Monday, November 3, 2014

Mastering the Grade Center: Feedback

Providing timely feedback is one of the "Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" (Chickering and Gamson).  Fortunately, you can use the Blackboard Full Grade Center to make the feedback process efficient and easy.

Email within the Full Grade Center

Click on the check-box next to a student's name, then select the Email button, and "Send to Selected Users."

You can select as many users from the list as needed.

General Feedback:

You can easily send email to students who are at risk by first Sorting various columns, or grouping columns into Smartviews.  Once you've arranged the columns, use the Email tool to send a general notice to all students who meet your "at risk" criteria.

Quick Comments:

Use the Quick Comment option to send feedback to specific students.  From the Full Grade Center, find the student and the specific grade (cell) you would like to add comments. Hover your mouse over the cell and select "Quick Comment."

Add your comments to the Feedback to User field.  This information will appear in the student's "My Grades" area (accessed via the Tools/Communication menu area).

Text in the Grading Notes field are for your eyes only. Students do no see information in the Grading Notes field.


Reports are a great tool to use when a student comes to your office.  You can printout (or even email) a grade report that's formatted in an easy to understand format for the student.  It allows you to keep grades and information of other students private when you're working with one individual.

To access Reports, click the Report button on the Full Grade Center toolbar.

Click "Create Report."

Header Information appears at the top of the printed Report.

Name the Report -- the name can be anything that describes this report.  For example, if I'm working with Jane -- I could entitle this report "Grades for Jane Smith."

Select any other Heading Information you would like to display.

Scroll Down.

 From the Users selection area -- select All Users if you want to generate individual reports for each of your students.  Use the "Select Users" option to create individual reports for specific users.

Scroll Down

From the User Information area, select the student information you want to appear on the report -- such as their fist and last name.

The Columns setting allows you to select which grade center columns will be included in the report.  Select "Columns currently displayed" or one of the other options in the list.

Click the Submit or Preview button at the bottom of the screen.

The Grade Report will appear.  You can now use your browser's Print feature to print out the report for your student.  Right click on the report to print up your browser's print option.

Email, Comments and Reports are three great Grade Center tools available for your to provide feedback and to keep in touch with students.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mastering the Grade Center: Smartviews & Sorting

This is the second post in the Grade Center Series -- see the first post here!

We all know and love the full Grade Center spreadsheet, with its long horizontal layout, right? Well, not always.  Sometimes we need an efficient way to gather data (or enter data) from the Grade Center. Once you've got this easily accessible information, you can easily communicate with students.  This post will review Smartviews and Column Sorting -- two techniques you can use to master the Grade Center.


Smartviews are simply filters -- they enable you to see specific grade center information based on criteria you designate.

Blackboard has some default Smartviews already added to the system.  Have a look at your Control Panel under Full Grade Center.  Ever wonder what the Assignments and Tests links were?  They're Smartviews.  

Clicking Assignments will show you all columns in the "Assignment"  category, and tests will show you all columns in the "Test" category.  The reason these are listed on the Control Panel is that they are marked as Favorite Smartviews.

Hang On..... you need some background information here!

What's a category?  Bb creates a category for each of its tools. When you create an Assignment, Test, Journal, Blog, Wiki or Discussion Board -- Bb will automatically add it to its category. So, Bb Assignments are all added to the Assignment Category etc.  

And Now....Back to Smartviews: View a Smartview

There are three ways to access Smartviews!

1. You can click a favorite Smartview from the Control Panel.


2.  Access the Full Grade Center, and click the Manage button. From the menu, select Smartviews.  Click on a Smartview to open it.


3.  Click the Filter button on the right side of Full Grade Center.  Use the "Current View" drop menu to select the Smartview you would like to see.  This is also the way to get back to the Full Grade Center view when you're finished viewing.

The Smartviews List

Notice some Smartviews are marked as "System" -- these are the ones that Bb generates for each of its tools. Other Smartviews are maked as "Custom." These are smartviews you create.  Finally, notice the "star" icon in the column on the far right.  You can click on a Smartview to make it a favorite. Favorites show up on the Control Panel!  From the Smartviews screen, click on a Smartview to open it.

From the Smartviews screen you can Create a new Smartview, delete a Smartview, or "Favorite" a Smartview.  Hover your mouse over a specific Smartview and access the drop menu in order to edit or copy the Smartview.

Let's take a look at the Assignment Smartview:

Here, I can see all of the Assignment columns for all of my students.  With just these columns visible, it's easier to add grades or to sort the columns to see who has completed assignments etc., (more on sorting later in this post). 

