Welcome Back and Looking Forward: Customizing the Look of Your Course Part I

Hopefully Spring Break brought some time to log-off and relax from a busy spring semester. The rejuvenating effects of a nice long break may have you feeling on top of your to do list and looking ahead to the end of the semester and the busy summer sessions to come.

If you’re teaching this summer you might have noticed that your summer courses are already available in UTC Online. If you’re raring to get a jump-start on your summer sessions, read on to learn how to customize the look of your course menu. This will help you and your students differentiate one course from another. Stay tuned for Part II on this topic, which will discuss adding an attractive course banner.

Click for Tutorial on Customizing your My Courses Module

To customize a course menu, go to the course’s Control Panel and select Customization and then Style. The course menu can appear as “text,” which is selected in your course by default, or you can choose to use “buttons” in your course menu (seen above). You have the option to change both the background and text color for a “text” menu or choose from a variety of button types and colors for a “button” menu. When choosing font and background color combinations, keep in mind the following rules for readability:

  1. Avoid colors that clash (i.e. appear to vibrate)
  2. Choose colors with enough contrast
  3. Avoid a busy background (e.g. patterned backgrounds)
  4. You can test basic color combinations for readability here.

A preview of your course menu with your selections will appear at the top of the style screen. After you are satisfied with your menu color and design selections, click Submit.

Download step-by-step instructions on Customizing your Course Menu here.

Remember to check back in a few weeks for design tips on adding a customized banner to your UTC Online Course. Or follow UTC Online for daily tweets about Blackboard, online instruction, UTC and more.




Erin Noseworthy
Senior Instructional Designer
Walker Center for Teaching and Learning

Are you feeling the Midterm Madness? Student guide for preparing for an online test

Before your test begins you should make sure all pop-up blockers (any software or application that disables a pop-up) are turned off and close any other software you may be running. Give yourself plenty of time to take the test, accounting for any technical difficulties you may have. Make sure you follow directions from start to finish and be sure not to close out of your test before submitting your attempt.

When taking an online test in UTC Online a student should pay special attention to the test instructions, time limit, and other settings the instructor has implemented. To access a test, click on the title of the test then press begin. If a timer is enabled on your test it will appear underneath the instructions. Each test question will then appear underneath the instructions and timer. Blackboard has an auto-save feature, which will automatically save your answer when you move to the next question. However, if your browser experiences a long period of inactivity (no clicks within the window; checking answers does not count as a click) it may time-out and kick you out of the test. To avoid this click SAVE at the top or bottom of your screen ever couple minutes. Do not hit SUBMIT until you have completed the test.

During your test let the questions load before beginning to answer them. Do not navigate to other Internet sites while in the process of taking your test or use your browser’s navigation buttons to go back or forward in your test. Instead, single click the arrows within the Blackboard test environment to navigate through the questions. Finally, don’t forget to press the SUBMIT button once you are finished!

Tutorials to include:


Lindsay Benitez
Graduate Assistant
Walker Center for Teaching and Learning

Share Weekly Articles Using a Course Blog

I Love Blogging Blackboard’s Blog tool has many uses, but it can be intimidating to use an unfamiliar technology with students in a hybrid or online course. So start out small and slow; give yourself a chance to become comfortable with the technology.

Why not try an instructor blog to get started. Share weekly or bimonthly articles with your students and ask them to respond to the article using comments.

Once you feel comfortable and your students have also had the opportunity to experience blogging, you might open up the course blog to students and ask them to share articles of interest to them in a round-robin fashion.

After you’ve gotten your feet wet with blogging, you may find all kinds of uses for blogs in your online course.


comment bubbleAlready using Blackboard’s Blog tool? Share how you’re using the Blog tool within your course in a comment below.



Erin Noseworthy
Senior Instructional Designer
Walker Center for Teaching and Learning

Discussion Forums: They don’t have to be a headache

Using online discussion forums can add a whole new dimension to your classroom. Students learn and remember material better when they continue to engage with it and each other between class periods.  Depending on how you choose to set up your forum, however, it can either be a helpful addition or a frustration to both you and your students.

Whether you decide to have each student create their own thread, or create threads to which students can reply, make sure you choose an option that meets your objectives.  Instructor created threads can be useful if you are looking for students to add their observations to topics or questions of the instructor’s choosing. Student created threads on the other hand, are useful in forums where the objective is to have multiple student-directed conversations on a topic. Once you have decided the best layout for a particular assignment, remember to provide your students with instructions that outline exactly how you want them to respond as well as your expectations for their participation.

Participation in a discussion will likely increase if you encourage (or require) students to make their first post by a certain date. Setting due dates and frequency for responses to other students’ post in a forum may also stimulate more activity in early course forums.  If a forum is open for a week, many students may, unfortunately, not look at it until the day before it closes.  If this happens, the discussion quickly turns into a forum full of individual statements with no one interacting with each other.  By telling students to make their first post by a certain day and respond to two classmates before a later date, the amount of time they have to interact with each other’s comments and insights increases.

Frequent posts by the instructor can also stimulate more activity within a discussion forum. However, it is not necessary for the instructor to comment on every student response. Instead an instructor should pepper discussions with feedback and questions that guide the discussion – keeping it active and on topic.

