VoiceThread Maintenance

VoiceThread will be performing a database upgrade and maintenance on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 4am – 5pm. VoiceThread will not be offline, but tools may be slow to load during this maintenance window.

Instructional Technology News – September 2, 2020

September is here – time to start planning for your first course assessment of the semester! The CIT has prepared content for each course delivery mode regarding best practices for online exams and assessments. Meet our tools that can help you as you prepare your first assessment.

Testing Tools:

Blackboard Tests

Instructors can use Blackboard Learn to create, administer, and grade exams and quizzes, all online. Visit cit.ua.edu/blackboard for detailed tutorials.

Respondus Lockdown Browser

Respondus Lockdown Browser allows instructors to require students use a pared-down, secure web browser to take an exam (not available for Chromebooks). Students can download Lockdown Browser from the My Institution page in Blackboard or on the OIT software page. Instructors must enable Lockdown Browser from the Course Tools menu.

Respondus Monitor

The Respondus Monitor option in Lockdown Browser uses a student’s webcam to automatically scan for irregular or suspicious test-taking activity and flag possible issues for instructors to review. Think of Respondus as a virtual alternative to an in-person testing monitor.

Exam Accommodations

If you have students who receive ODS accommodations that include extended time on tests, these steps from Blackboard walk you through adding test exceptions. Additionally, the Office of Disability Services provides information on testing accommodations at UA. Check out ods.ua.edu for more information.

Testing Tips

Tests aren’t new, but taking tests online can be new territory for many students. Share our Testing Tips with your students.

Additional Learning Space/Tech News:

Virtual Learning Spaces

UA has designated more than 60 classrooms and meeting rooms as virtual learning spaces – areas where students can attend online class meetings while on campus. Please share this with your students as an alternative location to attend an online class.

Student WIFI Connectivity

OIT is performing upgrades in several residence halls to improve wireless connectivity. If you encounter a student experiencing WIFI connectivity issues in their on-campus residence, please direct them to the IT Service Desk (205-348-5555 or itsd@ua.edu). *Note – the IT Service Desk is separate from the CIT. However, each are units within the Office of Information Technology.

Instructional Technology News – Aug. 27, 2020

We’re one week in to our new methods of teaching. CIT has a few resources to share as you continue to develop best practices for your course.

Contingency Planning

As we saw this week with a Zoom web server issue, outages occur. Although we strive to do everything in our power to prevent outages, please know that alternative technologies are available! For example, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is an ideal tool to host a class meeting if Zoom is unavailable. Review all of our technologies, and see what they can do, in our Tool Comparison Chart.

Along with technology backups, consider having an instructor backup. Are your course materials available so that someone else could pick them up and teach your class? Consider having a backup instructor available with access to your course materials.

Blackboard Learn Basics for Students and Instructors

Students and instructors are depending on Blackboard Learn now more than ever before. Blackboard Learn serves as your course home page for most necessary materials.  Review the CIT YouTube channel to see Blackboard best practices for both students and instructors. Learn how navigate and use Blackboard like a pro.

Check the CIT website for Common Tips

For example, if you use Panopto in the Safari browser, you may have noticed a login redirect loop. We’ve got a work-around that can help.

As always, we’re here to help. Contact us at cit@ua.edu, and remember, all UA instructors can contact Panopto Supportdirectly for help with Panopto, support@panopto.com.

Blackboard Redirects to Panopto in Safari

When using Safari, Blackboard pages with embedded Panopto content may redirect to the Panopto login page, preventing access to the Blackboard course. To avoid this, click on Safari in the tool bar > click on Preferences > select Privacy. Uncheck the box that says Website Tracking: Prevent cross-site tracking.

Blackboard Learn Downtime

Update, Monday, Aug. 24:  On Aug. 19, 2020 at 8:04pm, a Blackboard Learn database query caused high load on the database and resulted in a service interruption. Database servers were restarted, and service was resumed by 8:50pm. Measures have been put in place by Blackboard to prevent future database service interruptions.


Original Post, Wednesday, Aug. 19:  UA experienced a Blackboard Learn outage Wednesday, Aug. 19 from 8:07pm – 9:12pm. The outage occurred at the Blackboard Learn data center. More information regarding the root cause of this outage will be posted here on the CIT website as it becomes available. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Instructional Technology News – August 17, 2020

Welcome to the fall 2020 semester at The University of Alabama! Your colleagues in the Center for Instructional Technology are available to help with your instructional technology and accessibility needs.

Flexible Modes of Instruction

We’ve developed several resources to help with flexible teaching methods. Review the CIT website to see tips and best practices for Face-to-Face, Hybrid, Online/Internet and Interactive Audio/Video courses. Make an appointment for your virtual consultation today by emailing cit@ua.edu. If courses show as “not currently available” in the instructor’s course list, edit course availability in Blackboard course properties.

