans

Presenter          Paul Gormley, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)

Date                   Wednesday 30 April 1:00 – 2:00


Booking Your Place

Please sign-up to your preferred presentations via the following Google form:


Accessing the Presentation Meeting Room

All presentations will be delivered via a Blackboard Collaborate live meeting room. Please click on the following link (or paste it into your browser address box) to access the meeting room:


Preparing for Your Session

We advise that you access the meeting room 10 minutes before the official start time in order to check your audio set-up. You can do this by selecting the Blackboard Collaborate Tools menu –> Audio –> Audio Wizard


Technical Support

If you have any difficulties please email before the start time of your session.


Blackboard Collaborate Information and Resources

Please access the CELT Blackboard resource site for further information, videos, walkthrough guides and case studies at:

We look forward to your presence at the Blackboard Collaborate April Showcase series.

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Blackboard surveys and anonymity

At the end of the academic semester, many lecturers are using Blackboard to collect course and module feedback. As a  student, you may be asked to complete a survey within Blackboard.

Some students may be worried about the anonymity of their responses, especially since you have to login to Blackboard to take the survey.

You can be reassured that all your responses to a Blackboard survey are anonymous. All a lecturer know is that you have completed the survey, not what answers you gave. The key is to recognise the special symbol that Blackboard uses for the survey tool: it looks like a little clipboard with a pencil. This means that your answers are anonymous.

survey icon

Compare this to the icon for Blackboard tests, which is similar, but without the clipboard:

Test icon

Blackboard tests (MCQs, EMQs, etc) are, by their nature, not anonymous, so that test results can be associated with your grades.

For more information about taking a Blackboard survey, see the official Blackboard Help pages.

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