Export Blackboard Course Materials Before August 15th

Blackboard in a circle with a line through itAs the countdown clock on the Blackboard log-in page should tell you, we have now completed our conversion to Canvas for our Learning Management System. While the Office of Information Technology (OIT) will have access to Blackboard for grade challenges until the end of the Spring 2017 semester, regular access for faculty, staff, and students will end on August 15, 2016.

Please save any course materials you might have in Blackboard before that date. As a reminder, we began use of this version of Blackboard with courses in Summer 2011, so you may have content as old as that to extract from Blackboard. These materials can be exported, then saved in Box and later imported into Canvas. Directions are available online: https://stedwards.instructure.com/courses/5655/pages/exporting-copies-of-your-course-to-box

We know it’s the summer, so if you haven’t exported your course materials and can’t before August 15, 2016, all is not lost. It will just require an extra step to access your materials. If you need to retrieve course materials in Blackboard after August 15, please contact OIT Support:


Let’s Talk: Updates from Instructional Technology

Let's Talk graphic with word bubblesThere’s a lot going on with instructional technology this year. To help you keep track, below is a round up of what’s on our mind and how it might impact you. To ask questions, seek help, or share your thoughts, please email us at instcom@stedwards.edu or contact any instructional technology staff member. Continue reading

Task Force for Learning Management System Evaluation Votes for Canvas

The Task Force for Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation has voted to recommend that St. Edward’s University move to the Canvas learning management system.  This recommendation has been submitted to Mary Boyd, Vice President for Academic Affairs and David Waldron, Vice President for Information Technology, who will make the final decision.  This recommendation report outlines the reasons, as well as a proposed migration plan:  Final LMS task force recommendation

FAQ about Evaluating the Learning Management System

Blackboard and Canvas LogosMembers of the Learning Management System Evaluation Task Force have received many questions about their work.  This blog post is a round up of questions and answers.  To see more information about the task force and its activities, check out the other blogs posts tagged with “lms” on this blog:  https://sites.stedwards.edu/instructionaltechnology/tag/lms/

1. What is the process?

  • The Office of Information Technology supports and monitors technology platforms for the university.  Based on their knowledge of the Learning Management System (LMS) marketplace, they recommended an evaluation of our LMS.
  • The Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Information Technology jointly charged a task force composed of faculty representing each school, level of student, and delivery mode for courses, as well as related staff to evaluate the LMS.
  • The task force began meeting in Fall 2014 and has promised a decision by April 24. If a change is recommended, instructors would have until Fall 2016 before they had to move from Blackboard to Canvas.
  • The task force has met to review information about learning management systems, has gathered data on use of Blackboard and pilot use of Canvas, has hosted demos from vendors and by Canvas pilot faculty, has decided on criteria for evaluation based on all of those activities, and will make a recommendation based on those criteria.
  • Mary Boyd, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and David Waldron, Vice President for Information Technology will review the recommendation and make the final decision.

2. How long does it take?

  • The LMS was last reviewed in 2010 by a subcommittee of the TLTR which had vendor demos attended by faculty, surveyed faculty about the LMS, and made a recommendation to move to Blackboard 9 rather than Moodle.  That committee was convened in October 2010 and made its recommendation in January 2011.
  • This task force has taken longer for its review to allow for in-depth exploration of a potential new LMS by having faculty pilot it for courses.  Pilot faculty are representative of every school, level of student, and delivery mode for courses.

3. How can I find out what the task force did and what they decide?

4. Why Now?

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) recommended an evaluation of the learning management system for the following reasons:

  1. It is a regular process to review technology platforms to ensure the best solutions for the university.
  2. There have been ongoing support and reliability challenges for supporting Blackboard. While OIT has reduced the amount of down-time that impacts the campus, cloud hosted solutions promise greater reliability (greater than 99% up-time).
  3. OIT has a strategy of choosing cloud-hosting for reliability.  The impact of upgrades is also reduced because there are many tiny upgrades without taking down a service.
  4. There has been a change in the web since the university last chose an LMS.  In particular, there has been a growth of social media, increased use of easy audio and video, more intuitive interfaces, and the growth of mobile use for web access.
  5. The university needs learning tools that meet students where they are, e.g., with free mobile access and personalized communication choices.
  6. There has been a change in the approach to the learning management system since the university last reviewed the LMS.  The new approach focuses on integrating more external tools through the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard and views the LMS as part of a larger ecosystem rather than a walled garden. (To find out more, see Carl Straumsheim. “The Post-LMS LMS.” Inside Higher Ed 18 July 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.)

