Digi Know: Printing out responses to Essay/Short Answer Questions in Blackboard Tests

So, you finally took the plunge and used a short answer/essay style question in your Blackboard test and now you are needing to mark it. Problem is 250 students sat that exam and you have 250 different answers that need marking and just like a written exam you want to make notes/comments on the submitted responses. With a paper based exam this is easy – you just write on the exam script. Turnitin has the functionality to add notes/comments directly onto the assignment submission but with computer based exams, there is no functionality to do this at all.

The other issue is that there is no built in print or export function. However by following the instructions below will help in resolving the above. As I’m sure you have already realized if you want to retain these you will need to keep the hard copies

1 In the Module Management Menu on Blackboard, Select Grade Centre and then Tests.


The Grade Centre will appear.


2 Identify the test in the “Grade Information Bar” that has the short answer/essay style question


3 Click the “Click for more options” arrow next to the test name at the top of the score matrix.3a

4 Select the “Grade Questions” option.


You will see a screen similar to this


5 Identify under the Question Type column a question that is a short answer or essay style question.


6 There will be a number two columns to the right. This is the number of attempts for this question. Click on this number. This will show all the answers submitted to this question


7 Select the right hand mouse button next to a student name. On the resulting menu select “Print”


8 Follow the on screen guidance for printing
9 You can now make comments and notes accordingly.


10 Don’t forget that after each question you can give student feedback. You may wish to summarize your notes/comments and inform your students of how you marked the question

17th Durham Blackbord Conference

Technology Enhanced Learning was represented at the recent 17th Durham Blackboard Users Conference at Durham University. The theme this year was “Ticked Off – Towards Better Assessment and Feedback”, the aim of the sessions was to show how presenters had improved the student experience in terms of the conference themes.

An interesting keynote entitled “Translating evidence-based principles to improved feedback practices: The interACT case study” by Susie Schofield, University of Dundee opened the first day. She suggested that without a carefully constructed assessment criteria, feedback is useless. In other words you cannot give appropriate and worthwhile feedback without this as what exactly are you feeding back.

We then heard from Wayne Britcliffe, Richard Walker and Amy Eyre of the University of York. They described the various contexts in which the delivery of electronic feedback to students is being facilitated at the University of York through the use of learning technologies. Their main objective being to improve NSS scores or simply making the management of assessment and feedback processes more efficient and that  the electronic management of assessment (EMA) is undoubtedly a hot topic across the higher education sector.

Patrick Viney from Northumbria University described their journey with the Pebblepad e-portfolio tool and how they have replaced the paper system of submitting undergraduate dissertation proposals. With over 800 students supported by over 100 academic tutors, logistical issues in managing such large numbers were significant. Patrick demonstrated how using Pebblepad had resulted in a robust, auditable, paper- free processes for managing dissertation proposals, ethical approval submissions and tutor support during the dissertation.

Thursday finished with a demonstration and talk by Blackboard on their new product “Ally”. This will make course content more accessible and allow assistive technology such as screen readers (JAWS, Window Eyes for example) to be able to more easily access the content. In the demo Nicolaas Matthij from Blackboard took a PDF and converted it on the fly into various formats including ebooks, on screen display and through JAWS. Whilst it is not a substitute for badly created content, it’s use could be seen as advantages to the university and the student experience.


Day 2 commenced with Alan Masson, Head of International Customer Success at Blackboard presenting on how Blackboard themselves can assist in the assessment and feedback. He used examples of presentations from the day before and also touched on forthcoming ones.

Steve Dawes from Regent’s University talked about their common module and the difficulties and challenges that face assessment and engagement in a University-wide module and how these issues were met using a blend of e-learning tools. He explained how the Learning Technology Team assisted academic staff in utilising a range of digital tools to maintain engagement such as using Poll Everywhere classroom voting to engage large student audiences, promoting Blackboard Journals for consistent formative feedback, enhancing efficiency in the Blackboard Grade Centre, and using Turnitin Rubrics for Summative assignments.

The next session saw Christian Lawson-Perfect & Chris Graham from Newcastle University demonstrate and discuss “Numbas”. This is an open source mathematical e-assessment system which is now being used in subject areas outside of maths. Two such examples being psychology and biomedicine. Two case studies were discussed including how using existing open-access material, course leaders were able within a short time period to create a large bank of formative and diagnostic tests and deliver it to students through Blackboard.

Finally, Pete Lonsdale form Keele University discussed and demonstrated a custom in house solution for assessing nursing students. At the time there was nothing available that fulfilled the requirements identified. He described how the system included such features as audio feedback and the option to take and upload photos. He also explained how since introducing the system, requests for more complex marking criteria have been received and implemented such as the use of rubrics. He concluded that their design and implementation story highlights the appetite for online  assessment tools as well as the importance of getting the details of the system just right: they found that off-the-shelf tools just did not work for a variety of reasons, and even the  bespoke system required many iterations to get to a version that worked for all.

