Instructors

Blackboard Instructor – New Mobile App Available!

Blackboard recently announced the availability of a new mobile app, designed specifically for instructors.  The new app, named “Blackboard Instructor”, is compatible with HuskyCT and available for iOS 9.0+ and Android 4.2+.

Blackboard Instructor makes it easy for instructors to collaborate with students on the go!

Currently, the app supports the following features:

  • View courses for available terms
  • Preview course items, assignments, and tests (includes a student preview and major settings – view only)
  • Create and participate in discussions
  • Create a send announcements
  • Interact with your class in Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard plans to update the app continuously via monthly releases.  Some of the upcoming new features planned for release in 2017/18 include:

  • Assignment grading (limited at first), including inline preview and annotations
  • Managing content settings (e.g. Availability, Due Dates, etc.)

For those instructors looking for grading functionality, Blackboard offers the Bb Grader app for iPad devices.

Help References:
Quick Start for Blackboard Instructor
Latest Features and Detailed Product Information
Best Practices for Mobile-Friendly Courses

 

Course Navigation Menu Collapses Unexpectedly

HuskyCT users may notice the course navigation menu is collapsing unexpectedly on some devices and browsers.  A recent software update, intended to address responsive design goals, has resulted in this unintended side-effect.

The described behavior exists under the following conditions:

  • Display resolution is 1024 x 768 (or lower)
  • Web browser window has been minimized to 1024 pixels wide (or less)
  • Mobile browser (including iPad, Smartphone and Tablet)

In the below illustration, the course navigation menu is fully collapsed.  Its contents reduced to a thin vertical line, making it nearly impossible to effectively navigate the course.

course-nav-collapsed

Despite a lack of visual clues, the course navigation menu can be expanded again by hovering your mouse over the collapsed menu (far right edge of the browser window).  The vertical bar’s color will change and a small tab containing a single arrow icon will be visible (illustrated below).  Clicking on the arrow tab will temporarily expand the navigation menu.

course-nav-expand-option

Clicking on a content area from the navigation menu (e.g. Announcements, Course Content, etc.), will result in the menu collapsing again 🙁

We’ve confirmed with Blackboard support that this new responsive feature cannot be disabled.  However, support has acknowledged it as a software defect and we expect they will provide a solution in one of our upcoming updates.

Alas, for most, all is not lost… 

On mobile devices, users can transition to one of HuskyCT’s mobile apps (available here for iOS, Android or Windows).  Mobile browsers have been somewhat effective in the past, however Blackboard has indicated they’re not officially supported.

Assuming the display support it, users on non-mobile devices can try increasing their screen resolution to a value greater than 1024 x 768.  If desktop and application rendering becomes difficult to read, try increasing the browser zoom and/or display icon/font sizes.

We’ll update this post when the issue has been fully resolved by the vendor.

Optimizing Course Lists in HuskyCT

After several semesters in HuskyCT, instructors may find their list of courses has become overwhelming.  In this post, we’ll review two common techniques for organizing the “My HuskyCT Classes” list.

To get started, we’ll first need to access the appropriate settings:

  • On the “My Courses” tab, hover your mouse over the “My HuskyCT Classes” module.  This will reveal a Gear icon in the upper right corner of the module box (shown below).
    initial-course-listing
  • Click on the Gear icon to access the settings page (aka Personalization page).

There are two main sections of the settings page which we’ll focus on in this post; Terms and Edit Course List.  The Terms section is used for organizing/grouping HuskyCT courses based on academic terms.  Below is an illustration of how the module displays courses grouped by term.  Note that a toggle is available to expand/collapse all courses grouped within a specified academic term.

group-by-term-view

The above is accomplished using the following steps:

  • On the module settings page, check the box labeled “Group by Term” (located under the Terms section).
  • All available terms will be listed once the “Group by Term” box is checked.
  • By default, all terms are displayed and the groups fully expanded.  You can optionally choose to deselect specific terms or set them to collapse automatically, by deselecting the appropriate checkbox(s).
  • Click the Submit button when finished.

To further organize the course list, HuskyCT users may elect to hide individual courses altogether or include/exclude additional details (e.g. Course ID, Course Name, Instructor and Announcements).  To do this, follow these steps:

  • Under the section Edit Course List, uncheck the box to the left of each listed course.  This will hide those courses entirely from the course list.  Commonly, instructors choose to do this with child sections of combined courses.
  • The check boxes to the right of course are used to include/exclude additional course information.  Note that enabling any option to the right of the course, will result in the course appearing in the list – even if it was deselected earlier.
  • When finished, click the Submit button.