5. Would switching the LMS require too much change given faculty workloads and other changes on campus?

  • It is true that there is a lot of change on campus, but there may never be a time when that will not be true.  For example, a new general education curriculum is scheduled to be in place by 2018, with substantial work by faculty to create new courses in 2017.  Any new LMS should be in place before those courses are created.
  • The proposed migration plan lets faculty pick 1 of 3 semesters for a move: Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Fall 2016.  Instructors can pick the time that best fits their work load.
  • Canvas is intuitive and offers a wide range of do-it-yourself resources.
  • There are ways to export/import content from Blackboard to Canvas.
  • Instructional Technology will provide extensive support and training for migration.

6. What about contingent faculty? How would they make the change?

  • Yes, Instructional Technology has thought about contingent faculty and are including support for their migration in their plans. Some contingent faculty already have experience with Canvas from other universities.  For example, UT uses Canvas.

7. What about students?

  • Students were surveyed about their preferred LMS features and their use of Blackboard and Canvas.  There is a student representative on the task force.

8. What is Blackboard’s future? Why don’t we wait for their new offering? 

  • Blackboard’s new version is not yet available for testing, but in demonstration it seems to copy Canvas.  Availability is still more than a year off.  OIT has concerns about Blackboard’s ability to implement this drastic change, especially based on previous versions.  Either way, however, faculty would be faced with a changed interface.
  • Although Blackboard is promising a cloud-hosted version, past experience with Blackboard support makes OIT question their reliability for cloud-hosting.

9. Why is the task force looking at Canvas?

  • Canvas is the industry leader for this new type of interface and is rapidly gaining market share from Blackboard.
  • Canvas is approved by Internet2, a higher ed IT consortium of which St. Edward’s is a member; 252 US universities, 41 regional and state education networks, 82 corporate partners (service providers) are members of Internet2.  One of the benefits for members is consortial pricing and validating services, with a rigorous process (functional, technical, contractual, legal evaluations). Canvas is a general availability product, which that means is that it has been tested, piloted, and proven to be a reliable service.

10. Which is better? Blackboard or Canvas

  • The task force has gathered data on LMS usage, especially what features the majority of faculty use (communication, file repository, collecting assignments, gradebook).  They are using this data to help determine which platform–Blackboard or Canvas–has features that best meet the needs of the majority of faculty.
  • The task force is conducting a pilot of Canvas and surveying faculty about both Blackboard and Canvas to see which LMS has features that best meet the needs of the majority of faculty.

11. If we move to cloud hosting, will someone in the Digital Infrastructure department lose their job? 

  • No. Digital infrastructure staff support other platforms besides Blackboard.  There is no staff member who only works on Blackboard.  Cloud-hosting, however, would give Digital Infrastructure staff time to implement more tools like Box or a new email and calendaring system.

12. If we change LMS platforms, what about the people in Instructional Technology who support the LMS?

  • Instructional technology staff will continue to support the LMS, whether it is Blackboard or Canvas.
  • Canvas does offer some features that might allow instructional technology staff to focus on more innovative uses of technology and complex instructional design rather than more basic tasks for supporting Blackboard.  For example, it is easy to see how to publish courses (make available to students).  Also, faculty members can add their own TAs.  Canvas also has easily available online guides and a vibrant user community.
  • Instructional technology looks for tools that will empower faculty so they do their work without having to wait on instructional technology.

