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Video Tools in Blackboard Learn Can Help Enhance Your Course

For faculty looking to create videos to provide supplemental instruction to students, there may be questions on how to effectively deliver the videos to students.

There are three important considerations when creating videos for your students:

  • Blackboard Learn has a size quota in place for each individual course site, which could easily be exceeded if several videos are added within the course.
  • Students use a variety of devices and operating systems, whether they’re using a Windows or Mac computer, or a mobile device using iOS or Android.  Videos should be as platform-independent as possible.
  • While many students do have access to high-speed internet, some students may have slower internet services depending on where they live.

Fortunately, Purdue offers two video tools within Blackboard that can make it easy for faculty to both create and upload videos for student use.  These tools are Video Everywhere and Kaltura.  The benefits of both tools are:

  • Videos are saved to an external server, meaning that the videos will not impact the size quota for the course.
  • Videos will work on personal computers (Windows, Mac, etc) and mobile devices
  • Videos will be streamed, so students will not have to download the video files, and students with slower connections will be able to see the videos.

Both tools will also allow faculty to quickly create a video by using a webcam and microphone within the tools themselves.  For more advanced videos, faculty will be able to use the video recording hardware and editing software of their choice to create their videos for upload.

Video Everywhere

Video Everywhere is a feature within Blackboard that utilizes YouTube as the video creation and storage tool.  The link to Video Everywhere is located in the text editor.

Link to Video Everywhere

Video Everywhere gives users the option to either create a video with a webcam and microphone, or browse to find a video that has already been created by a user that has been uploaded to YouTube.  Faculty using this tool must have a YouTube account to be able to use Video Everywhere (note: having a Google account also provides a person with a YouTube account).

Videos created using Video Everywhere will be uploaded to YouTube as private videos, meaning that they will not be available when a user does a search on YouTube.  Users can change the visibility of your video in YouTube if they wish to make the video publicly available.

Video Everywhere videos will appear in the text editor as a thumbnail (which will open in a pop-up window when clicked) or they can be played directly on the page without a pop-up.  In both cases, no “suggested” videos will be displayed after the video completes playing.


Kaltura works in a manner similar to Video Everywhere, except it does not require logging in to a separate service in addition to logging into Blackboard.  You can create a video with a webcam, upload a video that has been created and edited with the hardware and software of the faculty member’s choice, or Kaltura can do a two hour screen capture with audio.

To add a Kaltura video in the text editor, click the Mashups menu, and select Kaltura Media.

Add Kaltura Media to Blackboard

A screen will open that will display any videos that may already be created.  To use an existing video, click Select for theKaltura Add Media button video to be used.  Otherwise, click Add Media in the upper right hand corner to select what type of video will be added to the course.

After you create or select the Kaltura media  you want, the video will appear in the text editor with video information to the right of the link.  This information can be modified or removed.  Once the link to the video is added, when clicked the video will pop-up in a new window.

Final Thoughts

Using video can be a great way to enhance your courses.  Faculty can go into greater detail on difficult topics, or provide a post-lecture “breakdown” to emphasize key concepts covered in lecture.  The Video Everywhere and Kaltura tools offer ways for faculty to quickly add video to their courses.  With the addition of Video Express labs on campus, faculty who create videos using these labs can use those labs in conjunction with the tools in Blackboard to quickly create and publish more complex videos for student use.

If you have questions about how to use Video Everywhere or Kaltura in your classes, please contact us at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Brett Creech
Educational Technologist

5 Quick Tasks to Close Up Your Blackboard Courses at the End of the Semester

At the end of every semester, preparing to say goodbye to the old semester can take some work in Blackboard.  Here are some quick tasks to close up your Blackboard class at the end of the semester.

1.    Make sure all assignments and assessments are closed by their due dates or by the end of the semester.  If you leave your course open past the end of the term so students can review grades, don’t allow a student to try to slip an assignment or test past you.  While you can still check the date/time the student submitted the work, its best practice to make sure all work is closed by the due date.

2.    Stop Your Running Totals!  Many faculty members set their total columns to calculate as running totals.  At the end of the term, though, if you have a large class with lots of null values (indicated by a dash in grade column cells), you’ll need to have the Grade Center consider those null values to be zeros.  Simply go into the Total column(s) and turn off the running totals.  This way, your grade center will be accurately calculated.
Running Total selection in Blackboard Learn

3.    Export your Grade Center and Grade History.  This will save a copy of your students’ grades and graded activities in spreadsheets as an archive.  To download your Grade History, go into the Full Grade Center, go to the Reports menu, click “View Grade History”, and then click “Download”. Grade History Link To download the entire grade center, while viewing the Full Grade Center, click “Work Offline”, and select “Download”.  Choose to download the full grade center as a tab-delimited file, and save to your computer.  Because these files contain student grades, please ensure they are saved in a secure location.

4.    Review your course content.  Is there an article you’ve uploaded to your course that you will no longer ask students to read?  Is there an assignment that you need to alter?  If you’re copying your course content to a future semester, and you’re not using a Master (development) course, document this information separately so changes can be made in the new course after the existing content is copied over.

5.    Last but not least – if you do want your class to become unavailable after students have a chance to review their grades, you’ll need to select the date the course should be made unavailable to students. Set Blackboard Course Duration Go to the course’s site in Blackboard, and click on the Customization link in the Control Panel.  Click on the Properties link, and under Set Course Duration, click Select Dates, check End Date, and select the specific date.  This will close your class at the beginning of the day you select.  The only issue that may be in play by closing your course from student access is that students who have incomplete grades may not be able to work on their course material if you close the course before they’re able to finish their work.

