I'm finding that the groups feature in Blackboard Learn is becoming more and more popular with instructors in our Humanities group who have large cohorts and wish to use the group feature to split students into their seminar groups. We do already integrate course creation, categorisation, student enrolment, and instructor assignment with our Banner student record system using the Blackboard data integration tools.
The seminar groups are already in our timetable system (Scientia) and my current recommendation is that instructors populate the groups using CSV files (our guide on this is here: Importing Blackboard Group Membership Lists (random assign and manual assign are not valid options, the former because the groups are defined not random, and the latter because it takes even longer than producing CSV files.)
However I'm getting a lot of feedback from these staff who are not confident with excel that producing such CSV files is a waste of their valuable academic time, and I can certainly empathise with that feeling.
Unfortunately the data integration / snapshot tool in Blackboard does not appear to facilitate group population.
Has anyone come across an easier way to populate groups using data from another system e.g. by using a Building Block?
The possibilities I have in mind at the moment are:
1) make a web page that can produce csv files for the staff to use, where they can just enter the group name and paste in the usernames, based on our work on producing a batch enrol CSV generator here: How to batch enrol students onto your Blackboard course
2) teach admin staff who know how to use Excel how to create the CSV files and ask them to do the work on behalf of the instructors
3) find a way to hack the Blackboard database to create and populate groups using data from our timetable system (undesirable since will not be supported by the vendor)
4) commission a building block, but this is unlikely to be funded here since the institution will regard it as functionality that should be provided by the vendor.
Has anyone else met with this desire to auto populate groups and found a solution?