Assignment Tool Update

Scheduled for Wednesday, December 20 between midnight and 7:00 am, SUNY will be updating our Blackboard system. Blackboard will not be available during that time.

The major component that will be updated will be in the Assignment Tool. Croc-o-doc, the system that allows for online grading of assignments, is being replace by Box.

Information on the upgrade can be found here: There is a summary of the major differences on that page.

This is a good news/bad news sort of upgrade. There will be a few additional features, and there’s a chance that something you liked will be going away.

This is a required upgrade since Croc-o-doc is being de-commissioned and will not be available at all after January 15, 2018.





Date Management

If you’re anything like me, anything that’s important in your course has a date on it. Sometimes just a ‘due’ date, but often availability dates.

The Date Management tool is one way to manage all of your course dates in one place.

In Course Tools go to Date Management. The first time into the tool, you get this Select Date Adjustment Option.


I mostly just select the “list all dates for review” but when you have eager students who will be confused by past-due tests and such, doing the “use course start date” is a good option to move all your dates forward auto-magically. You can then edit dates as you need.

It takes a couple of minutes to run, but then you get a list of all your course dates.


The first date column is “Due Date” the second column is “Availability Starts” and the third column is “Availability Ends” — you can manage all three date options for all your elements that have dates from this one location. The image is for discussions, but this can be on Tests, Assignments, and even Items. If an element has at least one of the three types of dates assigned to it, it shows up in this list.

It’s still faintly tedious. You have to click on the pencil at the end, update the date and time for each element and then submit… but it certainly beats having to go into the multiple sections of your course and “edit” the elements individually. Everything shows up here in one place.

Conversely, if an element does not have a date, it will not show up in this list. You do need to go and put a date on it in the course, but there is an option to “Run Date Management Again” and you’ll get the options on that first image. Just select “list all dates for review” and you’ll be all set!

Managing Your Course List

Now that we’ve been on Blackboard hosted at Open SUNY for almost a year (!), it’s time to review how to manage your Course List.

On the My Courses page in Blackboard, look for the top line and point your cursor at the far right end until a letter “S” appears (highlighted in yellow). Click on it.


In that page, click the ticky box in front of “group by term”


You can Submit and quit there, but the cool thing is setting up an order, and turning off old terms from the list.


Point your cursor to the front of the row (where the yellow highlight is) and you can click and drag the semesters in the order you want. That way, Spring 2107 (17SP) can be at the top.

You can “Select all/Unselect all” to turn older semesters off. In this example, Summer 2016 is no longer viewable in my list. If I want it back, I can turn it back on right here.

When you’re finished, click the Submit button and you’re all set!

Once you have set up the Group By Term, it stays on wherever you log in.

If you need help, let us know and we’ll be glad to help you out!

Adding Your Own Videos to Your Course

Videos can be very useful in supporting your instruction. And while there’s lots of ‘stuff’ ‘out there’, sometimes you simple need/want to do it yourself.

What we do ask is that you do not upload the video file itself into your course. At some point, space is not the final frontier and not limitless. Even in Star Trek, there were references to “the edge of the galaxy”…

This is especially important if you want to use the same video in several sections. And then you ‘roll’ the course to a new semester, and that (relatively tiny) 25 MB video file is now on the server in a dozen locations. It adds up.

We request that you upload your videos to a video hosting service, and it does not have to be You Tube! Genesee has space on an “Ensemble” hosting service, which is a lot more private than YouTube.

There is a ‘hook’ between Ensemble and Blackboard, so that once your video is uploaded to Ensemble, it’s a simple task to put the video into your course(s).

Instructions on how to do this here: ensemblevideoandblackboard (PDF file!)

If you have questions, or need an Ensemble account, do let me know!

Unexpected “Needs Grading” on Quizzes

There was a question asked about quizzes that unexpectedly appeared in the “Needs Grading” queue. The quizzes had only multiple choice questions, the due date had not passed and yet the quizzes had been flagged as “needs grading” — which means the instructor needs to ‘touch’ every quiz.

It was only a couple of quizzes but that made it seem even more random. Why these quizzes and not others?

The answer turns out to be “system working as (badly) designed.”

The combination needed is that you have a time limit on a quiz and do not have the Auto-Submit turned on. If a student takes longer than the time limit, the quiz is automatically placed in the “needs grading” queue for you to do whatever you want (if you want).


There’s no indicator in the “needs grading” queue, but if you open the “Test Information” section, you can see Time Elapsed and there is the Over Time flag… it would be nice if that also showed in the “needs grading” queue so you knew what was going on.

You Tube Woes

If you’ve been working on your course and tried to use the You Tube Mashup tool, you’ve run into problems. Not pretty. It’s a known problem and there’s no information on if it’s going to be fixed.

This tool:

YouTubeMashupGives you this error message:


Well, drat that…

What to do?

Here are the work-around instructions: Embedding a YouTube Video in Blackboard

It’s a few more steps, but it’s not hard!

Questions? Do ask!

Your Test Student(s)

There now actually are 2 test students that you can use in your course! How’s that for confusing?  ::grin::

Your New Test Student

The ‘new’ test student is actually pretty cool, since it requires no setup, no logging out or changing browsers. Look for the “eye” at the top of your course and click on it to go into Student Mode. And this is a real student mode – you see your course exactly like your students see your course.


When you exit, you have a chance to delete any interactions you did, but there are two “gotcha’s” for that. (My opinion – and that and $1 may buy me a cup of coffee! – is to leave the interactions in.)

  • First of all, it kind of defeats the purpose of being a student and getting test results and such into the grade book. You want to keep those interactions so you can see how grades accumulate. It gives me a user named “Heider_PreviewUser” in my gradebook.
  • The second is that if you respond to a discussion and then a real student replies to the test student, deleting the test student interactions also deletes the real student entry… kind of a pain…

As long as the yellow “Student Preview Mode” text bar is there, you’re in Student mode; you can move between your sections (using the dropdown next to the “H” at the top) while remaining in student mode!

The Old Test Student

The ‘old’ student mode is still available. That means the mheider_s user is still available to me.

If you prefer to use that, you have to add the test student to your course in the Tools, make sure you know the password (you reset the password in the same place). Then either log yourself out of Blackboard or – better – open a different browser and log in as the student user.

BUT!!! Remember, that the heider_s person cannot use the yellow Genesis login button! You need to use the ‘hidden’ button next to the question mark at the top of the login page. On that vanilla Blackboard login page, you can log in as your test student.


This has come a long way and is very cool!

If you try them both, you’ll have 2 test students in your gradebook, don’t forget. The two methods don’t talk to each other – which can be good or bad – and you have to deal with them separately.

If you have questions, you know where I live!