How to Create a Custom Smartview:

From the Smartviews listing, click Create Smartview.  Name your Smartview, and determine if you want it to be a favorite.  Next, set up the "Criteria" for your new smartview.  Smartviews may be set up based on Groups, Performance, Users, Category/Status or Custom.  

For Example:
I'd like to see grades of students who score a 7 or below the Report5 assignment.  The image below shows the Smartview options I've selected.

 Once the Smartview has been created, I can click on the Report5 link on the Control Panel.  Now, the Report5 column for students who have scoreed below a 7 on this assignment appears.  I can easily send these students an email notifying them of their performance.  

Take me Back!

To go back to viewing the Full Grade Center, click the Filter button on the right side of Full Grade Center.  Use the "Current View" drop menu to select Full Grade Center.

Sorting your Grade Center Columns

Sorting your grade center columns allows you to order or re-order the information in a column.  Simply clicking on a column heading will sort the column. Any column in the Full Grade Center can be sorted.

For example, let's sort  the Last Name column.  Now students will appear in alphabetical order:

The yellow triangle at the top of the column indicates if I'm sorting in an Ascending or Descending fashion. Click the Column Heading to change between the Ascending and Descending views.

You can sort ANY column in the Full Grade Center this way.  

For example, let's sort one of the Assignment columns:

The image below shows the WK3 Assignment scores arranged from highest  to lowest.  The bottom of the column shows students who have no score at all.

And the Next Step -- Communication:

Send email to students via the Grade Center's email tool. Simply check the students to whom you would like to send an email, and click the "Email" button at the top of the Grade Center spread sheet, select "Email Selected Users."  Type your message and click Submit.

Mix and Match:

This post has reviewed Smartviews and Column Sorting.  You can combine both techniques to better see and understand Grade Center information.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mastering the Bb Grade Center: Get Organized

The Bb grade center can help you manage grades, save time grading, monitor student progress and communicate with students.  All this in one spreadsheet?  Yep.  This is the first in a multi-post series designed to help you master the Bb Grade Center!

Quick Grade Center Review!

Control Panel Grade Center
There are two parts to the Bb Grade Center -- "Needs Grading" and the "Full Grade Center."  You can opt to use either or both of these tools to make grading more efficient.

  • Needs Grading is the area into which Assignments, SafeAssignments, Tests, Blogs, Journals and Discussion Board Posts will land, if they have been designated as "graded" when you create them.
  • Full Grade Center is a spread sheet that allows you to manage all grades.
Here's  a peek at the Needs Grading area, showing several assignments that the instructor still needs to grade.  To grade an item, just click on the student's "User Attempt."

Needs Grading Area

And here we see an image of the Full Grade Center. Note the yellow exclamation marks indicates items that need grading.

full grade center

To grade an item in the Full Grade Center, access the contextual menu (by hovering your mouse over the cell)  for the item that needs grading, and click either View Grade Details, or on the "attempt."
full grade center, needs grading icon

Please review these instructions if you need to brush up on navigating or adding columns and grades to the full grade center!

Get Organized!

Have you noticed that whenever you add a column (either manually or when you create an assignment etc.) the new column is always added to the far right side of the spread sheet?  Have you ever wanted to re-arrange the spread sheet display?  Have you wanted to FREEZE some columns so they always display, no matter if you scroll left-right? Say hello to Column Organization!

Click the Manage button on the Grade Center toolbar, and select Column Organization!

WAIT: before you go on... just note the columns on the left side of this image -- namely, Last Name, First Name, User Name....
The Column Organization screen enables you to freeze columns, re-arrange columns, and view important information about the columns as well.  The result will be a perfectly arranged and organized Full Grade Center spread sheet!

Here's a general shot of the Column Organization screen -- showing the columns in a vertical list -- which is easier to read than the horizontal spread sheet.  Columns at the top of the vertical list will appear on the far left side of the grade center spread sheet.

It's Cold in Here!  Freezing Columns

Would you like some columns to stay put?  Frozen.... Not Moving....   You can drag the columns up or down by hovering your mouse over the fancy "plus" icons on the left. Hold you left mouse button down -- and drag.  Drag any of the columns above the gray "Everything above this line...." row, and these columns will always display --- even if you scroll over to the far right side of the spread sheet.  

Do you have a merged course? Why not drag the Child Course ID column into the frozen zone? When you return to the Full Grade Center, you'll quickly be able to tell into which section students are enrolled.

