Using Agents

Many instructors spend a significant chunk of time sending emails to students to remind them to check your Angel course for updates, or to remind them that they have not met other conditions. This can get very time consuming. Not everyone is fortunate to have a dedicated TA. You may be able to offload some of this work to Angel though. One of the ways to do this, is through an Agent.

To create an Agent that for example, performs an action, say send an email message, to those students who did not meet a certain condition, say check their Angel course within the last 7 days, follow these steps.

1. Go to your course, and click on the “Automate” tab.

2. Click on the, “Add New Agent” link right below the Agents Console.

3. On the next screen, (see screenshot below) you can set the schedule for the Agent to run. So in the example below, the Agent will run once every day, at 9:05 a.m.


4. Click on “Next”, and then in Step two, you can determine whether the Agent is going to monitor certain users, or a selection of users. You can refine your selection by picking which course rights the users must have to be affected by the Agent. The default is “Any Rights”, which means the Agent is going to apply to students, TA’s, and instructors in the course. You can also limit the Agent to a certain team, using the Team filter.

5. The next section is the, “User Selection Conditions”. This is where you set up a condition that needs to be met, to initiate an action by the agent (in this case an email to selected users who meet the condition).

For example, the instructor may wish Angel to automatically send out an email message only to students who have not logged into their courses within the last 4 days. The instructor may want to insure that the students check their courses at regular intervals, so that students can see if there are new announcements, new tasks due, new discussion posts, etc.

Another example is an instructor may want Angel to send out an email if the student has not posted or replied to a particular discussion forum. In that case under Condition select, “Forum Posts”, and set the condition to only email students who have not contributed any discussion posts or replies to the “Week 2 Discussion board” (or any other of your discussion boards visible from this drop-down menu). The next section, “Agent Summary”, simply summarizes the course of action if a certain condition is met. See example below.


6. In step 3, you select what action you want to be taken as a result of a student having met the condition you set up in step 2. In the examples mentioned so far, the action you want is for an email to be sent to the student, letting them know to go to Angel and log into the course, or to let them know they have not yet posted or replied to a particular discussion forum. So in these cases, select “Mail (Internal)” in the “Choose Action Type” section.

7. In the next area, you can select who you want the message to go to. Select “All Filtered Users”, if you only want Angel to notify the students who have not met the condition you set in step 2.
Then you create an appropriate message and subject and you can leave the other options blank. See example below.


8. Click “Next”, and then view the summary on the next page. If it all looks good, click “Save”, and you’re done. You can always go back and edit specific parameters if need be.

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Using Angel “Mobile Learn” with any mobile device

Sometime around the 17th of September, Blackboard will allow Angel users regardless of mobile device to use the Mobile Learn App. End Users can purchase the one year or perpetual license on September 10th.

So far, only iPhone or Sprint users have been able to use the native Blackboard App called “Mobile Learn” to use Angel from a Mobile device. If you pay the App fee, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Palm webOS users will be able to use Mobile Learn on any wifi or phone carrier network to connect to Learn instances at that institution.

Here’s what will be new  for Mobile Learn:

  • At institutions that choose not to purchase an institutional license (which includes WSU), individual end users on iOS and Android devices will now have the option to purchase a one year license for $1.99 or a perpetual license for $5.99.
  • You will be able to download the App for “free” (same App as before, updated), and the two end user license options will be available as in-App purchases. This allows Blackboard to verify that you can successfully log into at least one school via Mobile Learn (and that that school has not already purchased and institutional license) and shows a list of the courses that are accessible before they ask you if they would like to purchase a license.
  • If you purchase an end user license, it will allow you to use Mobile Learn on any wifi or phone carrier network to connect to Learn instances at any institution that you have access to. Additionally, the license will be good for any other device you own using the same OS (i.e. iOS license holders will be covered on every iOS device they own, and Android license holders will be covered on every Android device they own).

Here’s what will be going away:

  • The confusing free/pilot/Sprint license option goes away.
  • There will be no option that is free for both users and institutions. In other words, no one is getting a free lunch when it comes to the Mobile Learn App at this point (see below if you don’t want to pay for the App).

