For Consulting and Contact Information

For Consulting and Contact Information

If you'd like to contact me, or learn more about my Moodle, e-learning, and Blackboard consulting services, please make a quick trip to my new website at

Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's published! "Blackboard Essentials for Teachers" book is finally here.

For over six months, I've worked on Blackboard Essentials for Teachers. This is a beginner's guide to the most-used and essential features of the Blackboard LMS.
It also contains a chapter that acts as a quick start guide to using Collaborate, which is Blackboard's live, online meeting and presentation system.
Like my Moodle books, this one tells a story. We start with a tour of a course created in Blackboard. Then, step by step, I show you how to build that course.
Like my Moodle books, I try to tell you not only how to use Blackboard features. I also try to tell you when to use the features, and how to fit them into your teaching strategy.
As far as I know, this is the only book for Blackboard users from a major publisher since 2006.
You can find a detailed outline, and sample chapter, at the publisher's website. The book is available in print and as an unlocked ebook. See it here.

Book Review: "Moodle Gradebook" by Rebecca Barrington

Moodle teachers and administrators have needed a good book on the Moodle Gradebook for a long time. Finally, Rebecca Barrington fulfilled this need with Moodle Gradebook, from Packt Publishing.
As an author, I know that it can be tempting to inflate a book's page count with unneeded text. Thicker books sell for higher prices, which means more money for the author. That's why I appreciate an author who writes a book that presents the information that I need, and then gets out of the way so I can get on with my work. Strunk and White's The Elements of Style is a classic example of this kind of user-friendly writing. Rebecca Barrington's Moodle Gradebook is another.
Barrington begins with a tour of the gradebook, including a list of the Moodle activities that can be graded. Many Moodle teachers don't know that forum posts and glossary entries can be graded. Barrington also tells the reader early in the book that you can create custom scales for the gradebook, while avoiding the temptation to go into detail about those custom scales. After Barrington explains the standard numberic and letter scales, she gives us details about custom scales.
Barrington also covers using outcomes, which might be the Gradebook's most underused feature. If you're a corporate user of Moodle, you will be especially interested in using outcomes. That's because and outcome can be measured by several different graded activities. For example, suppose resolving customer complaints is an important skill in your company. Your company might have a speicfic course on that skill, "How to Handle Customer Complaints." Also, that skill might be a part of several courses, such as a topic in "Dealing with Angry Customers" and also a topic in "Routing Calls to the Proper Department." You could create an outcoome for Resolving Customer Complaints, and apply that to graded activities in all three courses. Then, you can track your students' progress for that skill as they progress through your catalog of courses.
Rubrics are also covered. A rubric is an element of a grade. It enables you to separate a grade into individual criteria, and assign a specific number of points to each criteria. Barrington uses the example of a writing assingment, where the word count, number of quotes, and number of elements covered are all critera that are graded.
Barrington covers several kinds of grading reports from both the teacher's and student's point of view. Knowing what the students will see when they look at their invidividual gradebook is very useful for the teacher.
If you want to get more insight into your students' progress, the Moodle Gradebook can be a valuable tool. Barrington's book does a good job of explaining and demonstrating how to make full use of the gradebook. I ensourage you to read the detailed table of contents on Packt's website.