Managing Assignments with CourseSites

Written by Berlin Fang


Collecting student assignments by email can add to the increasing clutter of our digital lives.  Well, there is a method to madness.   You can collect assignments using your learning management system.  All major learning management systems (OpenClass, CourseSites and Moodle) have ways for you to collect student assignments, grade them and record them directly in the grade book that comes with the learning management system you use.

The benefits of doing this is that you do not have to sift through your emails to find a particular attachment and then relate that to a particular class.  Nor would you have to create folders to store such files.   A learning management system would streamline the entire process while students can get quicker feedback as soon as you have given them.

I am going to use CourseSites as an example to show how it works to management assignments with a learning management system.



While this tutorial shows you as an instructor how to manage assignment using CourseSites, the following tutorial shows students how to submit an assignment.  Consider copying the URL and share it with students if you intend to collect assignments the way I explained:


Please note that you can also create “self and peer evaluation” type of assignments or group assignments using CourseSites.  Let me know if you need any help creating this type of assignments. In addition, you can also download all your assignments from the learning management system, grade them offline and enter your grades online if that’s more desirable.

Sending Email via Your Course Management System

If you use your email to communicate with students in a class, you will need to create folders or tags to track such emails. You probably will also have to create email groups for various classes. Students or you may also delete such email messages by accident, or misplace them at locations where you would not be able to find them at a later date. You may find a need to dig out some emails and resend if any of the above happened. To avoid all such time-wasting busywork, you might want to consider using your learning management system to send email instead.

With OpenClass, you can send email to students by clicking the “email” button on the course menu. You will then be able to choose the users to send the emails to.

With CourseSites, you can send emails to them in any of the following three ways:

  1. Use “send email” under “course tools” to send emails to everyone or selected users.

  2. Use “announcement” tool under “course tools” to create an announcement. When you do so, remember to check the box beside “Send a copy of this announcement immediately” to create the email message while keeping the announcement in the course. The benefit of doing this is that you keep your email message within the course as an announcement in case students ignore their emails but come to the learning management system to retrieve course materials.

  3. Use the Grade Center to send email to particular students. As you grade their work, you may want to communicate with them about certain problems, and you do not need to get out of the Grade Center to send an email to them.  Remain in the Grade Center, choose the student(s), and click on the “email” button to send an email to them. This will save you quite a bit of time that could be wasted switching back and forth from the Grade Center and the Email tool.  This works best when you are grading student work or checking their performance within the Grade Center.

Check this video for a demonstration of these three methods if needed.

We often hear that students are not reading longer email messages. Besides, email messages may mess up your formatting. For these reasons, if there are documents that you would like students to spend substantial time reading, consider posting it as a document in your course site, while using announcements/emails to notify them of the availability of such documents, and where they are.

Using Respondus to Convert Tests for Use in OpenClass

If you have tests from a textbook publisher it is very likely that they allow you to download these tests into a compressed format that can be directly imported into your course shell with a major Learning Management System. At this point, OpenClass does not handle such imports except in a handful of formats. However we could use a combination of Respondus and CourseSites to make this conversion possible.

To do this, you will need to download test files into a Blackboard-compatible format. Some publishers have such tests already exported for you to download directly from their sites. Others allow you to export on your own, into a format you would like to use. In the latter case, export a test into a Blackboard format. This will produce a zipped file you can save on your local computer, and send to us for conversion.

The Adams Center can then help you to convert such zipped files for use in OpenClass via Respondus. Or we can show you how to make this conversion if you have a copy of Respondus yourself.

Use YouTube in Class, Minus the Distraction

Written by the Instructional Design Team

You may sometimes find a good video from YouTube that you would like to share with your students. Or you may want to share a video you produced yourself with your students. It can be annoying to go to YouTube, search for the video and find that you have to wait with your class for the advertisement to finish before the real video starts. You will also be seeing “similar videos” alongside the video you would like to show, and some of these videos are irrelevant or even inappropriate. It is therefore much more desirable to embed the video in your OpenClass site directly. David Christianson of the Adams Center created a video that shows you how to embed a video in your class site:

Here are some additional tips for embedding videos:

  • You can also embed videos from Vimeo or many other sources into your OpenClass sites, as long as the site has an embed code for you to copy. The methods are similar to the procedure David described.

