10 – Setting up Blackboard Assignments

In the video above, we:

  • Explain the difference between Turnitin and Blackboard assignments
  • Show how to set up an assignment
  • Explain the settings for assignments

1 Blackboard vs Turnitin

First let’s walk through this guide to make sure that Blackboard is the right tool! First, is your assignment going to be text-based and will it be submitted in a standard file type for a text-based item (for example, a .docx, pdf, or PowerPoint file)? If the answer to this question is “no”, you’ll want to use a Blackboard assignment.

If the answer to this was yes, the next question is if the item is a scanned document. For instance, if you have a certificate that needs to be signed and submitted, you may answer “yes” to the first question as it is a text-based file and it may be submitted as a PDF. However, scanned items are interpreted by Turnitin as being only images – so scanned documents are not a good fit for Turnitin. For these kinds of use cases, you should use a Blackboard assignment.

If this is not the case, we’ve got one last question to see if Turnitin is the right choice. Is this intended for a group submission where one student is submitting on behalf of a group, or is this for an assignment where each student will submit their own paper? Turnitin is not set up for group submissions or group marking, so you should use Blackboard for group assignments.

If at the end of these questions you’ve confirmed that you’ve got non-text based assignment or a group assignment, then you should set up a Blackboard assignment

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s get started setting up an assignment!

2 Creating a Blackboard Assignment

Let’s go into a module to look at creating a Blackboard submission point.

First, find where you want the item to go and hover your mouse on the separator between items where you want the submission to appear and click on the purple plus icon that appears. Then click “Create” from that menu, and in the side panel that opens choose the option for “Assignment”.

At the top, the assignment title will be given as default as “New Assignment” followed by the date. To change this, simply click on this title and start editing. Once you click out of this area, the name is saved. You can edit this at any time by repeating this process.

To the right of this, you can edit the visibility for the assignment. This could be especially useful to do at this stage if you want this to be visible to students once you have finished creating the assignment.

Below that is an arrow to move into the submission box, but we’ll come back to that briefly later.

We’ll look at the full assignment setting shortly, as these can be quite complicated. First, let’s look at this main content area on the left. You can use the plus sign to add content into this space. As this is for an assignment, we won’t cover the different question types – you can find information on these in the session on Blackboard tests.

Below that, you can see an options for adding text – this is what you will want to do to provide any instructions for the assignments. The next two options are to upload a file. Do note that if you add a file from Cloud Storage, it will add a static file – this will not be updated if the original file is edited in the cloud. Due to this, we typically recommend adding a local file just to avoid any confusion.

Once you’ve added this, you can see a tick box for “Allow students to add content at end of assessment” that is on by default if you have not added any questions. This space will allow students to upload files and/or type in a text response.

3 Assignment Settings

Now that we’ve got the main points in the submission area sorted, let’s take a look at the settings. There are a few things set up here by default, but to see the full range of options, click the cog wheel to the right of the Assignment Settings title.

Details and Information

The first section we can see is called Details and Actions. The first item here allows you to enter the due date. The two tick boxes below can be used to control submissions past the due date. You can use the first box if you want to prohibit late submissions – you can see the text here lets you know that all in-progress attempts will be submitted automatically. This can be a useful setting for tests where students may be entering answers in multiple questions, but for a file-upload submission such as an assignment, you may want to consider allowing late submissions. All submissions are time-stamped, so you’ll still be able to identify any submissions which come in after the due date.

Below this is the option to prohibit new attempts after the due date – if a student has already started an attempt earlier, or an attempt is in-progress, they will still be able to submit after the due date has passed.

The next option is to allow class conversations – this is essentially a discussion board linked just to this assignment. If you want students to have a linked chat to this item, you may want to turn this on.

The next few options will be off by default as they relate to questions. For more information on these, check out our session on Blackboard tests.

After that, you’ll see an option to “Collect submissions offline”. This option lets you provide marks and feedback within your module page for assignments that are handed in as hard copy only. You should not use this option if you want students to submit anything digitally.

Marking and Submissions

All of the items in the next section are important to assignments, so we’ll go over each carefully.

The mark category will be set as the default of “assignment”. You can use the drop-down menu to change this. The mark category is currently only relevant if you set up the overall mark in the gradebook – for more information on this you can review the dedicated session on the gradebook.

After that is the number of attempts allowed. It can often be a good idea to set this to at least “two” so that students have a back-up already in place if they have any technical difficulties when they try to submit. However, you can also add an extra attempt to a specific student, so if you do keep this as “1”, you still have the ability to allow more submissions on a case-by-case basis.

If you do allow multiple attempts, you’ll see a new drop-down menu appears that lets you choose which attempt to mark. For an assignment, you can see all of a student’s attempts so you can enter each attempt individually and decide which you want to use to mark, although this will typically be the last submitted item.  

Below that is the mark using drop-down menu where you can decide between points, percentage, and the 23 to Alphanumeric scale. If you have watched the assignment set up for Turnitin, you may be aware that the 23 to Alphanumeric scale marking schema does not work with Turnitin assignments. There are no such known issues if you use this marking schema with Blackboard assignments.

After that you can enter the maximum points.

