Information Technology

This is the blog of the Office of Information Technology

Blackboard Server to be Upgraded

Written By: Terry Collings - Jun• 02•14

The Blackboard server will be off line on Thursday, June 5 from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. The server will be upgraded to the Blackboard Learn version 2014. There are some new features available in the upgraded version and they are shown below.

Highlights of New Features and Enhancements – Teaching and Learning

Student Preview – The new Student Preview feature provides the capability for an instructor to see the course exactly as a student would see it. It accomplishes this by allowing the Instructor to easily transition into and out of a system-managed preview account that is automatically enrolled in the course as a student. This provides all the advantages of a “dummy” account while absolving the instructor and System Administrator of the management overhead.

Anonymous and Delegated Grading – Blackboard has implemented a robust Anonymous Grading feature to add another layer of fairness and impartiality to Grading capabilities. Without knowing who submitted the assignment, a Grader is not influenced by a student’s previous performance, class participation, conflicts, race, gender, or perceived student aptitude. Delegated Grading promotes reliability and removes bias by using grades and feedback from more than one Grader. These features may be used together or individually to meet grading requirements.

Assessments: Significant Figures – Blackboard has improved Calculated Formula Questions by adding the ability to define the significant figures required and used in the creation of answers and the automated grading process.

SafeAssign – Blackboard has enhanced the SafeAssign service to provide a more seamless integration with native Blackboard Learn Assignments and updated the SafeAssign Originality Report interface. With this update, the SafeAssignment content type is removed from the content areas, and SafeAssign becomes an additional feature available when creating native Blackboard Learn Assignments. All Blackboard Learn Assignment features are available in tandem with SafeAssign services with the exception of Portfolio submissions to Blackboard Learn Assignments.

The greatest change users will notice is the look of the user interface compared to the previous version. The functionality remains the same and after a few minutes you will see that items are where they have always been, they just appear different.

Flipping Your Classes

Written By: Terry Collings - Aug• 23•13

Have you thought of flipping your classes? Want to learn about what it is and how to do it?

Check out this link.

Flipping Classes

Blackboard Mobile App for IOS Devices

Written By: Terry Collings - Nov• 01•11

In a post from earlier this year, I told you about a mobile app for Blackboard. I thought it would be good to repeat the announcement and give instructions for installing it. There is an app available for iPhones, Ipads and Sprint Android phones for mobile access to the college’s Blackboard Learn site. Here is how to install it on your device.

  1. Go to Apple App Store. (or Android Market if using Sprint)
  2. Search for Blackboard Mobile Learn.
  3. Select appropriate app for your device.
  4. Press Free.
  5. Press Install APP.
  6. Enter password when prompted.
  7. After app installs, tap Bb app icon.
  8. Enter muh in Search for your school text box.
  9. Tap Muhlenberg College.
  10. Enter your Blackboard username and password. (Set Remember Me to ON if you don’t want to login each time)
  11. Tap Login.

OIT Completes Major Upgrade to Campus Wireless Infrastructure

Written By: Terry Collings - Sep• 13•11

Over the summer, OIT installed and upgraded more than 250 wireless access points campus wide. There are now more than 450 access points throughout campus and there is now 100% wireless coverage on campus.

Techwalls installed in New Teaching Spaces

Written By: Terry Collings - Sep• 13•11

Over the summer, the Media Services technicians installed techwalls in the following teaching spaces.
Hillel 105
Hillel 106
Hillel 110
Sociology & Anthropology 025
Taylor 8

Teaching With Technology Workshop Presentation

Written By: Terry Collings - Aug• 29•11

The Powerpoint presentation shown by Terry Collings and Ali Herb at the Faculty Center for Teaching, Teaching With Technology session is now available. If you would like to view the presentation, click the link.


Important Information About The New Blackboard Server

Written By: Terry Collings - Aug• 29•11

We have moved to a new server beginning with the fall term.