To download and start using Blackboard Mobile Learn:

1)       Search for “Blackboard Mobile Learn” in your App Store or scan the code below:

2)      Once Blackboard Mobile Learn is installed, search for Washington State University using the search bar that automatically appears when you open the App

3)      Select Washington State University

4)      Log in using the same username and password you normally use to access Blackboard

Mobile Learn gives you access to your course Announcements, Grades, Lessons, Roster, Discussions, and Personal Tasks on the go. Additionally, you can update your announcements, create discussion posts, and comment on your students’ discussions from your mobile device.

For those of you who don’t want to purchase the Mobile Learn App

  • Logging into Angel using a browser on an iPad or Android tablet can be difficult using the tablet’s browser. One way to get around this issue, is to log in using PDA mode, see, “PDA Display Mode” icon on the lower left corner of your Angel screen.
  • Another option on an iPad instead of selecting the PDA mode, is to open pages in new tabs.  Since ANGEL uses frames you often can’t scroll down a page, but if you “tap hold” a link in the admin area and then select “open in a new tab”, you now can access just the content frame and don’t have the scroll problem. You can also do this inside of a course by “tap hold” on one of the Tabs such as lessons and “open in a new tab”.  It’s certainly not perfect but works for a lot of things I do.

Writing and marking up a handout or PDF file in iPad or Android

The 3 Best iPad PDF Markup Apps:

List of Android PDF Markup Apps:

Informative video on QPdf or Qoppa PDF notes full version:

Enlarging fonts on the fly

Are your eyes having a hard time with small fonts on Angel?

  • Tap hold the Ctrl key on your keyboard. While holding the Ctrl key, push the plus key to increase the font, hit the minus key to decrease the font size.
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Adding a profile picture and finding the pictures in course roster

  1. Log into Angel
  2. Click on the Preferences icon
  3. Under General User Settings, click on “Personal Information”
  4. On the next page, scroll down to “Photo URL”, and click on the Add button
  5. On the next pop-up window, click on the browse button, and look for your profile photo file on your computer, and click upload to bring your photo into Angel.
  6. You can view the profiles of other students by going back to the Angel home page, entering your course, click the “Communicate” tab at the top
  7. Then select, “Course Roster”, and click “Show Pictures”
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Tips and ideas to reduce student email volume

One of the issues experienced by faculty during a typical semester, is dealing with large volume of student emails. Many questions of course are unique and need individual attention, but many other questions can seem like questions that the student could have found out, had they for example, read the syllabus more carefully or simply asked another student. By getting mired in those types of basic or repetitive questions, quality face-to-face time with students during for example office hours, may end up reduced. If you have even better practices, or other ideas that works for you in reducing extra email, please let us know in the comments below. Below are some ideas and tips (some by other faculty) which might be helpful to you.

