iTeam @ USD

Welcome to the Instructional Support and Training blog at USD. Each week we get calls and emails from those of you looking to implement new technologies that will enhance the delivery of your course materials, and allow you to more efficiently use the time you spend teaching.

Other questions we often get:

  • When are we moving to a new learning management system? What platform will that be?
  • Do we have standardized clickers on campus and if so, how do I get my class started with them?
  • What are the new features in Microsoft Office?
  • What web conferencing software is available to me if I want to offer virtual office hours?
This blog was created specifically to answer those and many other questions. It’s designed this to be a mechanism that will provide you with continuous updates on a variety of things we are working on, as well as things that are going on behind the scenes, research and investigations into emerging technologies. We invite you to bookmark this link, or subscribe to the feed, and look forward to your comments and suggestions for future content.

Changes to Blackboard Collaborate

Early in the summer, USD IT upgraded Blackboard Collaborate to the newest version, Collaborate Ultra! This video highlights some important and exciting changes to the product.

Major new features include:

  • Telephony (ability to call into a session)
  • Polling
  • Scheduling and session attendance tracking

Sessions can be recorded and downloaded.

Collaborate Ultra

Blackboard Collaborate has been updated to Collaborate Ultra! For the faculty using the classic version now, this will mean some changes but should not negatively affect how Collaborate is being used in your classes.  Some of the major improvements include the ability to join sessions quickly (without downloading Java), an updated modern aesthetic, and an easy-to-use interface that allows instructors to focus on teaching.

The chart below helps to layout some of the changes and restrictions with the main features of Collaborate:

Feature Description
End-User Tools
Application Sharing Changed: Application sharing is noticeably faster and easier to use. Application sharing uses the new WebRTC standard giving a high definition experience with superior image quality. To learn more from the moderator’s perspective, see Share Content for Moderators.Restriction: Application sharing requires an extension on Google ChromeTM.
Audio and Video Changed: The Ultra experience uses the new WebRTC standard giving a high definition experience with superior image and sound quality for users with Google Chrome. Browsers that do not yet support WebRTC will receive audio, video and application sharing using a Flash plugin.
Breakout Rooms Not Available Yet
Chat Unchanged: Users can still chat during a session. Moderators may disable chat in their session.Restriction: Private chat is only available for moderators.
File Sharing Changed: Like application sharing, file sharing is faster and easier to use. Uploaded files are accessible during the specific session they are uploaded to.Restriction: Users can upload PPT, PPTX, PDF, and most image files at this time.
First Time Connection Walkthrough New: Users are presented with a choice to switch to the Ultra experience.
Live Closed Captioning New: Sessions can now include live closed captioning. Moderators must make participants captioners. Captioners type what is being said during a session. Other participants can view what is being typed in real time. You can have multiple captioners for multiple languages.
Plan Not Available Yet
Recording Changed: Moderators can record their sessions and share them. The recordings are saved as MP4 files. Users can stream or download them to view them.
Navigation Changed: Navigation in Collaborate with the Ultra experience is simple and intuitive. Everything users need is available exactly when they need it. The interface dynamically adapts to all activity in the session, putting the focus on who is speaking and any content that is being shared.
Polling Not Available Yet
Profiles Changed: Users will have access to simple profiles with their names and the ability to add profile pictures.
Timer Not Available Yet
Whiteboard Changed: Users have access to a basic whiteboard, which includes basic annotation and text entry tools for making edits.
Moderator Unchanged: Moderators continue to have the same privileges in their sessions.
Presenter New: Presenter is a new role created to allow students to present content without giving them full moderator privileges.
Participant Unchanged: Participants continue to have the same privileges in sessions they attend.
Captioner New: This new role is designed to provide an accessible learning experience for students who are deaf or heard of hearing, as well as for students whose native language is different from the moderator’s.
Accessibility Changed: Some of the accessibility features include full-screen reader support of all key workflows, whiteboard activities, and uploaded files. Global keyboard shortcuts for common actions are also supported.The Ultra experience now provides live closed captioning. This provides an accessible learning experience for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as for students whose native language is different from the moderator’s.
API Framework Changed: Blackboard Collaborate with the Ultra experience uses REST APIs for custom LMS integrations.The public Collaborate APIs have been updated to include scheduling session, requesting session links, and attendance. Please contact Blackboard Services for more information.
Bandwidth Efficiency Changed: The Ultra experience uses WebRTC encoding.
Deployment Unchanged: Collaborate is a SaaS deployment.
Downloads Changed: The Ultra experience is entirely browser-based. No downloads or installs are required.
Localization Unchanged: Collaborate continues to be localized.
Integrations Changed: The Ultra experience is available through the following means.

  • System Administration Server (SAS)
  • Blackboard Learn 9.1 October 2014 and Blackboard Learn SaaS
  • Moodlerooms
  • Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) compliant Learning Management Systems (LMS)

The public Collaborate APIs have been updated to include scheduling session, requesting session links, and attendance. Please contact Blackboard Services for more information.

Mobile Changed: Browsers on mobile devices are not supported at this time. Students can use Bb Student to join sessions.
Telephony Changed: With Integrated Telephony, you don’t need your own teleconference provider. The teleconference service is provided by Blackboard Collaborate. Teleconference phone numbers and PINs are automatically generated during session creation. Anyone can dial into the session and initiate the connection between the session and the teleconference bridge.

We supply a Virginia-US number for U.S. and Canada, a UK number for Europe, and a Sydney number for Australia. Long distance and international calling charges may apply.



How to Turn Off Notifications in a Collaborate Ultra Session

The Blackboard Ultra Session is a useful way to collaborate with students.  With this tool comes many new and exciting features — and some not so fun ones.  If you’ve spent any time in Collaborate sessions, you know that the addition of new individuals to a session or chat messages trigger an alert  notification, which can be distracting.  Below outlines directions on how to shut it off and continue on with your Collaborate sessions in peace.

1.  Hover over the avatar (or your picture) up in the lefthand corner.  A wrench image should pop up, with “My Settings” written above it; click on that.


2.  Click on the “Notification Settings” dropdown menu.


3.  Click on the checkmark next to “Audio Notification” to disable the notification sounds.  You can choose to do this for when someone joins or leave a session, as well as when a new message is received.


And that’s it!  Enjoy your collaborate sessions without the distraction of notification noises.

Students: Submit Your Turnitin Assignment Using Blackboard

Turnitin is a convenient way for professors to check the work of students. This short video shows how you can easily submit your document through Blackboard.

If your professor allows for it, you will be able to view the Originality Report for the document. If the matching percentage says “Pending”, you should be able to click the tile of the paper to view the matched content as a percentage. Please notice that it could take a few days for Turnitin and Blackboard to sync even though the document was submitted on time.

Using Spreadsheets in the LockDown Browser

Last month we invited faculty to be part of the pilot program for the LockDown Browser. We’ve been asked how to use spreadsheets with it. In this post we will explain how you could use the LockDown Browser for those kind of assignments or exams.

In the first example a link has been provided so that the student can solve the problem using the “Mortgage payment calculator” spreadsheet and then answer the multiple choice question.



Alternatively, the student can be allowed to create or modify a spreadsheet and then submit it for grading. The example below shows how a question can be phrased and how the student would have to submit their spreadsheet. The instructor would later see a list of all the submitted answers and then open the URLs with the browser of their choice and check the answers with an Excel-like spreadsheet tool.

After the student has clicked “Click here to save your work” in the spreadsheet, a box will appear to remind them to paste the URL in the text box. saveyourworkspread4


How to Create a Distribution List Using Blackboard and Excel

This blog post will go through how you could create a distribution list from the list of users on Blackboard. This could be useful for faculty who would like to save previous or current sections of their classes in an organized matter on their Torero account. We will first download the user information from Blackboard, then use Excel to get their email address, and then finally import it to your ToreroMail account. Let’s get started!

1. Go to the Grade Center on your Blackboard, and click on “Download” under “Work Offline”.

2. On the first section “Data”, select “User Information Only” as the data to download. Click on “Submit”, and on the next page click on the “Download” button. The file has now been saved on your computer. If you need help with these two steps (1 and 2) please consider taking a look at our post on how to download Blackboard grades to Excel.

user information


3. Open up the Excel-file that was downloaded. We will now concatenate “” to each username using Excel.

4. Make a new column called “Email addresses”.

5. Click on the box under “Email addresses” and create a formula to concatenate. Please copy our formula (see below). If your “Username” column is not on column C, you might want to replace “C2” to the correct box which contains the first user (see our Username “georgeclooney”).


6. Once done, hit your Enter-key, and drag the first email address all the way down to the last user. You will see that each user now has an email address in the format of “”. If you would like to watch a video showing these two last steps (Steps 5 and 6), please consider watching this video.

7. Now we will save the file. Click on File and then Save as, and then select “Comma Separated Values (.csv)” as your preferred file format from the drop-down list. Name your document and save it on your computer.

Now, to create a distribution list on Gmail:

8. Log in to your ToreroMail account.

9. From the Google Apps options across the top of the page, click “Contacts.” The Google Contacts page will open.









10. Click on the “More” button and then click on “Import”.

11. Choose the Excel-file that you saved (from Step 7) and click on the “Import” button.

12. Your new contacts have now been added. To your left, under “My Contacts” you will see “Imported X/XX/XX” with today’s date. Click on it, and from the “More” button again, you will be able to “Rename group”.

13. To email all of the people in your newly created group, click on the unchecked box to select all, and then click on the Email-button.



Tech Talk on Creating and Applying Rubrics on Friday, April 29th


Together with the Center for Educational Excellence (CEE), we are pleased to invite you to after lunch Tech Talk on Friday, April 29th, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., in MRH (SOLES) 135.

We hope you can join us to learn more about creating and applying rubrics for Blackboard. The rubrics will be designed using Qualtrics and can be used for student peer and self-evaluations for Blackboard assignments, tests and quizzes.

Dr. Alyson Ma and Dr. Steven Sumner from SBA will be there to tell us how they use rubrics in their courses and how it has benefited their teaching and the quality of the work that students have produced.

Coffee and biscotti will be available!


Register for Tech Talk:
Phone: (619) 260-7402

Use “Needs Grading” Page to Organize Heavy Grading Load

Professors with a heavy grading load might find it useful to use the “Needs Grading” page to determine and organize grading tasks. Individual and group assignments, blog and journal entries, wiki page saves, and discussion posts that are ready grading or review can be viewed. If you have a designated turnaround time set for all gradable items, the Needs Grading page allows you to customize the view of items with a needs grading status.

The “Needs Grading” page is found in the Grading Center section of the Control Panel.

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Next, we will show what you can do on the “Needs Grading” page.

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A. Click Grade All on the action bar to begin grading and reviewing immediately. The Grade All function places all attempts in a queue for easy navigation among items. The items in the queue appear in the order they appear on the Needs Grading page.

B. To organize your list, you can click on any of the column titles, like for example “Date Submitted” to list all items based on submission time.

C. A filter can be used to narrow the list.  For example, make selections in both the Category and User drop-down lists to display tests submitted by a particular student.

D. The total number of items to grade appears above the list of items and reflect the current number that needs to be graded. If you filter the list, the number reflects how many items match the current filter settings. For example, “6 of 12 total items match current filter.”

E. Access an item’s contextual menu and make a selection.

  • For assignments, you can select Grade All Users or Grade with User Names Hidden.
  • For tests, you can also select Grade by Question and View Attempts.
  • For interactive tools such as blogs, journals, wikis, and discussions, you can determine how many entries or posts users must make before an item goes into needs grading status. For these items, you can Reset All to clear the activity counter and move the item out of needs grading status. The total number of attempts for the selected item is listed in parentheses.

F. Click Show All to display up to 1,000 items on one page. Click Edit Paging to change the number of items to view per page.


Please keep in mind that once the instructor adds comments or grades, the items will disappear from this page and will be found through the Grade Center. Tests with a grading status of Attempt in Progress do not appear on the “Needs Grading” page.

Copying your Blackboard course

New Content Management Features

Copy Course File Attachments

To cut down the number of file attachments that are duplicated during a course copy, a new option has been added to the course copy function for course files. Previously the entire course files directory was included in the package when users elected to include copies of course files. With this new option, users can decide to take the entire folder of files or only those files that are actually linked to course content.

File attachment selections include:

  • Copy links to course files: No copies of linked files are included in the copy. The copied course will have the same set of links and those links will point back to the original location of the link defined in the origin course
  • Copy links and copies of the content: This will only make copies of linked files. Files within the course’s home folder that are not linked to any content within the course are not included in the copy.
  • Copy links and copies of the content (include entire Course home folder): This will make copies of all files in the course’s home folder whether those files are linked to course content or not.

Optimizing PowerPoint files for Blackboard


Have a huge PowerPoint file that you’re having difficulty getting into Blackboard, emailing to your students or opening in your classroom?

Don’t forget, you can also save your PPT as a PDF if you’re posting it on Blackboard for your students to see.

Here is a list of resources you can use for optimizing your PowerPoints:



Also see: Preparing files for Blackboard 9

If you have a resource not listed here, please list it in the comments!