Here are login instructions for the new Bb server. The server is at

User logins are different on the new server. You need to use your Groupwise email user name which is your first and last name combined. (no space between first and last name) Your password is your network login password. This is the password you use to login to your office PC.

For example, my login is:
username: terrycollings
password: network login password

All of your courses are there but it is difficult to find them without the course ID showing. To turn on display of the Course ID do the following.

Click the gear shaped icon on the right side of the My Courses heading
Click the checkbox in the Course ID column for courses to put a checkmark in the box.
Click Submit
All of your courses will be listed with their course ID and course name which will make it easier for you to identify courses by term.

You can also prevent the course from appearing in your course list by removing the checkmark from the Course Name and Course ID columns.

Students will not see your course if it has not been made available. To make your courses available, do the following.

On the Control Panel for the course, click Customization
Click Properties
In section 3 “Set Availability” click the Yes button behind “Make Course Available”
Click Submit

To copy courses from one term to another.

From the course you want to copy
Click Packages and Utilities
Click Course Copy
In Select Copy Type choose Copy Course Materials into an Existing Course
Enter the Destination Course ID ( the course you want to copy to)
Check the boxes for the material you want to copy (DO NOT check to copy enrollments)
Click Submit

Blackboard Summer Training Session

Written By: Terry Collings - Aug• 02•11

OIT has scheduled Blackboard training on Thursday, August 25 in Ettinger 211. There are two session scheduled, one in the morning from 9:30 a.m to 11:55 a.m. and one in the afternoon from 1:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m.

We are moving to the Enterprise version of Blackboard and there are many new features available including adaptive release, wikis, mashups and many more. You should plan to attend to learn how you can make full use of the available features.

A buffet lunch will be served between the sessions for anyone attending either session. Please RSVP to if you plan to attend a session.

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Blackboard Faculty Training Sessions Scheduled

Written By: Terry Collings - May• 02•11

Blackboard training sessions to demonstrate new features will be offered in Ettinger 211 on the following dates. If you already use Blackboard and would like to see the new features, please come to one of the sessions.

Two sessions are scheduled each day for a total of eight sessions. There is a morning session and an afternoon session on each day. A light lunch will be served between sessions. Morning attendees are invited to stay for lunch and afternoon attendees should come early for lunch before the afternoon session.

WHERE: Ettinger 211 WHEN: Monday, May 16, Wednesday, May 18, Wednesday, May 25, Thursday, May 26 Morning Session: 10 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Lunch 12:00 p.m. to 12:55 p.m. Afternoon Session: 1:05 p.m to 3 p.m.

Please reply to and indicate which session you plan to attend and if you plan to eat lunch so we can make arrangements for lunch.

If you are new to Blackboard, training sessions covering all uses of the system will be offered in August before the start of the Fall term. Dates for these sessions will be announced later.

If you are unable to attend any sessions and would like to schedule individual training, please contact me.

The Transition to Blackboard Enterprise Version

Written By: Terry Collings - May• 02•11

As you know from my recent announcement, we are moving to the Enterprise version of Blackboard in the Fall 2011 term. Here is a list and more detailed explanation of the features available in the new version of Blackboard than I provided in the announcement.

I will be scheduling training sessions during the weeks of May 16 and 23 to demonstrate using the new features. I will email the dates and times of the sessions as well as post them on this site sometime this week. Additional training dates will be offered during the last two weeks of August before the start of the term. As always, you can call me to schedule an individual training session.

Blackboard Mobile Learn

An app is available for iOS devices that allows users to access the college’s Blackboard site from their iPhone, iPad or Sprint Android devices. Go the the Apple App Store or Android Market to download this free app.

Building Blocks and Extensions

Building blocks and extensions are applications that can be installed in Blackboard to increase the system functionality. There are hundreds of these applications available. You can browse the list of available extensions and building blocks at Blackboard Building Blocks.