  • Students really appreciate course organization. A disorganized course not only results in more emails, but some students may get an unfavorable impression of the course as well. See and  Course organization was covered in an earlier  Angel tip.
  • One instructor starts every course with a quiz on the syllabus — easily set up in your Angel course space, could be made repeatable until students score 100 percent — and you will see an, “extraordinary decline in the amount of emails.”
  • One instructor’s syllabus is filled with large blank spaces related to course policies and asks the class to come up with them. “Small groups present on categories and particulars, they come to a consensus.  Are those discussions eye-openers on all sides, and this strategy has not only produced great syllabus quiz results, it’s shortened the timeline for class ease and cohesion in group work and general class discussion.  I wish every time I had a picture from the front of the room as students on the first day flip through the blank pages!”
  • To encourage “questions as learning,” rather than “questions as crutch”, one instructor requires students to post a question (in a discussion forum) and respond with answers to 3 questions of others.  If and when the questions begin to seem to go off track, the instructor groups students randomly and has the group come up with one question: the group self-polices the “easy” questions.  “Students always report that this was one of the most useful things.”
  • Another way to reduce the “Q&A” email, is to put a, “Clarification Station” on the course home page. This is basically a discussion forum. “Everyone sees the question and everyone sees the answer.”  Students and the professor can subscribe to be notified in email when new posts arrive.  Students can ask questions, and also answer each other’s questions, if they know the answers.  The Clarification Station works well for questions like “does anyone know where to find the Dropbox for the short paper?”  or “is anyone having trouble getting Lesson 3 to load?” Repetitive easy questions are taken care of by students themselves (“Try the Syllabus for due dates”) which means the instructor doesn’t have to be the exasperated person all the time. The Clarification Station works well for general questions that are not about grades or individual performance. “A big advantage of doing it this way is that it helps us monitor what questions are asked most frequently, and where the problems are, information that is used for course development.   This way we have it corralled in one spot and can see emerging trends and issues, and determine easily where communications and instructions are in need of reinforcement.”
  • Use a third party tool linked from the LMS, like Piazza. Piazza is similar to an FAQ discussion forum, but has some additional elegant features you may find useful. Summary of the tool from their web site: Piazza is a free platform for instructors and TAs to efficiently manage out-of-class Q&A.  “On their class dashboard, students can post questions and collaborate Wikipedia-style to edit responses to these questions. Instructors can also answer questions, endorse student answers, and edit or delete any posted content. The name Piazza comes from the Italian word for plaza–a common city square where people can come together to share knowledge and ideas. We strive to recreate that communal atmosphere among students and instructors. Piazza is an “instant social Q and A”,  a free online gathering place where students can come together to ask, answer, and explore under the guidance of their instructors. Instructors can easily answer questions, edit content, and track student participation, as well as find out which questions have the most traffic, are the most frequently discussed, and address those immediately. This tool aims to reduce the volume of emails that are asking the same question over and over, by focusing directly on the questions that matter most to students.

From the Piazza FAQ page:

Piazza saves instructors time in three ways:

1. Piazza lets you answer once.

There are always problems that multiple students run into. With staff email lists, each of those students emails you and your staff separately, meaning you have to waste time answering small variations on the same question over and over again. On Piazza, you can answer once and the whole class will be able to see it. At the same time, sensitive questions can always be made private to instructors via the private post option.

2. Piazza streamlines your workflow.

On forums and newsgroups, there is no distinct notion of a question that needs attention. (FYI…Angel by the way does have a notification feature, and also shows unread posts in bold) This means you have to sort through every updated question every time you want to help your students. On Piazza, we clearly indicate whether a question is unanswered (it’s red!) or has a lingering, unresolved issue (“unresolved follow-up”) and provide a filter you can use to look at only these questions (the Unresolved filter). Log in, answer unresolved questions, and move on.

3. Piazza encourages students to answer for you.

Students can answer questions on forums and newsgroups… but they hardly ever seem to. Piazza allows instructors to endorse student answers, which essentially tells the class, “This answer is as good as what I would have written.” You don’t have to spend time rewriting the answer, and students have a new motive to answer again. We’ve seen students answering up to 50% of questions in their class by the end of the quarter when instructors frequently endorse answers.

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Technology for Educators: Free Web Tools for Teachers

Technology for Educators: Tools for Teachers

Sue Frantz of Highline CC gave a well-received webinar session on useful tools for teachers. Part of a weekly series of presentations and live office hours offered by the Washington State eLearning Community, the presenter of this workshop, Sue Frantz provided participants with a handout covering approximately 50 primarily web-based tools useful to educators divided into 16 categories. Specific tools demonstrated and discussed in this Elluminate Live recorded session:

