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Welcome to the Academic Technology Support Quick Tips site. This is where we add new tips pertaining to teaching with technology and teaching in the online classroom. Make sure you visit often!

Invigorate your Voice-Over PowerPoints! March 16, 2015
Interested in recording your lecture using PowerPoint? The first step is to create the PowerPoint. Are you sure your PowerPoint is effective for recording audio and delivering an engaging lecture? Would you listen to or view your entire presentation or would you be tempted to skip parts?
Blooming buds on a tree

Revive your presentations
(and your students) with a few easy steps:

Be relevant – Only use slides or images that are relevant to your presentation.

Don’t put all of your text on the slide move those bullets with sentences to the “Notes” area. If you really need to keep text on the slide, slim it down to the main focal points (one or two words per bullet). Let the learner concentrate on your audio portion and not get distracted with the text on the PowerPoint.

Keep the design simple.

Get creative! Try morguefile.com for free images or ask your publisher if they have images that you can use. Give the student an image that will tie together your audio but not fight for space in their minds. If they are reading the slides, they are not listening to you.

Ask yourself – What’s the main point? Why does this matter? Can they get the information from the required readings? Shorten your Voice-Over to the MOST IMPORTANT topics or topics that are hard for your students to understand.

Don’t be Charlie Brown’s teacher! Talk in the microphone as if you were having a conversation or in front of your class. If it helps, stand up while recording and walk around.

Formatting of slides and text matter- Black letters on a white background vibrate. Try light colored words on a dark background.

Large files are hard for students to download – make the Voice-Over PowerPoint play easier by converting the file using iSpring Free. Here is a document to help you convert your file.

Overall – give the students a lecture that you would enjoy!

Voice-Over PowerPoint instructions
iSpring Free instructions
Additional instructions (with images) for uploading iSpring files to your Blackboard course

Pike Pluth, B. (2015, January 8). Training Magazine Network Resources - 8 Great PowerPoint Presentation Tips to Save You From a Fate Worse than Death by PowerPoint - Vignettes Learning. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.trainingmagnetwork.com/lessons/942/overview

Phillips, D. (2014, April 14). How to avoid death By PowerPoint: David JP Phillips at TEDxStockholmSalon #2/2014 Think Again. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwpi1Lm6dFo

"Spring Clean” Your Blackboard Course! November 24, 2014
Well, it’s definitely not spring yet, or at least not in the Northern Hemisphere. However, it is that time of year to tidy up your Blackboard course to begin preparing for next semester. Taking the time to spring clean your course now will help prevent confusion later. Often, a student’s first impression is not content related, but is influenced by the information and resources available to them, as well as the organization of the course.

Ideas for Spring Cleaning:
  • Submit an Academic Request so that your old course can be copied to the new spring course.

  • Delete old content that will no longer be needed.

  • Change or add content that will be needed for the new semester.

  • Save all files in two locations! For example, you could save each file to your personal Blackboard Content Collection and then to your P-Drive or an external hard drive. When updating your files, update in one location and then copy it to the other location immediately so you don’t forget!

  • Change the dates on assignments, tests, and in other areas where you may have old dates (course calendar, syllabi, etc.).  If you are not familiar with the date management tool in Blackboard, you can check it out here.  Use the date management tool to easily adjust all content and tool dates in your course.

  • Make sure the layout of your course is easy to follow. Allow students to spend the majority of their time focused on the content vs. looking for items in the course. Keep the colors, fonts, and design consistent across courses and sections.

  • Personalize your course! Add a simple banner, a welcome video featuring the instructor(s), or a funny cartoon that shows your personality.

  • Make sure you spend time cleaning up the Grade Center. When a course is copied, sometimes columns will be duplicated. Make sure you have only what you need.