Multi-language Support

Language Packs present Blackboard Learn using language and cultural norms matched to different audiences. Language Pack preferences are defined at the system level, the Course or Organization level, and finally at the user level.

At the system level, the Administrator defines one language pack as the system default. This is the language pack that appears when no other language pack is specified at the Course level or at the user level.

At the Course level, the Instructor can set a language pack and enforce it. Enforcing a language pack means that all users will view the language pack. If the language pack is not enforced, and a user has a preferred language pack associated with their account, the user’s language pack will override the Course language pack.

At the user level, individuals may select their preferred language pack.

Note: The default names in the system are translated and appear differently in each language pack. Customized names, such as changing the name of a tool, are not changed with the language pack. These values stay the same through all language packs. The following languages are available.

English Spanish French Italian German Russian Chinese Arabic

Adaptive Release Content

Adaptive Release controls the release of content to users based on a set of rules created by the Instructor. The rules may be related to availability, date and time, individual users, group membership, scores or attempts on any Grade Center item, calculated columns in Grade Center, or review status of an item in the Course.

The following options are available:

* Adaptive Release: Create basic rules for an item. Only one rule per item can be created, but the rule can have multiple criteria, all of which must be met.
* Adaptive Release Advanced: Create sophisticated combinations of release rules by adding multiple rules with multiple criteria to a single content item. Users must meet all the criteria of one of the rules to gain access.
* User Progress: View the details on an item for all users in a Course. This page includes information about whether the item is visible to the user and whether the user has marked the item as reviewed.

Adaptive Release Rules and Criteria

A Basic Adaptive Release rule consists of a set of criteria that defines the visibility of a content item to users. If a rule has multiple criteria, the user must meet all criteria before the item is available. Advanced Adaptive Release enables Instructors to create multiple rules for a single content item, and each rule can consist of multiple criteria.

For example, the Instructor adds a rule for an assignment to allow users in Group A to view the assignment after a specific date. This rule would consist of Membership criteria and Date criteria. Another rule for this assignment can allow all users in Group B to view the assignment once they had completed Homework #1. This rule would consist of Membership criteria and Grade Center criteria.

Note: Only one Membership criterion and one Date criterion can be created for each rule. Multiple Grade Center criteria and Review Status criteria can be added to each rule.

Adaptive Release Rules During Course Copy, Archive, and Export

Adaptive Release rules and user progress information are only included during a full Course Copy with users and during archive and restore operations. Rules and user progress information are not saved during a copy of Course materials into a new Course or during a copy of Course materials into an existing Course. They are also not saved during export and import operations.

Enable and Disable the Adaptive Release Feature

The System Administrator controls the availability of the Adaptive Release feature. If this feature is made available, Course developers can add basic or advanced Adaptive Release Rules.

If the Adaptive Release tool is disabled by the Administrator, all rules that have been created will disappear. Also, Adaptive Release related links on the Manage page will no longer appear. If the tool is later re-enabled, the links on the Manage page will reappear and any data associated with Adaptive Release (such as the rules) will be saved. Any Adaptive Release rules that had previously been set also re-appear.

Visibility of Items with Adaptive Release Rules

Once any Adaptive Release rules have been established for an item, visibility of that item is restricted to those users who meet the criteria of those rules.

For example, the Instructor creates a content item called “Introduction” in a Content Area. At this point, all Course users would be able to see Introduction. The Instructor then creates a rule restricting the item to Group A users. Now, only members of Group A can see Introduction—all other Course users do not see Introduction. Next, the Instructor adds another criterion to this rule, restricting it to Group A members who have received at least 80 points on Test #1. Now, only members of Group A who have also scored 80 or greater on Test #1 will see Introduction. All other users, including Group A members who scored less than an 80 on the Pre-Test, will not see Introduction.

If no Adaptive Release Rules have been created, the item is available to all users in the Course depending on the item availability and date restrictions set during item creation or editing.

