Videos! On YouTube! And Tegrity!

The exclamation points in the title are probably not really warranted. Here is a link to my YouTube channel. It’s getting somewhat populated by videos I’m making for my students, mostly for introduction to statistics for the behavioral sciences.

On a related note, our university uses Tegrity (linked through Blackboard) for recording lectures, etc. The system records the instructor’s voice, plus whatever is on the screen (e.g., PowerPoint slides). Well, after you finish creating a Tegrity video, there’s a slightly Fullerian process for linking to it within Blackboard so your students can see it, but there’s also a handy “upload to YouTube” link. Neat! Except that when I use that link, the ultra-high-res video from my desktop computer (or even minimally-hi-res from a classroom LCD projector and computer monitor) gets uploaded to YouTube as… 480p. I’m sure there’s a way to do it high-res, but instead of spending ten more minutes hunting for those details I did something else.

To upload Tegrity video to a High-Definition YouTube video (using Windows 7):

  1. Record the video on Tegrity (OK, this step was to make fun of about.com)
  2. Dig down into your file system on the computer where the video was recorded (for me this is my office desktop); the video is there, somewhere. For me, it’s in
    C:\ProgramData\Tegrity\recordings\<name of the recording you just made>\Class\Projector
    and the file will be called “screen0.asf” (that’s a zero, not an “o”). Anyway, that’s what it’s always been called for me, but maybe just look for the biggest *.asf file.
  3. Upload that sucker to YouTube!

And that’s all. The upload, for me, is always at least 1080p resolution.  Hooray for Google casually solving problems in their sleep.

 

Random… I don’t think that word means what you think it means, Blackboard.

At this point I do (I admit) get a bit of smug satisfaction every time Blackboard Learn fails me, but the disappointment in the failure is still much stronger.

Today’s episode: “random” assignment of number sets in calculated formula questions. In Blackboard Learn (BbL) you can use variables in questions (“calculated formula” questions) and set parameters for those variables so that many number sets can be (purportedly) randomly assigned to test-takers. The process is annoying in a few ways (like the fact that the beautiful graphic formula interface is only for the instructor’s use and can never be seen by students, or that it all depends on Java and therefore on Java’s latest security flaws, or that it’s painfully slow to generate number sets, or that you can’t edit the question wording without going through the whole generate-the-numbers rigamarole…). However, those are the kinds of things one gets with the current incarnation of BbL. The real frustration is that the number sets, in a recent exam I administered, do not seem to be really randomly distributed.

I’m not talking some pedantic difference between pseudorandom and true stochastic processes–I’m talking glaring, in-your-face, why-did-I-even-bother nonrandomness. It’s possible I just set something wrong, or Bb had a one-time glitch. But I’ll report my results here, anyway. With a graph.

 

I gave an exam to two sections of students, with two extremely similar questions to each section, so that’s four “conditions.” For each condition, I had Bb generate ten (10) different number/answer sets (I’ll designate them a through j here and in the graph, where they are called value sets). The exam as a conceptual entity was actually two separate exams in Bb, one for each section. Here is a lattice plot of the frequency with which Bb assigned the ten different value sets to the students in the four different conditions. q1 and q2 refer to the questions. s1 and s2 refer to the sections.

Notice anything? Ten number sets. Only 1 through 4 were used in any of the four conditions/questions.
Notice anything? Ten number sets. Only 1 through 4 were used in any of the four conditions/questions.

Perhaps you see the problem. Ten sets of numbers generated (I have gone back several times to verify this). Only the first four used, in each question/condition. Two separate exams. Yeah, that chi-square is significant.

So that’s that. It should be noted that I have not replicated this, and I created an initial question then copied and tweaked (within Blackboard) until I had the four represented here, so maybe something was off with the first one and it got duplicated. But it’s darn annoying. So much for making sure no student sits next to someone with the same number set on their screen.

Blackboard Learn is of the devil. THE DEVIL.

Today’s first I-Hate-Blackboard experience: Availability Follies

I have a merged course in BbL. Although about 65 students are enrolled, I have 105 in Blackboard, and they (plus more) will all be there for the rest of the semester, because apparently it’s very difficult to remove them or something. So my gradebook has a pretty poor signal-to-noise ratio.

I’ve been assuming that about 65 of those students were my true enrollees and the rest were irrelevant to the course. The fact that 30 of the students have the course listed as “unavailable” in the gradebook seemed to bear that out. Now I find out that some of the students for whom the course shell  is not available are actually enrolled in the course and blocked from participating. I got a helpful email from the online learning tech folks showing me how to make the course available for those students. Here’s the process:

  1. Go to Users & Groups
  2. Choose Users
  3. Find the students whose availability is set (for reasons I still don’t understand) to “No”.
    • Note 1: the list, in my case, must be repaginated to display everyone at once–with a predictable increase in page load times–because BbL is incapable of remembering which page of the list I was on, otherwise).
    • Note 2: No, of course you can’t just sort the list by the “availability” column and put all the “No” users at the top. That would be crazy.
  4. One by one, for each name:
    1. Hover by the name so the little “options” button appears
    2. Click the button
    3. Select the option to change availability
    4. Wait for the new screen (a full screen takeover, not a pop-up) to appear
    5. Mouse to, and click, the availability selector drop-down
    6. Select “Yes” and click
    7. Mouse to the other side of the screen and click <submit>
    8. Repeat 30 times
  5. No, you can’t do this to multiple users at once–why would you even ask that?

Continue reading Blackboard Learn is of the devil. THE DEVIL.

Blackboard Learn Cannot Do Basic Math… on Math Tests?

I am so fed up with BbL it’s kind of pathetic. My most recent gripe: BbL seems  to be unable to do basic math… in test items designed to create math questions.

I created a “calculated formula” question as part of a self-test of my undergraduate statistics students’ math preparedness. The question asks the students to evaluate this expression (with variables generated by random processes):

([a] – [b])2 – [c] + ([d]2 + [f])

Looking at the randomly-generated values, I checked the answer on this variant:

(6 – 5)2 – 7 + (72 + 4) –> I calculated 47. BbL said it was -59.

BbL seems to be solving the expression like this:

(6 - 5)2 - 7 + (72 + 4)
  (1)2   - 7 + (49 + 4) 
   1     - 7 + 53       <-- So far, so good
   1     -     60       <-- Oh no! Working right-to-left!
        -59

Continue reading Blackboard Learn Cannot Do Basic Math… on Math Tests?