Hot Topics

Helpful Tips and Tricks

things instructors need to know

Can students see your course in Blackboard?

- 01/05/2012
When your Blackboard course shells are created each semester they are usually set to be “Unavailable” by default so students won’t see the course in their course list until you are ready; however, some copied courses may be immediately “Available” to students. Fortunately, it’s easy to control when your students can see the course.

After your new course shell is created each semester you should immediately check your course list on the Home or Courses tabs in Blackboard – if you see (Unavailable) next to the course, students cannot see this course in their course lists.

To change the course availability:
  1. Enter the course
  2. Below the Control Panel on the left, click “Customization”, then “Properties”
  3. In the “Set Availability” section select “Yes” to make the course available or “No” to make it unavailable to students
  4. Click “Submit” – the change takes effect immediately

Pre-semester Checklist:
Check out the Pre-semester Checklist - Energy Shots video tutorial we originally posted on August 16, 2011.

Blackboard Tests – Tips for Student Success!

- 12/09/11
If you use Blackboard to administer your final exams this semester, you can help your students be successful if you share several test-taking tips with them first. We’ve gathered these tips and more into a PDF file available at under “Success Tips”. Feel to copy these tips or provide a link to the pdf file to your students before they take the final exam!

Here are some of the most important things students should check and/or need to know before they begin a test in Blackboard:

  • Clear the browser cache before you start – Browser-specific instructions
  • High-speed Internet connections are strongly recommended – DON’T use a wireless or dial-up connection when taking the test!
  • Recommended Browser – Use Firefox 4 or higher for best results, or Internet Explorer 8 or 9.
  • Close all other applications (Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, instant messaging, email, etc.) before you start. Do not open other applications once you’ve started the test.
  • Turn off ALL pop-blockers in your browser.
  • DON’T double-click the link to begin the test.
  • DON’T copy/paste content from Microsoft Word or other word processors.
  • DON’T click the Back, Forward, or Cancel buttons, close the browser window, use the scroll wheel on your mouse to navigate, or try to navigate to another area of the Blackboard course.
  • Save questions you’ve answered periodically during the test.
  • DON’T click Submit more than once!
  • Print and save the test submission receipt page you’ll see after submitting the test.

These tips can also be accessed from the Bb Help tab once you are logged into Blackboard.

Do vendors contact you directly about technology products?

- 11/21/11
Recently, Lecture Capture and Clicker vendors have been contacting faculty members. The Division of Information Technology helps the campus standardize on providers for the sake of efficiency and cost savings. Imagine if we used multiple clickers on campus – the students could possibly have to purchase all of them, depending on what classes they took, or if lecture capture equipment varied according to what classroom you taught in!

Lecture Capture - Tegrity:
NDSU adopted the Tegrity Lecture Capture product after a thorough study and pilot. The ND University System is also considering a statewide standard, choosing between Tegrity and Panapto. If you’d like to use Lecture Capture, please contact us to get started!

After some disappointing years with our previous vendor, we are piloting two clicker products with the intent to adopt one of them by Spring semester, 2012. We will announce the outcome before the end of Fall semester.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions regarding campus standardization! Our intent is not to strong-arm -- Our goal is to serve you by saving you time and effort, and we welcome your input.

Greetings from the Technology Learning & Media Center (TLMC)!

- 11/9/11
The TLMC offers a variety of services for NDSU students and instructors, and classroom project support is one of the key ways the TLMC serves instructors. Visit our Web site to learn more about us:

Do you assign—or have you considered assigning—technology-intensive class projects like:
  • Videos (music videos, documentaries, digital stories, commentaries, infomercials, etc.)
  • Audio commentaries
  • Web sites and wikis
  • Slide shows and presentations
  • Publications
  • Large-format posters
  • Spreadsheets

Technology-intensive projects provide students with opportunities for creative expression and for developing and using digital media literacy skills that can benefit them in class, college, and beyond.

The TLMC serves as a bridge between instructors, students, and IT staff, helping with:
  • Project planning and identifying best methods
  • Identifying student learning and support needs
  • Developing, coordinating, and delivering project-specific support, including:
    • hands-on workshops, scheduled during or outside your class time
    • individual and group assistance for students on a walk-in basis (IACC 150C lab and Renaissance Hall 420A)
    • collaborative group workspaces with special multimedia software and hardware and storage capabilities
    • related online learning resources always available on the TLMC Web site

As multimedia projects have become more popular, we have expanded our media services.
  • A media studio, located at IACC 150G, houses a video recording space and an audio recording studio. A full-time media technologies consultant, Steve Beckermann, is available for technical and instructional help. Students and instructors can make appointments to use the media studio and get help with producing, editing, and converting their media works.
  • Additional multimedia resources are available at Barry Hall.

It is well-established that seeing is better than hearing or reading—and doing is better than seeing. So let us know if you would like a tour of the TLMC lab and media studio or if you would like to try out a multimedia project yourself, using our facilities and media support staff.

Now is a good time to plan for spring semester class projects; however, feel free to contact Steve or me anytime. We will be glad to talk with you about your projects and available resources for you and your students.

Recent Blackboard Test/Quiz Problems

- 10/24/11
Instructional Services began getting reports from instructors and students of new problems with tests and quizzes in Blackboard as of September 14. We are working closely with Blackboard to resolve this issue.

Some students begin the test, answer one or two questions, and then Blackboard appears to ‘freeze’ so they can’t move on to the next question and/or submit the test. Some of these students have needed their attempts cleared by the instructor more than once. In all reported cases these students were able to complete the test after it was reset once or twice. Other students in the class completed the same test without problems.

This issue has been reported on campuses nationwide. Blackboard is aware of the problem and is working on a solution. Once we receive the ‘fix’ from Blackboard, we’ll do some internal testing before we apply it to our Blackboard production server.

Please contact if your students have problems completing quizzes or tests in Blackboard. Any information you can give us about specific steps the student took, specific things they saw or experienced when the problem occurred, which browser and browser version and the operating system (Windows or Macintosh) they used, and whether they used a wired, fast Internet connection or a wireless connection to access the test will help us continue troubleshooting the problem.

Instructional Services is pleased to announce our newest initiative designed to help instructors use technology within their courses – Hot Topics!

- 10/21/11
Hot Topics are brief email messages about helpful tips and tricks, current issues, resolutions, and other things we feel instructors need to know right now about using technology at NDSU in the classroom (both face-to-face and online!). We intend to distribute these messages regularly throughout the year.

Here’s the current “Hot Topic”:

**Please share this message with students in your classes before they take their next quiz or test using Blackboard!**
Instructional Services has been working with Blackboard to resolve two different Blackboard quiz/test issues some students have experienced since our Blackboard system upgrade at the beginning of the semester. The good news is that we believe these issues are now fixed!

Blackboard released a ‘patch’ which was installed on the Blackboard system at NDSU on 10/20/11. For this ‘fix’ to be effective, students must clear their browser cache for each browser, on each computer they use, prior to starting their next Blackboard quiz or test! Additional information and the instructions for various browsers and browser versions is available at

This patch should resolve the problem of Blackboard assessments ‘freezing’ in the middle of the test, as well as the earlier “Permission Denied” errors some students reported when submitting tests as long as students have cleared their browser cache before beginning the test.