Center for Educational Resources and Technology at DSU

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Instructional Technologist

Internet Explorer and Blackboard, not so perfect together

Internet Explorer logo with no symbolA number of issues have been identified with Blackboard Learn when using the Internet Explorer browser. Recent issues include:

  • Problems with hyperlinks in Blackboard Portfolios
  • Intermittent issues with the inline grading tool
  • Images and fonts change in Modules when using the Back button
  • Problems uploading files to assignments

The DEIT team would like to remind everyone that Internet Explorer is not a supported browser when using Blackboard (support ended in Q4, 2018). Please use a different browser such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or Microsoft Edge.

Additional information

Microsoft is no longer actively developing Internet Explorer and has recommended it not be your default web browser – https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Windows-IT-Pro-Blog/The-perils-of-using-Internet-Explorer-as-your-default-browser/ba-p/331732.

A security exploit was found in March 2019 with Internet Explorer that “allows hackers to spy on you and steal personal data from your PC” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2019/04/15/warning-internet-explorer-just-became-a-silent-but-serious-threat-to-every-windows-user/#7c4c9cb886d8)

Unless needed for a specific site, it may be best to remove Internet Explorer from your computer. The steps outlined by Microsoft to remove Internet Explorer are below.

  • Press the Windows logo key+R to open the Run box.
  • Type appwiz.cpl, and then select OK.
  • In the the Programs and Features item, select Turn Window features on or off.
  • In the Windows Features dialog box, locate the entry for the installed version of Internet Explorer. For example, locate the Internet Explorer 11 entry. Then, clear the check box.
  • Select OK to commit the change.
  • Restart the computer.

The end of Flash as we know it…

Adobe Flash logoWhat we now know as Adobe Flash was previously a dominant platform for online multimedia content, however, it is slowly being abandoned as Adobe favors a transition to HTML5 due to inherent security flaws and the significant resources required to maintain the Flash platform. In fact, Adobe plans on ending their support of Flash at the end of 2020.

Apple has already restricted the use of Flash on its iOS devices, and major web browser companies are reacting to the announcement. Firefox (https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Plugins/Roadmap), Google (https://www.chromium.org/flash-roadmap), and Microsoft Edge (https://blogs.windows.com/msedgedev/2017/07/25/flash-on-windows-timeline/) indicate Flash will be disabled by default by the middle of 2019 (but there will be an option to enable it), and all support for Flash will end in 2020.

What does this mean for DeSales? The DEIT team has already reviewed most of the major educational platforms in use. Blackboard, Panopto, Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, and the DeSales streaming media server do not require Adobe Flash to function. The remaining issues could be with other third-party content from textbook publishers, external websites, and any locally stored material.

The main recommendation coming from DEIT is to review the multimedia you use in courses. If you have local media files that end in either .FLV or .SWF you will need to find alternate means of showing the content once Flash is disabled. The DEIT team can help with the conversion of .FLV files.

The other step faculty should take in the near future is to see if a prompt to activate the Flash plugin is received when clicking on web links in Blackboard. (These prompts typically come up with video links or other interactive multimedia content)

Prompt message to activate Flash

Please contact DEIT with any questions or if you suspect some Flash content is in a course. DEIT can help determine if an alternate method of providing the material is available.

Recently Added Features of Respondus Monitor

Respondus Monitor builds upon the power of LockDown Browser, and uses a student’s webcam and video analytics to prevent cheating during non-proctored exams. As of February 2019, several new features have become available.

Facial detection check prior to an exam

Respondus Monitor performs a facial detection check before the start of an exam. This helps students identify problems with badly positioned webcams, poor lighting, and prevents the intentional covering of a webcam. One of the default options during the check is to prevent students from starting the exam if their face cannot be detected during the Startup Sequence.

Screenshot of Respondus facial detection step

Facial detection alerts during exam

The system alerts students during the exam when facial detection is lost for a certain length of time. A quick adjustment is usually all it takes. While the alerts only occur only once per minute, if students are permitted to use textbooks or other resources this option should be disabled to avoid having text-takers experience frequent notifications.

Pre-exam tips

A new optional step in the startup sequence helps students avoid things that trigger false “flags” within the system.

Screen describing some of the exam tips

Coming December 15th – Panopto 6.0

Panopto iconA new version of Panopto is being released the evening of December 15th. While most of the updates are administrative there are two changes that could affect faculty and students.
  • A new user interface. The Panopto web site (https://desales.hosted.panopto.com) will be getting a new look. It features a new collapsible navigation bar and resizable folder and system settings trays to improve site browsing and navigation.
  • A recycle bin. Administrators will have access to a recycle bin so deleted videos will be able to be restored. Note: to take advantage of this feature please contact the DeSales Help Desk (helpdesk@desales.edu or 610-282-1100 x4357).

Panopto will need to be taken offline temporarily to roll out the changes. On December 15th from 7:00 PM until approximately 11:00 PM Panopto is going to be unavailable . During this time recordings will not be available and new recordings will not upload. Note: recordings can still be made offline and uploaded after the outage ends.

November 5th-9th: National Distance Learning Week!

NDLW Banner

The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) will be holding 10 virtual sessions throughout the week highlighting the best practices within the digital/distance learning community.

Many of the sessions are going to be showing in the DEIT office in Dooling 40-1. Feel free to stop by and join the conversation. You can also register for sessions and watch from your office/home. Information and registration options are available on this page – https://www.usdla.org/2018-ndlw-2018/.

A printable version of the session list is also available: https://content.usdla.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/ndlw2018_program.pdf.

The topics this year are:

Monday, November 5th – Engagement

Tuesday, November 6th – Feedback and Support

Wednesday, November 7th – Credentials and Efficiencies

Thursday, November 8th – Quality of Learning and Accessibility

Friday, November 9th – Content and Feedback

Blackboard assignments and Safari 11.1

Appple logoApple Inc released a security update to the Safari 11 browser on March 29, 2018 (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208695). Safari 11.1 contains a number of improvements. However, the update appears to cause problems when trying to submit assignments to Blackboard.

Blackboard Inc has identified a known issue with Safari 11.1 when it comes to submitting assignments. Students attempting to use Safari 11.1 to upload files to assignments will receive an error message – Failed to submit Assignment. Please try again.

Blackboard is working on some fixes but it appears likely the issue will not be resolved at DeSales until the switch to SaaS this Summer (http://blogs.desales.edu/deit/2018/04/03/blackboard-down-for-upgrade-july-24-25-2018/). The workaround is to use a different browser – Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, for example, to submit Blackboard assignments.

The DeSales DEIT team

New annotation options in Box View

Blackboard uses an application programming interface (API) from Box, Inc to provide faculty the ability to review and annotate assignment submissions. Two features were added to the API in late March:

  • Point Annotations have been made “sticky” – after clicking on the Point Annotation button graders will be taken into “point annotation mode” that allows for multiple comments without selecting the point annotation tool for every entry.

Box view toolbar with point comment highlighted

  • A new Drawing Annotation mode – while grading, freeform drawings can be added to assignment submissions using a mouse or any touch-enabled device.  Box view toolbar with drawing annotation tool highlighted

 

Both options are available for new assignment submissions and can be retroactively added to earlier submissions.

Video and Blackboard, So Happy Together – Online Workshop Tonight 3/5 at 7

Join “Swami Jim” Holton online tonight at 7 pm for:

Bb Specialty Topic: Video and Blackboard, So Happy Together

Location: http://tinyurl.com/DEITmeet

Questions or more info: 610-282-1100 x2290 or deit@desales.edu

Improving your course’s look and feel

Part of the design of Blackboard courses should include a consideration of the visual nature of the material. There are several things that can be done to improve the way a course looks.

Picture formatting

When putting images into Blackboard, not only should an image description be added for accessibility purposes, but an image’s placement and appearance can be controlled.

On the Appearance tab, a sample thumbnail shows how your choices will appear.Appearance menu

  • Setting the Alignment helps control the location of the picture. The most common options are Left and Right.
  • Selecting the check box for Constrain Proportions and changing the dimensions, the image is resized without horizontal or vertical distortion.
  • Adding a value for Vertical Space moves the picture up or down in relation to the text. Adding vertical space can help center a picture on the screen.
  • Adding a value for Horizontal Space moves the picture left or right.

If you want your image to appear right or left of a block of text, type your text in the editor first. Then, move your cursor to the beginning of the text and insert your image there. After you add your image in the General tab, move to the Appearance tab to choose your alignment, dimensions, and space around the image.

Using tables to control text

Either in relation to pictures or on its own, the use of tables can add clarity to the text in a course. To begin, use the Insert/Edit table button to add a table.

Table screenshot

 

Each row, and cell can be controlled. For example, using the Table Row Properties button  will allow a background color to be added and the text color changed to one or more rows. The Table Cell Properties button  will do the same for any cell currently selected within a table.

Hint: using a table is also a good way to offset text. Add a table with two columns and one row. Placing all the text in one column while adding a few spaces into the other column can add white space to an item in Blackboard. Ex:

Example of whitespace

 

Add space to list items

Content of ordered and unordered lists can be modified by:

  1. Selecting the text in the list
  2. Clicking in the CSS button in the toolbar
  3. Switching to the Box menu
  4. Deselect the “Same for All” checkbox on the right-side list, and entering a value in the Bottom A value of 4-6 pixels work best.
  5. Deselect the checkbox for “Insert span at selection”
  6. Click on the Update button

Adding space can have a subtle but powerful effect on the ability to read the text.

Bullet spacing

 

 

 

Printable version of this guide

Collaborate with the Ultra experience February 2018 Update

Starting Sunday, February 4th, 2018, Collaborate Ultra is receiving some improvements focused on digital collaboration. There are four main changes:

  • Phone only dial-in
  • Edit recording names
  • Single menu for settings, feedback and status
  • Application sharing bandwidth improvements

Phone only dial-in

With phone only dial-in, students will once again have the ability to dial into a session without first connecting to a session using a web browser or the Collaborate app. Session dial-in numbers will be available as soon as a session is created so students can be notified via email, course announcement, or calendar entry details.

Screen shot of session creation form with dial-in number & PIN

The dial-in number and PIN also appear on the session list after a session is selected.

Note: dial-in information will not be available to students until a session is active. Faculty can locate the dial-in number and PIN by looking at a session’s settings:

Screenshot of session options screen

This new dial-in option is anonymous. When you use Anonymous dial-in, your phone is not paired with your account or session avatar. You appear in the session as an anonymous caller to other attendees.

Edit recording names

Give your recordings a new name. Access Recordings from your scheduler. Find the recording you want to edit. Open the Recording options and select Edit name.

The recording name always begins with the session name. Edits to the name change the text after the backslash (/) only.

Single menu for your settings, feedback, and status

See what your network connection is at-a-glance. If your connection is poor or broken, you see an alert associated with your profile picture. You see one bar for a poor connection, three for good, and four for excellent.

Application sharing bandwidth improvements

Previously, when the browser reported a drop in available bandwidth, Collaborate would continue to prioritize the audio stream and send a lower quality application sharing stream, resulting in a blurry screen for the viewer. This usually lasted a few seconds, until the browser reported more available bandwidth. This was happening more frequently than true network capacity indicated. Now, we use additional measurements for a more accurate picture of network conditions, which greatly reduces the frequency of the blurry moments.

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