Re-Energize Your Course! November 17, 2014

Are you and your students starting to glaze over? It’s nearing the end of the semester and everyone is on brain overload. It’s time to re-energize your course! Here are a few ideas for assignments you can tailor to your content that are sure to add a little pep to your day:

Photo of a dog sleeping

Traditional Class Ideas:

Whip Around:
Separate students into small groups and hand each group a sheet of paper. You will ask a question or ask the students to provide ideas about your topic. Next, set a timer for a specified time. One student will start by writing their response and then pass the paper to the next student in the group. The object is to see which group gets the most responses within the time limit.
It’s in the Bag:
Create a document with vocabulary and questions. Print the document and cut the vocabulary and questions into strips. Place the items in a bag. You will pass the bag around the class and students must answer the question on the strip of paper. Set the amount of times they can pass on a question (one or two times). Make it a competition or for a participation grade!
Online Class Ideas:

Throw a Pep Rally:
Create a motivational message to share with your students. You can use text, images or even video. Have your students do the same. Ask them to get creative with their message. It will give you and your students a nice breather from the intensity of the course. Consider setting up the assignment using a Discussion forum or a class Blog.
Cheering students 
Increase Involvement from Your Students by Engaging them in your Course Creation for Next Semester:
Now is a good time to ask your current students to assess the assignments from the semester. Consider setting up a Wiki with current assignment objectives, the current assignments, and leave blank areas for the students to contribute their ideas. You can add a table to your Wiki to keep it organized!

Example of a Wiki with a Table:
An image of a wiki with a table format

Are Your Tests Doing a Good Job? November 10, 2014

If your students take tests through Blackboard, you now have an easy way to obtain item analysis data and check the quality of your tests. EAC Visual Data is an add-on for Blackboard that provides you with useful data about the tests and rubrics you deploy through Blackboard. It is currently being used by many healthcare-focused schools to ensure that their test instruments are reliable and to track and report student performance on student learning outcomes.

Click on the name of any test to review the data for that test. A new window will open with several tables of information.
To access EAC Visual Data, simply visit the Course Tools area within any of your courses and click on the link for “EAC Visual Data”. You will see a new window open showing a list of all the tests from your courses. By default, you will see two weeks’ worth of tests. You can change the date range at the top to pull in additional test results.

The “Summary Statistics” table provides basic top-level data about your test. It also provides you with a KR20 reliability statistic. Ideally, you want this number to be above 0.70 in order for your test to be considered a reliable measurement tool. The “Item Analysis” table provides you with data on each of your test questions, and the “Distracters” table goes deeper to provide you with data on each of your answers.

For more information about EAC Visual Data, review the brief video on the EAC website.

New Blackboard Feature: Student Preview October 10, 2014

How often have you created a test or an assignment in Blackboard and wondered if it was being viewed the way you intended by students? With student preview, you can experience your course exactly as your students do. While in student preview mode, you can perform the following activities as a student:

  • Submit assignments
  • Take tests
  • Create blog and discussion posts
  • Create journal and wiki entries
  • View student tools, such as My Grades

Enter Student Preview Mode: Click the student_preview_icon.png Enter Student Preview function, at the top-right corner of your course pages, next to the Change Course Theme function. Student preview creates a student account, logs you in as that student, and enrolls you in the current course. When you enter student preview mode, the following bar appears at the top of every page:

Students and administrators can easily identify your preview user account by the way it is named: The last name is your last name appended with “_PreviewUser”, and the username is your username appended with “_previewuser”.

Click Exit Preview to exit the student preview. If you leave the course without exiting from student preview, you will return to student preview when you return to the course. When you exit the student preview, you are prompted to keep or delete the preview user and all its associated data.

Deleting the preview user has the following effects:

  • All activity conducted or created as the preview user is removed from the course permanently. This includes test attempts, assignment submissions, grades, and discussion posts. Also deleted is any interaction an enrolled student has with the preview user, such as replies to a preview user’s discussion posts.
  • The preview user is unenrolled from the course. If the user is not enrolled in another course, the preview user account is deleted.

Keeping the preview user has the following effects:

  • Select Keep the preview user and all data if you need to keep the user and data to see how student activity presents itself to you as the instructor, such as grade calculations. If you keep the data, the preview user account will appear in the course roster, Grade Center, and any place where you did something as that user.
  • When you save the preview user account, the dot in the middle of the Enter Student Preview function icon turns green , indicating the preview user account contains data.

SafeAssign Receives a Face Lift September 29, 2014

SafeAssign assignments are now integrated with the Blackboard Assignments feature. If you are interested in preventing plagiarism, SafeAssign may work for you.

What is SafeAssign?
SafeAssign compares submitted assignments against a set of academic papers to identify areas of overlap between the submitted assignment and existing works. SafeAssign is used to prevent plagiarism and to create opportunities to help students identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase. SafeAssign is effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool.

To create a SafeAssign assignment, follow the steps below:

1. In Blackboard, within the course content area, hover over Assessments and choose Assignment.

2. On the Create Assignment page, expand Submission Details by clicking on the link.

Click on Submission Details to expand choices

3. Select the box to the left of "Check submissions for plagiarism using SafeAssign."

Check box to enable SafeAssign

4. Optionally, select one or both options by clicking the boxes to the left:

  1. "Allow students to view the SafeAssign originality report for their attempts."
  2. "Exclude submissions" which excludes all student submissions for the assignment from the institutional or global reference databases (similar to previous "Draft" option).

Additional choices for SafeAssign

5. Complete the Create Assignment page.

6. Click Submit.

Click here for more details about SafeAssign, including how to review the SafeAssign submissions and Originality Reports.

Online Presence: Add an Avatar September 11, 2014

Creating a “presence” in the classroom is one of the most important best practices for instructors to consider. This is especially important in an online course since students may never see you face-to-face. One of the first (and easiest) things you can do to create an online presence is to add a photograph of yourself. This gives your students a better idea of who they are interacting with and helps reduce the social and psychological distance they might feel.

While you can add a photograph to the contact information in your individual courses, Blackboard also allows you to add an “Avatar” that will appear in various places throughout your courses (e.g., discussion boards). The new version of Blackboard has a slightly different method for adding an avatar. Here are the steps:

1. In Blackboard, click the arrow next to your name in the page header to access the global navigation menu.

2. Click the empty profile image or your existing image to access your profile.

  • If this is the first time you have accessed your new Blackboard profile, you will have to agree to the terms and enter your email address.
  • If this is not the first time you have accessed your new Blackboard profile, click the “Edit My Blackboard Profile” button.

3. On your profile page, click the “Change Picture” button to upload an image from your computer.

4. Click “Upload New” to browse your computer for an image file (PNG or JPG).

5. On the Crop screen, position the box so that your picture is framed the way you want it.

6. Click Change Picture.

7. Click Submit. Your image should appear in your profile.

You can have your students follow the same procedure to add their pictures.

Display Letter Grades to Students April 24, 2014

There is a quick and easy way for you to allow your students to see a letter grade. These are the steps you will need to follow in order to set up your letter grade column:

1. Go into your Blackboard course and click on Grade Center under the control panel.

2. Click on Full Grade Center.

3. If you have not set up you Grading Schema that matches your desired course grading scale, you must do that first. Click here for instructions.

4. Then, hover over Create Calculated Column and click on Total Column.

5. In the Column Name box, give the column a name, such as “Letter Grade.”

6. In the Primary Display box, choose Letter. If you would also like to see a percentage score, choose Percentage as the Secondary Display. Note: The Secondary Display will not show to students.

7. In the Options section, under “Include this Column in Grade Center Calculations,” choose No.

8. Leave all other options as is and click Submit.


Best Practice: Course Evaluations April 14 2014

As we near the end of the semester, we once again turn our attention to the subject of course evaluations. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are very important to the college. Student participation in course evaluations is critical to the school’s commitment to quality teaching and academic excellence. In addition, they can provide you with valuable information to help you revise your course content in the future.

Only a small percentage of students take the time to evaluate their courses. So, how do we increase our response rate? One of the most important factors in raising response rates for online evaluations is high-quality, frequent communication from instructors directly to their students. If instructors encourage, welcome, and explain their use of student feedback, the students will better understand that their contributions are important and that they make a difference. Here are some additional suggestions:

  • Start by reminding your students to complete the course evaluation. Send an email or add a course announcement.

  • Make sure students know that their responses are completely anonymous.

  • Let students know that you value their input and will use the results to improve your course content.

  • Give students time during class to complete the course evaluation, or sit them down in the computer lab and point them to the course evaluation.

  • Give students extra credit for completing the course evaluation. Even one or two points might make a difference.

  • Let students know that it is their chance to make JCHS a better place and that they are doing future students a big favor by filling out the evaluations.

You can monitor which students have completed your course evaluations by clicking on the “Course Evaluation Reports” link on the Blackboard home page. On the following page, click on the name of the survey to see which students have responded. Note that you will not see the results until after the surveys have closed.

Course Evaluations 1

Course Evaluations 2

Respondus LockDown Browser Update March 31, 2014

If you are using Respondus LockDown Browser, there is an important new change to the settings. By default, students will now be able to close their browser during a test. Any tests that you currently have deployed with Respondus LockDown Browser will have the new setting changes. If a student chooses to close their browser, they will be prompted to give a reason for closing. You will then receive notification in your Respondus LockDown Browser Dashboard.

Respondus LockDown Browser Dashboard image

Steps to access the new settings and see any notifications:
1. Within your course click on Course Tools in the Control Panel
2. Click on Respondus LockDown Browser
3. Locate the test and click on the box to the left of the title
For Settings changes:
4. Click on Modify Settings
5. Click on Advanced Settings to expand the menu
To see notification of students exiting your test:
6. If any students have exited, you will see a circle with the number of students that exited, click on Review Early Exits.

The following link provides a detailed explanation:

Click here
to access a copy of the email notification sent to faculty on March 24.

Best Practice: Student Feedback March 17, 2014

surveyThroughout the semester, it is important to get feedback from your students
so that you can assess your own teaching.  A simple way to gauge your student's likes and dislikes is to conduct a short survey. 

Blackboard has a built-in survey mechanism that is easy to use. A survey within Blackboard is a non-graded assessment tool that records answers anonymously. Blackboard will record when the survey is taken but will not associate answers with an individual user.  If you would like additional information, you can click here for a step-by-step guide on how to create and deploy a survey in Blackboard.

To give you an example, we have created a very short survey and would like to get your feedback regarding the quick tips we create.  Please click here to help us determine what best suits your needs.  Thank you.

Best Practice: Stay Connected to Students March 3, 2014

In much of the research that looks at student satisfaction with online learning, connectedness to the instructor is frequently cited as the most rewarding and potentially most frustrating aspect of learner satisfaction. Timely instructor response and feedback is essential for students in order to manage their learning experience. This is particularly important for online students. A lack of visibility will likely lead to students’ critical attitudes of the instructor’s effectiveness and lower levels of affective learning.

Here are some best practices for maintaining visibility and connectedness in your face-to-face and online courses, as well as the relevant Blackboard tools to help you along the way. Many of these tools can be accessed through the Control Panel of your course.

