Oberlin Center for Technologically Enhanced Teaching


Manage weighted grades in the grade center

The Weighted column is a type of calculated column that generates a grade based on the result of selected columns and categories, and their respective percentages. When creating a Weighted column, you can include other calculated columns or other Weighted columns.

If there isn’t a “weighted total” column in the grade center already you can create one through the  “Create Calculated Column” option.  Once you have the weighted column, you can then manage the weights for the categories there.  Item 3 for this column type allows you to select categories that you can then weight.  Push the category to the right and then add the percentage.

For more information or specific details, please refer to the Blackboard documentation on Creating and Managing Grade Center Columns.  Refer to the sections “About Weighted Columns in the Grade Center” and “How to Create Weighted Columns in the Grade Center.”


Add image (s) to a test or exam question

Question settings include options to change default point values for a test, add images, files, or external links to questions and answers, and designate questions as extra credit.

Before you can begin adding images to questions, you will need to change the test or survey’s question settings.  See Changing Question Settings for more information.


Understanding Wikis and Blogs

Wikis and Blogs are types of Social Software that enable people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through the Internet.  Other types of social software includes:

  • Instant messaging (IM)
  • Text chat
  • Wikis (wikipedia)
  • Blogs (blogger.com)
  • Social bookmarking (post a list of bookmarks for others to use–digg.com, del.icio.us)
  • Massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs)
  • Media Sharing:  Photo (flickr), Video (YouTube)
  • Social networks (MySpace, Facebook)

These tools have the potential to help educators connect what students do for fun with writing, reading, and learning content.


WIKI is an online collaboration model and tool that allows users to add/edit some content of web pages by using a simple web browser.  Wikis have an automatic revision history which allows users to track the evolution of the wiki over time.

Why would anyone use a WIKI?

  • Easy to use site with simple user interface, ability to add pages, and simple navigation
  • Students spend less time creating pages, and more time developing content
  • Allows students to collaborate on a project while sharing ideas, and providing immediate, equal access to the most recent version of the document
  • Track research and ideas from anywhere they have internet access
  • Helps save time by seeing what sources others have checked
  • Provides centralized location to collectively prepare final project



BLOG is short for weblog. A weblog is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption on the web. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site.  Some blogs allow users to comment.

  • Blogs can be used to rapidly publish new ideas and receive comments from diverse audiences
  • Create reflective or personal journals
    • Student can track progress in a course
    • Students can keep important notes handy in an online environment so that they have access wherever they have internet access
    • Instructors can provide feedback to the student using the  comment feature to guide student thinking and progress
  • To give students ownership of a personal space that encourages active engagement by the students and teacher
  • To connect with others and make connections to learning.


Understanding Copyright

Oberlin College is committed to ensuring all Oberlin College community members adhere to Copyright Law. Faculty distribute materials through Blackboard in accordance with Fair Use and:

  1. The material is only available to students that are officially registered for the course.
  2. The material is only available to those students during the period that the course is being offered.
  3. It is being used for educational purposes related to the course content

Instructors should also provide a statement in their syllabus or on the course site that indicates that:
These materials are being used under the Fair Use clause.  As such, all materials need to be deleted from the students machine/storage device after the course has been completed, and at no time can the material be distributed or made available to anyone who is not officially enrolled in the course.  This would be a clear violation of Fair Use under copyright law.

Audio/video copyright concerns:

As a policy which is based on technical, pedagogical and legal considerations, we do not distribute over the network anything that resembles a complete work e.g. high quality concert footage/audio, high resolution images, a whole book or a complete movie, show, or documentary.

However, it is clear that in the future these obstacles will be eliminated and for those items where we have very clear permission to digitize and distribute whole works over the network we will need to do so. Some of the OhioLink videos come to mind as do Oberlin faculty/student concerts.

