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Using Blackboard on the Lehman server

A Mini-manual by Ursula Hoffmann

the complete manual is on the Lehman bb site and also available from

Manuals from, as of Spring 2001 - here in case you cannot connect to Blackboard:

Instructor's Manual for v. 5 -- pdf -- this is a big file, nearly 300 pages, for printing or reading online,
and you need Acrobat Reader, a free plug-in for your browser (download it if you do not have it)
Materials prepared by U. Hoffmann
Handout for students: bb4students.htm -- download or print. (Fits on one page. On the back, I paste the student roster copied from my course, Communications, Roster, and formatted.)

Mini-manual Table of Contents:

  • What this software does
  • Be sure you and your students have a valid Lehman alpha account username
  • Go online and login -- DO NOT FORGET TO LOG OUT WHEN DONE!
  • Selecting the desired course
  • Options: changing your e-mail address, password, correcting the course name, roster, etc.
  • Teaching two sections of the same course
  • The Discussion Board
  • The Virtual Classroom (a chat room)
  • Assessment: quiz, survey, grades
  • Posting course materials and an announcement for students
  • Options: Hide material temporarily or Show material in a new window
  • A few simple HTML commands
  • Graphics and Scanning
  • Creating a Picture Show
  • File management: file names, types and extensions; travel disks (this is important -- please read)
  • Formatted text
  • Listserve  for sharing questions and answers -- contact the owners, Hoffmann or Dono
  • Help contacts: Login or unlisted course: Helpdesk || Preparing or posting course materials: Hoffmann

  • What this software does -- it is easy to use

    Brief summary: Every course offered has an automatic web space on the Blackboard server.
    1) You can put your entire course there, once or never meeting the class in person. Tip from Dean Rachlin: max. 20 students, meet once at the start of the term, take digital photographs of everyone, show the students how to access and use Blackboard, change their e-mail address and passwords to the ones they like to use and create a personal homepage, including the photograph -- this way students can get to know each other when they cross non-virtual paths on campus.
    2) You can put supplemental materials there, still meeting the class at the scheduled hours. Tip from Ursula: shortly after the start of the term, take the students to a computer lab, show them how to access Blackboard and use it, change their e-mail address and passwords to the ones they like to use; post an announcement telling them to read their e-mail and/or access Blackboard, say, once a week on a specified day, to see newly posted announcements, materials, assignments, whatever --  post announcements, assignments, whatever, and send e-mail to all alerting them to what you want them to do.
    Options: messages, assignments, quizzes and surveys, grades, posted materials (such as syllabus, books, texts, graphs, charts, images, lists of links to other sites -- note that some of these materials, though copyrighted, may be used on a password-protected site under the fair use guidelines).
    Also: e-mail (this can be to all, to groups, or private between student and instructor -- for submitting papers and returning papers with grades and comments), a virtual classroom=chat room and discussion board where students can communicate with the rest of the class, using the chat room at a designated time, the discussion board whenever.  You send e-mail from within Blackboard; you receive and read e-mail in your designated e-mail software.

    Be sure you and your students have a valid Lehman alpha e-mail account
    You do not need to use this account but you do need to know your Lehman username in order to use Blackboard (and Campus Cruiser). You also need to have a course at Lehman, or a test course, created by John Dono.
    If necessary, go to the Help Desk in the ITC, with CUNY Card. Or send e-mail to

    Go online and login -- PLEASE do not forget to log out!
  • Login for faculty: do this twice

  • Username: usually your username for the alpha
    for password (no caps, no spaces): contact John Dono or Jerry Barnard, x 8421
  • Login for a student: do this twice

  • Username: his/her username: the instructor can get it from the course on Blackboard.
    Password: no caps, no spaces: first initial of first name first initial of last name, date of birth (mmddyy). If this does not work, have the student try initials in the password in upper case.

    Load your browser, e.g., Netscape; then go to

    Click the Login button, type your username, press Tab (not Enter), type your password, click OK. Repeat.
    Tip for your own computer at home or in the office: Once you log in the first time, make a bookmark, then edit your bookmarks file and drag the bookmark to your Personal bookmarks at the start of your bookmark file. From now on, you log in just once.
    If there is a problem with your login or if your course is listed as TBA, contact the Help Desk: ext. 1111 or  e-mail

    Note: Blackboard looks and works for students as it does for you except that students do not see the Control Panel and see only their own dropbox and grade.

    Select the desired course here.
    Click on a course in the right hand panel of the screen. If one of your courses does not show, it may be listed as TBA:
    Click on one among those listed.
    Note: Once you are in your course, bookmark it.  Next time, click this bookmark so you need to log in only once.