The “My Non-Class Sites” list can also be organized using the above steps.  The only difference is that some non-class sites do not support academic terms.  Thus, the option for grouping by term is not available.  Still, users can hide non-class sites and/or customize the additional details displayed with the non-class site.

 

Student Access to Unavailable Courses (Prior Terms)

Approximately two weeks after the academic term ends, students will lose access to your course (assuming you have not set a later end date).  Additionally, four weeks after the term ends, student enrollment is set to unavailable (applies to courses where the end date has passed).  This is done to remove those courses from the students view in HuskyCT, which would otherwise be filled with older, inaccessible courses.

There may be times when a student receives an incomplete in your course.  If you choose to re-open the course for a period of time to this student, please follow these steps:

  1. Under Customization -> Properties, set a new desired end date for the course.  Click Submit.course-end-date
  2. Next, under Users and Groups -> Users, click the down-arrow next to the student requiring access, then choose Change User’s Availability.  This is only necessary if the student’s Availability is set to No (last column in the roster view has this value).
    activate-enrollment
  3. On the next screen, set the Availability to Yes.  Click Submit.

The student(s) will now have access to the course until the end date specified in Step 1.

If you have questions or difficulty granting access to a student, please contact huskyct@uconn.edu

Please note that if a student contacts HuskyCT (or the UITS Help Center), to re-establish access in a course, we will always confirm with the instructor before making the above changes.

Uploading Your Profile Picture

Students and instructors now have access to upload a profile picture in HuskyCT.

Profile pictures are displayed as thumbnail images throughout HuskyCT, including:

  • My Courses
  • Notifications Dashboard
  • Discussions, Blogs and Journals
  • Grade Center
  • BbStudent Mobile App

Uploading a profile photo is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. To get started, click the down-arrow next to your name, located in the upper right corner of the browser window.  This will open the global navigation menu.
  2. Next, navigate to Settings -> Personal Information -> Personalize My Settings
  3. Under the section Avatar Image, click “Use custom avatar image” and select a file on your local device using the “Browse My Computer” button.  Don’t forget to click Submit and save your changes 🙂

NOTE: The recommended size for a profile photo is 150 pixels by 150 pixels (larger images will be clipped).  HuskyCT will support images in .jpg or .png format.

Course Archive and Export

HuskyCT allows instructors to create on-demand backups of courses.  Course exports and archives are useful in the event individual course materials need to be restored.

The Export/Archive Course utility can create course Archives and Exports.  Both options generate a zip file containing materials contained in your course.  The Archive option has the additional capability of including student data (e.g. submissions, attempts and grades).

It is recommended that instructors create a course Archive after students complete high-stakes exams, assignments, etc.  Course Exports are recommended before making significant changes to course structure or materials.

The Export/Archive Course utility does not negatively impact your course in any way.  No data is changed and the course remains available to users throughout the process.  Most exports/archives complete within a few minutes, however larger courses may take additional time.

Course exports and archives are stored on the server temporarily (typically less than seven days).  Instructors should always plan to download their export/archive files for storage locally [on their device].

It is important to note that no user accessible items are contained in the archive or export.  Therefore, users should not attempt to open downloaded course exports/archives.  Doing so, may lead to corruption or loss of data.  If you need a course archive/export restored, contact a HuskyCT System Administrator at huskyct@uconn.edu.

Below are detailed instructions for creating course Archives and Exports.

Archive Course

To archive a course:

  1. Log into HuskyCT.
  2. Click on the course link to be archived (e.g. BIOL-1108, GEOG-1200, STAT-1000Q).
  3. On the left navgiation menu, under Control Panel, expand the section Packages and Utilities.
  4. Click on Export/Archive Course (shown below).course archive export options
  5. On the Export/Archive Course screen, choose the top menu item Archive Course (shown below).course archive export options
  6. On the Archive Course screen, under the Select Copy Sections heading, check the box next to Include Grade Center History (shown below).course archive export options
  7. Next, under the File Attachments heading, select the options to “Copy links and include copies of the files in the course default directory” AND copy only links to files outside of the course default directory” (shown below).course archive export options
  8. Next, click the Calculate Size This will give you an indication of the file size associated with your course archive.
  9. Click the Submit button to initiate the archiving process.
  10. A marquee at the top of the page should display, letting you know the archive has started (shown below).course archive export options
  11. The archive will be available after you receive a successful email notification from HuskyCT.
  12. To download the completed course archive (zip file), navigate back to Export/Archive Course (see step 4) and click on the link corresponding to your latest archive (shown below). Note: filenames include the HuskyCT Course ID and Date/Time.course archive export options
  13. When prompted by your browser, choose the option to Save File.

