Currently viewing the category: "Bug Zapper"

Affected NILE pageMany instructors have commented that the menu on their NILE site has vanished – or become black text on a black background – which makes navigation a little tough for students! Sadly this is a bug that has been around for a long time (see ‘Who turned the lights out‘ from September 2013).

Our advice (if affected) remains pretty much the same:

1. Open the Site Manager, Customisation, Teaching Style menu item and scroll down to the background colour and text colour pickers.

2. Edit the background colour and chose a very light contrasting background or type in ‘ffffff’ (‘f’ six times) into the code value box for a white background.

3. ‘Submit’ to save changes

Alternately, you can also select the ‘default’ theme, which fixes the issue too.

We strongly advise NOT using themes in any case. The vast majority lack high contrast colours and make the menu difficult to read. You may also be unaware that themes add an image to the lower left that can be totally inappropriate for your subject content and appear rather ‘childish’. Always use the Student Preview to check what your site looks like to students.

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It’s that time of year when ‘My Sites’ are being edited to reflect next year’s modules, so we are seeing a number of reports about a script warning that pops up on NILE – ‘Batch already begun’ when visiting the home and Sites & Organisations tab – it fires as organisations load.

It appears that this is a ‘known issue’ (sigh) with Blackboard Learn. What it doesn’t like you doing is hiding sites you’re enrolled on and using the ‘group by term’ feature at the same time.

Probably best to just turn off your ‘group by term’ for an immediate resolution using the settings cog. If you do wish to group by term, the only way around this would be to un-enroll from  courses you didn’t want to see listed. Do this on the Sites & Organisations tab, using ‘Manage your NILE Sites’ – click the module you want to escape from, select yourself from the instructor list and ‘Submit’. There isn’t a quicker way for us LearnTechs to do this for you en masse – sorry!

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copying a manuscript

The preparation of sites for the 2015/16 academic year is now starting in earnest and you may find yourself copying material from last year’s sites. Usually this is fairly easy using the ‘copy’ dropdowns, but one section that is a little more difficult is ‘Contacts’. It isn’t possible to copy individual contacts from one site to another, but you can copy the whole Contacts folder even if this isn’t immediately obvious. Especially as you probably only ever do this once a year!

One advantage of this full copy process is that you can create a ‘Master’ contact list to import into all your modules with every contact, then just delete those you don’t need on a particular module.

We have created a quick one-page guide to jog your memory and  help you speed things up. The same principle can be applied to large content areas with lots of content. Rather than copying items individually you can move across all the content of a menu item on the left side. Just select that item instead of ‘Contacts’ for the Export and Import content.

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We have heard of some synchronisation issues with the Turnitin iPad app, particularly when large numbers of (or very large) student submissions are being handled. Joe Mills of LEAP at Hull helpfully identified that the problem can arise when an iPad ‘sleeps’ during synchronisation – this will prevent the process from completing, resulting in missing papers on your iPad. So, while marking with Turnitin, Joe recommends:

1. Go to Settings>General

2. Scroll down to Autolock

3. Turn Auto-lock to OFF (your iPad will not now go to sleep unless you press the power button)

4. Plug your iPad in to a charging source (you need to make sure your iPad does not run out of charge)

5. Open Turnitin App

6. Go to your class

7. Touch the ‘i’ icon top right to bring up the information about the class

8. Turn “Sync submissions” on

9. Press on screen to come out of the “i” panel

10. The submissions will now start to sync

11. This will take time…!

12. Do NOT switch to another app, open another app or generally do anything that puts the Turnitin app in to the background.

Joe also points out – rightly – that you will need enough space on your iPad to ensure that you can complete your downloads. Check ‘Settings’ / ‘General’ / ‘Usage’ to see your available storage. As a general rule of thumb, 1GB+ will probably be fine. You can use ‘Manage Storage’ to identify any apps that are using a lot of space.

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A number of old themes are being retired in MyPad in June and have already been replaced with a new set of responsive designs that will work well on mobile devices. If you use a MyPad site for teaching or personal use it is worth checking whether you are using old themes (you will be prompted when you log in) and updating them or just consider one of the new themes to freshen up your site and make it smartphone friendly.

