Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bb - Faculty Can Clean Up Tests & Pools - pre summer

Important dates for Bb Maintenance
Pre-Summer 2008 semester:
  • Bb Fall 2008 Enroll Roster to Existing Bb Course Request HTML Form

  • All SCC Bb course status is changed to Unavailable (students will not see a course link)
  • Bb Online for faculty May 30 to June 6, 2008 to delete OLD tests and OLD pools
  • Bb Online for faculty June 7, 2008 (deleting tests is no longer allowed)
  • Student enrollment process from Peoplesoft to Bb June 7, 2008
  • Make your Summer Bb course available to students
  • Summer classes begin June 9, 2008
Blackboard will be used at SCC for Summer 08, Fall 08 and Spring 09. After June 30, 2009 all Bb classes will be using Desire2Learn.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

LMS Evaluation Taskforce Report - Senate 2/19/08 noon

Colleagues, If you have an interest in the outcome of the Learning Management System Task Force recommendations (e.g., the future of Blackboard), I encourage you to attend this SCC Academic Senate meeting on Tuesday, February 19th, noon to 1 pm in RN 258. The LMS Report is a 15 minute agenda item at the end of the meeting.

The LMS Task Force has recommended, and the district-wide Educational Technology Committee has endorsed, the replacement of Blackboard with Desire2Learn, a competing e-learning platform.

The faculty co-chairs and available SCC members of the LMS Task Force will be at the Academic Senate meeting to discuss the process in more detail.

The SCC Academic Senate appointed members to the LMS Taskforce to represent faculty interests. During the taskforce’s work last semester, several emails to all faculty were sent out as invitations to explore the five systems evaluated – Bb Hosted, Moodle, Sakai, Angel Learning and Desire2Learn. I realize could have overlooked the invitations to test out the systems yourself. Please explore the demo class as a student using this URL and login information (faculty login has been included in mass emails to faculty but will not be posted on a public web page):

http://82showcase.desire2learn.com

Login info available by request

We look forward to working with you on migrating your Bb course to this new environment. Review the D2L website for Instructor Tools at http://www.desire2learn.com/learningenvironment/tools/instructor/

What are the next steps? Planning is underway on how to approach the migration for SCC faculty. We will be offering training both in person and as online 24/7 tutorials. We have identified key Blackboard courses to be transferred to D2L in the first steps. Soon we will be offering demonstrations of D2L. When? After the contract has been signed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Viewing Quizzes is Squirrelly for Instructors

Ahh, the new semester and a refreshed Blackboard. This first week I've had three reports of instructors not able to see quizzes in their classes. "Maybe I'm just imagining that last semester I could see the quiz questions ..." and it seems to me that I've been able to see questions as well. Not now! Gloria Lopez was the second instructor to report this change.

But it is more convoluted that that. Is it a browser issue or an operating issue? Then Bill Doonan called to say (he stumped the Help Desk) and cannot view quizzes in two classes but he can view quizzes in the new course copy we made for this semester! Oh my head aches! Bill tested on his iMac using Safari, in the smart classroom using WindowsXP and Internet Explorer and at home using IE. In my office, using Firefox on both MacMini and Windows XP I could see the questions.

I'll report this change to have other confirm the experience and look for options.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Acrobat request form

We are continuing to receive lots of calls and e-mails about issues with the Bb request form (Acrobat).  We are aware that it is not working for all users.  If you encounter a problem with the form and are unable to submit your request, please contact us as follows:

SCC Blackboard Faculty Support
blackboard@scc.losrios.edu
(916) 650-2726
Alternate phone:
(916) 558-2635

We apologize for the inconvenience and will continue to streamline this request process for future semesters.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A word about deleting tests and pools

Remember that if a test has been deployed, the deployment link must be removed before the test can be removed from the Test Manager. (You always have had the ability to remove a deployment link, so the presence of extraneous tests does not have to distract students.) Also, if a pool is being used as a source for random blocks of questions in a test, that test must be removed before the pool can be removed from the Pool Manager.

Monday, January 7, 2008

System is up / Delete unwanted test pools - Now through 1/14

Blackboard is back up and available for all faculty.  

