University of Houston - Clear Lake
Blackboard Updates and Tips Blog

Meet UCT’s Course Development & Support Team!

Posted on May 22nd, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, May 22, 2017, 2:11 pm

Serving as a one-stop shop for Blackboard training, course design/development, and Blackboard- and OPALS-related support, UCT’s Course Development & Support Team currently consists of two Learning Technology Administrators (LTAs), three college-specific Instructional Designers (IDs), and one Instructional Design Supervisor. Contact information for each member of our team is provided below. In addition, in cases where the staff member’s name and title appear as a blue, underlined link, you can click that to watch a short video introduction from that member of our team.

Title: Photo of Jenni Opalenik Jenni Willis-Opalenik, Ph.D. – Lead Instructional Designer/Supervisor, Course Development Team

  • Supervises the Instructional Design/Course Development team.


Title: Photo of Samantha Houston Samantha (Sam) Houston – Learning Technology Administrator (LTA)

  • Coordinates all activities involved in maintaining the Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate systems.


Jennifer (Jenn) Ray – Learning Technology Administrator (LTA)

  • Serves as “front line” support for UHCL students in need of Blackboard-related assistance.


Title: Photo of Amanda Bruce Amanda Bruce – Instructional Designer II, College of Science and Engineering

  • Assists CSE faculty in the design, development, and support of new Blackboard courses.


Alex Nguyen – Instructional Designer I, College of Education

  • Assists COE faculty in the design, development, and support of new Blackboard courses.


Title: Photo of Candace Lehew Candace Lehew – Instructional Designer II, College of Business

  • Assists COB faculty in the design, development, and support of new Blackboard courses.


NOTE: Since we do not currently have a designated Instructional Designer (ID) for faculty in the College of Human Sciences and Humanities (HSH), instructors from that college may email or phone the Support Center, either at or 281-283-2828, to have a help ticket entered into the system. That ticket will then be assigned to the next available member of the ID team.

Useful Resources:


Preparing for Summer 2017 and Fall 2017

Posted on May 19th, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, May 19, 2017, 8:16 am

Faculty are encouraged to prepare for the end of Spring 2017 and the start of the upcoming summer and fall terms.

Below is a list of Blackboard-related tasks that should be completed at your earliest convenience:

  1. Submit course requests for new web-supported and/or partially online courses, if needed. Log into OPALS (Online Provisioning & Approvals for Learning Systems) and complete a new course request. You are also welcome to contact your school’s/program’s designated instructional designer for course request and provisioning assistance.
    → NOTE: Any faculty or staff member with an active UHCL computer account can request a course for themselves in OPALS; however, your course will not be created until you have completed Blackboard training at UHCL. For Blackboard training information, please visit our Faculty Blackboard and Provisioning Training web page.

  2. Provision Summer 2017 and Fall 2017 offerings and begin updating and editing them. Log into OPALS  and provision your course for the Summer 2017 and Fall 2017 semesters. Review the instructions on Provisioning your course using OPALS.
    → NOTE: For information on when courses become available and unavailable to students, please see the Summer 2017 Session Dates.

  3. We highly recommend that faculty export Grade Center data from Blackboard to an Excel spreadsheet and archive their Spring 2017 Blackboard courses once you have finished grading and posting grades

  4. All users are advised to use the Student Preview tool to check their courses for any problems after provisioning and before the semester begins.
  5. HTML/Flash users are advised to review the blog post on options for HTML/Flash-based Blackboard courses that was published last fall for reminders specific to their courses.

  6. If your course is using online course evaluations (If you are unsure, please contact your college’s secretary), please add this link to your Blackboard course: Log into this link to find the online course evaluation deadlines. The summer 2017 online course evaluation deadlines can also be found here.

Spring 2017 courses will be made unavailable to students at 12:01am on June 12, 2017.

If you have any Spring 2017 incompletes, please notify the Support Center via email no later than 5pm on Thursday, June 8, 2017, so that we can keep those courses open for students to resolve their incompletes.  Include the names of the students who received incompletes and the course rubrics (e.g. ACCT3331.01) so the courses are available only to those students. The Support Center can be reached via email at

Summer 2017 Session Dates

Posted on May 18th, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, May 18, 2017, 5:03 pm

May Mini May 15, 2017 – June 2, 2017 Courses will be made available at 12:01am on May 13, 2017
Summer 8-Week June 5, 2017 – July 29, 2017 Courses will be made available at 12:01am on June 3, 2017
Summer 5-Week June 5, 2017 – July 8, 2017 Courses will be made available at 12:01am on June 3, 2017
Summer 4-Week July 10, 2017 – August 5, 2017 Courses will be made available at 12:01am on July 8, 2017


Summer 2017 Online Course Evaluation Dates

Posted on May 18th, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, May 18, 2017, 4:54 pm

Understanding Blackboard Offerings and Master Courses

Posted on May 5th, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, May 5, 2017, 1:16 pm

The members of our team are frequently asked, “Why will OPALS not allow me to provision from my “Semester X” course for “Semester Y?” The issue is typically that the instructor has already provisioned from the “Semester X” course in the past, which rendered that offering unavailable for future provisioning. In response to the follow up question, “Well, why does OPALS do that?,” we offer the following explanation.

There are two practices in play; information technology and instructional practices.  It is considered an IT best practice to manage disk space and provide for a healthy operating environment by keeping a clean and current data inventory.  We also understand it is a good instructional practice to provide Faculty with the option to provision from their most current course offering so that they can leverage lessons learned and benefit from content updates/tweaks during the current teaching semester.

