Center for Teaching Excellence

Blackboard Use Tips

Pay Attention to Blackboard Ops Information

When you login to Blackboard, by default you land on your MyUSMA page. On that page is a module titled "Blackboard Ops Information." All current changes, update notifications, and future maintenence windows are listed there and it is updated on a daily basis. Please check each time you login to be sure you don't miss important information.

Take a Workshop

Blackboard is a complex Learning Management System that is constantly being modified. Learning the tools and features of Blackboard must be an ongoing process. We strongly recommend continuous Blackboard Training. CTE offers monthly Blackboard training briefs in person and will travel to any department to offer the same briefs on request. Contact Patrick Gill by telephone at 938-4670 or by email .

Use ‘Force Complete’ with Caution

When instructors use Force Complete on a test, the resulting session requires all assigned work to be completed within that session. Cadets may not exit the session for any reason. The major downside to this is that if, for example, a cadet has to restart their computer or exit the test for issues such as dropped internet connectivity, they are "kicked out" of the session. The only way to regain access is to have their instructor reset the attempt, which means losing all work and starting over again.
At USMA it is strongly recommended NOT to use Force Complete.
Instead, set a timer and enable auto-submit inside Blackboard. Using the timer/auto-submit option, cadets can re-enter the test and continue where they left off as long as there is time remaining. The timer/auto-submit option accomplishes the same goal as Force Complete without the significant overhead of resetting attempts and starting over.

Never Delete Items

Never delete anything that is connected to the Grade Book or has student submissions. It is always better to make things unavailable and hide from view than to delete something. Once you delete something in Blackboard it is gone, there is no recycle bin! To make an item unavailable, access the items contextual menu and change the setting for “permit users to view this content” to NO. Content areas located on the page menu are made unavailable in a different way. To make a content area unavailable select it’s contextual menu and select “hide link”.

Clear your Browser Cache

When you receive any error messages, we strongly recommend to first clear your browser cache and cookies or try using a different browser.

Clear Word Formatting

Unfortunately, cutting and pasting from MS Word copies proprietary HTML and XML code into Blackboard that doesn’t co-operate with standard HTML code. The latest version of Blackboard is designed to strip all of the "bad code" out of the pasted content, but it occasionally fails to do so and the web browser will display the content incorrectly. You can attempt to clear the formatting by highlighting the text and clicking on the “Remove Formatting” button that is to the right of the highlight button (in the text formatting palette). In most cases this works. Alternatively, copy the text and paste it into Notepad and then copy from Notepad and paste it back into Blackboard.

Avoid Using Special Characters in Names and Titles

The term “Special Characters” refers to all the possible punctuation marks and symbols which are available on a keyboard. The use of special characters in any name or title in Blackboard may cause error messages and display problems. To be clear, you can use special characters in any content but not in any name or title. Many of the issues related to the grade book not functioning correctly are caused by the accidental use of special characters such as (!@#$%^&*) in an assignment title. Using a-z, A-Z, 0-9 are all acceptable in names and titles. Using _(underscore) ,  -(dash), and .(period) are acceptable ONLY if they are used once in a name or title. Using multiple underscores, dashes or periods can cause display problems. For example, "- Black.board-Assignment_1.doc" is acceptable.

Getting Help with Blackboard

When asking for help, please include specific information about the course, the problem, and the location of the problem within the course. A list of steps to recreate the problem is also very useful and time saving. Providing limited information on a help request means the resolution of the problem will take longer. Contact USMA Blackboard Support by telephone at 938-4670 or by email .