For me, this conference is significant in that it was my first time that I have presented at a conference to peers and others in the academic world. My presentation was about how we have used Blackboard OpenEducation (A Free online version of the VLE that we use) as a diagnostic tool in the recruitment process for Health and Social Care programmes. Candidates that get through to stage 1 were invited to the University to undertake numeracy and literacy tests before the next stage. Candidates that failed these tests were rejected at this stage. This method was proving expensive both in terms of money and time for both for candidates and the university and alternatives were sought.  In the presentation I discussed how this stage was adapted to work with OpenEducation, considering the likely challenges that lay ahead, how these could be factored in as well as how dealt with those we didn’t foresee.

I would like to thank the organizers and staff of the conference. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and worth going.

Using Blackboard Tests to record student performance in the field (Replacing a paper based review/assessment form)

Are you still using paper based forms to record a student’s performance?  Are you still standing next to the student recording for example their conduct and competence when collecting evidence at a crime scene or using a microscope in a laboratory? Perhaps you assess student presentations against certain criteria stated on a tick box form?


© 2016 Mark Anderson

And then? You drop them in a puddle in the car park?. They get lost in the mire that is your office?. Your young child draws all over them because they thing its scrap paper?. Etc etc etc.

I got asked if there was a way of doing all this online and within the VLE and it got me thinking. Whilst there are commercial systems that we could use and can offer more than the solution discussed below, I realised that actually Blackboard Tests and the Student Preview mode and a bit of cleverness can answer the question raised.

Build an online version of the form as a test. TEL can assist if you need our assistance.

Create a folder in Assessments and set it so students cannot see it. Inside this folder deploy the “Test” that has just been created.

Now create your student preview user account by pressing the student preview button. When this has been created you will see that you can’t see the folder. Leave the student preview and state that you DO NOT want to delete the account. This will create an account that will allow you to use the “test” and record attempts. Your normal tutor account will not store attempts.

Now, relocate the recently created folder and set up adaptive release to your student preview account. When this is done, amend the settings on the folder so that it will be visible to students. As there is an adaptive release already on the folder, it will only be available to your student preview account.

Set up the “test” so that it is multiple attempts and “all at once”.

Now return to the student preview and select the “test”. Complete it and save and submit

Exit Student preview mode. Go to the Grade Center and look for your preview user account. It will look something like xxxx_previewuser.

You will notice that this is the same as when you are doing a normal blackboard test. You can now get access to these forms in the same way you would for student tests. Contact TEL on 1865 for further assistance with this

Digi Know – Reducing cheating during on online Blackboard test.


The University has a license to use the Respondus Secure Browser. This is a specialised web browser that will “close down” all other applications and Windows services like the “Start button”. This will therefore provide a secure environment for undertaking Blackboard Tests as students are unable to access unauthorised material during an exam such as instant messenger programs, files and web pages to name but a few.

For those of you reading who have used in in the past and had issues with it, we now have version 2. This is a much improved version and with a more carefully managed deployment we belive that your experience will be greatly enhanced.

Setting up a test to use the secure browser is a straight forward process and does not require any specialised help form TEL. Simply create and deploy your test in the normal way and then follow the simple instructions below.

  • Log into Course Resources and select the relevant module.
  • On the left hand menu under Module Management select Module Tools


  • On the resulting menu select Respondus LockDown Browser


  • Locate the desired test and select the xx button before the test name.


  • Select Modify Settings from the resulting menu


  • The LockDown Browser Settings will appear under the test name.


  • Select “Require Respondus LockDown Browser for this exam”



  • If you want to set a password, you can do so here as well.


  • Click on the ‘+’ to view the Advanced Settings



  • If you wish to set the test so that students cannot leave until they have submitted the test, select the option “Lock students into the browser until exam is completed”
  • If you have students who require assistive technology then select “Allow specific students to access this exam with screen readers (e.g. JAWS, Window-Eyes)”. You will then be required to enter their usernames.
  • If you wish to allow access to an on-screen calculator then select “Enable Calculator on the toolbar”

Warning: To preserve the settings used by LockDown Browser, do NOT modify these settings in Test Options: 1) Name 2) Open Test in a New Window, 3) Require a password, 4) Password. If these settings have been modified the test status will appear as an “Error.”

Testing / Student Access

The PC labs will have the Lockdown browser already installed so ultimately these will be the best place to test. If you are unable to do this then you can install it on your desktop. You can install this from Run Advertised Programs from the Control Panel. Contact IT services for assistance. Once installed followed the instructions below.

  • Double Click the Secure Browser icon on the desktop


  • Select “Course Resources” from the drop down list that appears.
  • Login to Course Resources/Blackboard as normal
  • The Secure Browser will now “take over” the PC and prevent anything else running except access to course resources
  • Continue to access Course Resources as normal.
  • Access the test in the normal way. You will notice that once the test is started, if you try and access anything other than Course Resources it will not work

If you or your students try and access the test in a normal browser, an error message informing users that the test must be done in the secure browser will appear.

Digi Know: Using Adaptive Release on Test results to restrict access to material based on results


Did you know that you can release content on Blackboard dependent on matching criteria. For example, you may wish to only allow access to next weeks PowerPoint to students who have reached a certain percentage in a weekly test or give extra feedback to those students struggling with a particular subject.


Create and setup tests/assignments and upload material as normal.

blog - image 1

On the link for the material (PowerPoint / PDF/ etc or Folder ) select the grey arrow next to the title -a drop-down menu will appear.

blog - image 2

Select Adaptive Release from the drop-down menu.

blog - image 3

Scroll down the page until you see the GRADE section.

blog - image 4

Where it says “Select a Grade Centre column” select the test/assessment name in the corresponding drop down box.

blog - image 5

Where it says “Select Condition” select a criteria that when matched will reveal the content to the student. When ready click on submit.

You will now see Enabled: Adaptive Release under the title

blog - image 6

You can add multiple criteria via selecting “Adaptive Release: Advanced” from the drop-down menu. For information on how to do this contact TEL on x1865

Appy Monday – Padlet

Banner showing Digital Derby and Appy Monday: Exploring mobile apps for learning and teaching

What Is Padlet?

Getting your students to engage is a difficult task at the best of times. Whilst there are tools within the VLE to do this such as Forums and Wikis, these tend to take a prescriptive approach and take students down a particular route in participation.

Padlet’s USP is that it is flexible allowing the user to work with what is effectively a metaphoric piece of paper which upon it the user can put whatever they like on it. Videos, Sound files, Photographs, other images, written text or uploaded documents.

It is also collaborative so can be used for group working and sharing for assessment purposes.

Each active Padlet can be embedded into Blackboard and whilst the administration side requires an account, contributing to an active padlet does not.

Download it now..

Padlet is available for the iPhone/iPad and Android. As a web based app it can also run on Windows and Apple Macs.

Because of its multi platform approach, it means that contributions can be made from anywhere with a internet connection allowing instantaneous contributions or postings rather than later when the context may have been lost.

How could it be used for Learning Teaching and Assessment?

Because of its flexibility in terms of its empty piece of paper analogy it can be used for but not limited to.

  • Blogs
  • Collages
  • Collaborative note-taking
  • CVs/Resumes
  • Digital bulletin boards
  • Fashion design
  • Inspiration boards
  • Music playlists
  • Noticeboards
  • Photo albums
  • Portfolios
  • Professional development
  • Q+A
  • Solo or group presentations
  • Timelines
  • To-Do lists
  • Video playlists

Short Task

Install the app onto your device and then create a Padlet adding images, pdf’s, text and so on. Exit the application and then return to it and add some more. Log onto Padlet via a PC/Mac and see your work.

Important Note

Before using any mobile application or online service please check the terms and conditions to ensure you are aware of the implications of using the service. In particular, look out for items covering data security, ownership of content and public/private sharing options.

Further Support

If you would like further support to get an idea of how you could use Padlet within learning and teaching, please contact the Technology Enhanced Learning team on tel@derby.ac.uk or ext 1865.

Useful Resources


2016 e-Assessment Question Conference

TEL represented the University at the recent e-Assessment Question conference in London in March.

The theme of this years conference was ‘The Future: e-Assessment opportunities and barriers, risks and rewards’.

The presentation that most stuck out for me was that of Tim Burnett from BTL Learning and Assessment. He asked “What’s the future for written exams?”.

The context behind this being that education is changing and technology is being used more and more in the classroom by learners and teachers. Although technology is unlocking further potential in learning, it is struggling to do the same for assessment. If learning and assessment fail to develop together, we have to start asking the following questions: ·

  • Is it fair to ask all students to write in assessments? ·
  • Are we at risk of assessment being left behind with the growth of educational technology? ·
  • Is there becoming a social divide in assessment technology use? ·
  • Are we at risk of invalidating assessment?

In the session we looked for evidence to support change, listening to representatives from different aspects of the education sector and reviewing the options for change and the challenges that come with them. Delegates from all sectors contributed with their viewpoint as assessment specialists, but also as parents and lifelong learners.

Another interesting session was that of Jeremy Carter of Cirrus Assessment about educational technology systems (edtech) or using standalone solutions and the role of the assessment tools within them. There were some interesting discussion points that were raised including

  • Are we providing the best experience for students
  • Should we be in house or utilize 3rd party services in order to meet our objectives.
  • Where does e-assessment fit within the learning and teaching

Although aimed at the level 1 -3 qualification ( Apprentice/NVQ) Ecom Scotland demonstrated a electronic version of an marking matrix that has replaced paper. Unlike previous methods this system can work with multiple devices and also offline. (Useful as many locations where apprentices where working do not have internet access or somewhere for laptops. )

There was also a couple of interesting presentations on how organisations have used e-assessment including how the British Council have overcome the issues of localisation in places like India where being chased by a rhino is as likely as powercuts.

Digi Know: How to make your Blackboard tests run efficiently

Formatting of text in Blackboard can be one of the reasons why at times tests can crash creating bad experiences for students and staff. But in many cases the reason for this occurring is due to the vast number of cases of copy and pasting directly from Microsoft Word. When copying text from Microsoft Word it also copies all the formatting information including font name, size, colour and other information that Word uses to display your text in the document.

Word Document image

When you paste this text into the question box, Blackboard converts this hidden information from Word into its own code. In the majority of cases Blackboard handles this well and unless the text is looked at carefully nobody notices until the student sees it.

Edit mode of blackboard question image

There are however a couple of instances that will not convert properly, some of these may cause certain browsers to crash.

HTML editor view image

The problem is that nobody notices the formatting of this because in editing mode Blackboard does not show any of this formatting and therefore it gets missed. However, if you look at your question in the test canvas (i.e. the page where you can see all of your questions) you will be able to see any copied over formatting and any errors that have occurred.

Another way to check is to try out the test yourself in Student View. This is done simply by clicking the Student View icon. This uses the same styles and views that the student sees including any formatting.

Location of student view button image

To eliminate the possibility of formatting errors, it is suggested that questions are entered directly in the text box and any formatting requirements applied. If you have to use Microsoft Word (for example, you have already written the questions) then copy and paste via a text editor such as Notepad. It may seem to be an unnecessary extra burden but will be worth the effort later.

TEL me more about…….Periscope

At the TEL me more event in March we were fortunate to see Louise Hart talk about periscope and how she has been using it when teaching her ESOL students. Periscope is a live video streaming app which is available for iOS and Android which although similar to services like Blackboard Collaborate requires less setting up with the user being able to be up and running in a matter of seconds. Whilst Periscope is not designed to replace any lecture capture of existing video conferencing tools it could compliment them being able to allow video conferencing where there is no suitable technology for the existing technology.

As with Twitter you have followers (for example, your students) who when you start broadcasting (or scoping to quote the terminology) will receive notification that you have started your broadcast or users can integrate the system looking for live broadcasts. You can however lock down your scoping to just your followers or just a chosen few users.
Although not a two way communication tool like Blackboard Collaborate or GoToMeeting, viewers can send messages and can send “hearts” as a form of appreciation.
Whilst scopes will be deleted 24 hours after first broadcast by default they can be saved for later use.

How to use Periscope

  • Virtual Campus tours
  • Live practicals or demonstrations in the classroom, lab or workshop
  • Icebreaker activities where small groups of students interview each other, and share in the class

Other resources

Periscope vs. Facebook Live: Is the battle over live streaming heating up?

GoPro goes live with Periscope

12 Ways to Use Periscope to Build Your Personal Brand!

Appy Monday – RefME

Banner showing Digital Derby and Appy Monday: Exploring mobile apps for learning and teaching

What is RefME?

RefME is a free tool that can be used for accurately automating citations, reference lists and bibliographies simply by scanning book or journal barcodes using your phone camera.

RefME | Free Reference Generator – Harvard, APA, MLA, Chicago… from RefME on Vimeo.

What can it do?

  • Generate references by scanning book or journal barcodes using your phone camera.
  • Search by Book/Article Title, ISBN, ISSN, DOI or URL if you don’t have a barcode
  • Generate a reference for a website by pasting in the URL
  • Add notes to your references via the app or via the website
  • Collaborate with others
  • Export your lists via email, Evernote or send directly to Word and others

Download it now

You can access it on the web or via the mobile app on Apple or Android.

How could it be used for learning, teaching and assessment?

  • Make a digital note of any academic source used when compiling course material
  • Have this list available at all times on your phone/tablet
  • Have the same list on all platforms
  • Distribute the list digitally to students or to yourself for additional course material
  • Encourage students to use it for their own purposes

Short task:

  • Create an account for RefME or use your Facebook account to login.
  • Find a book that has an academic context and a barcode
  • Open up the app and scan the barcode
  • Check that the generated reference is correct for the referencing style chosen

Important note

Before using any mobile application or online service please check the terms and conditions to ensure you are aware of the implications of using the service. In particular, look out for items covering data security, ownership of content and public/private sharing options.

Further support

If you would like further support to get an idea of how you could use RefME within learning and teaching, please contact the Technology Enhanced Learning team on tel@derby.ac.uk or ext 1865.