Thursday, November 13, 2008

DDLC Meeting Minutes- 9/18/08

Distance and Distributed Learning Committee

Meeting Minutes

September 18, 2008 10am – 3:00pm

I. Call to order

Kim Blosser called to order the regular meeting of the DDLC at 10:00am on September 18, 2008 at PVCC in Charlottesville.

II. Roll call

Kim Blosser conducted a roll call with some attending at PVCC and others connected through Adobe Connect meeting. The following members attended in person: Kim Blosser, David Carter-Tod, Jaime Shetrone, Derek Cooper, Jennifer Lerner, Adam Bryant (for Linda Claussen), Jan Klingberg, Marian Macbeth, Ashley Leslie, Colleen Bishop, Joan Osborne, Bill Hightower, Mike Williams, Ramona Coveny, Diane Tucker.

Special Guests attending in person: Donna Jovanovich, Marcia Harrington, and CJ Bracken.

Members attending via Adobe Connect: Susan Beasley, Ken Fairbanks, Leslie Smith, Bill Dey, Charles Boling, Susan Kennedy, Sheila Hobbs, Mark Nelson, Paul Weitzel.

Action Item 1-6

Election of 2008-09 DDLC Chairperson:

Kim Blosser was elected chairperson.

Election of 2008-09 DDLC NoteTaker:

Ramona Coveny was elected notetaker.

Election of 2008-09 DDLC Site Administrator:

Joan Osborne was elected site administrator.

Approval of Minutes:

Kim Blosser reviewed the minutes from the last meeting. The minutes were approved with one minor change.

Review/Approval of dates for DDLC meetings for 2008-09:

November 13, 2008 (eMeeting and phone conference) 9:00-11:30am

February 5, 2009 (eMeeting and phone conference)

* a request was made to have an in-person meeting (with phone conference). We will address this after the extent of the budget cut is known.

April 2, 2009 (New Horizons conference)

Chair’s suggested changes to term of membership/election process:

Kim will send items for considerations before the next meeting as to changes in the term of electoral officers and the election process.

III. Open Items

a) Action Item 7: Full committee review and approval of Best Practices for eLearning document
The Best Practices for eLearning document will be a dynamic document. It was noted that the section Online Delivery Standards (pg 8) could include content about secure login and best practices for design and integrity for students and faculty. The discussion about section Placement Testing and Advising clarified Compass testing being available at each VCCS institution. Students who take the Compass testing at a college will abide by the requirements of that institution even though they are enrolled at another VCCS institution (i.e. cost for Compass testing).
The motion was made to submit the Best Practices for eLearning document to the next ASAC meeting. The motion was approved by the committee.

b) Discussion Item 1: Focus on Student Success (Bill Hightower, Donna Jovanovich, Marcia Harrington)
Bill Hightower presented information from the system office. The VCCS Policy Manual sections 5 and 6 are being reviewed for student success. Some of the items mentioned in these sections were distance learning course peer review and academic advising online with a possible target for developmental and distance learning. Donna Jovanovich and Marcia Harrington presented on student success and told the committee that would receive corrected assessment data previously provided. The Chancellor’s Retreat document is available online.

c) Discussion Item 2: Blackboard
David Carter-Tod reported that the upgrade to Blackboard is on track with a proposed date for the upgrade of December 20 (which has since been changed to January 2, 2009 after the ASAC meeting). The BB8 test server Explore will be upgraded with the latest patches as soon as possible. MAESTRO (a video/audio software used at NOVA for foreign language) has a building block available for Blackboard. The order for installing BB building blocks will be reviewed at the next meeting. A sub-group may be formed to evaluate SIS and Blackboard integration so that students will be removed from Blackboard as they are in SIS when the student changes or drops a class. The SSL restriction cannot be removed until more colleges test and validate.

d) Information Item 1: Update on 2008-09 CEED Grant process
A new third track has been added to the CEED Grant process. The third track will target developmental, adult education, CTE, student advisement, and workforce development. The awards can be multi-year awards from $100,000 to $50,000. An institution can be a lead in two projects and additionally be non-lead participants in two projects. The RFPs are due in October and the awards are announced in November 2008.

e) Information Item 2: Deployment of Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) for every VCCS distance learning courses.
SREB has been given the information for all VCCS distance learning courses so they will be automatically updated from the SIS to the SREB website. Students who find a distance learning course on the SREB site will enroll through the offering college.