As a reminder, the ability to remove (delete) unwanted test pools in Blackboard as been re-activated on a temporary basis.  If you have unwanted test pools in Blackboard, you are encouraged to delete them before January 14, when this function will once again be removed.  As you may be aware, removal of test pools causes system instability in most cases, therefore it is not allowed during the regular semester.  We are providing this brief window so faculty can remove unwanted tests, thereby reducing the overall size of the Blackboard course and making the list of tests and pools easier to manage.



Friday, January 4, 2008

Spring 2008 Bb Request Form - UPDATE

What a way to end the year ... someone changed the URLs on the last working day of the year and then went on vacation. Well it messed up our Bb Acrobat Form big time.

I have revised and tested the form. It is working again. Thank you for your patience! Download the Request Form to your hard drive and use Acrobat Reader to fill out the details.

For the gun shy, try testing with a quick form at http://scc.losrios.edu/~bbsite/course/test.pdf. I'd recommend this step for Macintosh users.

Use these links to check your requests
Fall 2007 Bb Course List

Requests Submitted to the database (realtime list)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Blackboard down for maintenance, 1/4 - 1/8/08

Reminder, Blackboard will be down for maintenance 1/4 – 1/8/08.  (Not even Bb Administrators can access the system during these dates to process course requests.)
Here is the schedule:

Bb OFFLINE to all users January 4-8, 2008
(archive of classes, purge assessment data, delete all enrolled students)
    •    Bb Online for faculty January 8-14, 2008 to delete tests & other course updates
    •    Bb Online for faculty January 15, 2008 (deleting tests is no longer allowed)
    •    Flex Workshops January 16, 17-18, 2008
    •    Begin enrolling students based on submitted requests January 17, 2008
    •    Classes begin January 22, 2008

PLEASE NOTE:  The “Remove” function will be activated in the Test Manager from 1/8 through 1/14.  This is your only opportunity to remove old/unwanted tests and pools from your course!

Course Request Form - problems submitting

SCC Faculty,
We are experiencing issues with the SCC Bb Course Request form.  It is currently unable to submit data when the form is completed.  This is due to a change made by IT staff over the winter break, where the former “www” server was replaced with a new server, and hence the form cannot reference the appropriate script that allows it to submit data.  (You may notice other SCC websites that also have problems connecting to links with the “www” prefix.  Tip: Try replacing the “www” with “wserver” to fix the problem.)

We hope to have this situation resolved soon.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bb Server Errors - Sun AM 12/9

Blackboard was offline during the 9 am to 10 am timeframe. If you had any assignments due during that time period, some students might be reporting problems to you.

Monday, December 3, 2007

@ONE Technology Skills Institute at Evergreen Valley College

Hands-On Winter Institute

Start off 2008 right with information you can put to use during the spring term! Join us in San Jose for 3 days of hands-on, project-based learning that will help YOU achieve your goal of doing more for your students, while saving yourself time throughout the year! The Winter Institute is an ideal place to learn new skills and apply them to your own projects, while meeting other professionals from throughout the California Community College system. Topics range from introducing the next version of Microsoft Office, Podcasting, Vodcasting to Teaching Online.

What’s more, you can use these workshops to boost your career. Academic credit is available for an additional $60 per unit through San Jose State University when you enroll separately and complete a small demonstration project after the Institute.

Visit http://www.cccone.org/institutes/08winter/index.htm for more information.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bb Maintenance 11/12/07

To: all Blackboard Faculty
From: - Distictwide Bb Support Team

In the past few weeks there have been repeated incidents of performance problems on Blackboard, including:
short periods when the system has been unavailable altogether, short periods when particular pages would not load correctly (grade book, assessments, discussion boards) or not load at all, general unresponsiveness (with a variety of error messages) as users navigated the system These problems have occurred despite improvements that were made prior to the start of the semester.

We will be putting several patches into the Blackboard software on Monday 11/12/07 to help further improve the performance. These patches were provided by Blackboard specifically for Los Rios, but came with no guarantees, since Blackboard could not thoroughly test with our specific environment or load. We were initially reluctant to implement these patches, but recently undertook many hours of functionality testing and it appears that all functions are intact after the patches were implemented on a test server. However, we have no way of testing the system under the full load of our users.