Oberlin specific issues (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • Server space – adding full length films to our media server would catch-on quickly and thus require a large amount of disk space (much cost).
  • Network issues – feeding large files, even in the YouTube format would take up much of our bandwidth
  • Copyright – we should not be promoting or modeling practices that we are actively discouraging in our students. Furthermore, if a DVD is that integral to a course, then I see it in the same way that I see a book. It should be a required purchase by the student. If it isn’t integral, then putting on reserve, however inconvenient is the proper course of action.

How are other institutions handling copyright?

For more information:

Copyright Law:  http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html

TEACH Act:  http://www.copyright.gov/docs/regstat062701.html

United States Copyright Office:  http://www.copyright.gov/

Circular 66 Copyright Registration for online works:  http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ66.pdf

Feeling adventurous?  Check out this comic Tales from the Public Domain: BOUND BY LAW? that was created by the Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain that discusses the fine line between copyright, intellectual property and fair use.

This book is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.


Sending Email

Instructors can send email to individuals who participate in the course from the Send Email page. Emails can be sent to individual users or to groups of users within the course, such as all Teaching Assistants.


To send email from within a course:

  1. Under the Control Panel heading click Course/Organization Tools.
  2. Under Course/Organization Tools select “Send Email”.
  3. Select to whom the email will be sent.
  4. Add a subject NOTE: The subject line will be suffixed with the sending course ID. There is no way to modify this, as it provides the recipient with an easy indication that it was sent from a particular course.
  5. Add the message.
  6. Upload attachments as needed.
  7. Click Submit to send.

Click here to watch a video about sending email.

Instructors cannot send email to users who are not enrolled in Blackboard.  Emails are sent to the external email accounts listed in the personal information section for each user.



Upload multiple documents

You can add files and folders to Course Files in multiple ways, including when course content is created. All Recognized Attachment File Types can be saved to Course Files.

Note:  Students cannot upload files to Course Files. They may only browse for and attach files from their computers when participating in a course, and those files are not saved in Course Files.

You can add content in four ways:

  • Upload files and folders into Course Files, either one at a time or in batches, using the drag-and-drop function or the browse function.
  • Upload files when content is created in your course. Files uploaded from your computer using the Browse My Computer function are saved automatically in the top level folder in Course Files.
  • Create content using the Text Editor and save it as an HTML object,
  • Use WebDav for direct upload, editing, and management of files in Course Files from your computer desktop or through WebDAV capable applications.

For more information about uploading files and documents, please click here.



Add an Announcement

Announcements post timely information critical to course success. The instructor can add, edit, and delete announcements from the Announcements page. This is an ideal place to post time-sensitive material including:

  • When Assignments are due
  • Changes to the syllabus
  • Corrections/clarifications of materials
  • Exam schedules

When adding an Announcement, Instructors can also send the announcement as an email to students in the course. This ensures that students receive the announcement even if they do not log in to the course.

How to Create Announcements

Announcements will appear in the order posted, with the most recent announcements appearing first.

  1. In the Course Tools area of the Control Panel, click Announcements.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.34.55 PM
  2. From the action bar, click Create Announcement.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.35.26 PM
  3. Provide a Subject and Message.
  4. Set the Duration.Select Not Date Restricted to keep the announcement visible until it is manually removed.–OR–Select Date Restricted to limit the announcement’s visibility by date and time.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.36.56 PM
  5. If the Announcement is Date Restricted, select the Display After and/or Display Until check boxes and type the dates and times. Alternatively, use the pop-up Date Selection Calendar and the pop-up Time Selection Menu to select dates and times.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.36.34 PM
  6. Select the Override User Notification Settings check box to send students an email containing the announcement. The email will be sent to all students, even those who choose not to receive announcement notifications through email.
  7. Optionally, link to a course area, tool, or item using the Browse button.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.38.46 PM
  8. Click Submit.

Click here to watch a video on creating announcements.

Click here for more information on posting announcements.


The table below details the fields on the Add Announcement Page and Modify Announcement page.




Enter a subject for the announcement. This will appear as the title of the announcement.


Enter the announcement by either typing directly into the field or copy and paste text from another word processing document.

Permanent Announcement

Select Yes to create a permanent Announcement. This Announcement is automatically displayed after the time and date it is created. There is no end date for this Announcement, unless the Display Until option is selected.