f) Information Item 3: Google Apps
Google Apps has been deployed successfully for faculty and student use. David Carter-Tod informed the committee that there is a free trial available for Google Video in a six-month pilot. Continued use of Google Video with 3GB of storage is $10 yearly.
A sub-group will be created to prepare Google Apps training materials which will posted on the VCCS Google Apps site.

g) Information Item 4: Availability of Course Content – Get Ready for A&P
A purchasing agreement with Pearson Publishing will allow VCCS faculty to have access to course content in A&P through a Blackboard course module called Get Ready for A&P. While the target audience is Allied Health, there are other content modules within the course that may be used outside of this curriculum. There are lessons, activities, practice, and assessments on Study Skills areas, developmental reading, and math that may be useful to many students. Have your Blackboard administrator contact Inez Farrell to use the content.

h) Information Item 5: TOP (Teaching Online Program), VFLA, and the life cycle of a CEED
This 3-credit graduate class (EDU 295) had impressive enrollments for the first offerings. More classes will be offered during Fall semester. The SO is working towards obtaining graduate credit for this class through VPI and/or ODU. Another successful CEED grant is VFLA (Virtual Foreign Language Group at NOVA), a collaborative effort using WIMBA.

i) Information Item 6: Security of Publisher Websites
The committee discussed possible issues with publisher websites where the course supporting materials are housed on the publishers’ website and not through Blackboard. The committee recommended that the concerns about grades and FERPA be taken to either the ASAC educational technology subcommittee or the Technology Council meeting on September 30.

j) Information Item 7: Wimba Classroom pilot project
LFCC asked if there were any colleges interested in partnering with them in the Wimba Classroom pilot project as they wish to continue it for another year.

IV. New business
There was no new business.

V. Adjournment

Kim Blosser adjourned the meeting at 3:00 pm on September 18, 2008.

Minutes submitted by: Ramona Coveny

Minutes approved by:

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Procedure for Bb requests for FA08

As of this fall, Blackboard course shells will be automatically created for ALL academic courses!

  • ALL courses in SIS on or before June 3, 2008 now have shells in Blackboard.
  • All instructors that were assigned a course in SIS on or before June 3, 2008 now have access to their course shells.
  • These courses are set to be "unavailable" to students, BUT not the instructors.

The next upload of instructors will be on Friday July 11, 2008.

  • Instructors will be batch uploaded each Friday before 2:00pm.
  • The course request form should only be used when a new courses is added to SIS.
  • The request form will NOT open again until July 5, 2008.
  • Do NOT use the request form without checking Blackboard first.

If you are new to Blackboard you will need to attend training on Blackboard.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Notes on Bb Conference Call - 5/6/2008

Red - Greater interest to Faculty
Blue - My additional comments


Blue Ridge, Central, Danville, John Tyler, Lord Fairfax, Northern, Piedmont, Rappahannock, Southside, Tidewater, Thomas Nelson, Virginia Western, Wytheville, System Office
Did not attend:

Dabney, Eastern Shore, Germanna, J. Sargeant Reynolds, Mountain Empire, New River, Patrick Henry, Paul D. Camp, Southwest, Virginia Highlands

  • Blackboard Production is now optionally available via SSL. Please continue to test and report any issues.

  • We will look into enabling WebDAV for a subset of users to test if that is technically possible, but we are not sure it is.

  • There was reported an interaction between SafeAssign and SSL. Kristen Kelly has the details.

Oracle RAC
We are planning to move the Blackboard database to Oracle RAC. This is currently scheduled for July 16, 17 and may involve Blackboard being unavailable for those two days. Please let your faculty know so that they can prepare.

Google Apps for Education
While not yet decided, a recommendation will be made to Tech Council to move student email to Google Apps.

Blackboard Testing Issues
Several administrators reported intermittent, substantially un-reproducible testing issues. Question saving doesn’t seem to be working for a few students.
It is recommended that you remind students not to use the Save test option.
Blackboard Gradebook Issues
A couple of colleges (CVCC and WCC) reported an issue where grades shifted down a row. This is also unreproducible and seems specific to particular faculty (courses?).

Innovative Faculty Listserv
The Innovative faculty list ( is up and running. BB admins are welcome to subscribe.