We are implementing these "fixes" because the recent problems cause renewed concern that without the fixes, the system may not be able to perform adequately during the high volume of activity up to and including finals week. We are taking the following steps to minimize disruption:

1) We will create a back up copy of the system early Monday morning while the system is down
2) We will implement the new patches before the system comes back up at 5 am
3) We will test the functions of the system again, as soon as it is available
4) Throughout Monday, we will closely monitor the system for any signs of problems
5) If major problems develop, we will send an urgent email to all users that the system will be taken down in 30 minutes. Within one hour, we will remove the patches and should be able to bring the system back up with the most recent data. In the unlikely event that the patches corrupt data, we will restore from the Monday morning backup (which means that work done on Monday would be lost)

You can help us by doing the following:
check your course sites to make sure that everything seems to be OK and let us know immediately if you find any problems If at all possible, reschedule or extend due dates for exams, quizzes, and other work
Warn students that their work might be lost if they use the system on Monday and things go badly

It is our hope that the system integrity will not be affected negatively and that these patches will improve performance so we can get through the rest of the semester. We have plans for other actions over the winter break but those steps cannot be taken while the system is in use.

We greatly appreciate your patience.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's all in the patches

Look for an announcement (forthcoming by e-mail) from the district regarding installation of new “patches” (code fixes) that will be installed this week.  Blackboard has provided these fixes to resolve some of our ongoing performance issues, which have increased in the past two weeks.

Mark Your Calendar - Jan 08 Downtime

Important dates for Bb Maintenance
Close Fall 2007 semester and begin Spring 2008 semester:
  • Bb Spring 2008 Course Request Form (PDF)

  • Finals - December 14-20, 2007
  • End of Semester - December 20, 2007
  • Save a back up of your Bb Gradebook as Excel file
    (one last time, afterall, this is a weekly activity, right?)

  • Grades are due January 2, 2008
  • Bb OFFLINE to all users January 4-8, 2008
    (archive of classes, purge assessment data, delete enrolled students)
  • Bb Online for faculty January 8-14, 2008 to delete tests
  • Bb Online for faculty January 15, 2008 (deleting tests is no longer allowed)
  • Flex Workshops January 16, 17-18, 2008
  • Classes begin January 22, 2008

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

General system slowness / database error

Today we are still seeing generalized slowness on the Blackboard system.  Right now there are 1622 concurrent users on the system (down from yesterday’s high of 4200) and the system is still touchy.  Several reports of “Database Error” messages in particular.  We’ve been told that the main source of the problem is again the gradebook/assessments module.  District IT is putting two more web servers into place immediately (should be finished this morning) which will bring the total number of Blackboard web servers to 13.  We’ll keep you updated as we get more information.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Five o'clock update

I hate to sound like the boy who cried wolf, but we are again seeing some irregularities in the system performance.  Right now we have nearly 3600 concurrent users on the system.  Apparently today we hit an ALL TIME HIGH for the number of concurrent Blackboard users at 4200.  Remember, the more people we cram onto the boat, the more likely we are to take on water...  We are also experiencing both midterm exams and the start of the second 8 weeks courses at the same time.  Thanks for your patience in bearing with the system as we navigate these choppy waters.  

Performance problems today

The problem with Blackboard today appears to have been related to a background process that was running in the system.  IT staff terminated that process and restarted Blackboard.  As of now, Blackboard has returned to its normal functionality.  We are sorry for the inconvenience.

To: ARC Faculty <Faculty@arc.losrios.edu>, CRC-Faculty <CRC-Faculty@crc.losrios.edu>, FLC - Faculty <FLC-Faculty@flc.losrios.edu>, SCC - Faculty <sccfaculty@scc.losrios.edu>
Conversation: Blackboard
Subject: Blackboard

There was an issue with Blackboard today, October 23rd, from 2:00-2:40pm.  We apologize for any inconvenience.

------ End of Forwarded Message

Blackboard VERY slow right now

We are currently experiencing some extremely slow response times from Blackboard.   We (SCC) are checking with District IT to determine and resolve the problem. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Connect 2nd 8 Week Rosters

(10/17) We have modified our process for requesting roster-to-course connections.

There is still an Acrobat document that guides you through the questions and send us email with your request details. It also save the requests to a database.

So what's new? We have a searchable database of all your courses because there is often confusion when there are several Bb courses that could be linked to several class rosters.