Below that is the option for Anonymous marking. There are a few quirks with the anonymous marking setting that you should be aware of before you use it. The first is that there is not a way to de-anonymise any student or submission individually. The only way to release a student name is to post the marks and feedback for ALL students. This can pose a problem if there is an issue with a student submission that you spot and you want to contact the student to ask them to re-submit the assignment. There is also no way to re-hide the names once they have been released, and once marks have been posted any updates to marks will be posted to students automatically.

If you use the anonymous setting, then the previous advice we gave about allowing an individual student additional attempts is no longer correct. As you cannot see names in the submission box for anonymous assignments, you will not be able to grant specific students more attempts. There is a workaround for this that we’ll discuss in later in this video in the section on Assessment Security.

Finally, at the time of recording, if you use the anonymous setting with the SafeAssign Originality report enabled, the originality report will not be generated for staff or students until the marks have been released. Although there a few workarounds, none allow you to view the originality report at the time of marking while students are anonymous, so we recommend that you do not use these settings together.

The next option allows two markers per student. If you turn on this setting, you can assign the primary markers, and the second marker, or “reconciler”. You can read more about this in the link below. If you use this setting, you cannot use Peer Review.

The next setting is the peer-review, and you can see that if you enable this, many other options are turned off and cannot be enabled. If you choose to use Peer Review, we encourage you to review all of the settings in this panel.  

Below that is the option to post marks automatically – we strongly recommend that you do not use this setting, unless you do want marks released to students immediately as you mark. This would result in an uneven release in marks for most students unless someone was collecting marks elsewhere (for instance in a spreadsheet), and then entered the grades in one fell swoop.

Assessment Results

Next are options for assessment results – these are used if you have questions, so we will not cover this section. If you want information on these settings, you can review out session on Blackboard Tests.

Assessment Security

The option in the assessment security is to add an access code. This will automatically generate a six-digit code that students will have to enter before they can access the assignment. This is useful if you have not set up any restrictions on submitting or starting late work, you have the anonymous setting enabled, and you want to provide a single student with an additional attempt. For this specific use case, you can change the attempts from “1” to “2”, turn on the access code, and only provide the code to the student who you would like to have the additional attempt.

As this code will lock the assignment, this is best used after the assignment due date has passed so you don’t restrict students who are trying to submit normally. And that is also why you will need to make sure that restrictions for late work are not applied. We realise this can be a bit confusing, so if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a shout through Help4U.

Additional Tools

In the additional tools section, you can add a time limit. This will start from the moment students click “start attempt”. In general, we would advise against this for an assignment as it is very possible this could prevent a student from uploading working. However, if you do use it in this context you can also decide if you want work to be automatically saved and submitted at the end of this timer or if you want to add additional time. The additional time added is very constrained at the time of recording – you have the options of allowing 50%, 100%, or unlimited extra time.

If you set this up accidentally, you can hover over the time limit link and a bin icon will appear. Clicking on that icon will remove the time limit.

You can use the next link to create and use a marking rubric. We won’t cover the details of this session, but you can read guidance on how to use rubrics below.

Goals are set up as a university, and as we don’t have these set up, we will skip this option.

Below that is the option to turn this into a group assignment. If you click the “assign to groups” link you can use the drop-down menu next to “Group Students” to find any already-created groups, or you can create a new group set from this window. To find out more information about using groups, you can view our session on creating and using groups.

Finally, the last option is to set up a SafeAssign report. This is much like Turnitin’s similarity report, although it has less robust features than Turnitin – such as a not-very-effective integration with anonymous marking that we mentioned earlier. To use SafeAssign, you will want to click the link for “Enable SafeAssign” and then tick this box to “on” in the next screen. Once you’ve enabled this you will have two further options – to allow students to view their reports and to exclude submission’s from Blackboard’s database. We strongly recommend that you turn on the ability for students to view their reports as it can help students learn how to cite their work correctly. It is also standard that students will see their reports in Turnitin, so they will likely expect to have access to this as well. We recommend that you turn off the option is to exclude submissions from Blackboard’s database.

Once you have gone through all of your settings, click save!

4 Recommendations

We strongly recommend that once you have completed setting up your assignment that you use your Student Preview account to view the assignment and test any settings to make sure that the assignment is set up and functioning as you would expect. As you saw, there are many settings and adjustments to one setting can impact another setting.

There are two last things we want to cover in the session now that the assignment has been set up.

The first is to allow an individual student an additional attempt, as that was something we said you could do for non-anonymous assignments! To do this, open the assignment and use the arrow on the top right-hand side to navigate to submissions.

We’ll cover this page in detail in the session on marking and feedback, so for now we’ll just focus on how to give more attempts to a student.

5 Additional Attempts & Hiding Marks

Find the student who will need an additional attempt and click on the three dots at the far-right column for that student. Click on the only option “add or edit exceptions”. In the side panel that appears, you see you can have a few fields you can edit that will only impact this student, including when the item will show or be hidden. Below that is the “Attempts allowed” drop-down menu that you can use to allow additional attempts. There is one field in this panel that you actually cannot edit – the assessment due date. Although this appears as though it would be an option you can adjust, it is currently not anything you can change.

The final thing we want to cover here is how to hide marks. If you accidentally post grades, or use a setting which will immediately release grades, you cannot undo this. You can, however, change the visibility of the item to “hidden from students”. This will hide the submission point, but it will also hide any and all marks and feedback. Once you’re ready to release grades, you can change this back to “visible to students”.



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Updated on 09/09/2022

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