The NILE External Resources Site (NILEX), which lists free applications you can use to create content for use in NILE,  has undergone such an update and continues to expand – there are now over 50 resources covered.  Latest posts include Canva (an online graphics and infographics creator) and AppSheet (which creates free IOS and Android data-driven apps using Google Spreadsheets).

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mashup instructionsAlthough we suggest using the Media Gallery on NILE for students to submit work to, there are a couple of drawbacks. You would need to add feedback and marks through a Grade Centre column and students cannot see their submitted work in the media gallery, which has led to a few anxious calls to the LearnTech helpdesk.

The alternative is to use a standard Blackboard Assignment (not Turnitin) and allow students to use the Kaltura Mashup tool – which is part of the text box editor. This creates a Grade Centre column and students will have more confidence that they have submitted their work.

It does require clear guidance though so we have created a basic explanation (with screenshots that will work in any module), that you can paste into the description text box (use the HTML editor) to get you started.

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We’re well into assignment season and support calls are beginning to increase in relation to missing assignment submission points, incorrect settings preventing students from uploading one or more versions, apparently missing assignment submission in Grade Centre, grades being released too early (or never) and scores instead of letter grades being given to students.

While it might be tempting to blame the computer*, it’s usually just being a little rusty that’s at the root of the problem. Please take a few minutes to remind yourself of the simple things to do before and after marking to avoid problems by looking at the SaGE survival guide.

NILE isn’t without its problems, but we must be honest with students if we are to be able to interpret their feedback on this critical part of their student experience.

* and posting this in an announcement!

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A number of staff are designing e-tivities (online learning activities) that require students to undertake some independent research and then share a link to the online resource with peers who can then click on the link and view the article for themselves.

If the article has been found and accessed through NELSON and the link shared with students who are not already authenticated through the University systems then they will be faced with either a dead link or an ‘Access Denied’ message.

In this situation the solution is as follows:

  • Ask students to include the full reference for the journal so that potential viewers can access the article themselves via the Library ‘Find My Reference’ tool. By using this route, students will be prompted to login with their University login in order to get access to the article.

If this applies to you, please change your e-tivity instructions to ask for articles to be shared using the University of Northampton Harvard referencing style. Include this link to a Skills Hub video that shows quickly how to use the ‘Find My Reference’ tool. You might also want to include an example of how to reference a journal using the Harvard journal – guidance is available from the Help Tab in NILE.

The added bonus for the students, of course, is practice in Harvard referencing!

With thanks to Hannah Rose, Academic Librarian for helping us with the solution


An old problem that we hadn’t seen for a long time resurfaced on a couple of course sites last week and – as it is the season for NILE site preparation – may come back to haunt lecturers.

When re-organising your menu on the left of the site, menu items (including dividers and subheadings) begin to refuse to stay where they have been moved to. The symptoms are sometimes not immediately obvious if only one menu item is changed, but as soon as the screen is refreshed the problem is clear.


It appears that the Blackboard system can end up with duplicate identifying numbers for menu items when items have been moved around and this can’t be corrected using the drag and drop editor.

The solution is right in front of our eyes, but rarely used. There is an ‘up/down arrow’ icon at the top of the menu when in edit mode – this is the accessible method of re-ordering items. Select the item you want to move and use the arrows to position it. If you alter the ‘bad’ items, this appears to fix the identifying number duplication so you may be able to revert to drag and drop once you’ve used this tool.

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App detailsOn the 4th August Turnitin updated their iPad app to version 1.3.0

The main change that could affect users at Northampton is the ability to force the version of the submission on the server to overwrite that on the iPad. It is unlikely that this will be needed often – perhaps when a submission has been marked using a web browser  at the same time that it is being marked on an iPad, or a restored submission needs to be ‘pushed’ to an iPad. A ‘long hold’  on the submission in the iPad brings up a dialog box. Clearly, if you initiate this in error, please cancel to avoid losing any marking you have recently done on your iPad.


This update also mentions ‘grading forms’, a cut down rubric. We don’t recommend these as part of the SaGE process, but there is more information here.


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