    First Options:
    Changing your password and/or e-mail address -- for you and/or every student:
    Click Tools, Personal Information: here you can change your e-mail address and/or password, add a photo, etc. Please note that this is available for everyone in the course: noone can change anybody else's name, e-mail address, password.
    Enable or disable availability of e-mail, roster, group pages, digital drop-box, homepage, personal information, course calendar, checking of grades, tasks, electric blackboard, manual.
    The class roster:
    Click Communications, Roster or Control Panel, List/Modify Users. Select, copy and then paste and reformat for a list to print.

    Click Control Panel and set all your options. The Control Panel has six areas:

    Content Areas: This area provides the tools necessary to put announcements, course information, staff information, course documents, assignments, a list of book or links into your course. Tips: A) If you plan to repeat a course, number the weeks in your syllabus; you may even want to create special folders called Week 1, Week 2 etc. B) Prepare as much as possible on disk so you can upload or copy & paste again and again. See Course Options/Course Utilities.
    Course Tools: Here you set the course calendar, tasks, e-mail, discussion board, virtual classroom, digital drop-box.
    Course Options:
    Click Course Images to upload a custom Banner (jpg or gif, max. 450x90 pixels) and customize some buttons.
    Click Course Settings and use the Properties link to change name, description, subject and discipline for your course, make the course available to your students, enable or disable guest access, restricted to viewing announcements and course documents.
    Click Course Utilities: Here you can create a zipped archive file of your course, for future reference. This does not remove the materials from the server.
    User Management: This area provides tools for the instructor to manage users, groups, and enrollments. Click List/Modify Users, List all to get a roster incl. name, user name, e-mail address.
    Assessment: This area provides tools for building pools, an online gradebook, and tracking user activity in Course Statistics.
    Assistance: This area offers support contacts and online documentation.

    If you teach two sections of the same course,
    a. you can put all announcements and course documents in one section of your course, then click Control Panel, Course Utilities, Archive Course: select all except users and groups -- give the disk with the file to John Dono and ask him to "import" it to the second section of your course
    b. you can get the roster of your second section ( see above), then enroll all students in the second section in your first section: click Control Panel, List/Modify Users. Then you can create two groups, one for section one, the other for section two.

    The Discussion Board -- recommended as some students may be shy to speak in class but will write, or will think about the assignment before the class discussion if you give them questions in advance.
    Both instructor and student can start a new thread -- be sure to give it a new title.  When starting a new thread, you get an options screen: I recommend that you enable Edit (this works for the author of the item only; no one can edit anybody else's message).  Click on Communication, Discussion Board. Click on an existing forum or start a new one.  Click on Start New Thread button, create a new message, click Submit button.
    The Board may look like this:
    .....Topic 1 (new thread):
    ........Comment from A (new thread)
    ............Reply from B to A
    ................Reply to B from C
    ........Comment from C (new thread)

    The Virtual Classroom
    This is a chat room for which all or several people must be online at the same time.  Some of our colleagues assign a specified time and day (they find it necessary to remind the students that this is not meant to be used for idle chat); others disable this; yet others, such as I, leave it to the students to arrange a time and day to meet with classmates online for the exchange of ideas, websites, etc.
    The Electric Blackboard: not recommended by me: I do not see any use for it

    Posting course materials to be viewed on your course site: 3 options

    A1. You can type text online, or you can cut and paste. In either case, there is no formatting.
    2. If you want this text to be formatted, to center or bold or underline it, you need to use html code, see below.

    OR (recommended for good looks and long files and reusability -- invest in a zip drive (100M) and disks):

    Create HTML files, it's easy. See
    B1. You can prepare a file in Word or WordPerfect, check grammar and spelling, but do not format, then "save as" an html file. Close it. Open it with Netscape Composer, format it to look perfect, save. Upload it to your Blackboard course site.
    2. You can prepare an Excel worksheet, "save as" an html file. Close it. Open it with Netscape Composer, format it to look perfect, save. Upload it to your Blackboard course site.
    3. Images must be linked to an html file and should be in jpg or gif format.
    4. You can upload or e-mail Word or WordPerfect or Excel files directly: but they will not be viewable on the screen, and the student will need the same application on his/her machine to open and view them. Here, please keep in mind that these applications are frequently updated and are only backward compatible; in other words, the newest version can usually read a file produced by an older version of the software, but never the other way around. Therefore, if you must use this option, discuss availability and version in advance with your recipient. To find the version number, open the software, click on Help, then on About. Then save your file with File Save As, and in the resulting dialog window, choose the version number of the lowest common denominator.

