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.

An easier way to create and manage Smart Views for Grading: UPDATED!

Instructors who have multiple sections of the same course use Smart Views to organize their students in their Grade Centers and email students from each section separately. Creating and maintaining Groups has been clunky, especially during the first few weeks of school when students are adding and dropping and Groups having to be constantly monitored and modified. Follow the steps below to create Smart Views that automatically adjust, based on the child course column in the Grade Center.

1. From a Blackboard Course, go to Grade Center > Full Grade Center > Manage > Smart Views.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 12.52.50 PM

2. From the next screen, click Create Smart View.

3. Give it a name, check the box next to Add as Favorite, and from Selection Criteria > Type of View choose Custom.

4. From Select Criteria > User Criteria, choose Child Course ID. (Note: you will see this only in a merged course with two or more child courses.) You will need to know the exact ID of the Child Course


Choose Smart Views

5. If you’d like to see all grade columns for your students (and you probably would), select All Columns from the Filter Results drop-down.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.25.34 AM


6. Click Submit. Voila! You can now access your Smart View by clicking on Grade Center and choosing the name of the Smart View underneath, or by hovering over Full Grade Center next to Current View and choosing a Smart View. (Pro tip: put a symbol such as an underscore ( _ ) before the title of any Smart View to bump it to the top of the alphabetized list.)

Choose Section 1

Because the Smart View uses the Child Course ID to automatically filter your students into the correct Smart View, you no longer have to manually maneuver users into their respective groups (unless you want to restrict content, Assignments, Tests, etc. by section–in that case, I recommend creating a Group for each section of your class).

Bonus: You can use the Email the students in one section/Smart View by displaying that Smart View (Step 5), clicking the check box next to Last Name to select all, hovering over the Email button, and choosing Email Selected Users.

Email Selected Users

VoiceThread: Guide for Students

USD Students: If VoiceThread assignments are part of your course, this video shows you everything you need to know to:

  • Create a VoiceThread
  • Comment on a VoiceThread
  • View a VoiceThread created by another person

This video shows the commenting process only:

You can upload the following filetypes to VoiceThread:

  • Images: .jpg, .bmp, .gif, .png
  • Audio: .wav, .mp3
  • Video:  you can record yourself, or upload certain files. Check out this link for more information.
  • Documents: .doc, .docx, .pdf, .odt, .xls, .xlsx, .ods
  • Presentations: .ppt, .pptx, .odp, .pdf
  • NOT supported: .swf, .html, .txt, .zip

VoiceThread: Tips and setting up for Instructors

Faculty: Now that you know a little about VoiceThread’s capabilities, here’s what you need to know to get started using it.

First, make sure your version of Adobe Flash is up to date. Your computer should prompt you if it’s not.

Add a link to create a new VoiceThread in Blackboard. On Olé, this is under any content area > Assessments > VoiceThread. The following video shows you how to use VoiceThread inside of Blackboard, which includes grading a VoiceThread set as an Assignment.

Create and share your VoiceThread (if you’re making a presentation) on which students can comment.

Here’s a helpful video showing tips for narrating your presentation:

You can upload the following filetypes to VoiceThread:

  • Images: .jpg, .bmp, .gif, .png
  • Audio: .wav, .mp3
  • Video:  you can record yourself, or upload certain files. Check out this link for more information.
  • Documents: .doc, .docx, .pdf, .odt, .xls, .xlsx, .ods
  • Presentations: .ppt, .pptx, .odp, .pdf
  • NOT supported: .swf, .html, .txt, .zip

Here’s another good, detailed guide (including troubleshooting tips at the bottom) to getting started with VoiceThread.

Grading Schemas in Blackboard

Grading schemas are used in Blackboard to assign letter grades to numerical scores in a course. The grade center has its default schema but this can be changed to match a professor’s syllabus.


To adjust your grading schema:

1.Enter the full grade center

2. Select the ‘Manage’ drop-down menu.

3. Select ‘Grading Schemas’

4. Click the gray chevron next to ‘Letter’

5. Select ‘Edit’

6. Input your score ranges and the letters that correspond to those ranges.

Blackboard now allows grades above 100% so if extra credit makes a student’s score above 100%, that can be included in the highest letter category (A or A+).

Faculty should also know that students will only see the primary display grade—the secondary display is for instructor use only. Shown below is an example of how the grade display translates.


For more information on Grading Schemas and manipulating them visit the Blackboard Help Page.

Blackboard discussion board quirks

Blackboard recently brought to our attention two discussion-board related quirks that it considers to be functioning as designed:

  1. Discussion Board replies do not auto-expand beyond the 11th reply
  2. Expand All button does not work in discussion boards with more than 11 replies

If you’re teaching or taking a class that heavily uses Discussion Boards, you’ll probably encounter these issues. If there are more than 11 replies on any given discussion board, there is no way to auto-expand them–you must click on each individual post to read it.

Blackboard bug: videos won’t embed using Safari

If you try to embed a YouTube or other video using Safari in the Blackboard content editor (found in blogs, wikis, content items, etc.), you may get a blank box when you submit. Blackboard has verified that this is a bug (KB article 000041436). The iTeam will update this post when the bug has been fixed.

In the meantime, to embed video content, you are encouraged to log in to Blackboard using a current version of Firefox from a Mac or PC.

The Blackboard Grade Center

The grade center in Blackboard is quite helpful for organizing and formatting grades especially as finals are wrapping up. Professors can total their grades quickly and create weighted totals. Dropping the lowest grade of a category (homework, quizzes, tests, etc.) is also easily implemented in the final total column. At any point, professors may also export their grade center to an excel sheet. Make sure to categorize assignments as you create them to make calculating final grades with weighted totals easy and fast. Nobody wants to spend more time than necessary inputting one number at a time so put the grade center to work for you!

Blackboard end of semester procedures: FA15 edition!

It’s that time again! Here’s your complete guide to wrapping up your Blackboard courses this semester.

In mid-January, students will no longer be able to see your Fall 2015 Blackboard courses in their My Courses lists if you have not changed the default Term Availability option in Blackboard.

  • To double-check this setting, go to Control Panel > Customization > Properties > Availability.
  • While students will no longer have access to the previous semester course, faculty are still able to view enrollments and grades.
  • To ensure the course disappears from your students’ My Courses area of Blackboard, check “Use Term Availability” or “No” in the Availability preference.

Have you backed up your course and your course Grade Center?

  • Note: Archiving a course gives you a .zip file, which includes all materials, grades and interactions that took place in that course. Directions for archiving and your course are here:
  • Grade backup: To download your grades to an easy-to-use Excel spreadsheet, follow the instructions here:

Be sure to activate your Intersession or Spring courses!

  • Please visit and click on Faculty: New Course Request on the right-hand side of that page. Your course will be put in the activation queue and you will be notified within 3 business days. Once the new course shell is created, you can then copy the content from earlier courses by following the directions here:

And remember, the iTeam is always here to help! Stop by Maher 194 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for drop-in assistance, or contact us via email at We’re here through December 23, 2015!

Technology Showcase 2016!

USD faculty: Save the Date for the 11th annual Technology Showcase! Friday, February 5th, 2016.

We are looking for a few good faculty to present at our premier event.screen-shot-2014-11-26-at-2-15-53-pm

Please nominate yourself or a colleague to be a presenter! The following are ideas on how you can contribute to our community of learning:

    • Talk about how you experimented with technology inside or outside the classroom this year
    • Discuss best practices in the use of an effective technology that have gotten your students to engage
    • Share your experiences with the Student Technology Assistant (STA) resources, or the Classroom iPad project.
    • Comment on a pilot program you were a part of that resulted in surprising findings
    • Discuss your transformational experiences participating in technology initiatives hosted by ITS such as the Summer Innovation Institute (SII)
    • Highlight your exploration of new features in Blackboard or “flipping” part of your lecture

Deadline: Friday, January 8th, 2016!

To nominate yourself or a colleague, please fill out the Faculty Nomination Form online.



How to clear your Java Cache

It’s occasionally a good idea to clear your java cache, especially if you are experiencing slowness in Blackboard. Here are instructions:

To clear your Java cache in Windows:

  1. Click Start > Control Panel.
  2. Locate and double click the Java icon in the Control Panel.
  3. Click Settings under Temporary Internet Files.
  4. Click Delete Files.
  5. Select all boxes and click OK on Delete Temporary Files window. Note: This deletes all the Downloaded Applications and Applets from the cache.
  6. Click OK on Temporary Files Settings window.
  7. Click OK to close the Java Control Panel.

To clear your Java cache in Mac OS X:

  1. Double click your Macintosh hard drive.
  2. Double click Applications.
  3. Double click Utilities.
  4. Double click Java Preferences.
  5. Click the Network tab.
  6. Click the Delete Files… button.
  7. You are prompted to delete your temporary files for Java. Make sure all boxes are selected with check marks. Click OK.

Close the Java Preferences window.