Please let me (Ruth) know if you are interested in joining this list.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blackboard's Performance

Dr. Inez Farrell (Director of Instructional Technology, VCCS) is collecting anecdotal notes about Blackboard's performance.

Dr. Farrell has created a short and simple form called “Taking Blackboard’s Pulse”. When faculty face a problem that is frustrating but not quite of the Issue Track variety, they can quickly fill out and submit this form by clicking the link below. In this fashion, she can see issues as they develop and either contact the college Bb admin for follow up for more information (such that an Issue Track would need) or directly alert ITS to the number and frequency of the anomalies. Faculty can also see what is happening across the state. Faculty, learning center and helpdesk personnel are encouraged to fill out this form when they meet a difficulty they do not consider Issue Track worthy.

Link for "Taking Blackboard's Pulse":

A new module has been added to the TNCC tab: Where Am I?

The Where Am I? modules tells you what server you are connected to for reporting problems. In the example above the server would be utbc01b02. Clicking on the Switch hyperlink will allow you to disconnect from a "sluggish" server (it kills the load balancer cookie), meaning that you stand a good chance of being assigned to a new app server.

Jan and I are also still filing Issue Track's as you report problem to us, but in order to fill out an Issue Track (system office) we need:

  • the server you are on
  • the date and time
  • the activity you were doing
  • home/campus

Other useful information is

  • your browser (IE 6, IE 7, Mozilla)
  • your operating system (OS 10, Vista, Win XP)
  • your service provider
  • screen shots of the error message (if applicable)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Notes on Bb Conference Call - 1/29/2008

Red - Greater interest to Faculty
Blue - My additional comments

Blue Ridge, Central, J. Sargeant Reynolds, John Tyler, Lord Fairfax, Northern, System Office, Piedmont, Southwest, Thomas Nelson, Virginia Western, Wytheville

Did not attend:
Dabney, Danville, Eastern Shore, Germanna, Mountain Empire, New River, Patrick Henry, Paul D. Camp, Rappahannock, Southside, Tidewater, Virginia Highlands
As with the notes from 1/22/2008, these notes are a bit scrawny.

  • No-copy/no-print script issues
    Please see the thread on VCCS discuss. We will put these in one spot that is accessible to faculty.

  1. Classtop
  2. SafeAssign – free replacement for Turnitin
  3. Respondus Lockdown Browser
  4. LearningObjects
  5. iTunes

  • Some tests are not copying
    Please file a ticket
  • SSL
    We are working with Blackboard consulting to implement SSL. We will test the impact of this before any production implementation, and run SSL in parallel to regular access before any switchover.
  • Discussion board performance is still an issue
    SP1 will hopefully resolve some of this.
  • Future schedule for audio-conferences
    The consensus during the call was that we could shift to an every other week schedule from now on. The next call will be on 2/12/2008.

Notes on Bb Conference Call - 1/22/2008

Red - Greater interest to Faculty
Blue - My additional comments

Blue Ridge, Central, Danville, John Tyler, Lord Fairfax, Northern, System Office, Southside, Southwest, Thomas Nelson, Virginia Highlands, Virginia Western, Wytheville
Did not attend:
Dabney, Eastern Shore, Germanna, J. Sargeant Reynolds, Mountain Empire, New River, Patrick Henry, Paul D. Camp, Piedmont, Rappahannock, Tidewater,

These notes were written up a couple of weeks after the call, so some details may be fuzzy. I apologize for the tardiness.
  • When will Bb6 go down?
    Close of business on Friday, January 25.

    This was done. We do have the backup archives.
  • Self-assessments problem – hiding the grade from the gradebook
    There is a combination of checkboxes that if the instructor is not careful, will prevent them from seeing student grades. There is no simple resolution to this at this time.
  • Some reports of slow-loading graphics and in faculty courses
    Please see the threads on troubleshooting Blackboard in VCCS Discuss.
  • Some HTML is disabled by Blackboard
    Yes. BB 7.x is very assertive about not allowing potentially harmful HTML through its filters.
  • What are the best options on no-print/no-copy?
    Please see thread on VCCS Discuss.

There are three versions of the no-copy/no-print javascript. These are:


    The Princeton code is an evolution of David Carter-Tod's original code (bb6) with a forced submit of tests.

