Viewing by month: November 2012

Nov 26 2012

Get Notified About Drop Box Submissions after the Deadline

There has been an option in the Drop Box setup to send notifications to a specified email address each time a file is submitted to a Drop Box. This is useful for passively monitoring when students submit files, but we've received feedback over the past year that it would be great to only get email notificaitons if there are submissions after the deadline for a Drop Box. This way, faculty or TAs are direclty notified if a student is turning in a file after the deadline, rather than having to look at the list of all student submissions to see who turned in a file after the deadline (where such submissions are flagged in red).

We recently added the ability to receive email notifications only after the deadline for the Drop Box has passed to the Drop Box in online courses. This options is available when you edit the Drop Box settings:

Upload Notification Options in the Drop Box

This is a small change to how Drop Boxes work, but one that will be very helpful for some faculty and TAs!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 1:00 PM - Categories: Online Courses | Course Tools

Nov 16 2012

Problems with the SPH Data Center on November 16

Unfortunately, the problems in the SPH data center that casued significant site and network service outages on Tuesday, November 13, are happening again today, Friday, November 16. According to JHSPH IT:

We are currently experiencing issues with our network. Systems affected by the issue include wireless connectivity, wireless printing, e-mail, Courseplus,, shared drive access, and other network-dependent applications.

We will post more information as soon as we receive it from the JHSPH IT team.

UPDATE 12:15PM: According to JHSPH IT, services are now coming back online. Emails that were sent during the outage may take serveral hours to arrive.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:13 AM - Categories: General | CoursePlus

Nov 14 2012

Outlook for Business Tip #1: Scheduling Meetings

In this busy day and age, it can be hard to keep up with some of our most basic tools as they grow and expand in functionality. Here's one that some Outlook users might not be aware of that can be very handy for scheduling meetings, and making sure everyone has the meeting in their calendar:

Let's say you have exchanged a few emails with some colleagues about a get together, or perhaps you have even used a Doodle to see when a group of people could best meet - and you have finally narrowed it down to the actual best meeting time and place. Rather than hitting "Reply" or "Reply All" - simply click "Meeting" instead.


Once you have, you do the same as normal: add the correct recipients and subject. The only thing you really do different is to enter the location for the meeting, and the times it starts and ends. You can still enter a message, attach an agenda, and send it as a normal email:


So what are the added benefits of doing this? There are a few:

  • Everyone who receives the email will also receive a calendar invite. For those who also use Outlook, they can simply click "Accept" and it will add this date, time, and location into their Outlook calendar. No need to go separately to the calendar, locate the day and time, add an entry, and fill in the date, time, location, info, agenda, etc... Imagine - if there are 5 people attending your meeting, and you only inform them with regular email (minus the meeting invite) - every one of the attendees has to separately deal with adding that event to their calendars. Further, if something changes about the meeting - everyone has to update that calendar entry as well. Call the inefficiency police!
  • Recipients can also decline or reply with a comment, noting why they cannot attend.
  • The person who sends the invite can potentially get up to date information about who will attend (or not). In this way, it functions as a sort of RSVP or e-Vite. 
  • If the date, time, or location change, as the organizer, you can simply change the event in your calendar and it will give you the option to send an update to all the attendees at once - and it will also automatically update their calendar entry.
  • If someone in the group uses a Google Calendar - they can also forward the meeting invitation email to a Gmail address and accept it there.
  • Finally, if your entire workgroup uses their Outlook calendars to show availability, you can use the Scheduling Assistant function to see when they are available to schedule meetings before even asking:


Posted by Clark Shah-Nelson at 8:12 AM - Categories: General | Tech Tools

Nov 13 2012

Problems with the SPH Data Center on November 13

JHSPH IT reports that they are currently experiencing problems with the JHSPH data center, where the servers for CoursePlus, online courses and other systems at JHSPH are housed. These problems have resulted in very, very slow connections to some websites (including CoursePlus), a complete lack of connecitvity to some websites, and problems with email. We have no more information beyond this at this time.

We will continue to update this blog post with additional information as we receive it.

UPDATE, 2:45pm: IT has informed us that the problems in the data center have been resolved. CoursePlus is available once again. Email messages that were sent between 7am and 2:30pm may take several hours to arrive, with some email messages not arriving until early tomorrow.

Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:04 AM - Categories: General | Online Courses | CoursePlus

Nov 8 2012

Timed Drop Boxes Now Available in Online Courses

While the Quiz Generator in online courses and CoursePlus is a powerful tool, it does not meet everyone's needs. We've heard from a handful of faculty about the possibility of timed Drop Boxes — the ability to set up a Drop Box so that a student would only have a set amount of time from the moment they "unlocked" a Drop Box before they could no longer submit a file to a Drop Box. If faculty had an assessment where students needed to work inside of a specific type of document (an Excel file or R script, for example), they could offer that document and know that students only had a limited amount of time to work with the document and return it to the faculty via the course website.

Starting with the second term, these timed Drop Boxes are now available in online courses. Here's how they work:

  1. The faculty, TA, or course instrucitonal designer designates that a Drop Box will be a timed Drop Box.
  2. They specify the amount of time that the student has to unlock the Drop Box and then submit a file into the Drop Box.
  3. They provide a file for students to use as part of this assessment.
  4. On the student view of the Drop Box, the "Submit Files" button is replaced with an "Unlock and Start Timer" button.
    Before opening a timed Drop Box
  5. A student clicks the "Unlock and Start Timer" button and a warning page is displayed, like the one before taking a timed and graded quiz.
  6. The student clicks "Unlock Drop Box" button and the timer starts and the file and additional instructional text is displayed. The student then has [n] minutes from that time (as specified in the Drop Box setup) to turn the file in. The student also gets an email reminding them of when the Drop Box locks for them.After unlocking Drop Box
All of the other options for Drop Box setup are available to timed Drop Boxes. You can specify that under no circumstances can a student turn in a file after the amount of time has passed, or you can specify that students can turn in a file after the amount of time has passed, but the file is to be flagged as turned in late. In cases where students need access to a timed Drop Box outside of the normal open/close dates for the Drop Box, you can have the students send their file to you or a TA and submit the file on their behalf.

The "View File Submissions" report will show when a student unlocked a timed Drop Box and when they turned in their file. If the student has not yet turned in a file for an unlocked Drop Box and time has not run out, the "View File Submissions" report indicates that the student is currently "In Progress" on the timed Drop Box.

We hope that this new feature opens up new possibilities for faculty who want to offer timed assesments and activities outside of the Quiz Generator. We look forward to hearing your feedback about it!

Posted by Brian Klaas at 8:34 AM - Categories: Online Courses | Course Tools

Nov 1 2012

New For Online Courses: Grade BBS Posts

Faculty and TAs have occasionally told us that it would be really convenient to be able to grade BBS posts in their online courses. Often, courses have graded exercises or activities which require students to post in the BBS. Until now, faculty and TAs have had to switch between the BBS and another view (most often the Gradebook) to view a student post in BBS and then grade it on another page, or in another application.

We're pleased to let you know that you can now set up BBS catgories in online courses which are linked to the Gradebook. Here's how you do it:

  1. Set up an activity in the Gradebook that's linked to a BBS category. You have all the Gradebook options available to you (ie; points, percentage, letter grade, etc.).
  2. When students post a message in a BBS category that's linked to the Gradebook, a grading box appears under each of their posts. You can enter a grade (matching the setup selected in the Gradebook) and a comment, or just a grade, or just a comment!
  3. As soon as you enter the grade or comment, it is transferred to the Gradebook.

Example of BBS grading

It's very easy to set up and easy to enter grades. While there are full, step-by-step instructions on using this feature in the Gradebook and BBS help inside online courses, here are the answers to a couple of frequently-asked questions:
  • If a student makes more than one post in a category, do I have to grade all of their posts? No. Each student receives a single grade and a single comment for their posts in a BBS category that's linked to the Gradebook. When you enter a grade or make a comment on one post, it shows up for all student posts in that category.
  • Can I have multiple graded BBS catgories? Yes. Each item in the Gradebook can be linked to only one BBS category, so you will need to set up a graded activity in the Gradebook for each category that you want to grade.
  • If I enter a grade in the BBS, can the student see it right away? Students only see grades in the Gradebook when according to the display rules that you set up. Emails with grades are not sent until you tell the Gradebook to send them.
  • Can students see other student grades in the BBS? No. Only faculty and TAs see the grading box in BBS categories that are linked to the Gradebook.
If you have any questions or feedback about this new feature, please let us know!


Posted by Brian Klaas at 11:48 AM - Categories: Online Courses | Course Tools

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