Drag the remaining columns into the order you would like them to appear in the spread sheet.  For example, in the image below, I arranged the columns so that all assignments and all tests are displayed together.

Always click SUBMIT at the top or bottom of the screen when you are finished.

Coming Next Week .... Smartviews & Sorting - Two Great ways to see just what you need.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NBC Learn Videos & Blackboard

Now that mid-term exams are behind us, it's time to focus on the content ahead. What better way to introduce new topics than with interesting videos.  NBC Learn Videos are short, informative and focus on events and trends and how they relate to academic topics.  Check out this video on the Chemistry of Fear and Fright -- just in time for the end of October! There are thousands of videos on NBC Learn.  All videos may be embedded into your Blackboard, or shown offline in your classroom.

There are two ways to access the NBC Learn Videos:1. Via Blackboard.  2. Directly from the NBC Learn web site. 
Via Blackboard: 
Faculty: To access the NBC Learn videos from within Blackboard, simply go to any content area within your course, click Build Content, MashUps, and select NBC Learn Content. You will be prompted to search for a video, and then embed it directly into your course. Only faculty can set up videos within Blackboard.

Watch the Tutorial:

Directly from NBC Learn's Web Site:

Faculty and students can also log on directly to the NBC Learn web site to view videos. If you register at this site you will be able to create your own playlists and share them with others. If you would like direct access, you must access the NBC Learn web site from a campus computer; after you register, you may search for or access your videos from any computer, on or off campus. You can access NBC LEARN at:
Play NBC Learn Videos Off-Line:

Want to learn more?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3....

As mid-term season approaches, here are some options for using Bb for your exams.

Q:  Can I create a "Test Bank" within Bb?

A:  Yes, this is known as a Question Pool.  Pools are collections and groups of questions that you can include in tests and surveys. For example, you might have a set of 10 or 20 related questions you want to reuse in several tests or surveys, or even across multiple courses. The advantage of using a pool is you do not have to remember all those questions and manually add them to each test or survey.

How to create a Question Pool

Q:  How do I build a Bb Test?

A:  You can build a test right from within a Bb content area.  Click the Assessment button, and select "Test."  Name your test, and submit -- you'll land on the "Test Canvas" where you'll add questions. You can create new questions, or reuse questions from another test, or from a question pool.

Bb features the most common question types, such as True/False, Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer, Ordering, Matching and Essay; it also includes several "advanced" questions types. 

Instructions for Creating a Test

Q:  How can I copy the tests from one Bb course to another?

A: You can copy tests either all at once, or one a time.

Copy ONE Test to another Bb course
Copy ALL Tests to another Bb course

Q:  How do I schedule an exam, and what options are available for feedback to students?

A:  After you create an exam, you will set the "Test Options" that make the test available and set various feedback options. There are several options for releasing test results and feedback. For example, while the test is available for students to take, set the feedback options to "score only."  Then, after students can no longer take the test, set the options so that students can see their answers as well as the correct answers and any feedback you've added to the test.  The test becomes a learning tool.

 Please view the full Test Option instructions here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pre Mid-Term Reviews

We're gearing up for midterms!  Wouldn't it be great for your students to review course concepts in a fun and engaging way?  How about having students create their own study questions and activities? But, you say, there's really no time to find the tech tools to do this.....  StudyMate to the rescue.

StudyMate is a Bb tool that helps students "master the basics" of course material through learning activities, self-assessments, and games. It includes a dozen activities – such as flash cards, crosswords and quizzes – that engage students with course content in an individualized way.

Would you like to start using StudyMate in your Bb course right away?  

Enter your Bb Course
Click on Course Materials or any Bb "content area" you'd like to locate your activity.
Click Tools > StudyMate Class

Name your StudyMate activity, select options and click submit.

The StudyMate activity is added to your Bb content area.  Click "Select this Item" to open and begin editing your StudyMate  activity

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Now that the semester has been underway for a few weeks, it's likely that you'll want your students to begin to submit assignments.  Use the Blackboard Assignment Tool to make submitting and grading assignments easy.

There are two types of assignments in Bb -- "Regular Assignments" and "Safe Assignments."  The table below highlights the difference between the two:

 Safe AssignmentRegular Assignment
Grade Center Integrationgreen circle.pnggreen circle.png
Due Datesgreen circle.pnggreen circle.png
Check for Plagiarim
SafeAssign Report
green circle.png 
Attach Files (Instructor)
green circle.png
Multiple Attempts green circle.png
Anonymous Grading green circle.png
Inline Grading green circle.png
Assign to Groups green circle.png
Bb Rubrics green circle.png