Start by searching for your courses at http://wserver.scc.losrios.edu/~bbsite/course/searchcourses.html.
The link on search results page opens the Acrobat Blackboard Course Request form.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Firefox users - beware of Java update

I advocate Bb users have more than one browser on their computers, and my preferred browser on Windows and Macintosh is Firefox. Here is a tip from Greg Beyrer (CRC) "I updated Java this morning like a good soldier but then discovered that it is taking more than 20 minutes to load the visual textbox editor to post something to a discussion board. I even restarted my computer without making a difference. I then disabled Java 1.6 (leaving Java 1.4) using the Java console control panel and that didn’t help. I even uninstalled Java 6 and it didn’t help. Firefox now works with the old version of Java (1.4) so I’ll stick with that version."

Mid semester - don't mess with success! And, backup your gradebook and take 30 minutes to organize the files on your hard drive to better reflect the organization of your online courses.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ups and downs of internet / Bb access

After I posted the “all clear” message we received from IT yesterday morning at 10:50, Los Rios once again lost access to the outside world (internet connectivity) for a large portion of the late morning and afternoon.  Again, this means Blackboard was not accessible to students from off campus until connectivity was once again restored at 4:25 pm.  Clearly this affected students’ ability to access their courses for majority of the day.  We have seen a rise in service interruptions over the past few weeks—generally due to differing circumstances, such as power outages or AT&T circuit problems—but regardless of the cause, connectivity issues are troubling to online faculty and students and present an barrier to effective teaching and learning.  SCC staff will be working with District IT to develop further safeguards against service interruptions.  Thanks for your patience as we continue to work through some of these issues.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

From District IT: Internet services restored

Internet services, including off-campus access to Blackboard, have been restored.  The message from IT is below:

Subject: FW: Internet services restored

Internet Services to the District were restored at approximately 9:55 AM this morning (Wednesday 10/10).  Once AT&T dispatched a technician in the field, the problem was quickly diagnosed and resolved.  Los Rios IT has escalated this and other recent Internet outages to our Internet Service Provider (CENIC) for ‘root cause’ analysis and long-term resolution.  
 
Thank you for your patience during this outage period.  
 
Brian Roach
Director, Technical Services
Los Rios Community College District

Internet Services Not Working and Limited E-mail

The following message is from IT staff at SCC sent this morning at 7:50 am.  Please note that Blackboard may not be accessible to students from off campus until this issue is resolved:

SCC Community –
 
We are currently experiencing problems with our connection to the internet. This means you will not be able to connect to external (non Los Rios) websites. Blackboard, Peoplesoft and all other Los Rios websites are still accessible from campus.  In terms of e-mail you will be able to send/receive messages from people with a Los Rios e-mail account.
 
The District Office is aware of the problem and working with AT&T. I will forward you any additional information I receive. Thank you for your patience.

Los Rios Internet Access Down (Blackboard affected)

Following is a message from District IT regarding a loss of internet connectivity today. Until this issue is resolved, Blackboard is not accessible from off-campus.
------------------------------
10/10/07 7:53 a.m.

Los Rios lost access to the internet this morning about 2 a.m. Los Rios is connected to the internet by CENIC (Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California).

CENIC leases a high speed circuit from ATT. The problem appears to be with the circuit provided by ATT. CENIC has been aware of the problem since early this morning and has been working with ATT to get it resolved. This circuit has gone out of service several times this year, and ATT does not seem to be able to decisively resolve the problem.

Los Rios has been working for several years to secure fiber optic cable to link our campuses together and to provide a redundant link to CENIC, eliminating the need for this problematic ATT circuit. The fiber for the connection to CENIC is in place and equipment has been ordered to bring it into service.

I apologize for the lack of service this morning. Our goal is to provide continuous high quality service throughout the network. Over the next two months, we hope to complete the fiber optic network project, providing improved protection against these kinds of outages.

Mick

Mick Holsclaw

Associate Vice Chancellor for IT

Los Rios Community College District

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Internet Connection Lost - Sat 10/6

Notification from LRCCD Help Desk: On Saturday (10/6/07) about 5:45pm we experienced an outage of the DS3 circuit connecting Los Rios to the Internet. The problem was isolated and resolved by AT&T technicians at about 9:15pm. Although there were no problems with the Los Rios servers that support Blackboard, PeopleSoft, and other systems in the Data Center, this network outage caused these servers to be inaccessible via the Internet.