IMPORTANT! If an adaptive release rule is created, but no criteria for it are defined, the content will display to all users. This is true even if there are other rules associated with the item. One blank criterion will allow the content display to all users.

View Availability of an Item on User Progress Page

Instructors can create one or more Adaptive Release rules to narrow the availability of a content item. It may be difficult to remember which users may access each piece of content. The User progress page displays details on the visibility of a content item and the Adaptive Release rules pertaining to it on a user-by-user basis. If Review Status is enabled for the item, an icon is displayed to show if the user has reviewed the item along with a date and time stamp for when the review was registered for that user.

If no Adaptive Release rules have been created for that item, the visibility column is based simply on availability of the item itself. For example, if the item is available, the Visible icon is displayed for all users.

Differences Between Basic Adaptive Release and Advanced Adaptive Release

Basic Adaptive Release enables Instructors to create one rule for a single item. That rule can contain multiple criteria. Advanced Adaptive Release enables Instructors to create multiple rules for a single item. If an Instructor wants to create different criteria for different users on the same item, more than one rule is needed. For example, the Instructor can set up a rule for Group A that enables these users to view Test 1 after completing Assignment A. The Instructor can set up a separate rule for Group B that enables them to see Test 1 after completing Assignment B.

Unavailable Items and Adaptive Release Rules

Item availability set on the Add Item page supersedes all Adaptive Release rules. If the item is unavailable, it is unavailable to all users regardless of any rules established. This allows Course developers to build out their rules and only make items available when they are finished with rule creation.

View Content with Rules Through the Course

If Instructors view Content Areas through the Course as a student would with Edit Mode set to OFF, their view is based on item availability and Adaptive Release rules. For example, if Adaptive Release is used to make an item available to a Group, and they are not a member of the Group, they will not see the item if they access it through the Course Menu. The same is true for unavailable items. If an item is added to a Course, but is not made available, the Instructor will not see it when they access the Content Area through the Course Menu.


Messages are private and secure text-based communication that occurs within a course and among course members. Although similar to email, you must be logged into the course to read and send messages. Using the Messages tool instead of the Email tool can also be more reliable. Problems with incorrect or out-of-date student email addresses will not affect course communication.

Students are not notified if they receive a new message, so advise them to make routine checks for new messages. Both incoming and outgoing messages are saved in the Messages tool.

Messages are organized in folders, marked as Read or Unread, moved to other folders, or deleted. The Messages area has two folders, Inbox and Sent that cannot be deleted or renamed.

Performance Dashboard

The Performance Dashboard provides Instructors with a window into all types of user activity in a Course or Organization. All users enrolled in the Course are listed, with pertinent information about that user’s progress and activity in the Course.

View the Performance Dashboard

The Performance Dashboard is accessed through the Evaluation area of the Control Panel. This page shows the following information

* Last Name
* First Name
* Username
* Role
* Last Course Access
* Days Since Last Course Access
* Review Status: Displayed only if this tool is enabled. Displays how many items have been reviewed; a detailed view of items may be opened in a new window.
* Adaptive Release: Displayed only if this tool is enabled. An overview of the Student path may be opened in a new window.
* Discussion Board: Displayed only if this tool is enabled. Provides links to the Discussion Board comments.
* Early Warning System: Shows the number of warnings and the number of total rules that may trigger a warning. Clicking on the data in this column will open the Early Warning System. The Early Warning System column will only display if the tool is turned on in the Course.
*  View Grades: Displayed only if the Grade Center is enabled. Provides links to the Grade Center: User grade List page for that user.

Users can click Print to open the page in a new window in a printer-friendly format. All applicable columns may be sorted.

Understanding the Review Status Indicator

The numbers provided in the Review Status column of the Performance Dashboard indicate the number of items that the Student has marked as Reviewed.