    Implementing this code is best done by placing in the instructions of the test with the WYSIWYG editor turned off. Even if you do implement this code, there are risks (see the caveats on the Princeton page), particularly with essay questions, and no-one would claim that these make tests completely secure.

    They don't deter the determined.
  • What is the Building blocks schedule – e.g. Classtop, SafeAssign, Facebook integration?
    The first priority is 7.3 Service Pack 1. We are making significant progress with this. Inez Farrell is coordinating Building Block priorities.

    Scheduled to be implemented on Feb. 14, 2008 – midnight to 2am

  • Impatica – jar versus zip
    Not sure what the issue was here. One format was working better than the other
  • Changes not sticking or appearing later
    There have been a couple of reports of changes not appearing immediately, but at a later time. There is no technical reason why this would happen. If this can be reported via Issuetrak, we’d be happy to investigate.
  • Can server bounces be documented in the current performance ticket to facilitate responding to students?
    We will attempt to do so.
  • Request module deletion
    While modules can be added by admins, deletion must be requested via Issuetrak. This is to prevent inadvertent deletion of shared material.
  • Large discussion boards appear to be slow
    Please point us at specific boards, but we also expect SP1 to provide a performance boost for discussion boards.
  • Module movement
    Colleges can easily administer their own tabs, but should request via Issuetrak any changes to shared tabs.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Notes on Bb Conference Call - 1/8/2008

Red - Greater interest to Faculty
Blue - My additional comments


Danville, Germanna, J. Sargeant Reynolds, John Tyler, Lord Fairfax, Northern, Patrick Henry, Piedmont, System Office, Thomas Nelson, Tidewater, Virginia Highlands, Virginia Western, Wytheville
Did not attend:

Blue Ridge, Central, Dabney, Eastern Shore, Mountain Empire, New River, Paul D. Camp, Rappahannock, Southside, Southwest


Our focus during the first few weeks of the semester is on performance. We had some fairly significant slowness on Monday, but things have generally improved through the week as we have implemented additional tuning. As of this writing, Monday 14th, which is the first day for NVCC is passing off smoothly aside from some problems specific to MECC, with as many as 1.9 million hits/hour.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we had over 22 million hits each day. This represents 10 million more hits per day than our Fall peak and is over double our peak from the same time last year. This is obviously an extremely significant increase in traffic.

We identified the ‘What’s new” module as a source of database issues and we have disabled it.

Blackboard has release a service pack for 7.3, which has performance improvements and we intend to implement as soon as possible after testing. They have also released 8.0, but we have no plans currently to go to that version.

The course migration completed in about two weeks despite some problems over the break. Generally this has been smooth, but there have been some courses with issues that needed resolving.

Blackboard 6 is still up at There are 4 CPUs assigned to this at the database level. However, we plan to turn Blackboard 6 off on January 25.
An issue was identified with the Chat Server. This was resolved later on Tuesday.

Question: Is the Home page tool turned off?
Answer: No, but make sure the Roster is turned on in the class.

Question: Any sign of a Quick enroll feature?
Answer: No, but check out: -- we could probably do some more sophisticated things with GreaseMonkey given time, but this helps. If you add &userName=yourusername to the end of the quick enroll script, it will default to your username.

Question: Are the utility tools e.g. batch availability available in bb7?
Answer: Batch availability can be done in the web UI.

Question: What about Bb6 classes with final incompletes?
Answer: Blackboard 7 is our production system now. Students should not be using Blackboard 6.

Question: Quotas? Those emails are a real pain.
Answer: Ain’t they just? There are two quotas in Blackboard – a soft quota simply generates a warning. We have increased this to just over 1 GB. The hard quota is currently 2GB. Strategies to manage significant file content include:

1. Identify ways to reduce file size, e.g post PDF rather than Powerpoint, reduce image sizes, and generally use compressed formats. This benefits students as well.

2. Use the Content System. We can increase quotas to meet needs on the content system and content can be shared across courses.

3. Store files on college servers, linking to them from Blackboard

We will discuss further with AS & R. If, despite the above measures being taken, a quota needs to be increased, that may be possible.

Question: It appears that .mht files on content system became corrupted during the migration
Answer: We can look at this. Please file a ticket.

Question: Getting outage page sometimes. Slowness, etc.
Answer: Please add to Ticket #91486 for any performance issues with Blackboard 7. The outage page may appear when an application server is bounced, but we are still investigating.