We realize that Blackboard is heavily used on the weekend and evenings and we apologize for this disruption. Los Rios technicians, in addition to the AT&T technicians, respond quickly and the problem was resolved as timely as possible.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blackboard service interruption - Sunday 9/23

There was a failure of the Los Rios bridge/bandwidth shaper just inside
the CENIC router yesterday morning (Sunday 9/23) at approximately 11:30
AM. It was restored to service at approximately 5:45 PM. During this
period Internet services to/from Los Rios were down. Problem diagnosis
and service improvement analysis is continuing.

This failure directly affected access to the Blackboard system, and we have
received reports that it was down as late as 7:00 pm on Sunday.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Overnight Power Outage at District Office

There was a power outage at the District Office overnight that affected nearly all Los Rios systems, including Blackboard.  Students may report problems accessing the system during the early morning hours while it was down.  This was not a Blackboard problem, but a district-wide outage of all computer systems.  Access to Blackboard was restored early this morning.  For more information on the outage and affected systems, please see today’s e-mail sent to all exchange users from Steve Bowles, IT Director.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LMS Evaluation Team Volunteers Needed

Interested SCC Nominees Need to Volunteer for the Learning Management System Evaluation Team.

Over 450 Sacramento City course sections with over 14,200 student enrollments use the Blackboard Academic System in support of online, hybrid and web-enhanced classes - currently, 109 online sections have 4100+ enrollments.

Every computing system should have periodic review with consideration for growth or alternative approaches. The Los Rios District has begun the evaluation of Blackboard and other alternative LMS options. This detailed review is motivated by dissatisfaction from some of our experienced faculty teaching online and hybrid courses and student frustration.

The LMS Evaluation Team, assisted by District Office Information Technology staff, will work through October and November. At this time, meetings are planned on Fridays with additional time required to complete the evaluation tasks. Participating faculty will need to make a commitment to evaluate all options and attend all meetings.

The evaluation team will recommend renewal of the Blackboard Academic System contract or select an alternative LMS product. Part of the evaluation is to consider how current course content will be copied to a new system and if publisher content will be available. The final report and recommendation from this team will be forwarded to the district-wide Educational Technology Committee and then to Chancellor Harris for action.

Yes, this is a fast-track project and an important opportunity for you to actively influence the next Los Rios learning management system.

Faculty who do not serve on the LMS Evaluation Team will have opportunities to view demonstration course sites for each product and to submit feedback to the team.

Interested faculty should contact Linda Stroh as an SCC nominee. The list of nominees from all four colleges will be reviewed and appointments made in consultation with campus Academic Senate Presidents.

Partial list of Learning Management Systems for review include the following (links are to the product descriptions): Blackboard, ANGEL, Desire2Learn, Sakai and Moodle.

Watch for the SCC LMS Features Survey to distinguish between courses requiring LMS features and courses that want to deliver content online.

(Announcement previewed by the SCC Academic Senate on September 18, 2007 and SCC Information Technology Committee on September 14, 2007)

-- Melissa Green Instructional Development Coordinator
-- Jory Hadsell, Distance Education Coordinator

Monday, September 10, 2007

Where do "saved" posts go in the discussion board?

Question from a faculty member:

> Do you know where documents go if a student hits "save" in blackboard?

More of you are asking this lately, so I thought I would share the information here.

Yes, we do know where these posts go!  This is very confusing for students, and why I always advise against doing a Save in the DB.  (Use a word processor and save it locally—it’s a better, safer computing practice.)

To find the “saved” post:

The student has to change their view of the discussion board.  The default view shows only published posts.  Inside the DB forum, the student will need to click the drop down menu next to "Display" and change it from "published" to "Show All" and then click the "Go" button.  This will display their "saved" or "unpublished" posts.  

BEWARE--the next time the student opens the "saved" or "unpublished" post, they will only have the option to publish or cancel.  In other words, the post can only be saved once before it must be published.

