Sending email messages to students from a Blackboard course

We all have our workflow preferences and places that we check to stay connected. Some prefer using Course Messages (which in our configuration won’t send the message to a student’s email, unfortunately), and others prefer using actual email service.

There may be a practice compromise to accommodate both the need for convenience such as emailing a student (or a number of students) without leaving the course, and using email as a system, so that both students and instructors will get alerts when they receive messages.

Blackboard has emailing capabilities. While it email as a tool has been also disabled in our configuration, the workaround exists and instructors can choose to send an email directly from the course when using the Grade Center.

Here is how.

STEP 1: Visit Grade Center

In both Edit On and Edit Off views you have access to the “Email” button. Select a student you want to address, or several at once, and use the email options to send your message.

grade center view

STEP 2: Select your recipients.

You can add more if you wish on the next screen.

email from Grade Center

STEP 3: Edit your message, add recipients (optional), add attachments (optional)

edit and send your message

Remember that this email will be sent to you as well (the sender). The student then can reply directly back to you using email only. Consider this as an option.


How to Work with Google Drive Folder Shared with You

We have been trying to streamline the process of storing and sharing files, especially in document-intense courses like Field Seminars and Practica. While there are a number of advantages to setting up our system this way, there has been some difficulty navigating around the shared folders as they don’t always feel intuitive for a particular task. All of the course documents are shared to allow anyone who has the link to view the contents of the folder. You can also download certain types of files without as much as logging into Google.

1. In the Course Navigation Menu on your left, click on Course DocumentsIn your course click on Course Documents in the navigation menu2. You will be able to view documents all at once either as a grid or a list. You can click on any of the documents and get an instant preview.


3. Close the file preview, and add documents to your Drive. If you are not signed in already, click on the blue [SIGN IN] button on the right, then after you have signed it, click on [ADD TO DRIVE], and then [OPEN IN DRIVE] for full features. You will only need to “ADD TO DRIVE” once. After that, [OPEN IN DRIVE] will be available to you any time you access these documents from the course link – as long as you are signed in Google Drive.

Sign in Google Drive

580_Course_Documents 2

4. Click on desired files to open.

Google_Drive5. Once you are in the file, you may either copy it to your own drive and then make all sorts of edits, or download it to your computer and then make all sorts of edits.

make a copy or download a Google file

Note: You can also print any printable file, and when it comes to PDF and Word Files, even download them without logging in.

View Any File and Download PDF

Web Annotation with Hypothesis Extension

One of the most powerful differences between printed text and digital text, as we’ve already covered, is the ability to annotate in the margins as you would a physical book. We’ve talked about tools that allow you to annotate screenshots, and tools that allow you to curate, then annotate, webpages and articles–now, I want to cover a tool, and point anyone interested toward the philosophy that underpins its existence, that allows you to annotate the web directly.

The tool is called Hypothesis, and it is the product of a team that goes by the same name. Hypothesis lives in your browser and allows you to, when you highlight a section of text with your cursor, annotate that text. The annotation’s relationship to the page’s content is stored online, and is viewable by other users of Hypothesis as well as, of course, always there for you when you return to view the page. The annotations can be hidden or shown, and each annotation supports the ability to hold conversations about the highlighted text in the Hypothesis sidebar.

First, highlight the text with the extension activated.

Hypothesis Pop-Up

Then select either the pen to simply leave it highlighted, or the text-entry icon if you have immediate thoughts.

Hypothesis Highlight

Then notice in the Hypothesis sidebar that all the highlighted/annotated text on the page your browser now shows is organized. Conversations can be had here with other Hypothesis users, or if you yourself are the teacher and have highlighted a section then shared your annotations with your students, between students.

hypothesis comment

The goal of the Hypothesis is to give users the ability to build a collaborative meta-layer overtop the web and all its content and properties, encouraging more deliberative growth and awareness of the online world as it continues to grow and evolve. For our purposes as educators, Hypothesis is an easy-to-use tool for collaboratively studying web resources. If Hypothesis continues to grow and develop as planned, then I think it will continue to be more useful to online educators and their students who want to be able to have contextual conversations about resources that are as web-persistent and nav-relevant as the resources themselves.

Customizing your preferences for course notifications settings

With the recent developments, it looks like we are now able to set up email alerts for the events in your course that you want to keep track of. The switch happened to be turned on on Tuesday without a warning and your inbox may have been affected: all of a sudden, instructors and teaching assistants started receiving alerts from “” about journals needing grading, assignment submissions and discussion posts.

The indiscriminate switch may be too much – and honestly, quite unnecessary and annoying for those of us enrolled in a dozen or more courses. Now, however, the settings can be customized, so you can turn on notifications for things you care about in the courses that make most sense to your teaching or supervising load.

Here is how:

Step 1.

Use this link Edit Notification Settings to access the settings (you need to be logged in Blackboard at UNE).

Step 2.

Select either individual courses or all courses that you are teaching (this includes all courses where you are either an instructor or a teaching assistant).

edit notification settings

Either way, you will end up looking a screen like this. (Click on the image to view the larger one). Select what you would like to be notified about.Change_Settings_–_Blackboard_Learn

Step 3. Submit and enjoy!

Remember, you can always change these settings. I hope that this feature is here to stay!

Your students are also able to set up their own preferences.


In addition from above, you can access your settings from Global Navigation:


From Updates, click on the gear icon:


From there, access your settings:


Please let us know how this works for you!