Choose date restrictions

Use these options to display an Announcement for a specific period of time. Select the date the Announcement begins in Display After and the date the Announcement ends in Display Until.

Override User Notification Settings

Use this option to Send Email to all users even those that choose not to receive Announcement notifications through email.

Link Location

Click Browse to locate content in the course to link to the Announcement. If the link points to a content item that is not available the link will not appear in the Announcement until the content is available.

Note that removing the content will remove the link to the content in the Announcement but The Announcement itself will remain.


Uploading Questions to a Quiz or Survey

You can create your questions off-line and upload them into Blackboard.  However, questions in the file must conform to a specific structure to be uploaded to an Assessment successfully. Each field in the file is separated by a tab. Each row is a separate question.

The upload feature relies on TAB delineation—so I would suggest using EXCEL and “save as” a tab-delimited file (.txt).

Directions for formatting questions:

Question Type


Begin line with:

Multiple Choice MC<tab>question<tab>answer 1<tab>”correct” or “incorrect”<tab>(continue with other answers).
Multiple Answer MA<tab>question<tab>answer 1<tab>”correct” or “incorrect”<tab>(additional answers).
True/False TF<tab>question<tab>either “true” or “false”
Ordering ORD<tab>question<tab>answers in correct order separated by <tab>

  • Can have up to 20 items, each separated by <tab>
  • System will randomize the order.
Matching MAT<tab>question<tab>answer 1<tab>match 1<tab>(other answers and matches separated by <tab>)

  • Can have up to 20 matched items, each separated by <tab>
  • Must have same number of answers and matches.
  • System will randomize the order
Fill in the Blank FIB<tab>question<tab>answer 1<tab>(continue with each of the answers allowed, separated by <tab>)

  • Maximum number of acceptable answers is 20.
Short Response SR <tab> question <tab> sample_answer
Opinion/Likert Scale OP <tab> question
Essay ESS<tab>question<tab>suggested answer

  • Must provide a suggested answer
  • Answer may be abbreviated


  1. When entering text, do not type the < >; press the TAB key when <tab> is indicated.  In Excel, pressing the TAB key advances you to the next cell in the row.
  2. Do not use the “quotation marks” for MC or MA questions—just type correct or incorrect for each answer given.
  3. Do not use the “quotation marks” for TF questions—just type true or false.
  4. Questions that are imported into a Survey may not include correct and incorrect answers.Sample Spreadsheet:
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.08.11 PM
                          (Click to enlarge) 
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.09.52 PM

When you are ready to upload questions:

  1. Select the “Edit Mode On” button in the top right hand corner of the site.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 4.10.50 PM
  2. In the course go under the Control Panel heading and select > Course/Organization Tools.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.52.00 PM
  3. Click “Test, Surveys and Pools”.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.52.43 PM
  4. Click Test or Survey and then select Build Test or Build Survey.
      Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.53.21 PM
  5. Name and describe the test and provide instructions and then select Submit.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.54.29 PM
                         (Click to enlarge)
  6. The next screen will display a horizontal action bar and one of the buttons is called “Upload Questions”.  Click this button.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.57.27 PM
  7. Browse for the file that contains the questions and select it.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.10.11 PM
  8. Set default point value (if most questions have same point value) and submit.  Now you can import the questions.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.09.27 PM
  9. You will be able to modify and remove questions in this uploaded assessment just as in a Blackboard-created exam.

For more information on uploading questions, click here.



Discussion Boards

What is a discussion board?

  • An online tool to help encourage students to discuss, reflect, & collaborate on a topic of interest.
  • The Discussion Board enables threaded, asynchronous discussions.
  • Students post messages in response to writing prompts, or respond to other students’ messages.

Why Use a Discussion Board?

  • provides an alternative source of interaction with the content for students who may not participate in class
  • promotes the opportunity for students & instructor to interact outside of the classroom setting
  • improved discussion aids the learning process
  • creates an opportunity to practice writing skills
  • improves critical thinking skills
  • enables anywhere or anytime discussion–not limited by the classroom

For more information about the Discussion Board, click here.