  • File management between multiple computers & devices using the cloud. No more emailing files to yourself or deal with flash drive issues. Allows you to share files with other members of your department, or make a public link. Just like GoogleDocs keeps revisions to allow you to restore older versions of content items.
  • Videodropper lets you send YouTube videos directly to your Dropbox folder, so that you can watch or show them later (offline) at your leisure and you don’t have to be connected to the internet. You can also choose to optimize videos for viewing in an iPhone/iPod Touch.
  • http://YouCanBook.Me Web scheduler allows folks to schedule appointments with you, can also synchronize with outlook and Google calendar. Students can book you, and that can sync through your Google calendar and/or Outlook with sync tool. Also this tools allows you to set a limit to the number of students who can book or sign-up for a particular appointment. While the default is one person per time slot, you can increase the allocation, if you wish to allow a group to have an appointment. Which means the appointment would continue to stay open for sign-ups, until the maximum number of people have signed up. You can also create a form, which will send reminders and allows the persons who made appointments to cancel using an email message. Also discusses Doodle appointments, and Google Calendar appointments.
  • Utility that allows users to shorten a long URL (web link), share it, and then track the resulting usage. Also allows you to create “bundles” of links on one page.
  • Turns any web-enabled device, including smartphones, into classroom clickers. No proprietary hardware needed! Also can create live quizzes with immediate feedback, then have it emailed to you as a spreadsheet.
  • Has conference calling abilities, and allows you to quickly and easily share your desktop inside a web browser.

Other web-based tool you may find useful (thanks to Scott Dennis for compiling these).

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Adding Tegrity Link to your Angel home page

  1. Make sure your course is enabled.
  2. Go to one of your courses.
  3. On your course home page, in the content area, click on the “Edit Page“ button in the top left corner.

    Edit Page link on course page

    Edit Page link on course page

  4. Then Click on the Add Components, find the “TegrityCampus” component, and check the box, then click on “Add selected”, then click Save.
  5. It should now show the Tegrity Button at the bottom of your course home page.
  6. Clicking the Tegrity Button should pop-up a new window, one empty window, and one pop-up window.

    Tegrity browser

    Tegrity window

  7. In order to view your other classes and the record button (instructors get the record button by default), click on the, “My Tegrity” link in the breadcrumb trail.
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Backing up your Angel courses and exporting your gradebook

To reverse accidental deletions in your course, you will want to backup before you move and add a lot of new content, before you plan to delete a large portion of your course, or before you make a lot of grade changes. Either way, it is good to schedule it regularly, by using a calendar reminder, for example in Outlook. Below are the instructions for backing up a course in Angel 7.4, as well as instructions for backing up just the grade book. Having a copy of your grade book outside of Angel is essential.

Instructions for Backing Up a Course

To back up your course, select the Backup and Restore tool from the Data Management Menu under the Manage tab. Then click the create new backup link.

This process might take time, depending on the size of the course and the load on the system. However, you can browse through your course while it processes.

After a successful backup, either by the instructor or by the system administrators, other options become available: Restore Backup and Download Backup.

You might want to save the backup to another location, such as the hard drive on a computer, a flash/thumb drive, or a CD. If anything compromises the data on the server, you still have an intact backup.

To save the backup to another location, click the Download Backup button after the backup is complete.

A pop-up window displays, asking whether you want to open or save (or cancel) the backup file. Click the Save button.

This option requires you to designate where you want the file to be saved. It also allows you to rename the file if you want. In this case, you are saving it in the course folder on the C drive. After it is saved, it can be burned to a CD, stored as a DVD, or put in removable storage.

iconNote Note: If you are using Firefox as a browser, it will default to saving the file to your desktop unless you have changed the settings to download it elsewhere.

iconNote Note: The backup file can be used only to restore a course to the way that it was when the backup was created. You cannot make changes to any content within the backup file.

Exporting your Gradebook

The Export Grades option allows the course editor to export assignment grades for all students as a comma-delimited or tab-delimited file. The resulting delimited file can easily be viewed and modified in a standard spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel.

Click the Export Grades hyperlink in the Gradebook Setup section to display the Export Grades options.

To export assignment grades from the ANGEL Gradebook, do the following:

1.   Delimiter. Choose between comma– and tab-delimited options.

2.   Include. Choose to include averages or course ID.

3.   Output Format. Choose between percentage and points.

4.   Export. A File Download dialog box appears on the screen. Click the Save button to save the file. A Save As dialog box appears on the screen.

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