These small tasks can help you officially “close” your course for the semester.  If you need assistance with closing your course, or if you have any other questions regarding Blackboard Learn, please contact us at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Brett Creech
Educational Technologist

Tackling Common Issues in Blackboard Learn

Blackboard logo

Avoiding issues while using Blackboard Learn can be challenging, but you’re in luck, because this article will address the problems we see most frequently and suggest how to avoid them. However, we encourage you to contact us should any of these issues occur, so we can assist you and get you back to your teaching and research tasks. (more…)

What is Blackboard Learn’s Retention Center?

Envision this. You are an instructor who wants real-time tracking in the course management system you’re already established in. You enjoy simplicity in picking your criteria for monitoring student performance and fancy something that provides an easy mechanism for informing students who are falling short of the course’s expectations.

Retention Center can be that tool for you. It is a replacement for its predecessor, the Early Warning System and has been available since the start of the Fall 2013 semester.

And now, here is a Frequently Asked Questions roundup:

Give me a quick definition: The Retention Center is defined by Blackboard as a tool that can determine if students are at risk compared to the criteria you choose to setup and monitor. Once the criteria settings are in place, the instructor is notified which students are currently at risk.

Doesn’t Course Signals already do something similar?: First, it is based on the same basic philosophy as Course Signals, meaning it is a tool that enables you to take action to improve student performance in your course(s). Second, while Course Signals requires reports to be generated, Retention Center provides automatic monitoring. It is important to note that Course Signals works to predict where a student will finish performance wise in a course, given their current grades and interactions with content in Blackboard Learn. Retention Center is designed to give the instructor an up-to-the-minute picture of how students are performing, but does NOT predict performance. Lastly, there are benefits to using either or both tools, and an article in the near future will provide a comparison.

So, what allows the Retention Center to work?: Retention Center is built on the idea of using different types of monitoring guidelines, called Rules. Currently, it employs four types of rules, and here is a breakdown of each type:

  • Course Activity: This monitors the overall activity of students using your course, such as viewing pages, clicking links to items, taking online assessments, and writing in the collaborative tools (blogs, discussion board, journals, wikis).
    • Criteria for measuring: student’s activity in the last # of days/weeks/months compared to a above/below the # percentage of the course’s average.

  • Course Access: Tracks the number of days since a student was last recorded accessing the course.
    • Criteria for measuring: # of days since last course access.

  • Grade: Determines if a student is above/below a specific or average point/percentage value in what they have earned as a final grade or from other grade items (assignments, tests, etc.).
    • Criteria for measuring: Choosing to monitor final grade or specific item. Set Grade Value above/below # of point/percentage value. Or, grade is above/below the average grade by a percentage of #.

  • Missed Deadline: Tracks if a student has many or a specific deadline for an assignment, test or survey.
    • Criteria for measuring: Choosing to monitor all or a specific deadline(s) if # of deadlines have been missed by missed by more than/less than # of days.

Fair enough, so do I need to set them up by scratch or are there already some in place?: Each course is given four default risk rules, one for each rule type. They are…

  • For Course Activity: Activity in the last 1 week(s) is 20% below average
  • For Course Access: Last access more than 5 days ago
  • For Grade: External Grade is 25% below class average
  • For Missed Deadline: 1 deadline(s) have been missed by more than 0 days

^As an added note, you can edit these default rules to change their criteria.

Can I make as many rules as I want?: Yes you can. While you will not see more than four columns in the Retention Center risk table, each new rule is a part of each rule type. Thus, if you use the rule for 1 deadline that was missed in 0 days, and create a new rule for alerting if a student missed 2 deadlines in the last 30 days, both will show when you click on the red dot indicating an active risk. Here is an example below:

*In another blog article in this series, we will cover the advanced features in the matching risk factors dropdown.

On another note, do I always have to monitor students at risk? Can I monitor students who are doing well?: Students will appreciate your constructive criticism when it comes to issues in their performance, but they may enjoy your insight even more if decide to let them know they are doing well and to keep up their on-time, excellent work.

Can I pick out certain students to monitor for risks?: Definitely. Click on any of the red dots that appear to the right of the student’s name, and then click the Monitor button on the Matching Risk Factors dropdown box. The students you are monitoring will appear on the right side of the Retention Center page. Here is an example of the data on a student being monitored:


Can I track my own activity?: Certainly and its encouraged. Just as you expect your students to be involved and turning in high-quality work, you too should be involved in how you contribute to your course. The types of course activity tracked for instructors are assessment grading, interaction & collaboration with the collaborative tools (discussion board, blogs, journals, and groups), announcement creation, and content created/uploaded. Here is an example of the activity interface:

I am already a month and half into teach my course, is it too late to get started?: The beauty of Retention Center is that you can get started at any point in the semester and the data generated is instantaneous and relevant. The midterm period of the semester is an important time to inform your students of their performance in your course. Think of it this way, while they may have made mistakes and earned average scores so far, there is always a chance that your intervention will influence them to make more of an effort in the second half of the semester.

How do I email multiple students who have the same risk?: By clicking on the red bar with the current number of at risk students, you can view which types register a student being at risk (first image below shows an example). Once you click one of the risks, a dropdown option box will appear and by hovering over the Notify button, you can then send out a message.


Is there any documentation available for me to use to get started?: Purdue does not currently have documentation for Retention Center, however Blackboard Inc. has materials that can walk you through the features. However, like other features of Learn we will plan to release how-to documentation and best practices resources in the near future.

Please check back at the IDC blog for an upcoming blog article in November on Retention Center. In the meantime, feel free to contact us at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu should you have any questions and/or issues.