Why Use Word Clouds?

word cloud

Word Cloud

You may be quite familiar with word clouds (by Wordle or Tagxedo, although lots more options also exist: thing 1 and thing 2). A whole bunch of text is popped into a word cloud engine and then – boom! – you only get a handful of words (you control the number) which are usually the most frequently used and/or the most important words of a larger text.

Why use it? On the one hand, you can analyze the text for focus or bias. On the other hand, you can fish out the most important words before you read the text (and then upon actively reading it, ascertain that your initial assumptions were correct or have them refuted). Additionally, because it may lead to active reading, the large amounts of text may seem much more digestible and less intimidating and overwhelming. Well, and it looks pretty neat, too.

Additionally, the word cloud may be used a discussion prompt. Not only will it liven up an online course, but having it in a face-to-face classroom will make it a focal point for a class activity. Hmmm… Now you are thinking!

P.S. Wordle doesn’t seem to work well in Chrome, but works beautifully in Firefox or Safari on a Mac system.

How do I check spelling in Outlook Web Access?

spell check iconSome email programs, such as Microsoft Outlook (client), include a spelling checker. Outlook Web App relies on your web browser for checking spelling. That’s why you don’t see a spellcheck button or spelling settings in Outlook Web App.

Spell checking is available in Internet Explorer 10 and later versions, and current versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.
Check the options for your web browser to learn more about how to use it to check spelling.

To learn more about the browsers that are compatible with Outlook Web App, see Supported browsers for Outlook Web App.

Spell check in Chrome (built-in) | A spell check extension for Chrome

Spell check in Firefox (built-in) | Fancy way to enable spell check if all else fails (Firefox)

There are also add-ons for Firefox, which I suggest you try and get back to us here with your findings. So far, none were particularly highly ranked, but I assume with 3 starts out of 5 they are still worth trying out.

How to replace a file in Blackboard

This week it’s an easy tip for those who often update their forms or other files in Blackboard.

The first impulse is to go and edit the item/page and upload a file and link it. As a result, you will end up with two files in the file structure, the old one and the new one (however, if you keep the title the same it’s possible to overwrite the file on the upload). In addition, if another instance of linking to the same file exists, you will have to replace it as well (unless you overwrite it on the upload). Also, there may be a remainder of the old link next to the new one.

Do I have an easy solution for you! Instead, don’t edit the item/page in Blackboard, just go ahead and overwrite the file as shown in this silent, but eloquent nonetheless!, tutorial below.

As usual, you are most welcome with followup and questions as well as ideas! Just shoot us an email.

Overwrite a file in Blackboard

15 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do

15 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do.

Today we are on to a lighter theme: the iPhone! Knowing a few cool tricks will definitely earn you a “hip” reputation.

For those not in immediate possession of their iPhone or those shunning the iDevices altogether, here is a practical guide on image copyright found by Amy Storch. This may be widely used and re-shared, if you don’t mind the typos in the original item, just follow the spirit of the law! For more information on finding and using images, check out an earlier post.

By the way, how do you like Dayboard? I have been using it every day, and while a bit nagging and it just won’t go away, it is so helpful in keeping me on track and making me get things done!

Take a short poll: Which 3 out of the 15 things listed did you like best?

Organizing Your Tasks

We, the online folks, often have a running list of things to do, and our environment is such that we may be working in cafes, at home, at libraries, in hotels, you name it! Plus, the constant potential disruptions in the form of incoming Skype calls, emails, actual phone calls, meetings we need to attend, virtually or otherwise, and sudden issues that pop up or scheduled events, like grading a set of papers, and then there is this blog to read, which fortunately comes out at the most convenient time and has wonderful tips on how to keep your online sanity!

Since we have been pushing Chrome as one of the better browsers for Blackboard, here is how you can leverage Chrome extensions to create your own task lists. Every time you open a new tab in Chrome, you will see this (your own version of this, that is!):

today's to-do list

When you mouse over an item, you can trash it or edit it, but by all means, the goal is to check it off! If a list gets overwhelming, you can switch to the focus mode  – one task at a time!

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 8.52.27 AM

And then you can pat yourself on the back, when you look up your history. I have nothing to show yet (slacker!), but I am just getting started!

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 8.52.40 AMThis is certainly not limited to just online faculty, it can be useful for anyone! Your students may be the most avid users of this extension as well.

To get your extension click here – Dayboard. Click install, and then just open a new tab.

Let me know how it goes. In fact, add it to your task list to report back! 🙂

I first found it on Free Technology for Teachers.

Blackboard: Customize Posts, Notifications, and Home Page

Many of us, both students and instructors, are enrolled in several, or even dozens of courses. Here are some tips on how to manage the flow of posts, notifications and the courses you see on the home page. To see how you can leverage the post stream from the Dashboard, view the video below. Please note that “@me” option is not enable in the UNE eLearn system.

Additional information about posts and other notifications is also available in this video.

I am including a few screenshots: Under UPDATES: Click on the gear in the top right-hand corner. Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 9.12.14 AM

You can uncheck all the courses you don’t want to see. Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 9.06.01 AM

To change the notification settings, click on “View Notification Settings”. View Notification Settings

This will launch Notification Settings. You may edit General Settings, or Individual Course Settings. Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 9.09.48 AM

For General Settings, choose from the following options. You are not currently part of any organization, so don’t worry about that. Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 9.10.41 AM

For individual course settings, check all that you want to keep, and uncheck all you don’t want to see. Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 9.10.16 AM

To view a video tutorial for this, check this out:

Additional info can also be found here:

How to change what you see on your UNE Blackboard Home: