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.