Tag: blackboard

The True Story of Trying to Use the Blackboard Achievements Tool in an Online Class


I haven’t noticed very many people talking about using Blackboard’s Achievements tool (but everyone is certainly all abuzz about badges and gamification) so when my office upgraded our LMS and this option became available I wanted to give it a whirl. I ended up using it in a 2-week professional development setting for a class on Twitter as a PLN.

Essentially the achievements tool allows you to define “triggers” or actions that students must complete in their course in order to be awarded a badge of your design. Some of the common activities that can be used as “triggers” are:

  • Having students simply click the “Mark as Reviewed” button
  • Obtaining a specific grade on an assignment or test
  • Posting to the discussion board, a blog, wiki etc…

As the seminar I was teaching mainly involved the students completing tasks on their own Twitter accounts I ended up having to figure out a way to award achievements for items I had to review manually. To do this I set-up a number of specifically titled individual grade center columns and tied the score entered in the column to the awarding of an achievement. So, for example, if Jane successfully tweeted using the class hashtag I’d enter 100 in the grade center column titled “Hashtag” and Jane would receive a new accomplishment badge.


One aspect of the tool that I simply don’t understand at all is the lack of a leaderboard. As far as I can tell there’s no way to visually show all students where they stand regarding which badges or achievements they’ve completed. In my opinion one of the best parts about gamification is a little friendly competition. To bring that environment into the seminar I ended up creating a table that I manually updated daily as the students obtained their badges. They could then see how they were coming along in comparison to their peers. Admittedly this was a rather time consuming undertaking but for me it seemed like a necessity. Of course, I probably didn’t have to color in each completed task cell with a lavender background but I REALLY wanted to. I’ve attached the completed leaderboard so you can see what it ended up looking like with the students names removed (of course).

Some Icons I Used as Badges

The badges that come with Blackboard are pretty bland but you can create your own. Just keep the image dimensions to around 90 pixels in width or below and you should be all set.

Here’s a quick tour of the course shell from the student’s perspective and some of the activities one might arrange in order for achievements to automatically appear when a task is completed.

watchFrankly, I’m still deciding whether or not I found this tool useful beyond the fact that it amused me so I’ll write a bit more about that at a later time. I definitely think I need to have another opportunity to test it with students again before fully committing one way or another.

Mystery Solved: Printing Content in Blackboard Folders and Modules


I adore my Kindle and read fiction as much and as often as I possibly can on it. However, when it comes to retaining unfamiliar information, especially educational articles or books on topics I really want to learn (and actually be able to explain to someone else) I find that I have to go the “old fashioned” route and either purchase a physical version or print out a hard copy. There are articles citing studies that note contradicting points of view on this subject. Some say your retention rates are the same, some say eBooks aren’t cutting it. In the end I feel that it really just ends up being your personal preference. I need my pink highlighter in hand and you might be just fine with touch highlighting all of your favorite quotes in an eReader.

Where am I going with this and what does it have to do with Blackboard and printing? Well, when I first began working in my current position we manually created and embedded PDF files of weekly course content for our online students. They found this very helpful. In addition, the process for our staff was simple and straightforward, but when we upgraded to Blackboard 9 the trusty File+Print+Save to PDF trick just wouldn’t work. The page view was hopelessly truncated. At this time many instructors also began to use the learning module feature for their online courses which makes it impossible for students to print a linear document of their assignments on their own at all. Which is one of the MANY reasons why I prefer the use of weekly folders of content over learning modules but that’s a rant for a different day.

So I fumbled around and googled and couldn’t find anything helpful. It sort of felt like the LMS was forcing you to only access your content on your computer, but guess what, a huge segment of the population needs to be able to print reading material. Eventually I discovered that if I right-clicked on content folders or modules and had them open in new windows I could once again create full printable versions of a course’s content. Also interesting is that, for some reason, I’ve only ever been able to get this to work in Chrome.

If you’d like to walk through the steps I use to make Blackboard printables you can view this downloadable tutorial. It looks daunting at first but I promise that after you make a handful of PDFs you’ll be able to complete the action in seconds. In addition, here’s an example of how the printable might appear for you. Note: Any large blank spaces are embedded YouTube Videos that do not appear to translate as an image onto the PDF. And yes, that’s a week of course content I came up with for one of my graduate classes dealing with A Christmas Carol. No laughing!

I’d love to know if anyone has been able to print content in Blackboard 9 (and up) in another (hopefully more simple) manner. If so, definitely let me know!