Classroom Technology
Our colleagues in Audio/Visual Solutions have installed web cameras on adjustable mounts in over 400 instructional spaces across campus to allow instructors to livestream and record lectures. This will facilitate equitable learning opportunities for both face-to-face and remote learners. Additionally, disposable microphone covers are being delivered to academic departments this week.  They are packaged for faculty scheduled to teach in eligible classrooms.  To find out more, visit AVS online

Extended Support

Great news! We’ve expanded support offerings for both Panopto and Blackboard Learn. Now, anyone from UA can get direct support from Panopto and Blackboard Learn support will be available on nights and weekends. Visit cit.ua.edu and accessibility.ua.edu to view our instructional technology and accessibility support offerings.

Build Your Online Presence

Did you know that CIT supports a web development tool for UA faculty and graduate students to build professional, portfolio websites? Visit people.ua.edu to learn more and request a website.

Stay in Touch

To check on the status of our technologies, visit our news page. While you’re there, subscribe to receive updates from CIT.

This semester may look different than previous years, but please know, our team is ready to serve you as we have each year before. Please contact us at 205-348-3532 cit@ua.edu to request help with instructional technology anytime throughout the semester.

Aug 10, 2020 – Instructional Technology News

This week, and next, the CIT is hosting several virtual, tech-focused events to help prepare instructors for the fall semester.

Faculty Roundtable

Join UA faculty in roundtable discussions to share your plans and strategies (and hear the plans and strategies of your peers) for teaching in the fall 2020 semester.

Instructional Technology Prep Day

Have questions about building your course in Blackboard Learn? Want to become more familiar with Panopto? Ready to check out VoiceThread? Here’s your chance.

Ongoing Webinars

Zoom Basics, 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in Blackboard, Create and Manage Videos with Panopto – just a few of this week’s topics.

More details on each of these virtual events is available on the CIT website and UA Events Calendar. Make plans to join us this week. 

Reminder:  Panopto Upgrade 

Saturday, Aug. 15, Panopto will be unavailable from 8pm – 11pm while cloud infrastructure is upgraded to improve system performance and scalability.

Aug 4, 2020 – Instructional Technology News

Blackboard Learn Upgrade Reminder

Last week you received information from CIT’s Director, Dr. Rachel Thompson, on the details of our Blackboard Learn upgrade occurring this week, Aug. 5 – Aug. 8. If you missed it, you can view Dr. Thompson’s message on the CIT website. Remember, Blackboard Learn will be unavailable during the upgrade.

Panopto Upgrade

Saturday, Aug. 15, Panopto will be unavailable from 8pm – 11pm while cloud infrastructure is upgraded to improve system performance and scalability.

Flexible Modes of Instruction

UA has employed flexible course delivery modes for the fall 2020 semester. Learn more about suggested tools and methods for a smooth teaching and learning experience for each course type on the CIT website.

Tool Comparison Chart

CIT supports many technology tools that can be used for class meetings, office hours and video calls. Review our new Tool Comparison Chart to find the best fit for your need.

We’re here to help.

As always, contact the CIT at cit@ua.edu with any questions or concerns. Our team will be all hands on deck as we work through the Blackboard Learn upgrade. We appreciate your patience as we perform updates to better serve you.

Panopto Downtime – August 15th

On Saturday, August 15, Panopto will be upgrading their cloud infrastructure to improve system performance and scalability.  During the upgrade, service may be unavailable for up to 3 hours beginning at 8pm Central Time.

Blackboard Learn Scheduled Maintenance Aug 5 – Aug 8

Blackboard Learn will undergo required maintenance and upgrades beginning Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 4:00 p.m. until Saturday, Aug. 8 at 2:00 p.m. Blackboard Learn will be unavailable during the required maintenance. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Center for Instructional Technology at 205-348-3532 or cit@ua.edu.
Our technical teams at Blackboard and UA will be performing necessary updates to database and operating system components of our system, as well as upgrading Blackboard Learn to Q2 2019 CU 10. We will also be provisioning Panopto for all fall courses, removing some obsolete tools, and adding several new support resources to help instructors and students.

Select enhancements

  • Blackboard Collaborate Ultra attendance tools
    • When hosting Collaborate sessions, taking attendance is now automated, eliminating the need for manual tracking. Collaborate session attendance is recorded within the Attendance page of the Learn course, is counted in the average attendance calculation, and can be factored into students’ grades
  • Cloud storage integration
    • Add files directly from cloud storage when authoring content or creating assignments. Students can also upload assignments directly from their chosen solution, including Google Drive and Box
  • Enhanced accessibility
    • To make it easier for those who use assistive technologies to navigate the structure of pages, skip links now work more consistently across Learn tool areas
  • Grading in the Blackboard Instructor app
    • Within the Instructor app, review assignment submissions and attachments, provide comments and inline annotations, grade with rubrics, and publish grades to students
  • Task Management
    • Calendar items and due date notifications available for additional content types