Learning Technology Integrations

By Russell Davidson, Associate Director for Digital Education, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning 

YuJa, Perusall, McGraw Hill Education, Vista Higher Learning, Cengage, MacMillan Learning, Top Hat – all of these (and many more) are external tools that can be made available for students to use through Blackboard. While some are fairly basic textbook integrations that let you link to particular chapters or publisher-provided media, most include assessments – quizzes, games, and other assignable activities that automatically report back to Blackboard’s Gradebook upon completion. YuJa’s video quizzing is an example that we have been discussing quite a bit recently. 

Because all these tools are hosted off-Blackboard, most of your work with these tools will be done on the hosting website: a YuJa Video Quiz is created on yuja.com, Perusall assignments are set up on perusal.com, Top Hat quizzes are built on tophat.com, and so on.  

Unfortunately, this also means the Office of Digital Education is often limited in our ability to provide you with assistance using these tools. Broadly speaking, ODE can help you with an integrated tool if the University is providing the tool (YuJa is the clearest, most common example of this). If the tool’s site has free account creation (like Perusall), we can often provide some assistance. But ODE is mostly locked out of tools like Top Hat and those provided by textbook publishers. In these cases, while ODE still may be able to provide some general advice and tips, you’ll mostly need to depend on the tool provider’s tech support for specific issues. 

Photo by Sunil Ray on Unsplash

Once your assignments are set up, you will want to link them to an ultra-style course from Books & Tools (under the Details & Actions heading) or by clicking the “ADD CONTENT” button and choosing the Content Market, and finding the tool. For a classic-style course site, you will find them under the Build Content, Tools, or Partner Content headings in any of your course site’s content areas. Just adding a web link to the tool site in Blackboard (or having the students navigate to the tool’s website on their own) won’t establish a connection between Blackboard and tool site that enables things like gradebook sync. 

When a student uses that special tool link for the first time, they make a connection between their Blackboard account and an account on the tool site. The tool site may invisibly create an account for them or it may prompt them to manually create and/or log in to an account. After that initial connection has been made, you’ll be able to see (and often track) the student’s participation on the tool site. 

The system-level integration that lets Blackboard and the tool site communicate with each other is set up by the Office of Digital Education. If you see a tool listed in one of Blackboard’s menus, the integration is all setup and ready for you to use. If you have a tool you’d like integrated, that isn’t already listed on Blackboard, you should place a request with ode@udmercy.edu. Please be aware, that it may take ODE some time to evaluate the tool, and while we try to accommodate as many requests as possible, there are a number of factors that need to be considered before deciding whether to integrate a new external site into Blackboard.