Blackboard Basics - How do separate discussion sections work in blackboard

How do separate discussion sections work in blackboard?

Many UO courses are organized as a lecture plus discussion sections taught by GTFs.  In such courses there are several plausible ways to use Blackboard:

  1. Not using discussion sections: You can choose not to use the separate discussion CRNs at all (leave them unavailable), but instead enroll the GTFs as "teaching assistants" in the lecture course site and use it for everything connected with the course.  You can set up groups within the main course site and use group discussion boards and have separate grading views for the sections (see FAQ below to set this up).  Have the GTFs enter the grades for their students in the master gradebook using smart views.  This method tends to work well with for large courses where the majority of assignments and content are identical for all sections of a course.
  2. Independent discussion sections: You can conduct most of the activity of the course, or at least all of the activity related to section, in the separate course sites.  On an as needed basis, have the section leader export the grades to an Excel spreadsheet then load that spreadsheet back into an existing column of the lecture course (this will add grades just for the students in that section, so 2 section leaders can upload their section grades into the same column).  This is a good approach if the sections are largely independent, e.g. the different sections have different intellectual content or different assignments.  Note that if the "true" grades are going to be displayed in the lecture site then the individual GTFs should make the grades unavailable to the students in the discussion course sites to avoid confusion.  Note also that although we automatically create Blackboard sites for the discussion sections we don't automatically enroll the professor, so the discussion leader needs to enroll the professor in his/her site to allow the professor to supervise.
  3. A variant of option #1 is to make the lecture available and the discussions unavailable, then have the GTFs enter grades in the discussion CRN, but use the download + upload approach from option #2 to copy grades from the discussion course site to the main (lecture) course site.

It is useful to create Discussion Section Groups on the large merged course site so GTF’s can grade only their own assigned students from that separate discussion section while still using the large course site to report grades to everyone:

This is a manually created process.  The instructor can do this for each GTF. The process seems lengthy, but actually saves a lot of time in the long run and makes things easier for the GTFs and students. Your GTFs may need to first be added as TA’s or instructors in the larger course site to be able to grade if they are not listed there already.  You will need the class list of students for each discussion group handy to create smart views so before you begin, get the rosters from your GTFs or duckweb.  It’s helpful to have a hard copy of these lists. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Go into the large merged course where all students are listed
  2. Go to the control panel in lower left corner and find the link that says “Users and Groups”. Click on this link and then click on “Groups”.
  3. On the resulting page, at the top, click on Create and then from the drop down select under GROUP SET (to the right) “Manual Enroll”.
  4. From there, you name the group set - This is an overall group set. You will give each GTFs group a separate name later in the step process.
  5. Mark Group NOT visible to students if you are just using them as grading smart views. If you think you will use the groups as actual groups to have the discussion sections interact such as with a discussion board for that section, then you can enable it for students, but only do this if you are going to use it as such or it will confuse the students.
  6. In the Tool Availability list such as blogs etc. you can choose to use the tools or deselect them if this group is not being used as an actual group, but just as a smart view for the GTFs grading ease. You can also use the groups to have the discussion groups interact with each other, in which case you may want to leave some tools enabled depending on your needs.
  7. Deselect Allow Personalization (optional)
  8. On Group Set Options you will put the total number of discussion section groups you want to create within Blackboard. Then Select “Create Smart View”.
  9. Then click Submit to save changes.
  10. On the resulting page is where you add users to each group and change each group name to reflect either the GTF’s name or the section name/date or both. Whatever you want to make it easy for the GTF to identify which group is his/her group of students.
  11. Click on Add users to add users to each discussion section from the list you got off DuckWeb. Click Submit when you are finished.
  12. From here, you can add the Smart View in the Full Grade Center to make a quick link to each section’s groups of students. So go to Full Grade Center and then find the Manage button. Click on Manage and from the drop down select “Smart Views”.
  13. Your smart view discussion sections should already be listed there if you checked the Create Smart View box in the previous steps described. Find the first group in the set and click the little grey edit arrow next to it and then click “Edit”.
  14. On the resulting page, change the name to reflect what you would want the GTF to find it as in grade center (could be the same as before with their name and section time). Select “Mark as Favorite” so that it will add the smart view link to your grade center drop down options and then make sure the correct group is selected below that matches the name you gave it.  Click Submit to save.

If the instructions were followed correctly, you should now be able to click on “Grade Center” on your left control panel menu and see each group as a link there that the GTFs can click on and grade only their students in the specified group. You may need to refresh the page to see the changes. Now GTFs can easily find their list of discussion section students and grade only those students.

tags: discussion sections, GTFs, lecture, teaching assistants, grades, course content, download grades, upload grades, discussion boards, personalization, organization, smart views

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