    C. If you plan to repeat a course several times, my recommendation is that you create html pages for all your materials including syllabus, bibliography, reading lists, lectures, as well as files pointing to images, tables, spreadsheets on a zip disk where you can revise them any time you wish. Then, get yourself a site on a server: check out your ISP (Internet Service Provider: it may provide you with a few megabytes of space for a "homepage", or see if you can get space for your course on a college server, with direct access to it. You need both a special username and password.
    Then, using ftp (see\ftp.htm), you can upload and or replace files at any time as needed.
    Then, for your course on Blackboard, all you need is an html course document, with links to the files on your "homepage" -- this may never need updating (Links: Syllabus, Lecture 1, Lecture 2, etc.), it may only need uploading for any semester where you offer your course.

    Note: Blackboard has a terrible layout for the screen: there is very little space for our course materials, in the lower right screen. So you might post the following in your first announcement, e.g,
    Click Course Documents, a link. If your browser is Netscape: click File, Edit Frame to view the document. When done, click X in the upper right corner. If your browser is MS Internet Explorer: click View full screen. When done, click the second to right icon (Restore) in the upper right corner. Alternatively: rightclick the lower right section of your screen and select the top option: view full screen.

    Create files online:
    On your course site, click Control Panel, Page Editors, then Course Information  or Course Documents or Assignments, click Add Document.  Here you can type or paste something you copy from another open document. All formatting is lost when you copy and paste, but you can select the HTML format and add a few HTML commands (see below). Click Submit.

    Upload an existing file (one file at a time):
    The Blackboard manual uses the term "Attach" for attaching a file to the course site.  This really means "Upload".
    Again, on your course site, click Control Panel, then (in Content Area) Course Information or Course Documents, click Add Item. Scroll down to (2) Item Attachments, click Browse, select the file you wish to upload; its extension should be .htm or .html. In the Name of Link to File box, type the  link text that the students will see and can click on, e.g., Course Description or Syllabus or Recommended Reading, or whatever.
    Special Action: 'Create a link to this file' is fine.

    Now scroll down to (3) Options:
    Select Other Options. I set 'Track number of views' and 'Make visible' to Yes, leaving the others at No. Finally, click Submit, and return to Course or to Control Panel.
    Note: If your file contains pointers to images, you will be prompted to browse for their names, so they can be uploaded as well.

    Upload a group of files--all should be in a single folder/subdirectory:
    The Blackboard manual uses the term "Attach" for attaching a file to the course site.  This really means "Upload".
    A group of files may be compressed to a single file, in .zip format (.tar format on a UNIX system). (If you do not have a PC utility for zipping, you can currently find the free package PowerArchiver on the Web; search for its name, one word.)
    A slide show created with PowerPoint is automatically zipped when you save it as a web page=as html.
    Again, on your course site, click Control Panel, then (in Content Area) Course Information or Course Documents, click Add Item. Scroll down to (2) Item Attachments, click Browse, select the file you wish to upload; its extension should be .zip or .tar. In the Name of Link to File box, type the link text that the students will see and can click on, e.g., Picture Show or Slide Show, or whatever.
    Special Action: Unpackage this file. See Picture Show.
    Then click Submit. At the prompt, designate the "launch" file for the compressed group.  Example: The group of files is a PowerPoint slide show; designate index.htm as your launch file.

    a) External links work, i.e., links in your file to files posted on any remote host.  Internal links, i.e., a link from one document in your Course Documents folder to a second document in your Course Document folder, do not work very easily and they are too much trouble to create. (Bb creates special URLs for uploaded files. So, you would have to upload your file, copy its URL from File Properties, paste it into the link of the file you want to link, then remove the file originally uploaded, and upload the edited file.)
    b) When you upload a file a second time, it does not overwrite the file originally uploaded. Although both have the same filename, they are assigned different URLs by Bb. So remove a file before you upload a revised version of the same file.

    Graphics -- for more, see the special sections on scanning and digital photo manipulation
    All images should be saved in jpg/jpeg or gif format -- the image in this format is compressed and thus loads faster. Create or scan an image with a graphics package (72 dpi) -- or download an image from the Web but make sure you have permission to use it, and add credits - rightclick the image and save to your disk.
    Create an HTML document in Word or Netscape Composer, without images, then save as an HTML file to the same disk and folder where your image is.
    In Netscape Composer, point to the line where you want your image, click Insert, Image, Browse, doubleclick the image and OK. Now add text and credits, save and preview.
    Note: the document has only a pointer to the image; the image is a separate file. To use this in your Bb course, you must upload both your html file and the image.
    Note: If you want to have pointers to several images in a single document, you may want to create a zip package containing both the document and all the images it points to, for a single upload. See Upload a group of files, above.

