Getting Started with Blackboard A Guide for Students

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1 Getting Started with Blackboard A Guide for Students

2 Contents Your Account... 3 Accessing Blackboard... 3 Browser Issues When Connecting from Outside the Network... 4 The Blackboard Environment... 5 Tabs... 5 Career Ahead... 5 Courses Tab... 5 Tab. 6 Student Union Tab...6 My Institution Tab... 6 My Courses Panel... 6 Tools Panel... 6 Announcements... 7 Calendar... 7 Tasks... 7 My Grades... 7 Webmail... 7 Timetables... 7 Icon... 8 Send Customising My Institution Accessing your Course Navigation Menu Announcements Staff Information Course Information Course Documents Communication Campus pack collaboration space Groups Send Discussion Boards Replying to a Thread Submitting assignments to Turnitin Saving Your Course Documents Navigation Tips Further Information and Support

3 Overview Blackboard is a Virtual Learning Environment, or VLE. It is used by tutors (referred to as Instructors on Blackboard) to deliver courses and learning support material to students. Throughout this guide the term course will refer to a University course or module, as Blackboard uses the term course for both. Your Account To access Blackboard you must have a University network account. Accessing Blackboard Follow the Blackboard link from the University home page ( You should see the screen below To login, enter your username and password and click the Login button. This should take you into Blackboard. If you experience problems, for example you cannot log in, please try again. You may have typed your account details incorrectly. If you still cannot log in check the following:- Check that you have not typed an O (capital letter) instead of the number 0 (zero) or vice versa. Also watch out for number 1 and the letter l (lower case L) looking similar. 3

4 Make sure that the Caps Lock is not on - passwords are case-sensitive! If you are still having difficulty, please contact the IT Service Desk ( ). Browser Issues When Connecting from Outside the Network Blackboard recommend using the most up to date version of a browser and is supported for use using Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Earlier versions may work without any problems but Blackboard doesn t officially support them. There are also known problems with the AOL Browser which comes with an AOL internet account. If you are using AOL, you don t actually have to use the AOL Browser with your connection. Simply connect to the internet as you would normally, using the AOL Browser. Minimise it, and then use any of the above browsers to access Blackboard. 4

5 The Blackboard Environment This section explores some of the features of Blackboard. Once logged in, a page similar to the one below will be shown At the top of the screen are various tabs, including My Institution, Courses, Career Ahead and Students Union. There may be other tabs depending which courses you are enrolled to. Career Ahead Find out about The University of Cumbria employability award. Courses Tab Pressing this tab displays a full list of all the courses you are enrolled on. When you select a course from the list, this tab then displays all the course material. Tab This will take you to where you can find information and materials about a selection of Academic, Digital and Information skills 5

6 Student Union Tab Keep up to date with what is happening with the Student Union and find out how you can join in. My Institution Tab This is the default tab. Arranged on the screen are various panels. These contain information, tools and links. Some of these panels are described below My Courses Panel This panel contains the list of courses you are taking. Some of your courses may not be listed here. The instructors (tutors) make the courses available when required. When a course is made available it will appear in this panel. Should you find that a course/module is not listed under My Courses please contact your tutor to check the status. To enter a course, click its link. Tools Panel On the left of the screen you will see the Tools panel. There are many features here, some you may never use, and others will be used more frequently. All of them will be explained, but with more detail on the features you are more likely to use. The Tools panel can be thought of as a kind of super panel, covering all of the courses you are enrolled on. For instance, clicking on Calendar will allow you to see forthcoming events from all of your courses. In addition to this super panel, each of your individual courses has a similar set of tools, but these are specific to that course. So, selecting the Calendar tool from within a course will allow you to see forthcoming events from that course only. 6

7 Click the Announcements link in the Tools panel; you will arrive at a page similar to the one to the right This page shows all announcements from any of your courses, or announcements from the University. The drop-down list at the right allows you to just show announcements from a particular course or from the University. The Calendar in general may display two types of information. These are events which are added by your instructors, and dates which can be added by yourself. Use this tool to view, add, delete and modify your entries. Tasks work in a similar way to the Calendar. Information can be added by your instructors, and also by you. Instructors may use this to indicate when your tasks should be started and/or completed. Your tutor may not always use this feature. If they do, you can click on the My Grades link and be taken to a page listing all your courses select a course to see the results of any online tests you may have taken, as well as any of your assignments/assessments. Your instructors will inform you if this feature is in use. A quick link to your account. Follow this link to the University of Cumbria online timetable service. 7

8 A link to the student information portal ICON. You will need to log in to use this service. You can send from Blackboard, but you cannot receive it within Blackboard. The people who you send to can view their messages by logging on to the University system and looking in their inbox. (Blackboard also has its own internal messaging feature similar to , where messages can be sent and read from within Blackboard please see the Messaging section of this guide.) As with the other tools, there is also a Send tool within every course. This is normally accessible by pressing the Tools button on the course main menu. Example:- From the My Institutions tab, click on Send in the Tools panel. You will arrive at a page listing your courses. Select a course. You now have the choice of sending s to the following users, groups, or instructors within the course... All Users: the message is sent to absolutely 8

9 everyone who is involved in the course, including instructors. All Groups: the message is sent to all groups of students. All Students: the message is sent to all students on the course. All Instructors Users: the message is sent to all instructors on the course. Select Groups allows you to select a group (say your own), and send a message to all the students in that group. Select Users allows you to send a message to specific users. The following demonstrates the procedure Click on Select Users. Under the heading To and in the Available to Select pane, you should see a list of everyone on the course. Click on a user and then press on the left to right arrow. The user will move across to the Selected pane. These are all the people you want to receive your . If you make a mistake, you can remove a user by clicking on the right to left arrow. They return back to the other pane. In this example below, we have chosen two users Arthur Apple and Bill Barnacle 9

10 The subject of the is typed in the Subject field. The message is typed into the Message field. Attachments can be sent by clicking the Attach a file link. This will take you to another page from where you can browse and select the file to attach. When you are happy with everything, click the Submit button at the bottom right of the screen to send or Cancel if you ve changed your mind. Please note, no copies of your sent are kept within Blackboard itself. However, a copy is automatically sent to your University account, should you need it. Customising My Institution You can customise which modules are shown, together with their colour and position. Use the Personalise Page and button circled below. 10

11 The best approach is to try it, and see what happens! Accessing your Course On the Home page (My Institution tab) in the Courses panel, click on the course you would like to enter. You should see a screen similar to the following Navigation menu Please note not all Blackboard sites are the same in terms of the menu buttons instructors are able to change the way their own site looks. They may also change the entry point. Here are some examples 11

12 Normally, the navigation is arranged in Quick View (clickable buttons). However, you can also change to Folder View. This allows you to navigate to resources through an expandable and collapsible navigation menu. Clicking on Folder View gives navigation similar to this To revert back, click List View. Announcements This page contains information that relates to the course. You can click the tabs to see announcements over different time periods e.g. View Today, View Last 7 Days, View Last 30 Days, View All. Staff Information / Tutor Profiles Provides information about staff on the course, staff may also include photos of themselves as well as their contact details. Course Information This is usually an overview of the course, and may contain useful handbooks and other information. Course Documents Documents that relate to the course can be found here as text or as downloadable files. Assignments may be organised into folders. 12

13 Sometimes you may wish to view a resource but don t want to navigate away from the current page. To do this, right-click the resource and then select open in new window in the context menu that appears. Communication When you click on the Communication button you are provided with a series of links similar to the ones on the screen below. This feature allows real time discussion and lessons your instructor will inform you in advance if/when this tool is going to be used. Your course may be subdivided into groups. By clicking on the Groups link (found within Communication by default) you will either see the text No groups currently defined, or a list of named groups. If it is the latter then your course has been divided into groups. You may also have a menu to the bottom left of the course screen, such as the one shown here on the right. If you are in a group, the group in which you are part of will be underlined (meaning it s a link). The group can be accessed by clicking the 13

14 group s link. You should see another list of available facilities and tools, and a list of the members that belong to that group. Once the chosen group is accessed, more facilities are provided including:- Group Discussion Board This discussion area is exactly like the discussion area for the whole of the course, except that only the people in your group can access and contribute to this; likewise you cannot enter other group discussions. File Exchange You can submit files which will be viewable by all users in your group, including instructors. Send This is the same as Send in the Communication and Tools area but only relates to this group. This feature allows you send messages to anyone on your course. It appears very much like an facility but sends internal mail messages to fellow students and instructors. Messages are picked up from within the Blackboard system itself, unlike where you have to go to your University account to pick them up. By clicking on the Send link you have the option to send s to all users, instructors, fellow students, student groups or individual users. Using the Discussion Boards Each course has a dedicated discussion area, usually accessible from the Discussion Board button on the main menu, or from the Communication area. This discussion area is normally accessible by all students on the course. However, if groups have been created, separate discussion areas can be also be set up, accessible by only those students in the group. Both the normal and group discussion boards work in exactly the same way. 14

15 Enter your course and navigate to the desired discussion area. You should see a screen similar to the one below The Discussion Board page will display one or more forum topics. Each topic is underlined, showing that it s a link. Next to each forum topic is the total number of posts, number of unread posts and number of participants taking part in that particular discussion. Click on a forum topic to enter that forum. You will see one or more threads. To see this thread, simply click on the title. The screen will then show two panels: an upper one, displaying the post titles and authors, and a lower one, displaying the actual messages. Clicking on a title displays the corresponding message. Replies to posts are indented and normally start with RE:. The can be pressed to collapse and expand the list. symbol Threads are normally started by instructors and you reply to them. However, an instructor may allow you to add threads of your own. 15

16 Replying to a Thread To reply to the opening post, press on the Reply button in the top panel To reply to a specific post, simply click on the post s title to see the message and then press the Reply button in the lower panel You will then be able to enter your message. You must give your post a title. The default title is RE: followed by the title of the post you re replying too. However, you are free to change the title to be anything you like. You can also attach a file if appropriate. 16

17 Your message can be written directly using the Blackboard text editor, or written in a separate text editor and pasted in at a later date. We don t recommend using Microsoft Word as it uses hidden characters and may cause problems during pasting. However, Notepad (Start > All Programs >Accessories > Notepad) is suitable. Once your message is complete, you have three options: Cancel, Save Draft or Submit. Submit posts your message onto the forum straightaway. Save draft places a draft copy onto the forum, which only you can see. You can then come back at a later date & modify it before posting it onto the forum properly. Press cancel if you don t want to send your message. Submitting assignments using Turnitin You may have been asked to submit assignments in Blackboard using Turnitin. In some Blackboard courses a button on the left hand menu will be named Assignments or Turnitin and you will submit here. However Turnitin areas can appear anywhere throughout your Blackboard course and it will depend where your tutor has placed them. If you are 17

18 struggling to find your Turnitin Submission area, speak to your tutor. Further help with Turnitin can be found in the Plagiarism & Turnitin area of the Saving Your Course Documents To save a resource, right click on it and choose Save Target As You can then save to the location of your choice. Repeat this for each resource you would like to save. It is advised that you save course documents located within Blackboard before your course ends so that you are able to refer to them at a later date. Navigation Tips When using Blackboard it is easy to forget where you are and then wonder how to get back. Remember, it s web-based, so you can usually use the back arrow button, though sometimes it doesn t work and may get the error Warning Page Expired Alternatively make use of the breadcrumb trail The ringed area above is the breadcrumb trail. This shows where you are and the path you took to get there. This is useful information especially if you participate in a number of courses concurrently. If you wanted to go backwards one; two; three; or however many steps, you would click on the underlined words (which are links) to get there. 18

19 Further Information and Support Hopefully, this guide has helped you as you begin to use Blackboard. Please contact your local IT Service Desk if you are experiencing any technical, access or other difficulties when using Blackboard. Please checkout the knowledgebase for Blackboard information and FAQ s IT Service Desk contact details can be found here: If you need further help with any of the features on Blackboard a User Manual can be found by clicking the Tools button in your Blackboard course or by using the following url: Please note that some features listed in the documentation may not be available on the University of Cumbria Blackboard system! February 2013 This guide is available in other formats on request. Please ask in any of the site libraries or contact your local helpdesk. 19

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