Have more questions?  Reply to this blog post, contact one of the task force co-chairs, Amy Burnett or Rebecca Frost Davis, or one of the task force members, listed here: https://sites.stedwards.edu/instructionaltechnology/2014/11/18/learning-management-system-evaluation-task-force-named/

Tour St. Edward’s Courses in Canvas with Faculty

Canvas course page for LMS Evaluation Task Force with courses and groups, grades and calendarInterested in how your colleagues are using Canvas?  Would you like to ask questions about the faculty experience using Canvas? Do you want to see a real course in Canvas?

As part of the Learning Management System (LMS) Task Force two panel discussions of Canvas will be held to allow the community to take a closer look at how Canvas is being used on campus. On March 3rd at 3:30 and on March 24th at 10:00 am a panel of St. Edward’s faculty who are piloting Canvas this semester will demonstrate their Canvas classes and discuss their experience with Canvas.  Both sessions will be held in Library 141.

We currently are piloting Canvas with 18 courses.  The full list of Canvas pilots is available on this webpage: Canvas Pilots. Faculty who are teaching these courses will

  • Show selected areas of their Canvas course
  • Share their experience developing their course
  • Contrast use of Canvas to Blackboard
  • Share student reaction to Canvas

Join us for an opportunity to see Canvas and provide feedback to the LMS Task Force.

What’s Next for Blackboard?

BlackboardIf you missed the on campus demonstration last month of Blackboard’s planned cloud-based system, you have another opportunity to check out Blackboard’s plans for the future.  Blackboard will present a webinar “Learning in the Cloud – Why Cloud? Why Now?” on Thursday, February 26 at noon.

Register online at http://bbbb.blackboard.com/LearningInTheCloud.

This webinar will be presented by Greg Ritter, Director of Higher Education Solutions Management at Blackboard.  The webinar will focus on

  • The latest industry thinking on Cloud computing
  • Why IT and Academic Technology leaders are increasingly embracing the cloud
  • How your institution can move to and benefit from a Cloud deployment of Blackboard Learn

Attend Blackboard and Canvas Demonstrations to Have Input on Choice of Learning Management System

Blackboard and Canvas Logos As part of St. Edward’s Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluation, the task force for LMS Evaluation  has invited two learning management system vendors–Blackboard (our current LMS) and Canvas by Instructure– to campus to demonstrate their products to the community. The Learning Management System (LMS) is an integral part of our learning ecosystem that aggregates, connects, and manages many aspects of the course-based learning experience. We urge all faculty to attend the demos and provide feedback to the task force as part of our evaluation process, so that we can choose the best system for the St. Edward’s University community. Both vendors will demonstrate their products twice during their campus visit to reach as many faculty as possible.


Blackboard will be demoing their latest release on Tuesday, January 27th in Fleck Hall 305.

  • 9:30-11:00 AM Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration – teaching and learning tools
  • 2:00-3:30 PM Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration – teaching and learning tools


Canvas demos will take place on Wednesday, February 4 in Library 141.

  • 9:30-11:00 Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration and Q and A
  • 1:00-2:30 Open Faculty/Staff/Student demonstration and Q and A

We will collect input at the sessions by anonymous feedback form, as well as by an anonymous online survey. You may also contact any member of the LMS Task Force to share your input on this process. To find out more about the evaluation process and see the list of task force members, please see this announcement, “Learning Management System Evaluation Task Force Named.”

Tips for Using Blackboard Grade Center

Blackboard Grade Center Tool Bar

To make your grading process more efficient in Blackboard follow these tips:

A) Hide unnecessary columns from your view

B) Organize your grade center columns in a way that makes sense for you and your students

C) Use categories to create a group of assignments, eliminate lower grades from a group of assignments, or to calculate the final grade based on percentages (weights)

For more information on using the Gradecenter visit Instructional Technology’s Guide to Blackboard’s Grade Center.

Please remember that final grades must be submitted using My Hilltop. See the instructions in this video on Submitting Grades in myHilltop.

Contact the Faculty Resource Center (instcom@stedwards.edu or 464-8804) to schedule a Grade Center consultation or if you have any questions.

Instructional Technology wishes you a happy grading season!