Question: Can we have the eportfolio functionality on Blackboard?
Answer: There’s a major bug with the permissions on ePortfolios, but that aside we do not have a great deal of faith in Blackboard’s implementation of ePortfolios and feel that alternatives may well be more viable.
Question: What about faculty being able to combine enrollments from multiple classes into one.
Answer: Will investigate. Might not be technically possible.

I am currently able to do these combinations for faculty. If you need assistance please call me (2807).
Question: is there a way to alter batch individual availability within courses?
Answer: Not at the moment
Additional Notes:
We plan on implementing Domain-related administrative changes after Tuesday, 1/15. Make sure all courses are appropriately categorized.

We plan on turning off of Blackboard 6 on January 25.
We have been alerted to a security issue with WebDAV for the content system and will be turning off this functionality until we can implement SSL. A longer separate communication will be forthcoming.

Notes on Bb Conference Call - 1/15/2008

Red - Greater interest to Faculty
Blue - My additional comments


Blue Ridge, Central, Danville, Germanna, J. Sargeant Reynolds, John Tyler, Lord Fairfax, Northern, Piedmont, System Office, Southside, Southwest, Thomas Nelson, Tidewater, Virginia Highlands, Virginia Western,

Did not attend:

Dabney, Eastern Shore, Mountain Empire, New River, Patrick Henry, Paul D. Camp, Rappahannock, Wytheville

Overview and preliminary remarks

As per previous communications, performance has gradually improved after a bit of a shaky start, and Monday 14th generally went very well. It was our busiest day of the year so far with over 27 million hits, with a peak per hour of 1.9 million hits. A lot of these are images attached to page loads, so some statistics related to distinct sessions and user logins is attached.

We plan on implementing Domain-related administrative changes after Tuesday, 1/15. Make sure all courses and organizations are appropriately categorized as soon as possible. Review the recording of this session for screen captures of how to do this.
We plan on turning off of Blackboard 6 on January 25.

We have been alerted to a security issue with WebDAV for the content system and will be turning off this functionality until we can implement SSL. A separate communication will be forthcoming, but this will be done on Friday, 18th January.

Question: The problem with Wimba announcements—is there any way to prevent it?
Answer: We will follow up with Wimba but at the moment they are acknowledging it as a known bug. It is related to the WYSIWYG editor (and Internet Explorer I think). Turning off the WYSIWYG editor will prevent it happening.

Question:Having a problem with respondus – “cannot be verified or opened”
Answer: Check that the setting is for Blackboard 7.x May need to reinstall. Otherwise, please file a ticket.

Question:Having problems with Vista and the discussion board.
Answer: General rule of thumb is to turn off the WYSIWYG editor and see if that addresses the problem. Also check Java and any related security settings.

Question: Transferring files from Wimba in Blackboard 6 is tedious.
Answer: You can grab all the files in a Voice Board in one Export operation.
Question: When taking a test, the computer slows to a crawl with one character at a time coming in to the answer field.
Answer: Probably computer or browser specific. Please file a ticket, but review OS, etc.

: Dates of availability in announcements and chat don’t seem to work.
Answer: See ticket #91347
Question: How do you categorize courses and organizations?
Answer: In the System Admin control panel, find the courses you are seeking to categorize, e.g. with a search like “VH2 SP08”. Then go to the bottom of the page and choose Show All. Then go to the bottom of the page and choose Select All to check all the checkboxes. Then choose the Availability button at the top of the page.

Comment: Quick enroll is a bit of a pain.
Answer: See last week’s notes for an improvement to the bookmarklet, plus also get the Enrollment bookmarklet to facilitate unenrolling:

Question: Had a couple of reports of items being posted, but that subsequently disappeared.
Answer: Please get us details if possible, but theorize that it could be related to performance and server bounces, which have significantly reduced since last week.

This may be related to how often your browser is set to check for a new page. Adjust how often to update stored pages in cache (Temporary Internet files)

Question: Students are confused by the discussion board calendar thing.
Answer: What discussion board calendar thing?

Question: Are there archives of Spring 2008 courses yet?
Answer: No, not yet. Will start on the evening of Thursday, 1/17.
Comment: Inez Farrell has files of incompletes from Fall 2007 that she is happy to share with Blackboard administrators. Please contact her for your file. Note that those with access to SIS Query should be able to use the VX_INCOMPLETE_GRADES report.