Using Adaptive Release rules in a Course creates multiple tracks for Students to progress through. This allows for the possibility that each Student will have a different requirement for marking certain items in a Course as Reviewed. At any time in a Course, items in a Student’s track may or may not be visible to them. The Performance Dashboard provides an at-this-moment view of the item availability and the Student’s progress on reviewing items.

The Review Status indicator links to a list of the items that the user sees as Reviewed and Mark Reviewed in the Course.

The Review Status column is only visible if Review Status has been enabled for the Course.

Link to Adaptive Release

The Adaptive Release indicator in the Performance Dashboard for each user opens the Course Menu, showing every possible item in the Course. Icons beside each item in the Course Map indicate the visibility of an item to that Course user, and the review status of any items with a review requirement, if applicable.

Adaptive Release and Review Status icons: Visible icon Visible: This item is visible to that Course user. Invisible icon Invisible: This item is not visible to that Course user. Reviewed icon Reviewed: This item has been marked as Reviewed by the Course user. Mark Reviewed icon Mark Reviewed: This item is displayed as Mark Reviewed to the Course user.

Safe Assign

SafeAssign compares submitted assignments against a set of academic papers to identify areas of overlap between the submitted assignment and existing works. Safe Assign is used to prevent plagiarism and to create opportunities to help students identify how to properly attribute sources rather than paraphrase. SafeAssign is effective as both a deterrent and an educational tool.

How SafeAssignments Work

SafeAssign is based on a unique text matching algorithm capable of detecting exact and inexact matching between a paper and source material. SafeAssignments are compared against several different databases, including:

* Internet: Comprehensive index of documents available for public access on the Internet
* ProQuest ABI/Inform database: More than 1,100 publication titles and about 2.6 million articles from 1990s to present time, updated weekly (exclusive access)
* Institutional document archives: Contains all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions
* Global Reference Database: Contains papers that were volunteered by students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism

Global Reference Database

Blackboard’s Global Reference Database is a separate database where students voluntarily donate copies of their papers to help prevent plagiarism. It is separated from each institution’s internal database, where all papers are stored by each corresponding institution, and students are free to select the option to check their papers without submitting them to the Global Reference Database. Students submit their papers to the database voluntarily and agree not to delete papers in the future. Submissions to the Global Reference Database are extra copies that are given voluntarily for the purpose of helping with plagiarism prevention. Blackboard does not claim ownership of submitted papers.

SafeAssign Originality Reports

After a paper has been processed, a report will be available detailing the percentage of text in the submitted paper that matches existing sources. It also shows the suspected sources of each section of the submitted paper that returns a match. Instructors can delete matching sources from the report and process it again. This may be useful if the paper is a continuation of a previously submitted work by the same student.

Because SafeAssign identifies all matching blocks of text, it is important to read the report carefully and investigate whether or not the block of text is properly attributed.

Interpreting SafeAssign Scores

Sentence matching scores represent the percentage probability that two phrases have the same meaning. This number can also be interpreted as the reciprocal to the probability that these two phrases are similar by chance. For example, a score of 90 percent means that there is a 90 percent probability that these two phrases are the same and a 10 percent probability that they are similar by chance and not because the submitted paper includes content from the existing source (whether or not it is appropriately attributed).

Overall score is an indicator of what percentage of the submitted paper matches existing sources. This score is a warning indicator only and papers should be reviewed to see if the matches are properly attributed.

* Scores below 15 percent: These papers typical include some quotes and few common phrases or blocks of text that match other documents. These papers typically do not require further analysis, as there is no evidence of the possibility of plagiarism in these papers.
* Scores between 15 percent and 40 percent: These papers include extensive quoted or paraphrased material or they may include plagiarism. These papers should be reviewed to determine if the matching content is properly attributed.
* Scores over 40 percent: There is a very high probability that text in this paper was copied from other sources. These papers include quoted or paraphrased text in excess and should be reviewed for plagiarism.

Grade Center Integration (more…)