Blackboard Unavailable Dec. 18th Due to Upgrade

BlackboardOn December 18th, 2014 we will be upgrading Blackboard to the April 2014 Release. This new version of Blackboard retains the current look and feel while adding several new and enhanced features including web-based or inline grading, a true student preview mode, enhanced calendar functionality, enhanced discussions, and date management for course copied materials. Our current version of Blackboard, Service Pack 11, is out of support so we are taking this opportunity to upgrade to the newest, stable release of Blackboard. Blackboard will be unavailable all day on Thursday, December 18th while we upgrade.

A summary of new and enhanced features is below. Instructional videos and links to detailed instructions may be found at “What’s New in Blackboard“.  The Faculty Resource Center staff will be happy to meet with you before the upgrade to show you these features on our test server. Please contact us if you have questions about using these features.

Inline Assignment Grading

Instructors are now able to view, comment on and grade assignments “inline”, i.e. in the web browser, rather than having to download them to a computer for grading. Files that have been submitted electronically to Blackboard, may be displayed in the inline viewer and annotated directly within the browser. The tools available for annotation are: Comment, Draw, Highlight, Text and Strikeout. See the detailed instructions on using Inline Grading.

Enhanced Calendar

The calendar now displays a consolidated view of all course calendar events for a user.  Instructors can use the calendar course tool as a primary way of managing and communicating the schedule of events and assignments in the course. The calendar supports due dates, if set, for gradable items and repeating events, such as class meeting times. Clicking on calendar items allows an instructor to view or edit the item, or grade attempts on the associated item. See the detailed instructions on using the new Calendar.

Student Preview

There is now a built-in true student preview mode in every class. You can submit assignments, take tests and view grades as a student.  See the detailed instructions on using Student Preview.

Improved Discussions

The Thread Detail page is thoroughly redesigned yet maintains all of its existing functions. All of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page, thereby maintaining the context of posts and replies to one another. You can still collapse threads.  See examples of the new discussion layout.

Date Management

Use the Date Management tool to easily adjust all content and assignment dates in your course. Accessed via the Control Panel > Tools you can choose to adjust dates automatically or individually from one convenient location.  See detailed instructions on using the date management tool.

5 Things to Know for the Start of the Semester


1. Photo Rosters & More on Faculty/Advisor Tab in myHilltop

New for the Fall 2014 semester, Faculty and Advisors now have a customized page in myHilltop.

From this page, you can access course information, class lists with photos, grade submission, and more for each of your classes each semester. You can find Instructional Technology events and our blog posts here also!

More information about the Faculty/Advisor tab

2. Using Terms to Group Courses by Semester in Blackboard

Tired of searching through the long list of courses in the My Courses module in Blackboard?

You can now use terms in Blackboard to make it easier to find your classes by organizing them by semester. To set up the Terms, click on the gear icon to the left of My Courses.
Course Module with arrow pointing at gear icon in right corner

In the Terms section, click on the box next to “Group by Term” and then select the terms you wish to display.
Checkbox next to term

Click on Submit.  Course terms will now appear in the My Courses list.
Terms listed in separate lines

Travis county Almanac3. Creating a Website/Blog for Yourself, Your Course, Your Students Using CampusPress

Would you like to create a personal, course or research website or start your own blog? All St. Edward’s faculty, staff and students can easily create their own website or blog via Campus Press (formerly EduBlogs) powered by WordPress. You can also create multi-author course blogs where each student is a contributor. You can log in at https://sites.stedwards.edu to get started. If you’d like assistance contact us at instcom@stedwards.edu.

4. One Page for All Student Academic Support Services

Students can now see all the academic support services and solutions available to them on one page. From Advising to the Writing Center all of the options are listed on the Student Academic Support Services Page.  From this page students can sign up for one-on-one appointments with Instructional Technology Training staff, view video tutorials or sign up for workshops or the Innovation Creation Lounge.

5. Making Your Blackboard Courses Available to Students

All courses, instructors and student enrollments are loaded automatically into Blackboard. However, all classes are unavailable to students by default. If you are using Blackboard for your course, please make your course available to students.

• In the Control Panel, select Customization and then Properties.

• In the Set Availability section choose yes to make the course available, then click Submit.