    Assessment: Construct a quiz or survey in Blackboard, then see the results.
    Example: A Sample Survey for a Course Using Blackboard

    Midterm Survey

    End of Term Survey
    (same questions as above, changing Do to Did -- compare answers with those given in Midterm Survey).
    N.B. This is just a quick and probably not very good example of a survey.

    How to do this:
    Click Control Panel, Assessment Manager, Create New Assessment.
    Select Survey from Type: Quiz/Test or Survey and click Submit.
    Instructions: Type: Answer all questions, please.  Click Submit.

    Question Type:
    Available: Multiple Choice, True/False, Fill in the blank, Multiple answer, Matching, Ordering, Short Answer/Essay.
    Here, for this example and for the first question, select Multiple Choice. Note that the minimum number of choices suggested is 4(four).  You may select more, or leave as is.  In this example for question 1, we want 3(three): type in yes, somewhat, no -- then remove the fourth choice, and 4 will change to 3.
    To submit, click Add New Question -- or Preview when done adding all your questions.

    When done, click Save and make available.
    Select the options on the next screen:
    1) Make assessment available? yes or no. Yes if you want students to do this quiz or survey now.
    2) Allow multiple attempts? yes or no.  Yes is recommended.
    Click Submit.
    Select the options on the next screen:
    Place a link in Assignments? yes or no.  Yes is recommended.
    Generate an announcement? yes or no.  Yes is recommended.
    You can modify the announcement, adding a deadline: Control Panel: Page Editors, Announcements, modify.

    After the due date for the survey, click Control Panel, Online Gradebook to see results.

    File management
  • File names

  • I recommend the DOS standard: -- up to 8 characters or numbers (no space, with _ being the only permitted symbol) plus . (dot) plus extension(three to 4 characters and/or numbers): e.g., bbcourse.htm or syllabus.doc or bbfall00.html.
  • File types and the usual extensions:
  • Windows user: click My Computer or Windows Explorer, View, Folder Options, View -- deselect Hide file extensions
  • Mac user: we assume you know what to do
  • .txt is a text file: just characters and/or numbers, no formatting
    .doc is a formatted file produced by Word
    .wpd is a formatted file produced by WordPerfect
    .rtf (=rich text format=text with all formatting) is a file produced by both Word and WP and readable on PC/Mac
    .xls is a chart/table/worksheet produced by Excel
    .htm or .html is a file in HTML format, for optimal viewing on the Web
    .zip is a compressed file that may contain a number of files -- for optimal transfer and load speed.
    Same arranged by usual file size:
  • small:.txt, doc, wpd, htm/html
  • medium: pdf, rtf, xls, jpg/jpeg, gif
  • potentially large to huge

  • avi, au, mid/midi, mov, ra/ram, vdo, wav -- audio and video files
    ppt -- Microsoft Powerpoint files for text and/or  multimedia presentation
    pqf/shw -- Corel multimedia presentation
  • various sized compressed file, for optimal transfer and load speed: this may contain a number of files:

  • zip (WinZip) compressed file for Windows and Mac
    sit (StuffIt) compressed file for Mac.
    Travel disks:
    Most of us, and especially our students, transport files back and forth between school and home or office. Please share the following with your students. Make sure you have copies of all of your files at home or on a second disk. The disks need a lot of TLC: they should be in protective cases which allow them to wobble a bit (the really tight ones tend to be destructive), and they should never be near a motor or anything else that has an electro-magnetic field, etc.  Also, files on these disks must be saved in a readable format. For example, many PCs at Lehman now have MS Office 2000 which can read Word or Excel files saved in earlier versions; but if you have MS Office 97 at home, its version of Word or Excel will not be able to open a file modified at Lehman in the later version. Therefore, know what version you have at home or in the office and what version you have at your other location: click Help, About.... Then, after successfully opening and revising your file, do not click Save but rather Save as..., then choose an earlier version number.

    Mac Users: e-mail files back and forth between Mac and PC in txt or rtf format.

    Text: Font (such as Times New Roman), pitch=size (such as 11), attribute (such as Bold, Italic, Underline).  Stay with common TrueType fonts which you can expect the user to have on his/her machine.
    Paragraph: Indent, Center, Left or Right justify.

    prepared by Ursula Hoffmann, last rev. February 25, 2001 -- Comments are more than welcome.