Best Practice Blackboard Tools
A section of the course website with personal and professional information about yourself. Let your students know who you are, where you came from, and what interests you. Use the Faculty Info button in the course template or click on Course Tools > Contacts.
Timely response to student inquiries. Most experts suggest a reasonable response timeframe of one business day (24 hours) during the week and 48 hours over a weekend. Keep in mind, however, that if you have deadlines that fall over a weekend, it may not be reasonable to expect students to wait 48 hours for a reply. Use your JCHS email or Blackboard’s email tool. The email tool is available by clicking on Course Tools > Send Email or by using the email button in the Grade Center.
Timely return of assignments and feedback. Most experts suggest that you try to provide feedback on assignments within one week. Feedback on graded assignments should recognize good work and make suggestions for improvement. Use Blackboard's built-in commenting tools when grading assignments to speed up your grading process.
Mass and personal email communications with all students. Provide general feedback to the entire class on specific assignments or discussions while at the same time providing individual encouragement and comments to students. Use Blackboard’s email tool. The email tool is available by clicking on Course Tools > Send Email or by using the email button in the Grade Center.
Regular course updates and postings, including weekly wrap-ups. Keep your students updated on what’s happening in the course, and provide them with a summary of each week’s activities that leads into the following week. Use the Announcements tool. It is available by clicking on Course Tools > Announcements.

Another option is to add a content item with a weekly wrap-up message.

Creating Handouts from PowerPoint February 17, 2014

Creating Microsoft Word handouts from your PowerPoint presentation before uploading to Blackboard

Would you like to have the ability to make more changes to your handouts created from your PowerPoint presentation? You can easily change the layout and add additional text by first exporting your presentation to Word. Once you are finished, just upload to Blackboard to share with your students!

Image of Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 Save and Send feature

Instructions (image is Microsoft PowerPoint 2007):

PowerPoint 2007: Click on the Windows button in the upper left of the screen, hover over the Publish button in the menu and then click on “Create Handouts in Microsoft Office Word.” Choose your Page Layout and click OK, Microsoft Word will open with your slides. Make your edits, save as a .pdf and post to Blackboard!

PowerPoint 2010: Click on File, Save & Send, Create Handouts, Create Handouts button. Choose your Page Layout and OK. Microsoft Word will then open allowing you to further edit your handouts. Save as a .pdf document and post to Blackboard!

Blackboard Grade Center Button February 3, 2014

Full Grade Center shortcut button

Get there faster! In Blackboard, did you know that you can click on the arrow located to the right of the Grade Center link and it will open the Full Grade Center view? No need to click on Grade Center and then Full Grade Center.


Here's how:

  1. Navigate to your course and scroll down to the Control Panel in the lower left of the screen.

  2. Hover your mouse over “Grade Center” and click on the light gray arrow located to the right of the Grade Center link.

  3. Your Full Grade Center view will open.

Adding Contact Information in Blackboard January 17, 2014

Keep your students informed about how and when to reach you! Creating contact information in Blackboard is a simple way to ensure your students feel connected to you and your class. If you are using the JCHS course template, the contacts area is located in the “Faculty Info” button on the course menu (unless you changed the name of the button to something else, such as “Instructor Info”). Here you can add information about yourself, teaching assistants, guest speakers, and others involved in the course. You can also include information such as your campus and email addresses, office hours, pictures and personal websites.


Step 1: Click on the Faculty Info button on the Course Menu.
Step 2: Click the Create Contact button.
Step 3: Fill out the Profile Information, which includes your name, email, phone number, office location and office hours.
Step 4: If you want your students to be able to see your contact information, make sure you make it available in the Options section.
Step 5: Add a picture of yourself, or an image that reflects your course, as well as a personal website if you wish. Ideally, make sure your image is sized to 150 pixels by 150 pixels—or at least in a square shape—or you will look funny. One good tool for accomplishing this is
Pixlr. Here’s a good tutorial for resizing and cropping your image using Pixlr.
Step 6: Click Submit.


Please click here for alternate instructions if you cannot find where to create your contact information.

Best Practice: Course Orientation December 16, 2013
Best practice standards for online course design recommend that you orient students to your course. In face to face courses, this is usually accomplished in the first class meeting. With online courses, a good way to accomplish something similar is to create a lesson or quiz that the students must complete the first week that instructs them on things such as how to navigate around your course, where to find important items, what your objectives are for the course, how to communicate with you, and what they can expect as far as workload and time commitments. This type of orientation will help students get acclimated to your course environment and will go a long way toward reducing the number of problems you have to deal with as the course progresses.

You will notice that your new Blackboard course shells contain an item called “Course Orientation Quiz”. This is a Blackboard "test" that is pre-populated with sample orientation questions. We encourage you to make use of this test by revising questions to match your course content, removing questions that are not relevant to your course, and adding new questions you feel are appropriate. This quiz can then be carried over from one semester to the next.

If you want to modify the quiz questions, click on the chevron to the right of the quiz item and select "Edit the Test". You can also access the Test Manager through the "Course Tools" area of the Control Panel.

Please click here for more information about working with Blackboard tests.

Overwrite File Option in Blackboard December 2, 2013

Did you know there is an Overwrite File option in Blackboard? For instance, every semester you have to update your syllabus with new dates and information. Now when we copy your content to your course from a previous semester, you can quickly change the files previously uploaded to your course. Do you need to make revisions to existing assignment documents or PowerPoints? The process is the same!

Overwrite option

Step 1: As pictured above, locate the file you would like to change in your Blackboard course. Click on the chevron to the right of the name of the attached file.
Step 2: Choose Overwrite File
Step 3: Click Browse…
Step 4 and 5: Locate the file that will replace your existing file. Click on the file and choose Open.
Step 6: The file window will close and you will then choose Submit.

Note, the name of the file is retained, but the new file is attached. If you need to change the name of the new attached file, click on the chevron to the right of the file and choose Edit Settings.

Please click here for additional information about the Overwrite File option.

Content Collection - Uploading Content November 18, 2013

Do you need to upload content to your course without making it available to students? If so, you can upload files directly to the Content Collection. Once files are in the Content Collection, you can link to them from within your course. To upload files, follow these steps:

Step 1: Move your cursor over the Upload button and select “Upload Files” from the menu.
Step 2: Click on the Browse button.
Step 3: Find the file you want to upload.
Step 4: Click the Submit button.

To upload multiple files at once, you can select the "Multiple Files" option at the top right. You will then be able to drag and drop files into the window.

You can also combine all your files in a zip file and use the “Upload Package” option. If you have worked with voiceover PowerPoint files and iSpring, you may have already done this.

Please click here for additional information about uploading files to the Content Collection.

Content Collection - Downloading Content November 4, 2013

Do you want to easily access content in your course? From the Content Collection, you can download multiple/all of your course files at one time rather than downloading them individually. To update your course files for next semester, download all the files, make changes and then you can add them back into your course all at once. Or, if you attached a file into your course in Blackboard but cannot find the file on your computer, you can download it from the Content Collection.

Step 1: Check the boxes of the files/folders you wish to download.
Step 2. Click Download Package.
Step 3. Click Save File and OK. The package saves as a .zip file.
Step 4. Unzip the .zip file.
           a. PC: right click on the .zip file and select Extract All.
           b. Mac: double click the file to extract.

Downloading Content

Please click here for additional information
about the Content Collection, created by Blackboard.

Content Collection - What is it? October 27, 2013

Have you accessed the Content Collection in your course? Did you know that if you delete an item in Blackboard and it has an attachment, the file still exists and takes up space in your course? Where is the file? You can find the file in the Content Collection area of your course. When you delete an item, you will need to also go to the Content Collection and delete the file there as well.

Steps: In your Control Panel, click on Content Collection to expand the menu, then click on your Course ID. To delete, simply check the box to the left of your file and click the Delete button.

Screenshot of Control Panel and Content Collection

Please click here for additional information
about the Content Collection, created by Blackboard.

Formula for Flipping October 9, 2013

Are you considering flipping your classroom? You have access to many helpful tools and an instructional design team. Contact the Academic Technology Support team for assistance today.

The formula for successful flipping:
Lecture Capture Tools
Voiceover PowerPoint & iSpring
+ Video Recording Tools
Blackboard Video Everywhere & Jing
Class Interactivity Tools
i-Clickers & Blackboard Collaborate
+ Instructional Design Resources
Quality Matters & ATS Team