Export Course

To export a course:

  1. Log into HuskyCT.
  2. Click on the course link to be exported (e.g. BIOL-1108, GEOG-1200, STAT-1000Q).
  3. On the left navgiation menu, under Control Panel, expand the section Packages and Utilities.
  4. Click on Export/Archive Course (shown below).course archive export options
  5. On the Export/Archive Course screen, choose the top menu item Export Package (shown below).course archive export options
  6. Next, under the File Attachments heading, select the options to “Copy links and include copies of the files in the course default directory” AND copy only links to files outside of the course default directory” (shown below).course archive export options
  7. Next, click the Calculate Size This will give you an indication of the file size associated with your course archive.
  8. Lastly, under the Select Course Materials heading, click the Select All button (shown below). Doing so, will automatically select all the necessary checkboxes for a complete course export.course archive export options
  9. Click the Submit button to initiate the export process.
  10. A marquee at the top of the page should display, letting you know the archive has started (shown below).course archive export options
  11. The export will be available after you receive a successful email notification from HuskyCT.
  12. To download the completed course export (zip file), navigate back to Export/Archive Course (see step 4) and click on the link corresponding to your latest export (shown below). Note: filenames include the HuskyCT Course ID and Date/Time.course archive export options
  13. When prompted by your browser, choose the option to Save File.

HuskyCT Transition to Cloud Services

HuskyCT is moving to Blackboard’s cloud-based architecture between December 25 and January 1. We are making this change because system updates, such as new features, enhancements, and fixes, can be implemented with zero or minimal downtime, and this will ultimately enhance students’ and your experience with our learning management system. During the transition, course availability will be affected (see timeline below). After the transition, HuskyCT will look and function the same.

December 26, 2016 – January 1, 2017:

  • Winter intersession courses will be accessible throughout the transition.  The only downtime for these courses will be on January 1, 2017 between 5:00 am and 1:00 pm.
  • Past courses will remain available for reference purposes, however any changes made after December 25 will not be carried forward to the new environment. (i.e. you can view them but do not make any changes)
  • Spring 2017 courses will be unavailable

January 1, 2017:

  • All HuskyCT courses, including Winter intersession courses, are accessible after 1:00 pm at learn.uconn.edu, lms.uconn.edu, and huskyct.uconn.edu.

For additional information, visit the Frequently Asked Question page for this transition.

If you have any concern about your active courses during the transition period, please email huskyct@uconn.edu.

Troubleshooting LockDown Browser

LockDown Browser is a custom browser that locks down the exam environment within HuskyCT. When LockDown Browser is used during an online exam, students are unable to navigate to other URLs, switch applications, take screenshots, copy questions or print.  Instant messaging and email applications are also disabled.

Students taking exams in LockDown Browser may encounter issues installing or executing the application.  If the deadline for an exam is near and you are experience issues, we suggest locating another computer with LockDown Browser.

The minimum system requirements for using LockDown browser is available at:
http://support.respondus.com/support/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/89/0/what-are-the-computer-requirements-for-installations-of-respondus-lockdown-browser

Below are some of the most commonly reported issues, causes and resolutions.

LockDown Browser is not opening

Cause: LockDown Browser installation may be corrupt or running in an inconsistent state

Resolution #1:

  1. It’s possible some programs may be interfering with LockDown Browser.  Try closing all programs on your computer (other than those used to connect to the internet) prior to launching LockDown Browser. This includes programs which are executed during start-up and deemed non-essential (i.e. don’t disable your anti-virus, wireless/network connection, etc…).

Resolution #2:

  1. Open Google Chrome and clear the cache.  Step-by-step instructions for clearing browser cache can found at: http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
  2. Restart your computer

Resolution #3:

  1. Uninstall LockDown Browser
  2. Open Google Chrome and clear the cache.  Step-by-step instructions for clearing browser cache can found at: http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
  3. Restart your computer
  4. Download LockDown Browser from this location only (very important):
    http://www.respondus.com/lockdown/download.php?id=856213959
  5. Start the install for LockDown Browser, following these directions:
    http://abouthuskyct.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1715/2016/07/LockDownBrowser_StudentGuide.pdf

LockDown Browser is not displaying the HuskyCT login page

Cause: Incorrect version of LockDown Browser

Resolution:

