Gamifying Blackboard Training

Technology trainings can be… well… just a bit dull. Being guided through how to click buttons in software has never really been that exciting and the steps can feel a bit disconnected from your real work. Participants are often at different skill and knowledge levels, but must move through the same content at the same pace. Plus, the information is rarely retained beyond the workshop. In most cases, attendees have difficulty remembering the steps or applying them on their own and need to reach out for help.

There must be a better way. Right? The eLIS Support team decided to find out. We threw the outline for our standard Intro to myLesley (Blackboard) workshop into the trash and started over from scratch.

The Goal(s)

Our goals were simple in scope, but not so simple to achieve. The primary goal for the new training was to increase the retention of content being delivered so faculty would be better able to use their new knowledge when they returned to their desks. Towards that end we used several techniques:

  • Storytelling would give attendees a narrative to attach the steps of the process to and aid memory creation.
  • Narrative and game-based design would create a fun experience to engage affective (emotion/feeling) learning and aid memory creation.
  • Faculty would teach themselves rather than watching a demo and then try to repeat the exact same steps. The need to figure it out and struggle a little would improve retention of the steps.
  • Faculty would be able to mostly move at their own pace allowing more tech savvy users to speed through the content and novices to take their time.

Faculty would learn to use available resources including support tutorials and working with their colleagues attending the workshop.

Blackboard Clue (Version 1.0)

Who Killed Mr. Blackboard?
We created Blackboard Clue. Faculty had to discover the identity of Mr. Blackboard’s murderer, but they would need to complete various tasks in Blackboard to do so.

First, they met the suspects in the Study. Then they reviewed the Detective’s Notebook, a blog, and made comments on the clues. Next, they interrogated the suspects on the Discussion Board, or two members of the support team in the other room. Finally, they created a Wanted Poster, content item, of the suspect who did the deed. The true murderer was revealed at the end of the game and everyone got to see if they guessed correctly.

How It Went
It was ok. Everyone seemed to have a good time, but they were a little distracted by the game itself. They were so busy trying to solve the murder that it overshadowed the learning. It was too hard to form connections around the content. The game needed more structure and probably a different narrative.

Soooo…. Back to the drawing board.

Agent L vs. GITS

Enter Agent L, a secret agent battling Gremlins in the System (GITS). GITS agents, NeoLuddite, Pandora, and Clippy are trying to disrupt Blackboard courses. Ben Friday (Miss Moneypenny) hands out the missions and Quinn (Q) provides tech support.

Mission 1: Alert Your Fellow Agents! – Use the Announcement tool.
Mission 2: Fix the Broken Content using the text editor.
First, review the intercepted GITS transmissions on the Discussion Board. Then, interview Clippy, a support team member in the back of the room, in a discussion forum to discover where the GITS server is.
Mission 3: Interrogate the Captured GITS Agents
Mission 4: Create an Assignment for Agent M to shut down the GITS server.

How It Went
The new game narrative had more structure allowing faculty to more easily move through the missions, complete the tasks, and not get lost. They used support tutorials to teach themselves all of the steps while the support team moved through the room to assist, but not answer their tech questions. Collaboration was encouraged allowing the more advanced attendees to happily aid the newbies in figuring stuff out.

The game format had two primary issues, however. One, faculty become their students and don’t read the instructions. (Shocking, I know.) The game master pointed out their error and directed them back to the mission profile. Two, some faculty just don’t want to play. They prefer the old format where they sit back and are fed the content without too much expectation. That attitude can be hard to overcome, but the other attendees simply play on without them.

Overall, there was a lot of laughter, a lot of noise and chaos, and everyone was successful. We’ve offered the game a few times now and feedback from faculty has been positive. We can’t say for certain that it’s more effective than the old traditional training, but at least we are all having fun. That must count for something. Plus, the eLIS team has been able to model a new way of teaching and give faculty a chance to see us a fellow educators, not just the “tech folks.”

Ally Update: Preview Documents in Your Browser

Ally’s latest update will now show in-browser previews for PDF’s, Word documents, and Powerpoint presentations.

What does this mean?

Previously, when you clicked on the Ally gauge to view your document’s accessibility score and list of any accessibility issues, you only saw an icon for the document in the main window. Now, Ally will allow you to view your document right in the browser and highlight where the specific accessibility issues are. No more guessing.

Sample accessibility score with issues highlighted

Highlights are currently provided for:

  • Images without an appropriate alternative description
  • Text fragments with insufficient contrast
  • Tables without table headings

It’s now much easier to identify the issue and then fix it. View the video below to see it in action.
(Note: the video does not have any sound.)

Updates to the myLesley Inline Grading Tool

New Box View, the inline grading tool for myLesley, has released two new updates: the ability for faculty and students to download the annotated PDFs and the ability for faculty to annotate Excel files (.xls, .xlsx).

To download an annotated PDF, located the graded assignment in the Grade Center (faculty) or the My Grades area (students).

When viewing the graded assignment, go to the right-hand column and click on the chevron next to the submission file.

Screen Shot of submission download options

This will bring up two options. Select Download Original File to download a copy of the original submission (no markups) or select Download Annotated PDF to download a copy of the marked up paper.

Screen Shot of submission download options

Please note that you may need to open the PDF in a PDF reader, such as Acrobat Reader, in order to view the comments.

For more information on grading assignments in myLesley, see Grading myLesley Assignments.

Have questions? Want to set up a training? Email elis@lesley.edu.

Make Your myLesley Content More Accessible

Faculty often ask if Blackboard is accessible. While most web-based tools can always be more accessible and easier to use, the basic answer is “Yes, Blackboard is accessible.” The real problem often comes when we upload files and documents to Blackboard that may not be as accessible as they should be. We may not even be aware that the files we uploaded aren’t accessible to students with impairments. Blackboard Ally wants to fix that.

When an instructor uploads a file to myLesley (Blackboard), using the exact same process they currently use, Ally compares the file to a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Checklist. It then does three things.

For students, Ally automatically converts that file into alternative, accessible formats. Alternative formats include Tagged PDF, HTML, ePub, electronic braille and audio. If the instructor uploads a scanned chapter or article, Ally will convert it to an OCR PDF which can be read as text by a screen reader.
Ally alternative formats

This a proactive and automatic process that happens without the instructor or Disability Services doing anything. Students do not need to self-identify or request alternative versions. The downside is that the quality of these alternative versions can vary. The more complex the original document, the more difficult it is to create a converted document that is useful and easy to navigate by the students who need them.

Therefore Ally also provides guidance to faculty on how to improve the accessibility of the documents uploaded to Blackboard. Each uploaded document receives an accessibility score and red, orange or green icon. Clicking on the icon presents you with information on what accessibility issues are in the document, information on why it is an issue, and links to tutorials on how to make changes to the document.

Ally has let you, the instructor, know that your documents may not be accessible and how to improve their accessibility without the need to attend a training or to have Disability Services reach out to you. You can slowly educate yourself on accessibility and improve not just the documents that are currently in your course, but also all future documents you will create. Over time, you will simply create accessible documents from the beginning because now you know how and how easy it can be.

Lastly, Ally provides an Institutional Report telling the university which courses have inaccessible content and what kinds of content are problematic. This means that the university can target its outreach and training based on our specific issues. One program may have a lot of courses with images and no alternative descriptions. Another’s biggest issue may be that Word documents require headings and subheadings. Instead of offering generic training and support for everyone, we can now reach out to each program and offer training and assistance for the issues they actually are having. The report also allows us to demonstrate our improvement over time.
Ally institutional report main issues

Ally will be available to all myLesley courses beginning this Fall. Keep an eye out for those accessibility scores on your documents. Ally is also making continuous improvements so don’t be surprised when new features and guidance become available.

If you have questions about Ally or need assistance, email elis@lesley.edu.

Provide Grading Feedback With Audio and Video

Blackboard now allows you to embed an audio/video recording of your feedback as you grade attempts. This feature is available for all graded content, including assignments, graded discussions, or in the Grade Details area of any Grade Center column.

Why Provide Audio or Video Feedback?

Providing feedback using audio or video allows you to connect with your students, especially those at a distance. You can give them a glimpse of your personality and show them the real person behind the text. Creating this connection can make it easier to interact, share information, and ensure that your students don’t feel isolated.

Text-based feedback can lend itself to misinterpretation – students may weight all of the feedback equally or be overwhelmed by a lot of text on the page. Audio allows you to add tone and emphasis, perhaps even humor and support, while video allows you to add facial expressions and gestures.

How Do I Add Audio or Video Feedback in my Course?

You can add audio or video feedback on any gradable item in your course. To do so, access the Feedback to Learner area. You may do this directly from an Assignment or from within the Full Grade Center.

From within an Assignment:

From your student’s submission, navigate to the Assignment Details area. In the Feedback to Learner area, In the Feedback to Learner area, click on the Full Content Editor button. This will open the full text/content editor.
Screenshot of Feedback to Learner area of Assignment

For more information on grading assignments or accessing the students’ submissions, see Grading Assignments in myLesley.

From a Grade Center column:

Navigate to the Full Grade Center and hover your mouse over the item you wish to offer feedback. Click the chevron to open a menu and select Quick Comment.

screenshot of accessing Recording Feedback from within the Full Grade Center

Launch the Recorder:

From the Full Text/Content editor, click the Record Feedback Button (first button on the third row of the text/content editor).screenshot of record feedback button

This will launch the recorder. Click the video button to launch your webcam or click the record button to record audio only. Each recording may be a maximum length of five (5) minutes.screenshot of record feedback

Once you have finished recording, your audio or video recording will be added to the student’s feedback area. Detailed instructions for using the Record Feedback option may be found here: Record Audio and Video.

What if I want to upload a video I recorded elsewhere or provide my students with a screencast?

If you recorded a video in a different tool, you may upload it using the Kaltura Mashup Tool. You may also upload a video to Kaltura directly from your mobile device.

If you would like to record a screencast, you may use Kaltura CaptureSpace Lite.

Where can I find more information on providing feedback to my students?

To find out more about providing feedback to your students, check out the resources below: