“It’s broke”

As you know, I also work on the Help Desk, and try to help folk with whatever their computer-related problems are. Sometimes, it’s as simple as reminding folk about the steps to take, sometimes I have to refer folk to someone else… but sometimes….

Let’s try something from your point of view for a moment.

What do you do when a student doing poorly comes to you (or you drag them into your office) and, when pushed, the student finally admits, “I don’t get it.”

You internally sigh, and ask back, “Don’t get what?”

The student then flails a bit and says something along the lines of, “None of it!”

You then really sigh, sit the student down, and start to back-track. “Okay, let’s go back a week, did you understand [last week’s topic]?” You continue to poke around within the last week (or month) of material to try to identify where the student stopped understanding what you were trying to do. Sometimes, the problem goes back far enough that it’s daunting, or sometimes there’s a fundamental topic / process / concept that the student did not understand (or read or do the homework for or whatever) and, once you go back to that, the student does that “oh!” thing, and then everyone feels better.

Well, that also happens on the help desk. We get a lot of requests (thank you!) that have the details we need to help, but there are calls with “it’s broke” and essentially nothing else.

So when we come back with questions about your problem, we do need you to work with us to be able to help you.

If nothing else, give the “who, what, where, when and why” details. Just because we’re the help desk, doesn’t mean we’re experts on what you do every day — there are lots of things we don’t know. The more information you can give up front, the better we can help you!



Organizing your Course List

Question came up about organizing the course list by sorting out courses and removing older/not needed courses.

Which prompted me to write some help desk documentation!

You can find that here: http://hd.genesee.edu/organizing-your-course-listing/ 

If you are both teaching and taking courses, the sections you teach will appear above the sections you are taking.

Otherwise, this information is useful to both instructors and students! Feel free to share!

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:   https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Assignments/Grade_Assignments/Crocodoc_to_New_Box_View 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.