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SU19 Course Provisioning Reminders

Provisioned Blackboard courses for the SU19 8-Week and 5-Week sessions will be released to students on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Faculty who...

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Blackboard Suggestion Box

Adapted from the University of Houston - Victoria's web page, Blackboard Suggestion Box

If you have a suggestion, recommendation, or feature enhancement for the Blackboard Learn system, you can send this information directly to Blackboard. Use the steps outlined below to share your recommendation with Blackboard:

  1. Visit the Blackboard Community website.
  2. If this is the first time you're visiting the Blackboard Community site and you're not already a registered community member, select the Register option in the upper, right-hand corner of the site and register as a member of the Blackboard Community. 
    • If you're already a member of the Blackboard Community, login with your Blackboard Community credentials. IMPORTANT: Blackboard Community credential information (username and password) is not maintained and/or affiliated in any way with UHCL. Our staff is not able to provide users with Blackboard Community credential information nor will UHCL staff be able to reset passwords for users on the Blackboard Community site
  3. Once you have successfully registered with the Blackboard Community, click the Log in option in the upper, right-hand corner of the site and select the Community Site Login option (make sure you don't select the Behind the Blackboard Login option). 
  4. Once you've successfully logged into the Blackboard Community site, click on the Submit an Idea option and complete the form information that appears on that page to submit your suggestion, recommendation, or feature enhancement for the Blackboard Learn product. NOTE: For the Product Version option, UHCL uses the "Original" product (not the "Ultra" product or "Coursesites"). 
  5. Make sure you click the Publish button to submit your suggestion, recommendation, or feature enhancement. 

IMPORTANT: If you receive an error message similar to "An unexpected error has occurred" when you click on the Submit an Idea option, this is usually an indication that you have not logged into the Blackboard Community site first before clicking on the Submit an Idea option. Make sure you have logged into the Blackboard Community site first before clicking on the Submit an Idea option.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Student Blackboard Course Access Issues

In June 2019, we had an influx of reports from students that their SU19 Blackboard courses had suddenly gone missing. In researching this issue, we discovered that, when doing a Google search for "UHCL Blackboard" (and other similar phrases), the top result that it returns is the link to UHCL's OLD Blackboard server (https://bb18.uhcl.edu). Therefore, we strongly recommend that students avoid using Google (or other search engines) to search for Blackboard at UHCL. Please instead use one of the following:

1. https://blackboard.uhcl.edu;
2. https://bb19.uhcl.edu; or
3. Use the Blackboard link that resides on the UHCL website.

If you log in to Blackboard and cannot see classes that were there before from the current semester, please verify that the URL in the address bar begins with “blackboard.uhcl.edu” or “bb19.uhcl.edu”. If not, please log out and use one of the above methods to log in to Blackboard.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Large Files in Blackboard - Understanding and Avoiding Performance Issues

We are excited to see more instructors using audio and video contents in their Blackboard courses each semester. However, the growing use of those multimedia elements does introduce some issues that need to be addressed. In our team’s blog and support documents, we’ve written before about the importance of NOT directly uploading audio and/or video files directly into a Blackboard course, whether by the instructor or by students. As previously mentioned, there are known performance issues when an instance of Blackboard Learn becomes bloated with a significant number of large multimedia files. These may include:
  • Increased number of transactions, or communication jobs, that must take place between Blackboard courses and the database server, significantly slowing down the overall performance of the entire system;
  • Increased resources needed by UCT to manage the nightly backup of the entire Blackboard system; and
  • Additional time needed (system “downtime”) by UCT to perform both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance tasks, such as the weekly Sunday morning maintenance period.
UCT staff already take steps to keep the Blackboard system and its database server running as efficiently as possible. These include the following:
  • Annual purging of Blackboard semester offerings (shells) that are older than three years; and
  • Weekly maintenance period, every Sunday, from 7AM-9AM. During that window, UCT’s database administrators performing a variety of tasks to ensure that the database runs as efficiently as possible.
For more detailed information about the Blackboard system, database limitations, and multimedia use, we have provided the document Understanding Multimedia File Size in Blackboard, which you are welcome to review.

Even with these steps, UHCL’s Blackboard system does occasionally become overwhelmed, causing the system to be slow to respond to user commands and resulting in an increase in the number error messages seen by users. In many cases, these performance issues can be minimized if we can all be better custodians of file space, especially when it comes to the following types of files:
  • PowerPoint (.ppt/.pptx) presentations that include audio and/or video elements within them
  • Audio recordings (.mp3, .wav, .wma)
  • Video recordings (.mp4, .mov, .wmv, .flv, .avi)
  • High-definition Images (.jpeg, .png, .gif, .tiff)
  • Other documents in which audio and/or video elements are embedded (.pdf, .doc, .docx)
UCT’s instructional designers are available to answer your questions about and assist you with using multimedia effectively and deploying it in your course(s) without negatively affecting the Blackboard system. Some of the strategies that we use and on which we provide training and support include the following:
Please contact the Support Center or your college’s designated instructional designer directly if you have questions about or would like assistance with audio and video files for your Blackboard courses.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Tools for Creating Videos for Blackboard

As more faculty embrace the use of user-created videos in their Blackboard courses, our team has updated our resources and support documentation to help instructors select and use the tool(s) that best suit their needs. Please review the following new and/or updated handouts on supported video solutions at UHCL:

If you would like you students to record and share video presentations, either as individuals or in small groups, you may want to set up a Collaborate space for those sessions and then provide your students with the following document:

If you have any questions about these options, or about how to best use video in your Blackboard courses, please contact the Support Center or your designated instruction designer. In addition, once you create a video, please do not directly upload the MP4 using the File tool in Blackboard. Doing so may impair the performance of your course and of the Blackboard system as a whole. Either deploy your video as a link from an online source (e.g., YouTube), or contact your instructional designer for assistance with deploying your video(s) from the university's streaming media server.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Broken Videos in Blackboard Courses?

As our Course Development & Support Team gradually moves videos from the university's older streaming media server to our newer one, you and you students may encounter an embedded video in your course that no longer functions. The fastest way to get broken videos fixed is to use our team's Report Broken Video link, which may be accessed from our team's Blackboard Faculty Support and Blackboard Student Support pages. Once you report a broken video, our team should be able to restore it within 1 business day.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Support Updates for New OPALS

UCT is pleased to announce that an updated version of the Online Provisioning & Approvals for Learning Systems (OPALS) application is now available!

Most of the changes in new OPALS are transparent to end users, as they affect how OPALS manages transactions and communications between PeopleSoft/eServices course and enrollment data and Blackboard. However, the user interface looks quite different, even though the primary functions (e.g., course requests and provisioning) will continue to work as they did before. In preparation for this change, our instructional designers (IDs) created four new video tutorials that may be accessed using the links below:

In addition, our team has also a comprehensive user guide, OPALS Basics: An Introduction to the Updated OPALS System.

As a third means of end-user support, the IDs will be offering the following drop-in training and support sessions beginning the week of April 22:

Video Conference Option (These will be hosted in Blackboard Collaborate)
  • Wednesday, 04/24, 10:00-11:00AM
  • Thursday, 04/25, 2:00-3:00PM
  • Tuesday, 04/30, 9:00-10:00AM and 5:30-7:00PM
  • Wednesday, 05/01, 1:00-2:00PM and 5:30-7:00PM
  • Thursday, 05/02, 5:30-7:00PM
Face-to-Face Option (These will be held in Bayou 2132)
  • Tuesday, 04/23, 1:00-2:00PM
  • Thursday, 04/25. 10:00-11:00AM
  • Monday, 04/29, 3:00-4:00PM
  • Friday, 05/03, 10:00-11:00AM
Additional Face-to-Face Option (By Appointment - Please contact Amanda Bruce, bruce@uhcl.edu to register)
  • Tuesday, 04/30, 4:30-5:30PM
  • Wednesday, 05/01, 4:30-5:30PM
  • Thursday, 05/02, 4:30-5:30PM
Faculty are also welcome to schedule one-on-one appointments with their colleges' designated instructional designers, if they would like assistance and are unable to participate in these initial sessions. As always, the IDs will continue to assist faculty with their course request and provisioning needs, upon request. If you don't know the name or contact information for your designated instructional designer, simply contact the Support Center and request OPALS assistance. Your inquiry will be entered into the help ticketing system and assigned to your designed ID, who will then contact you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Understanding Limited Delegation

If you have ever borrowed contents from another instructor’s course, or if you have ever been asked to lend your contents to a colleague, you’ve likely heard the term “limited delegation” from our team. In this short post, we’ll explain and (hopefully) clarify what is meant by “limited delegation.”

When an instructor submits a course request in OPALS and asks to borrow contents from someone else’s master course, the content owner has the option of either granting the requester a permanent (full delegation) copy of their master contents or granting them a temporary/one semester only (limited delegation) copy. NOTE: For fully online course requests that are made after the published course request deadline, the content owner may ONLY grant a limited delegation copy to the borrower.

When limited delegation is granted, the requester does not receive a master course at the end of the course request process. Instead, they are given access to provision directly from the owner’s master course for one time only. The resulting limited delegation semester offering may only be used that one term. It may never be provisioned from again in future. Should the borrower be assigned to teach the course in a subsequent semester, they will need to go through the limited delegation course request process again to receive a new copy of the owner’s master course contents.

If you have any questions, as either a borrower or owner, about limited delegation requests and offerings, please contact your designated instructional designer. We’ll be happy to speak with you about this topic!