OPALS is designed to assist the university with those practices.  Faculty can choose to provision from a qualified master or the most recent semester offering.  However, once a faculty member chooses to provision from his/her most recent offering, the master is replaced with the contents of the recent offering. The recent offering becomes the new master and the very next semester offering becomes available as an alternate choice when it’s time to provision again the following semester. These procedures help us avoid course bloat on the Blackboard server and allow faculty to have a choice.

This is how OPALS was designed and evolved over time in order to accommodate the university’s needs.  As with any technology-based system we can make changes as long as there is a congruent need to do so and UCT is given enough time to make and implement the changes.  We would not want to make any changes without consulting with all stakeholders, and certainly do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water.


Broken Course Evaluation Links

Posted on April 25th, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, April 25, 2017, 8:09 am

The Support Center and UCT’s Course Development & Support Team have received numerous reports that some Course Evaluation links in Blackboard are no longer working.

UHCL changed the location (URL) of the course evaluation tool in 2016 and, although the old links to the online evaluation tool may be working through a process known as a “re-direct,” they will eventually stop functioning. We recommend that all instructors who use the online course evaluation tool in their Blackboard classes update to the link in their courses new URL as soon as possible to ensure student access to the course evaluation tool. The instructions on how to do so (“Editing a Course Evaluation Link“) begin on page 2 of the attached document.

If you have any questions about this procedure, please contact the Support Center and your inquiry will be routed to your designated Instructional Designer (ID) or the next available member of our Course Development & Support Team. You may reach the Support Center at 281-283-2828 or

Posted on April 19th, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, April 19, 2017, 9:42 am

This is a reminder that online course evaluations for Spring 2017 will begin and end on the dates listed below. Please note the end date is a hard date and cannot be extended.

Term Session Begin online Eval End online Eval
Spring 2017 Regular April 17 May 8
2nd 8 Weeks April 29 May 13

Steps for Online Evaluations

If you have not already done so, please follow the directions to add or update the course evaluation link in Blackboard so that students can access the online evaluation tool.

Link for students to access the Online Evaluations

If you have any questions about or require any assistance with deploying the Online Evaluations tool, please contact your designated Instructional Designer (ID) directly or contact the Support Center, either at or 281-283-2828, to have your question(s) routed to a member of our ID team.

End-of-Course Evaluation Windows

Posted on March 22nd, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, March 22, 2017, 10:59 am

Regular Academic Session (1)
Sessions Begin/End
1/17/2017 12AM – 5/8/2017 12AM
Online Evaluations Begin/End
4/17/2017 12AM – 5/8/2017 11:59PM
Online Evaluations
Eight Week – Second (8W2)
Sessions Begin/End
3/20/2017 12AM – 5/13/2017 12AM
Online Evaluations Begin/End
4/29/2017 12AM – 5/13/2017 11:59PM
Online Evaluations


Blackboard Blog Subscription Service

Posted on March 1st, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, March 1, 2017, 1:49 pm

You received this e-mail because you asked to be notified when new updates are posted. This e-mail is a test of the Blackboard blog’s new subscription service. You can opt out by sending an email with the title “unsubscribe” to Or by following the directions in this email.

Blackboard Email Tool Workarounds

Posted on February 1st, 2017

By Amanda Bruce, February 1, 2017, 4:33 pm

Due to a significant data security threat for which Blackboard has not yet provided a fix, UCT has disabled the Email tool in all Blackboard courses and environments. The Email tool is the feature that enables students to email their instructor and classmates from within Blackboard and to have those emails go to the instructor’s UHCL webmail account and their classmates’ preferred email accounts (as specified in their eServices settings). This handout describes three options for instructors who have previously been using the Email feature in their Blackboard courses.

Option 1: Course Messages Tool

Blackboard already has an alternative to the Email feature, called the Course Messages tool. When this tool is used, a course-specific email system is set up within each individual course. Emails/Messages may only be sent to users within that course and those messages can only be accessed from within the Course Messages tool within that specific course. Although many instructors already use the Course Messages tool (often calling its link “Email” in their course menu), it can be cumbersome for both instructors and students, since both will need to remember to check the Course Messages tool for new messages each time that they access the course. Information about the Course Messages tool, including an instructional video, is available via Blackboard’s help page about Course Messages.

Option 2: Announcements Tool (Whole Class Notifications)

If an instructor typically uses the Email tool in Blackboard to contact all students at once with a particular message, using the Announcements tool, with the “Send a copy of this announcement immediately” option checked may serve his/her needs. Although the emails that students receive actually say “do-not-reply” in their subject line, students are able to reply to emailed announcements and those messages should direct back to the instructor’s UHCL email. However, this option is not suitable for emailing individual learners or small groups of students and is not an option for students to contact their instructor or classmates. Information about the Announcements tool, including the “send email” option, is available via Blackboard’s help page about Announcements.

Option 3: Email Outside of Blackboard

Many instructors already encourage their students to email them directly, outside of Blackboard. If you have not done so previously but you wish to employ this option now, you may want to keep the following recommendations in mind:

  1. Request (or require) students to email you ONLY from their UHCL webmail accounts. This should prevent any critical emails from getting stuck in your UHCL SPAM filter, which is likely to intercept and prevent mail from an address such as from reaching your protected UHCL inbox.
  2. If you intend to permit students to email you from non-UHCL email accounts, you may want to add those accounts to your “whitelist” in the UHCL SPAM filter. The “whitelist” feature will permit emails from specified external accounts to be delivered to your UHCL inbox.
  3. You may also want to advise students to include in the subject of their emails the information for the course about which they are contacting you (e.g., INST 3313.04), so that you can quickly identify and sort multiple messages from various classes.

As always, if you have any questions about these options or need further assistance, please contact the Support Center, either at or 281-283-2828. Your inquiry will be entered into UCT’s help ticketing system and routed to a member of the instructional design staff, who can then assist you.