Discussions are a great tool for classrooms if used the right way…don’t let them become a headache for you AND your students!

Click here to review documentation on Blackboard discussions for step by step instructions on creating a Discussion Forum in your UTC Online course.

Whitney Huskey
Gradate Assistant
Walker Teacher Resource Center


Archive and Export before you wrap up this semester

Gift WrappedFaculty,

As you tidy your desk and organize files before heading home for winter break, take the time to archive and export your online courses as well.

A course archive will retain all course information including student activity. It is recommended that you save an archive of every course you teach.  Blackboard will create a zip folder containing your course archive. Do not unzip this file; should you need to restore your course contact the Blackboard Administrator.

Learn more about archiving UTC Online courses in Blackboard.

You will also want to export your UTC Online courses. You will determine during the export, what parts of your course you would like to save and reuse (please read recommendations). Course exports can retain all course content, but will not save any student information or activity. Exports are used to recreate courses in a new course shell. Similar to an archive, Blackboard will create a zip file for each exported course. Do not unzip this file. Import the zip file into Blackboard using Import Package.

Learn more about Exporting UTC Online courses in Blackboard.


Understand the file name of archives and exports. This will help you find the exported and archived zip files saved on your computer.

Download and save the Grade Center from your UTC Online course.

Click here for an example of how to organize your course files on your computer, so you can easy find what you’re looking for when you need it.

Erin Noseworthy
Senior Instructional Designer
Walker Teacher Resource Center

UTC Online Blackboard Upgrade: New Feature Focus

Blackboard LogoAt the end of the 2011 fall semester we will upgrade our Blackboard system from Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 4 to Backboard 9.1 Service Pack 6. Fear not, this Blackboard release primarily fixes bugs and functionality behind the scenes; you may not even notice the change! Continue to prepare your courses in UTC Online for the spring as usual.

However, there are some useful new features to bring to your attention.

  1. Interactive Rubrics
    Rubrics are not new to Blackboard; the previous version of rubrics in Blackboard could be used as a reference tool for instructors when grading assessments. Rubrics could be attached to assessments in the Grade Center and viewed by the instructor while grading. Service Pack 6 provides the same rubric tool but now allows both students and instructors access to rubrics, in addition to interactivity during grading.

    The new interactive rubrics can be attached to Blackboard Assessments and viewed by students prior to an assignment due date, ensuring your requirements and expectations are clear. Additionally, the instructor can use rubrics as a grading mechanism to provide consistent grading and specific criterion based feedback to students. Completed rubrics can be attached to a student’s returned grade and made available to students in their My Grades area. Rubrics are available from the Control Panel > Course Tools > Rubrics or while creating an assessment. Learn more about using Interactive Rubrics here.

  2. Grading Enhancement for Blogs, Journals, Discussions and Wikis
    Instructors can now grade these interactive course tools based on their own participation criteria. This enhancement allows the instructor to control when a student’s graded blog, journal, and discussion or wiki participation shows up as “Needs Grading” in the Grade Center by setting a number for the Needs Grading status. For example, students’ work within a discussion forum, with a Needs Grading status requirement of 3 posts, will not show up in the Grade Center with a status of Needs Grading until a student has posted to the discussion forum at least 3 times. Learn more about Blackboards interactive tools here.
  3. Timed Assessment Enhancement
    In previous versions of Blackboard instructors could set a test timer. However, students were allowed to continue taking a test after exceeding the time limit. The latest version of Blackboard gives instructors more options. Instructors can now check the option to Auto Submit student exams once the allotted test time expires. Auto submitted tests save completed questions and give zero points for incomplete questions. An auto submitted tests then appears in the grade center like any other test. Learn more about Blackboard tests and surveys here.

SavedService Pack 6 also includes Auto Save for test and survey questions. Question responses are automatically saved when students moves on to the next question on a test or survey. It is no longer necessary for students to manually save their answers during a test; answers are automatically saved after each question is answered.


Over the summer UTC Online transitioned from Blackboard 8 to Blackboard 9. Blackboard 9 offers a host of new tools and features that were not available on 8. Mash-ups (You Tube Videos, Flickr Photos), wikis, and journals are just a few of the new features. To learn more about what’s new in Blackboard 9 visit the recent post UTC Online Upgrade: Blackboard Switch Made.

Visit WTRC to learn more about what’s new with UTC Online and to register for upcoming seminars on instructional technology. Follow UTC Online on Twitter to get daily updates, tips and tools.


Erin Noseworthy
Senior Instructional Designer
Walker Teacher Resource Center

UTC Online Transition: Fall ’11 Classes Available and Classes on Old Server

UTC Online has transitioned to a new Blackboard version and server for Summer/Fall 2011 courses and Blackboard organizations. Fall classes and enrollments are now available for development to instructors on the new server. Students will not see their courses until their instructor makes the course available.

