yoleneors

Building blocks we installed and found useful

Blog Post created by yoleneors on Apr 8, 2016

At first you want to install all the building blocks available to check what they do ... then you sort out which ones actually make a significant enough difference.  You'll want to keep the list short, to avoid any bugs/issues since they're thrid party  free building blocks (or open source) and come most of the time without support or maintenance. Here is a list of those we ended up installing in Prod. ; which may be useful for some of you.

If you have other building blocks which are crucial to you and you'd recommend, I'd love to know about it, don't hesitate to post a comment !

 

 

Also, I take this opportunity to send a big THANK YOU to the community of developpers crafting those building blocks and making them available for all   .

 

  1. Useful especially for users :

 

  • Qwickly :  Freemium. The free version itself is already a huge improvement for us to make our professors' and staff' lives easier. We embedded it as a module on the homepage.

Easy/fast settings of course availability (on/off)  (plus, check below the part about JSHacks which provide good features to make course availability easier to handle)

Send an announcement to several courses.

(Plus other features we don't use : batch email, and needs grading)

It handle settings with Terms and Roles, which makes it a pwoerful tool.

 

The paid version (which we don't have) starts at 1500$/year for 500 full time faculty. It enables uploads from Drive/Dropbox. Adding an item to several courses at once (the main reason we'd be interested). Deploy an assignment in several courses at once.

 

Link to get it : http://www.goqwickly.com/download/

Screenshots :

    

 

  • Document Unpackager File : enables to add many items at once in a course, neatly organized, just by uploading a well formated zip package. We used the orginal version and tweaked it, so that

       _ it handles better special characters (French language is tricky like that, and professors often don't name their files very well)

       _ in the Content collection of the course,  instead of adding all the files at root level it creates a folder where it saves all the files

       _ instead of sorting items into "Folders" it sorts them into "Learning Modules" (because we prefer learning modules)

 

Link to get the original version : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Document Unpackager > Home

If you'd like the tweaked version get in touch with me.

 

Screenshot of a training document we made on how to use it :

 

docpackage.png

 

  • My Messages : enables to embed a module on the homepage which shows the internal messaging messages you received over all your courses.

Screenshot :

mymessages.png

Link to get it : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > MyMessages > Home

 

  • SignUp Lists : enables to add more flexibility to "groups" : it's a separate content type but which integratees very neatly with the "groups" feature.

It enables to make lists with max number of people, manage automatically reserve lists, enable people to join and cancel , enables to manage sign up periods , CSV exports  ... it's just incredibly powerful, and can automatically create groups and populate them according to lists.

 

Screenshots

The content type in the content area : (I changed the default icon)

signup.png

 

After a user clicked on a session to sign up : (he can see who else is there and has to click on "sign up" to join)

signupuser.png

From the Professor's perspective :

 

signupprof.png

 

 

Link to get it : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Sign-up Tool > Home

 

  • Self Enrol Portal Modules

You can create as many modules as course roles you have. Then deploy them on the users' homepage. Then when they have the course ID, the can enrol themselves (with the role associated with the module) and they can also unenrol themselves. All from the homepage (instead of having to go in each course) , and of course the course doesn't have to be self-enrol type. It's particularly useful for porgramme assistants/staff.

 

Screenshot :

Link to get it : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Self Enrollment > Home 

 

2. Building blocks especially useful for admins

 

  • Browser Settings Tester

You can deploy it as a button in a module on a support page for example, then when a user has some issue and a hard time giving you technical information you  can rule out some issues by having him run the test. Sometimes it's just a pop-up blocker issue

If you have the user send you the result of the Test it helps to pin down some of common causes for problems.

 

Screenshot of a report :

browsertest.png

Link to get it : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Blackboard Browser Tester > Home

 

  • LoginAs vs impersonate

We used to use Impersonate (OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Impersonate > Home  ) , but then realized it works only for people who have a "System Admin" role whereas our local BB admins on our campuses in Europe  dont have this kind of role, and not at the global system level anyway. So we switched to "LoginAs" ; which has more flexibility and settings, you can decide who can do what, and make sure that users can't "impersonate" someone with a higher permission level than them.

 

It's especially useful when a user finds a bug related to his own settings, or say he doesn't see this and that : you can connect as him and check what he sees and can or cannot do.

 

Screenshot of the settings :

 

loginas.png

 

Link to get it : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > LoginAs - Switch User in Blackboard > Home

 

 

  • BBStats

A useful building block for a first approach to stats and adoption.

 

Screenshots :

The main navigation :

bbstatsblured.png

I especially like the "LMS adoption" report : you can set a filter in the settings regarding the course code (for example her %_FAL_% for fall semester courses) ; and then you can also have data broken down to category of institution name level.

The is also features where it give you emails of instructors who didn't access their course, etc ...

 

Link to get it : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > bbStats - Activity Dashboard >  News > Edit News

The developer  Szymon Machajewski is super helpful and showed this B2 at BB World

 

  • JSHacks and its packages

 

Enables to add Javascript code snippets in Blackboard. Useful even if you're not a developper : you'll find a number of  pre-written codes packages available. It's well documented, (OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Javascript Hacks for Blackboard >  Wiki > View Page )  and if you use or create some new ones I'd love to know about it and check if it can be useful for us.

We installed it to use "availability notice" and "availability scroller" : it makes it unmissable for professor to see their course is unavailable (a banner on each page of the course while it's unavailable... you can set your own message) , and it provides a button which gets them right where they can change availability of the course.

 

Link to get it : OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Javascript Hacks for Blackboard > Home

Link to packages :  OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Javascript Hacks for Blackboard > Files > Browse Releases

 

Bonus :

One we may instal at some point, because it's quite powerful but we don't have the crucial need for it so far : BBTweaks (OSCELOT Projects > Projects > Blackboard Tweaks > Home)

You can see a demo of what it does here : Tweaks/Tweaks @ GitHub  

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