Hopefully this is helpful as you get these questions from your students.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Problems accessing the discussion board

Some faculty have reported that when navigating their Bb course sites, they receive a “cannot find this page” error when clicking on the links to the discussion board.  We are researching this issue.  There is a background process that runs inside of Blackboard that is “sticking” and causing this problem.  Our district Server Administrator has reset this problem and it appears to have gone away for the time being.  As it is reported again, we will attempt to take the same action.  We also have an open ticket with Blackboard, which has already been escalated, and we hope to have more news on this topic soon.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Email Challenges & Network Conflicts

All Los Rios Computer Users,

As you are probably painfully aware, our Los Rios Windows’ infrastructure has been having difficulty over the past few days. This problem has unfortunately manifested itself in periods when users and servers can not authenticate successfully and are therefore not allowed their rightful service. This has also resulted in outages of Outlook Web Access, Exchange and various other Windows-based services. At this point the underlying problem appears to be resolved but due to the nebulous nature of the problem we not ready to guarantee that all symptoms of this problem are gone. We will be watching closely for the next day or two to confirm that all symptoms of this problem have been eliminated. Please report any new occurrences of this problem to the Help Desk.

A more technical explanation of the problem (if interested): the Los Rios Windows infrastructure is composed of a network of users, workstations, applications, servers, and controllers that use a distributed directory service (Active Directory) to manage the security between all Windows devices and objects. This security mechanism is time-sensitive and requires that all Windows servers and controllers share a consistent and accurate Time source. Unfortunately, one of the primary controllers in the Los Rios network obtained a “bad” Time source yesterday morning (Tuesday) at approximately 8:30 AM. This “bad” time-stamp was then rapidly propagated across the Los Rios Windows’ infrastructure resulting in sporadic authentication problems and Windows’ service outages.

Though this problem was recognized within minutes of its first occurrence, due to the distributed nature the Windows’ infrastructure (directory, controllers, servers, etc.) it was very difficult to find and correct all objects with Time-stamps. At several times over the past two days the problem was believed to have been resolved, only to see it reappear in a different branch of the Los Rios network. At this time, neither our District Office Windows’ Administrators nor Microsoft Technical Support can see any further evidence of Time-stamp problems. We will be monitoring the Windows systems very closely over the next several hours.


Thank you for your patience during this difficult period.

Brian Roach
Director, Technical Services
Los Rios Community College District

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Gradebook Issues

If instructors are experiencing problems with viewing your Gradebook in Bb in the spreadsheet view, try using the Gradebook Views > View Grades by Item instead.

When you contact the Help Desk to report Gradebook issues, tell them if you had used the Upload from Excel option on the Gradebook Spreadsheet view. I have read a few reports that sometimes uploading a column of grades has created display problems. Remember to keep a hard copy of your graded activities throughout the semester. Each time you post grades to Bb, download the gradebook as an Excel file and keep these copies for the semester. Destroy all extra copies after you have submitted final grades.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Discuss ‘safe computing practices’ with students

    Start the conversation with these highlights:
  • Keep a copy of your assignments in a word processor document before submitting.
  • Don’t wait until the deadline to start a test because a heavy user load could cause test problems.
  • Let your students know how to reach you when they encounter a problem. Remind them about contacting the Help Desk for technical support.
  • Instant messaging (IM) and Chat should be disabled during online tests or exams, as these disrupt the web connection to the assessment.
  • Read the online help information before you need it.

Start out the semester with these tips

  • Make your course available to students. Students will not see a link to an unavailable course after all rosters have been linked on Saturday, August 25, 2007. You must submit a request each
  • Report all Bb problems directly to the Help Desk 1-866/353-9451 
(available 24/7 - students & faculty).
  • Read and bookmark the SCC Bb Blog http://www.scc.losrios.edu/~bbsite/blog.html.
    If your course is missing content from the May-to-June migration, and you do not have a backup copy and you need the course restored, go to http://scc.losrios.edu/de/webdata/distance_ed_form.html and submit the report.
  • Use safe computing practices and prepare alternative methods for students to contact you and submit assignments. Remember that the Online Grading System includes a Contact Students tab for each roster with an easy way to email your students. Keep a backup copy of your content offline, especially your gradebook.
  • Online & Hybrid courses using Assessments (tests and surveys) should change the deployment to one-question at a time and prohibit backtracking. Review the other suggestions for successful test taking at the Help Tab in Bb > Instructions for Students Using Blackboard: http://ic.arc.losrios.edu/~itc/Blackboard/pages/quizproblems.htm .
  • Suggest your students enroll in Skills for Online Student Success - this HCD 320 course is one-unit. Orientation is on Wednesday, August 29, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm in LR 141.
  • Sign up and review the Blackboard Knowledge Base to track your trouble reports and to subscribe to help articles about the features you use. Advocate your students use this site and subscribe to the same articles for easy access to help http://d2.parature.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=4018. Read the Help Tab information when in Bb.