Classes on the Old Server.
Instructors and organizational leaders may access past courses (Spring 2011 and earlier) or organization content from the old Blackboard server until September 15, 2011. Access to the old server must be done directly by logging in at bb3.utc.edu. Instructors are encouraged to create both an export file and an archive file of their classes from the old server and save these files locally to their computer. After September 15, there will be no way to retrieve this content. How to export and archive...

Instructors are encouraged to attend training on the new Blackboard version.

Please contact or stop by the Walker Teaching Resource Center (401 Hunter) if you have any questions about UTC Online’s new Blackboard version.

UTC Online Administrator

UTC Online Upgrade: Making Courses Available and Three Important Issues

Last week UTC Online switched to a new Blackboard version for Summer 2011 (and following) courses and Blackboard organizations. Users now are directed to the new Blackboard server and may access the new server through MyMocsNet, the login at utconline.utc.edu, or directly at bb4.utc.edu

Summer term instructors are reminded to make their course available when it is ready for students to view (step-by-step PDF):
Control Panel > Customization: Properties > 3. Set Availability to Yes > click Submit

UTC Online would like to highlight three important issues for users with the new Blackboard version:

1. Accessing Microsoft Office Files in Blackboard Using Internet Explorer
If you attempt to access a Microsoft Office file (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Excel) within Blackboard while using Internet Explorer (IE), you may be asked to login again in a window prompt which typically opens behind your main window. UTC Online recommends you use a different internet browser (such as Firefox) when using UTC Online, but other workarounds to open the file include selecting “Cancel” in the relogin window prompt, saving the file locally, or making a configuration change in IE so that the relogin prompt does not appear. Read about how to make the IE configuration change.

2. Difference in how Course Announcements Sent by Email
If you choose to email your course announcements (“Send Email to all users even those that choose not to receive Announcement notifications through email”), you should be aware these types of emails no longer come to students from your email address. Instead, these announcement emails instead appear to be sent by the UTC Online administrator’s email (utconlin@utc.edu). This change is due to how the new Blackboard version sends notifications to students. Thus, if a student simply hits reply to your emailed course announcement, the student will unintentionally send a reply to the UTC Online email address. It is recommended that you use the Send Email tool (Control Panel > Course Tools: Send Email) when emailing students an announcement as these emails will always come from your email address.

3. Hiding the Course Menu
Users may become confused and state they “cannot see the course” after entering it. What users mean is that they cannot navigate the course using the course menu. The course menu can be hidden and shown by clicking the right bracket character on the left hand side of the screen. View this issue in action.

Please contact or stop by the Walker Teaching Resource Center (401 Hunter) if you have any questions about UTC Online’s new Blackboard version.

UTC Online Administrator

UTC Online Upgrade: Blackboard Switch Made

UTC Online ImageUTC Online has officially transitioned to a new Blackboard version. Users are now being directed to the new Blackboard server for any Summer 2011 class using UTC Online. All faculty, staff, and students may login to the new server through MyMocsNet, at utconline.utc.edu, or directly at bb4.utc.edu. The old server which contains Spring 2011 classes and earlier may still be accessed, but you must login directly at bb3.utc.edu

What’s New
The new Blackboard version adds many great enhancements:

  • Improved accessibility for screen reader users
  • Improved assignment features
  • Improved management of groups
  • New overall look and feel
  • New tools: Blogs, Journals, Mashups, and Wikis
  • New way to combine (merge) classes
  • New way to manage course content (Course Files)
  • New way to view course as a student sees it (Add Test Student)

A detailed list of what’s new is located here.

Training & Help Documentation
Training for faculty and staff on the new Blackboard version is being offered by the Walker Teaching Resource Center (schedule of training classes).

Training for students is being offered through the self-paced Student UTC Online Training class found in the “Enroll in Student Training” module located on the Courses tab within Blackboard (see this image). Students may self-enroll in this training class to learn more about the new Blackboard version.

Help documentation for all users is located here.

Faculty: Archive & Export off the Old Server
You may access your Spring 2011 and earlier classes on the old server until September 15, 2011. To access the old server, you must login directly at bb3.utc.edu

To move any course content from the old server to the new server, you must export a part or all that course. Faculty are highly encouraged to archive and export any classes they may have on the old server and save a copy of the archive/export files on their local computer. Instructions on how to archive and export a class can be found here.

Please contact or stop by the Walker Teaching Resource Center (401 Hunter) if you have any questions about this transition for UTC Online.

UTC Online Administrator

UTC Online Upgrade: Blackboard Switch Next Week and Reminder for Organizations

UTC Online officially switches Blackboard versions next week on May 9 when students will be directed to a new Blackboard server. This new server at bb4.utc.edu is where you will find any Summer 2011 class using UTC Online and may be accessed at anytime with your UTCID and password. The old server will remain online for faculty until September 15, 2011.

As part of the UTC Online/Blackboard transition, Blackboard organizations are also impacted by this switch. Any current Blackboard organization wanting space on the new server should email a request (if they haven’t already done so) from one of its organizational leaders to utconlin@utc.edu by May 6. Details about requests and the organizational transition are listed here.

Training on the new Blackboard version is being offered by the Walker Teaching Resource Center.

Please contact the Teaching Resource Center if you have any questions about this transition for UTC Online.

UTC Online Administrator