  1. Uninstall LockDown Browser
  2. Open Google Chrome and clear the cache.  Step-by-step instructions for clearing browser cache can found at: http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
  3. Restart your computer
  4. Download LockDown Browser from this location only (very important):
    http://www.respondus.com/lockdown/download.php?id=856213959
  5. Start the install for LockDown Browser, following these directions:
    http://helpcenter.uconn.edu/2015/01/12/using-lockdown-browser-for-huskyct-exams/

Error message displays: “Unable to retrieve settings from the Respondus server”

Cause: Respondus servers have been blocked by your internet/browser/firewall or SSL protocols disabled

Resolution #1:

  1. Click on your Start Menu icon
  2. Access the Control Panel and select “Network and Internet”
  3. Select “Internet Options” and on the “Security” tab, ensure that your settings are not higher than “Medium”
  4. On the Advanced tab, click “Reset” under the header “Reset Internet Explorer Settings”.
  5. In the window that opens, select “Delete Personal Settings” and then click on the Reset button. Caution: Doing this will impact all your web browsers, not just Internet Explorer.
  6. Restart your computer

Resolution #2:

If the problem persists, there may be a block elsewhere on your PC (firewall, anti-virus software) or possibly in the ISP/network you are using.  To determine if this is the case, use the “Help Center” icon in the LockDown Browser toolbar.  See our blog post for more details.

help-center-toolbar

  • Try using the computer on a different network, or…
  • Try using a different computer on your main network.

Error message displays: “There is a problem with the settings for this exam

Cause: This error is often caused if the course is a copy of another course (your instructor will know if that’s the case), and the instructor has not yet opened the LockDown Browser Dashboard in the copied course.

ldb-error-due-to-settings

Resolution #1:

  1. Instructor should log into the course and access the Respondus LockDown Browser Dashboard (Course Management -> Course Tools -> Respondus LockDown Browser)
  2. If any exams are listed with an error on the dashboard, the instructor should click on the “Fix it” button.  This will correct any errors associated with exam settings.

Resolution #2:

  1. Click on your Start Menu icon
  2. Access the Control Panel and select “Network and Internet”
  3. Select “Internet Options” and on the “Security” tab, ensure that your settings are not higher than “Medium”
  4. On the Advanced tab, click “Reset” under the header “Reset Internet Explorer Settings”.
  5. In the window that opens, select “Delete Personal Settings” and then click on the Reset button. Caution: Doing this will impact all your web browsers, not just Internet Explorer.
  6. Restart your computer

Resolution #3:

If the problem persists, there may be a block elsewhere on your PC (firewall, anti-virus software) or possibly in the ISP/network you are using.  To determine if this is the case, use the “Help Center” icon in the LockDown Browser toolbar.  See our blog post for more details.

help-center-toolbar

LockDown Browser is continuously prompting for a password

Cause: Instructor has set a password for the exam or you are using a different web browser (e.g. Chrome, Edge, Firefox, etc.)

Resolution #1:

  1. Verify you have accessed the exam using Respondus LockDown Browser
  2. Enter the password provided by the instructor

Resolution #2:

  1. Contact your instructor to obtain the correct password

All other issues

LockDown Browser recently introduced a built-in “Help Center” tool to aid in diagnosing issues.  See our blog post for more details.

The UITS Help Center is also available to assist students with LockDown Browser – call (860) 486-4357 or email helpcenter@uconn.edu

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – What’s New?

Collaborate Ultra has long been touted as the successor to Collaborate Classic.  Its initial launch last year, however, was met with little fanfare.  Despite a modern interface and audio/video improvements, Ultra lacked several of its predecessors features.

All that changed this past summer, when Blackboard released several major updates to Ultra (listed below).

  • Polling
  • Breakout Rooms
  • Session Recording
  • Phone Conferencing

These improvements, coupled with its already impressive interface and audio/video capabilities, make Ultra an ideal solution for online collaborative learning.

The only notable drawback to Ultra is browser compatibility.  Currently, Google Chrome is the only browser which fully supports the underlying technology, known as WebRTC.  We highly recommend all moderators and participants use Chrome exclusively for Collaborate Ultra sessions.  Support for WebRTC in Mozilla FireFox and Microsoft Edge is expected later this year.

If interested, a detailed Comparison of Ultra vs Classic is available on our Blackboard Collaborate page.

