One of Blackboard's really excellent features is the ability for instructors and students to share electronic files for evaluation using the assignment system. Paperless assessment is one way to may your course more sustainable, as the amount of paper generated by student work in a large class can be really significant.
From any content area (could be the area called Assignments, but not necessarily), click the double downward arrow in 'Assessments" to show additional options, and then select 'Create Assignment'.
In the 'Assignment Instructions' for students we strongly suggest you indicate:
- what file types you are willing to accept, such as .pdf or Word 97-2003 .doc files. This avoids you receiving student work which can't be opened.
- a file naming convention that is simple and individualized, with an example, e.g. "Please make sure that your file name contains only letter and numbers and is 15 characters or less, e.g "Assign1.doc". This makes for fewer upload problems with the system, and you avoid receiving a lot of files named 'Assignment #1.doc'
- the file size limit, e.g. "the total size of your assignment should be less than 5MB". The assignment uploading system imposes no significant quota on uploads, so one or two oversized student files can consume the course quota quickly in a large class
- link to the instructions for students submitting assignments at the support site
Note that in 3. grading information, 4. availability and 5. due date are defined here, just like in the Grade Center. So whatever assignment item you create in a content area will automatically be added to the Grade Center.
Uploading Assignment Files (Student)
When the student clicks the assignment title, a file uploading screen appears. "1. Assignment Information" is what the instructor provided. "2. Assignment Materials" is what the student provides. So the student can (red arrows) paste the text of the assignment in the submission editor, attach one or more files and add comments. When the student is finished uploading everything for evaluation, he/she clicks 'submit'. Drafts can be saved, but this feature should probably be discouraged since one or two students invariably forget to submit the work, so a late penalty must be assessed.
Downloading Assignment Files (Instructor)
The instructor, teaching assistant, or grader accesses the uploaded files through the grade center by selecting the context menu for the assignment column, and then "Assignment File Download". Make sure your virus protection is up to date: a number of antivirus solutions are free for all U of T faculty, staff and students.
Tick the student files you wish to include in the .zip archive download package. In this example, several files need grading.
Once the package has been generated, select the link "Download assignment now" to download the archive of student work.
The "Assignment 1.zip" archive package contains a series of files named in a serialized form, i.e. "Assignment Name"_"UTORid"_"UploadedFileName.ext", plus a text file containing the student's comments which were submitted with the assignment.
Once the assigment is submitted, clicking the assignment title link again will display a page called 'Submission History', where the instructor or teaching assistant's comments are visible to the student. Any evaluation-oriented files, such as a rubric or a marked up Word file can also be shared back with the student.