Discussion Board Basics

  • Instructors can set up multiple forums around different topics and embed them in appropriate content areas or lessons.
  • Instructors can determine whether students can modify, delete, post anonymously, and/or include attachments.
  • Forums can be sorted/viewed by thread, author, date, or subject and are allows you to search.
  • Instructors can assign students to “moderate” discussions.


Basic steps to create a Discussion Board

  1. Click the “Edit Mode On” button in the top right hand corner of the site.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 4.10.50 PM
  2. Under the Control Panel, click “Course/OrganizationTools”.
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  3. Under Course/Organization Tools, select “Discussion Board”.  You should see the name of your course/org.  Click the title.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 4.11.20 PM
  4. In the upper left corner, click the “Create Forum” button.   The instructor must create a forum in order for participants to use a discussion board.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 4.11.58 PM
  5. Create the Forum:   a.)  give it a name and description;   b.) determine settings (see below for suggestions)
    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.08.26 PM
  6. Click submit and the discussion board will be created.    It should appear in the list of forums.  Clicking the down arrows to the right of the forum name will give you a list of options that you can perform.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.10.21 PM
  7. Once you create the forum for the discussion board, you will need to make sure that students have access to it.  You can create a tool link in the Main Menu for the Discussion Board, or you can link to a particular discussion board in a content area.  You can access the Discussion Board from the Tools link on the Course Menu and from the Control Panel. You may also add a customized link to the Course Menu and to a course area. When you provide a link to the Discussion Board in a course area, students can access the tool alongside other course content.

To watch a video on creating a discussion board forum click here.

To watch a video on creating a discussion board thread click here.


Suggestions for Forum Settings in the Discussion Board

The following list describes the settings you can select for various types of forum requirements.

  • If you want to create effective social forums, select the Allow Anonymous Posts and No Grading in Forum options. Allowing students to post anonymously is important at the beginning of a course when they are still becoming comfortable with discussions. If quality is a concern, assign a Moderator to review each post before it is made public. To learn about moderating the Discussion Board, see How to Control Discussion Board Content (Moderating).
  • If you want to create forums where students have control of the discussion, allow them to edit, delete, and rate posts. Also, you can allow students to create new threads and direct the discussion.
  • If you want to have a tightly controlled forum, select the Force Moderation of Posts and Grade Forum or Grade Threads options. To ensure students focus on the existing threads, do not allow the creation of new threads.
  • When you want your students to focus on the existing threads, do not select Allow Members to Create New Threads.
  • If you allow authors to edit their published posts, consider locking the thread. Locked posts cannot be changed after they are graded.
  • Some settings cannot be selected in combination. For example, if you are grading forums or threads, anonymous posts are not allowed. Also, if thread grading is enabled, members cannot create new threads.

Suggested Settings:

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.08.40 PM

To watch a video on changing discussion board forum settings click here.



I saved my reply instead of submitting it in a discussion board, but now neither my instructor nor I can find it.  Is it gone or can I retrieve it?

  • As long as you saved it, it has not disappeared.  You will need to get back into the discussion board where you saved the thread/reply.  At the top you should see a “Display” option which is probably set to “Published” by default.  You will need to click the down arrow and select “Show All” from the list and be sure to click the “GO” button next to it.  Your posting should appear with (draft) next to the title of the thread.  Simply click on the thread to open it up, and then you can submit it when you are ready.

My students say they have posted threads in a discussion board, but neither of us can see it?  What is happening?

  • Check the settings for the discussion board.  If this is happening, the “force moderation of posts” option in the parameters for the discussion board has been selected.  When an instructor selects this option, it means that the posts will not appear to the class until they are “released” by a moderator.  By default the instructor is the moderator, but anyone within the course can be designated as moderator.  To find the posts, you’ll need to go into the discussion board.  Once there, you should see a button in the action bar called “moderate forum” just above the search/date area.  If you click on this you can than see the various posts from students.  Click the moderate button on the right and you can either publish it or return it to the student with comments.  Click submit, and it will be moderated appropriately.  You should also be able to change the option in the original discussion board settings by clicking “modify” and then unchecking the option.