Using Collaborate Ultra

Collaborate Ultra is now available in all HuskyCT sites.  To access Ultra, open the course tools menu.  Ultra is listed under course tools, directly below the original Collaborate course tool (pictured below).  Note – Instructors still have the option to use Collaborate Classic in HuskyCT, as the course tools work independently.  In fact, both versions can be used simultaneously in a course.

collaborate-ultra-course-tool

Setting up a session

When you first access Collaborate Ultra, the “Create Session” button is displayed in the center of the window.  Clicking this button will launch a new session setup screen.

collab-ultra-create-session-btn

Setting up a session is quick!  Only three fields are required to start a new session – session name, start and end date.  Recurrence and Session Settings (Advanced) are optional.

collab-ultra-create-session-options

The default “Session Settings” should be adequate for most collaborative sessions.  If tweaks are needed, expand the “Session Settings” menu and set the appropriate options (pictured below).  Click “Save” to create the session!

collab-ultra-create-session-settings

View upcoming sessions

All upcoming sessions are listed on the main page of the course tool (default filter).  To view prior sessions or search using a date range, click on the chevron next to “Show All Upcoming Sessions”.  The expanded menu will display available filters.  Clicking on the filter name will refresh the list of sessions.

collaborate-ultra-session-filter

View recorded sessions

Directly above the session filter is the menu icon (displayed as three horizontal bars).  Clicking this icon will open the main menu.  This is where moderators can switch between scheduled sessions and recorded sessions.  Clicking on the “Recordings” menu will display any available recorded sessions in the course.

collaborate-ultra-recording-2

More information on Collaborate Ultra, including links to support documentation is available on our Collaborate Ultra Support page.

Common Video Playback Issues and Solutions

Modern computers simultaneously download, decode and stream media. This process requires capable hardware, updated/compatible software and a strong internet connection.

In this post, we’ll review some common video playback issues experienced by HuskyCT users and how to resolve them.  The most likely culprits are often your browser/device settings or network connection.

Before we dive into specific issues and resolutions, let’s take a look at a few quick-fix solutions when time is of the essence (when is not, right?)

Try these quick fix solutions!

  1. Try a different browser.  Many times the culprit is a setting or cache issue in your preferred web browser.  While this fix doesn’t resolve the issue in your primary browser, it might solve the more immediate issue – finishing your assignment!
  2. Clear your browser cache, close and restart the browser.  Most video playback issues are resolved by refreshing your browser cache.  Step by step instructions for clearing your browser cache can be found at http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
  3. Restart your computer.  This is the “Hail Mary” of solutions!  If the underlying issue is caused by a runaway or malfunctioning system process, memory or other system issue, a restart can be surprisingly effective.
  4. Verify your browser security hasn’t blocked the video due to “mixed content” (does not apply to Safari).  This blog post has hints and solutions for identifying and resolving “mixed content” blocking!

If none of the above solutions work, check with classmates to see if they experiencing similar playback issues.  If they are, notify your instructor and provide detailed feedback.  Alternatively, you can seek assistance from the UITS Help Center.

Common issues and solutions

Issue:

Poor video quality (e.g. choppy video, frequent buffering, etc.)

Solutions:

  1. Check the quality of your internet connection at http://www.speedtest.net/.  If the test indicates a download speed less than 1-2 MB/sec, connect your device to a faster network.  If you’re connected to a UConn network, contact the UITS Help Center for assistance.
  2. Disable hardware acceleration (only applies to Flash)
    1. Right-click on the flash video
    2. Choose “Settings” from the menu
    3. Select the first tab (along the bottom) and uncheck the box “Enable hardware acceleration”

Issue:

Video stops during playback

Solutions:

  1. Clear your browser cache, close and restart the browser
    http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
  2. Try an alternate browser
  3. Restart your computer

Issue:

A plugin is needed to display this content

Flash player not found

Solution:

  1. Download Java on your device at https://java.com/en/download/
  2. If necessary, click on the downloaded file to install Java
  3. On the download page, click the button to verify Java has been successfully installed
  4. Restart your web browser
  5. Go to the page where the video appears and click the link to activate Java (if not already active)

Issue:

Flash video is not playing

Solution:

  1. Download and install Adobe Flash Player at https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/
    *** Be sure to uncheck “optional offers” prior to clicking download ***

Issue:

Embedded video is missing

Solution:

  1. Allow mixed content in your browser.  For instructions, see our recent blog post about mixed content!

Issue:

Not Found – The specified resource was not found, or you do not have permission to access it.

not-found

Solution:

  1. Contact your instructor for guidance.  The video may have been removed, or permissions are set incorrectly in the content collection folder.

Please contact the Help Center if you’re experiencing a different video playback issue, or the suggested solutions are not resolving the problem.

Other Resources

YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/checklist/3480866?hl=en

Chrome: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/6138475?hl=en

Firefox: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/fix-common-audio-and-video-issues

Safari: