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Myself and Bryony (VLE Manager at Regent’s College) did this week’s ‘Tricks of the Trade’ session on ’5 Cool things that Blackboard can do’. It was a bit of a last minute thing as the session should have been on the new media server but that wasn’t quite ready yet.

The five things we looked at were 1. Terms 2. ‘Paste from Word’ Mashup 3. ‘Sign up’ Mashup 4. Bb Rubrics 5. Voice feedback in Turnitin

Firstly, would you like to hide the modules you no longer teach on Blackboard?There is now a simple guide on how to group your modules into terms or semesters. Organising modules into term and semesters This will enable you to hide previous modules you taught, so that you only display the modules you are teaching currently. You will still have access to previous modules when needed but the new simplified ‘My Modules’ area on Blackboard will make it easier to access your current classes. If you need any further help please contact the Blackboard team on blackboard@regents.ac.uk.

The second ‘Cool’ feature we talked about was the ‘Paste from Word’ mashup. Again a really neat little feature that means when you cut and paste text from a Word document (or even stuff from web pages) it doesn’t change the formating in the text. This is a really useful function when cut and pasting things like bullet points or tables and ultimately saves a lot of time.

Thirdly, we looked the ‘Sign Up’ mashup we installed in our version of Blackboard. This was developed by Durham University and is a great addition to Regent’s Blackboard. Once its set up, it allows students to sign up to groups or time slots. This could be really useful for organising classes that have to do a specific activity, like a presentation. What I really liked about it is that it creates a reserve list and if students drop out of a group, it populates that group with participants from the reserve list automatically…cool!

James Leahy, always at the cutting edge of learning technology has produced a stupendously fabulous Prezi that explains this in further detail:

http://prezi.com/edw_qektwqlv/blackboard-user-group-signup-lists/

The fourth feature was Blackboard Rubrics. You don’t really hear the word ‘rubric’ in UK Higher Education because we call them (correctly) ‘Marking Criteria’. Again they are simple to create, as most lecturers already have a marking criteria for their assignments. However, what the Bb ‘rubrics’ enable you to do is allocate a specific grade to each marking criteria and then it totals it up for you! (Note to Turnitin – it would be really great if Turnitin Rubrics could do this too!)

Finally, we demonstrated the voice feedback in Turnitin. The beauty of this is just how easy it is to use. Simply hit the record button, record the feedback and save the recording. Students can then easily access this recording. Simple but very effective!

Overall an enjoyable hour spent on a Wednesday afternoon!

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