Blogging For Peace of Mind

You want news about what’s been happening lately with our Bb server:

Bb Blog is updated daily (or more often) as events unfold.
Learn about known issues other users are experiencing with Bb before you contact the Help Desk.
Review recent issues and search reports and solutions by keyword.
Subscribe to to this blog using your favorite RSS Reader or view it from any web browser.
http://www.scc.losrios.edu/~bbsite/blog.html

Friday, August 17, 2007

Highlight of Urgent Message (posted below)

Dear Deans and Department Chairs,

All district faculty received the notice below regarding Blackboard (Bb). Please note that as the message (posted below) delineates, there are severe restrictions to Blackboard. I have highlighted a few important things you should be aware of and listed a process for contacting our Sac City Blackboard Team.

Highlights:

1. Bb not available for any users from 2 to 6 am everyday
2. Faculty will be blocked from importing package content (.zip file) and we currently have no solutions for this problem
3. Web-Enhanced Faculty are asked NOT to use Assessments e.g., Tests, Quizzes and Surveys (online and hybrid classes can continue to use assessments)
4. Some functions have been blocked from faculty and coordinators

Questions: Faculty have been asked to call their Coordinators for assistance. In order to create better communication between faculty and Melissa and Jory, please ask your faculty to use the following guidelines:

>>General questions and issues calls should be routed to
the Help Desk – 1-866-353-9451
>>To report network or server problems call the same Help Desk

>>When emailing Melissa regarding
using features in Bb
, be sure to use a detailed subject line e.g., “Blackboard Feature Help on ______ “
>>When emailing Jory regarding
missing content, course creation and enrollment
links your subject line should begin “Blackboard Course _________ “

>>For current status and known issues, watch and read our SCC Blackboard Blog at http://www.scc.losrios.edu/~bbsite/blog.html
This blog contains useful information as is always up-to-date.

Rhonda Rios Kravitz
Dean, Library Resources Division
558-2254

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URGENT Message re Fall 2007

URGENT Message to Blackboard Faculty for Fall 2007:

Background: Those faculty who use online testing know that there have been problems with this Blackboard feature for several years. Specifically, students have been “knocked out” of a quiz or test, meaning that they are unable to complete the exam unless the faculty resets their test. For the student this means they start over - sometimes multiple times. For faculty, this means resetting quizzes and possible compromise of the integrity of the testing process.

Over the years, we have identified things that students can do to minimize this risk (browsers, settings, actions during a test, etc.) and have communicated these to students and faculty.
We have also identified things that faculty can do when creating their tests to minimize these risks (details available in our training materials, etc.)
Despite these efforts, there have still been times when students were not able to complete an online test on the first attempt and some of these were due to system congestion issues because of Blackboard's poorly designed software.
Substantial increases in hardware over the years has not been able to reduce these occurrences to zero.

Between Spring and Summer, we undertook a massive cleanup of our system including a fresh install of the software and re-creation all courses from an archive to try to ensure these problems would not continue to occur.
· While this process did have many positive effects, Blackboard did not warn us that the archive and restore process with this version was NOT reliable.
· Because of this, some courses failed to restore at all and others had missing content.
· We became aware of these problems in early June and began communicating with faculty to get them to check their classes.
· Over the summer many missing classes and many with missing content have already been restored.
· This process may need to continue as faculty who have been away all summer locate problems in their courses just before the term starts.
· If you have not yet checked your Blackboard sites, please consult previous emails about how and what to look for in your classes.
· This course restoration process and other administrative processes severely tax the system and degrade performance for users (again due to inefficient software code).

Another cause for concern is that during the summer finals week, online testing problems became apparent at usage levels which are a small fraction of the average fall or spring semester usage.
During those times, students could not complete their exams and many faculty were unable to access the grade book.
These problems occurred when as few as 75 faculty and students have been using the system. (In a primary semester Los Rios accommodates 500 to 700 concurrent users during the more active parts of each day.)

In preparation for a fall semester where 7% more courses are scheduled to be taught as fully online courses, we have been forced to take action to ensure that Blackboard can function smoothly throughout the term. The actions items decided upon for Fall 2007 are detailed below.

ACTION ITEMS:

1) Blackboard coordinators are identifying and removing any unnecessary courses from the system – especially those with large numbers of questions pools and tests.
a) You may be contacted if you have multiple copies of your course in case you may not need them all this semester.
2) The Blackboard system will not be available from 2 am – 6 am every day in order for ALL course maintenance activities to occur during that time when users are not on the system.
a) That may mean that there will be a delay in getting courses restored, copied, etc. since these actions will now be queued and run overnight. If there is a backlog greater than the time available each night, then there could be longer delays in completing these tasks.
b) PLEASE let the coordinators know immediately what you need for Fall semester so that all of this work can be done this week BEFORE the term starts.
3) Some Blackboard functions have been blocked from faculty use to preserve good performance for all users.
a) Faculty cannot remove a quiz pool from the Pool Manager or a Test from the Test Manager. You CAN "undeploy" or remove an instance of a test from a content area and from the gradebook.
i) If you need to have quiz pools or tests removed altogether, provide the exact information to your college Blackboard coordinator.
b) Faculty cannot create an archive or export of their course.
i) If you need this, your coordinator can assist.
c) Faculty cannot import a package of course content into their existing class.
i) Contact your coordinator for assistance.
ii) You CAN import question pools into the pool manager.
4) We are now requesting cooperation from the faculty who teach web-enhanced classes in reducing the use of online testing. (Online and hybrid classes can continue to use online testing.)
a) If you can reasonably use an alternative face-to-face method for testing (or submitted projects rather than exams) without undue hardship, we are requesting that you do so.
b) Online instructors have no other options and we need to ensure that the testing feature is not overtaxed and is working satisfactorily for those classes who must use it.

The Blackboard coordinators and the District Office IT staff have put in many long hours to try to resolve these problems and will continue to do so. We are also trying to escalate the process for selecting another Learning Management System (LMS) and we are looking at other options to try to make sure that Blackboard will be reliable and available to all for whatever remaining time we have on that system. You will have lots of opportunities this semester to have input on the selection of another system so we hope you will be involved in that process.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Help Desk Knowledge Base

Our contracted Help Desk service includes a knowledge base and support tracking system. Reviewing the content of the KB is well worth the time to identify the articles related to the features you use in your Bb courses. Recommend to students that they also use the KB and sign up for membership to "subscribe" to the articles you have identified as a strategy for success in your classes.

http://d2.parature.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=4018

BB Database Error

Blackboard is cranky this morning. You will be able to log in but click a class or organization link and you will get a Database Error message.

Reported to Help Desk!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Delete Old Tests & Pools by 8/22

Last spring semester we had to restrict the option for faculty to delete tests or pools. Before fall semester begins you have an opportunity to delete old tests or pools. This is a small window of time, and this action will take some time to complete. Be patient.

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All calls to Help Desk -- please!

ALL SCC Blackaboard users - students and faculty should contact the Help Desk to report problems.

To contact the Los Rios eLearning Help Desk by phone:
--Dial 1-866-353-9451.
--The system will direct your call to the first available Help Desk staff member.
--The Help Desk is now staffed 24 hrs a day and 7 days a week.


To get help through "live chat" with the Help Desk staff.
--You can use the link below.
--Link to Live Chat with Help Desk Staff

To facilitate a prompt solution to your problem, please be sure provide the following information.

+ your full name as a registered student and your Los Rios Bb login name,
+ your email address,
+ your instructor's name,
+ the name of the class in which you are enrolled,
+ the details of the difficulty you are experiencing using Los Rios eLearning Bb,
+ your computer operating system (Windows XP, 2000, Me, etc. or Macintosh OS X), and
+ the web browser you are using to access the class (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Netscape, etc.).

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Make Your Class Available to students

All SCC Blackboard courses were made unavailable to students on August 15th. When your course has content ready for Fall 2007, then make your course available to students after rosters are attached beginning Thursday, August 23rd.

Control Panel > Settings > Course Availability > Yes & Submit.

This process will help us identify courses that are no longer in use.

Please take this step if you do not need to reference OLD courses on our Blackboard server: Enter a course, go to
Control Panel > List/Modify Users > Search button (no criteria needed) and click the Properties button related to your name. Choose Student and click the Submit button. This will hide the course from your Welcome and Courses tabs! Hurray, a shorter list!