“Answer any 3 questions” — how to

There are times that you’d like to offer a quiz to your students where they can answer — as an example — 3 of the 5 presented essay questions. Or, maybe, 5 of 7 short answer questions. You’d like to allow the student to skip over some of the questions.

Turns out, that’s kinda easy to do in Blackboard.

First of all, set up your quiz as you normally do. And this will work with question sets, as an additional bonus.

Deploy your quiz in your course.

Now that it’s deployed, you have a column in the grade center. Go to that column and select “Edit Column Information”.

Look for the “Points Possible” section. If you included five 2 point short answer, there would be an automatic 10 in that area.


Tick the box for “Manually override the calculated total” — that will let you set the total grade to any number you want.


So if you want to have the students answer 3 of the 5 questions, you can enter a 6 in the box.

You do have to decide what to do when (not if!) a student answers 5 out of 5 questions. Is it extra credit? Do you take the 3 ‘best’ answers and ignore 2 wrong answers? Do you ignore the last 2 questions? You have a number of options, but you should make a decision about what you will be comfortable with, and include that as part of the instructions, right up front. It’s easier to do that grading, if you know what you will be doing with those extra answers.


Article on ADA Compliance for Online Courses

For anyone that’s truly familiar with ADA compliance, there’s not a lot new here, but it’s a nice summary of some of the things one can do to help make your courses accessible.

The ‘scary’ part of the article is the list of colleges that have received civil rights complaints about inaccessible information. There are some big names there; students are not bashful about ensuring they can get access to the information they are entitled to!

I had a students with a disability in the summer, which forced me to look at some of the elements of my course and to adjust them to make them accessible. I was lucky since I had only a few (okay, and known!) elements that needed attention.

The changes I had to make were good ones, and helpful to all the students in the course.

Before you’re in the position of having to deal with a required accessibility update, you might want to check out this article from Educause.

ADA Compliance for Online Course Design

The list of “20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course” at the end of the article is useful. Each tip has links to more in-depth information.

The Online Learning Office has staff to assist you in evaluating your course, and can assist you with needed changes. Contact them at GCCOnline@genesee.edu. Or contact the Disability Services office, found in the Center for Academic Progress. There are great staff in both places!

Public Domain Images from the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently placed over 200,000 images of the collection in the public domain.

Images designated as “Public Domain” can be used — at no charge and with no paperwork — as you wish. Images can be used for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

In poking through the collection, it’s several lifetime’s worth of work. Some person (most likely persons) has posed and captured each of the items in the Met’s catalog, whether the item is currently on display or not.

More information an a link to the collection can be found on the Met’s web site: http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-met/policies-and-documents/image-resources

And, my own irreverent use of this new policy!


Managing Maintenance Days

patienceAs a reminder, Monday, February 20 (Presidents’ Day holiday) is a full maintenance day. All systems will be offline from 7 AM to 7 PM. If you gain access during this time, you may be cut off without warning.

We are planning out on a work-around to allow for Blackboard access during times like this, but that’s not in place yet. Since Blackboard is now hosted at Open SUNY (i.e. off campus), that part of the system is available. The issue is that the authentication (i.e. usernames and passwords) are stored on site in Batavia. As a result, Blackboard is up and running but there’s no way to log in.

By the next major maintenance, which would be October, we’ll have an alternative login site available so that you can log into Blackboard. The Library will still not be available, but just Blackboard being available will be helpful.

It’s useful for faculty to make sure your students have something to ‘do’ on that day. A number of students may have the day off from work and will plan to ‘catch up’ on the work they may be behind on. Help them be prepared for the maintenance so they can be productive.

My list of things you can suggest students do:

  • catch up on reading; point out textbook chapters that should be read
  • set up a reading list of online materials and indicate students should download/print the list (the rest of the internet isn’t going to be closed!)
  • if you have tests/quizzes that are not one-time-only or timed, encourage students to download/print the quiz so they can enter their answers later
  • point out discussion entries that may be due; students can write their responses offline and enter them later
  • point out what part of an upcoming writing assignment can be prepped offline; what non-digital non-Genesee materials will they still have access to
  • students who have their Genesee email set up on a mobile device will still be able to access their Genesee email; but you can’t count on everyone having access to that
  • if you use a publisher web site, can your students access that without Blackboard? If they can, remind them how it can be done

You don’t have to work hard to help your students be productive… just give it some thought!

Date Management Issues

Yet another known bug… 😦

Due dates on tests and assignments may not show up in the “To Do” module in your course. to-do-2

You’ve entered ‘due dates’ on your quizzes and assignments, but they will not show in the To Do module.

To get them to show — at least until the bug is fixed (and we’re hoping for November) — is to enter dates through the grade center.

Go to the Full Grade Center, click on the drop-down for your grade column and select “Edit Column Information.”


You need to somehow edit the existing due date. If you need to keep the same due date, delete what it there, submit, go back into Edit Column Information and re-add it. Or, you can change the date and submit that.


Dates edited through the Edit Column Information screen should now show in the To Do module. (No guarantees!)

Questions? Do ask!

Issue with closed discussions

As of 10/12/16, there is a known problem with accessing closed discussions.

If you click on a closed discussion, whether it is a future discussion or a past discussion, you will get an “Access Denied” message.


The red error message is quite intimidating, isn’t it? 🙂

This is a known issue that is hoped to be fixed in the November updates, but we won’t know anything until then.

You have 2 options if you are looking to grade a closed discussion.

You can use the “grade” option that is available through the drop-down Action Menu. That gives you access to individual student entries and you can see what each student wrote in the discussion. You can enter a grade in that area.


However, the “grade” option does not give you the discussion entries in context.

If you want to see the discussion entries in context, your only option is to re-open the discussion (i.e. take off the end date), while you grade.

As an option, to keep the open time to a minimum and yet allow you to work at your own pace, you can Collect the contents of the entire discussion for offline reading. Select all the threads, then click on the word “Collect”. In the collect options, select “Thread Order” and then you can Print (or Print to PDF for a digital reading option). You can then re-close the discussion while you read the entries in context, at your leisure.


If you need any help with this, contact your favorite Blackboard help person for assistance!

Emailing Your Class

There are 2 relatively simple ways to send an email message to your students.

Using Banner Self Service

In Banner Self Service, go to Faculty Services and then to your Summary Class List and then to the bottom — look for the button that says “Display Email List” and click it.


You will get a new text window with a list of student email addresses. Simply copy that and paste it into the “To:” line of your email message.

(For full time faculty that are used to the “Email Class” button — that way only worked for folk who had Outlook installed on their computers. Adjunct faculty have never had that option… this process lets everyone have easier access to the email list!)

Using Blackboard

You don’t even have to make your course available to students to do this!

Go into your Blackboard course and click on the “+” sign in the upper left and select “Tool Link”


From there, type in the word “Email” on the top line, and then select “Email” from the list… make sure both lines say “Email” before you click Submit.


You now have an “Email” link in your menu (it goes to the bottom by default — it can stay there if you’re not using Blackboard with your students).

Click on the Email link in the menu and then on “All Users” — that will open a window where you can send your message. It automatically goes to all active students in your course (it does not go to students who have dropped your course).


Let me know if you have any questions!