I’m having trouble opening an attachment in a discussion board. Why is this occurring?

  • Look at the actual file name.  If it contains any strange characters such as extra periods or number signs, than the computer may not recognize what type of file it is.
  • Recommendation 1: Do not use periods within the name of a file to separate words.  Use underscores instead.  Extra periods cause problems because the computer thinks that the info after the first period is the type of file, and it then doesn’t understand how to view or use it.
  • Recommendation 2: Do not use strange characters in the file names.  When students use strange characters in the file name, the computer becomes confused and may have trouble interpreting the file type .  NEVER use any strange characters, such as #, *, &, ?, >, ” when creating the name of a file.
  • FIX: Be sure the student has copy/pasted their reply into a word document, and then remove the post.  The student will need to create a new reply and paste their response.  The student should also rename their file and attach the renamed file to the thread.  This should correct the problem.


Collect electronic files using the Assignment Feature

The assignment feature is a tool that instructors can use to collect electronic work from students. The instructor creates one assignment for all students to access and the work can be graded through the grade center.  Because of its ease of use and the fact that it ties assignments to students in the grade center, this is the recommended tool for collecting digital assignments.

Benefits of using the Assignment Feature:

  • The Instructor does not have to create a separate line entry in the grade book–it is done when the assignment is created.
  • The Instructor can upload a file to include with the assignment.
  • Any file type can be uploaded, just remember that students need to be able to open the file.
  • Students can upload a file to “turn-in” the assignment.
  • The Instructor can upload additional files, provide feedback, and grade the assignment in one location.
  • Instructors can provide immediate feedback to students.
  • The information is retained as long as the course exists, or as long as you have an archived copy.

How to Create an Assignment in a Course Area

Download “Getting Started with Assignments” (pdf) or create an assignment with the following instructions:

*To view the image below larger, click on it to open its page and then click on it again to make it larger*

  1. Change Edit Mode to ON.
  2. Access a Content Area (such as course documents), Learning Module, Lesson Plan, or folder.
  3. On the Action Bar, point to Create Assessment to access the drop-down list.
  4. Select Assignment.Making an assignment
  5. On the Create Assignment page, type a Name.
  6. Type Instructions. You can use the Text Editor functions to format the text and include files, images, external links, multimedia and mashups. Any files uploaded from your computer are saved in Course Files. Attachments uploaded using the Text Editor can be launched in a new window and can include alternate text to describe the attachment.
  7. You can add files in the Assignment Files section. To upload a file from your computer, click Browse My Computer. The attached file will display with the assignment link in the course area.
  8. Type the Points Possible.
  9. The assignment is available by default, but you can make it unavailable by clearing the check box for Make the Assignment Available. Select the number of attempts allowed.
  10. Set the Due Date.
  11. Select Recipients. Selecting All Students Individually requires each student to submit the assignment. Selecting Groups of Students enables you to select a group to receive one assignment that they will submit for one collective grade.
  12. Click Submit. The assignment appears in the course area.


When you create a new assignment, it resides only in the course area where you created it. If you delete an assignment from a course area, it is permanently removed from the system.

Next Steps

This section provided basic information on assignment creation. To learn more about assignment options, settings, and grading, see Assignments.


Download submissions:

  1. Once the student submits a paper, faculty can access it in the control panel by clicking into the grade center.
  2. Click Full Grade Center and look for the assignment (column)–you will see an exclamation point for any submissions in that column.
  3. To view what students have “turned-in,” go to the assignment column and click on the pair of drop-down arrows to the right of the column title.
  4. From the drop-down menu select “Assignment File Download”.
  5. Select which files to download. You can select individual students (check one box), multiple students (check multiple boxes), or all students who have submitted files (check box in header row).
  6. Click submit.
  7. Click the DOWNLOAD ASSIGNMENTS NOW link and save the zip file to your computer.

Click here to watch a video about downloading assignments.