  • You can create and embed a “playlist” in your course as well. A playlist will show a series of videos you have created for a particular content area (as shown below).  However, to reduce cognitive overload, you might choose to embed videos one at a time in your course modules.

  • YouTube also allows you to create automatic closed captioning which you can then edit. This feature is helpful when you want to create alternative text representations of your videos for a variety of reasons, such as ADA compliance. It should also help new international students whose native language is not English.

Please contact the Adams Center Instructional Design team if you need help using videos in your course.

Text to Test: Use Respondus to Convert Tests into OpenClass Online Assessments

Written by the Instructional Design Team

Creating an online test manually can be a tedious and time-consuming process. You can use Respondus to simplify the process. Here is the general process for doing so.

Creating tests in Respondus:

  1. Format the file (in Microsoft Word, RTF or Text format) using the Respondus guidelines. You can find the formatting guide by clicking on “help” in your Respondus program and search for the formatting guideline, or check this video for an illustration;

  2. Launch Respondus on a Windows platform (unfortunately Respondus does not have a Mac version yet);

  3. When asked to choose a “personality” (Respondus’  term for the testing environment to be used), choose “IMS QTI” ;

  4. Click on “import questions”, browse for the test file you just formatted, select it, fill out the fields required, and click on “preview”.

  5. You will now either be given the feedback that the questions are imported successfully or given a prompt that there are any “errors”. If you see any, go back and follow the instructions to correct the file and import the file again. Sometimes it is a very minor issue (for instance, extra spaces in the text, additional lines, etc.)  Come to the Adams Center for us to show you how this works if you want.

  6. After fixing the error, save and close and use “preview” to import again;

  7. Click on the “Preview and Publish” tab;

  8. Click on “preview” to see the questions and use the “modify” button to modify as necessary;

  9. Click on “publish”;

  10. Click on “Save QTI XML file” tab;

  11. Choose “points a decimal numbers” or “points as percentages…” (check the percentage option);

  12. Choose “QTI ZML zip file using IMS content packaging 1.1.3.

  13. You will then be asked to specify where to save this packaged file, and it is going to appear as a compressed file with “.zip” file extension.

Importing tests into OpenClass:

Now go to OpenClass and follow these steps:

  1. Click on “modify menu”;

  2. Click on “add & arrange”;

  3. Click on “add an item” where you would like the quiz or test to be, or add it to the end and rearrange it to your desired position later. Check “gradable” when you create this quiz or test.

  4. Close the “add & arrange” window;

  5. Click on the tab you just created on the course menu;

  6. Click on “modify page” at the top right corner;

  7. Select “import”;

  8. Beside “choose assessment package type”, choose “Respondus” from the menu;

  9. Click on “choose file” and select the zipped file you just saved;

  10. Click on “upload and import file”, and you will get a message saying the request is processed. If it is not a large test file, you should be able to see it in a matter of seconds. If the file is large, with graphics, for instance, you may need to wait longer. If you find that your page is stuck, you might want to try a different browser. Currently Firefox seems to be working best for OpenClass assessments.

Additional uses of Respondus:

  • Import publisher test banks: Respondus has a database of publisher test banks which you can easily import into OpenClass by using Respondus. Check this video for the method to import such test banks into Respondus. The rest of the steps should be the same with what we described above.

  • Create print copies of electronic tests: One thing we have also noticed is that with such online tests converted through Respondus, you can also create print copies in case you need a paper version as a backup plan, or if you have students with special needs who would benefit from having a paper version. You can also choose to print one with answers so that you can review tests with students.

  • Publish the same tests to multiple courses: Pearson Openclass is working on adding a feature to export tests and other course components. Before that is made available, you should also be able to keep the test package files and import them into multiple courses.

Respondus also has a number of demo videos which are very helpful. Check this site for more information. Please notice, however, that some of these demo videos are made for other types of learning management system that may not work for OpenClass. The QTI import method described above is more platform-neutral, allowing Respondus tests to be compatible with the OpenClass environment.

We realize that converting a test to the online format  involves quite a number of steps, each of which may be prone to errors of some sort. If you do not anticipate doing this test conversion very often, you may simply send your tests over to the Adams Center for conversion. As we may do this on a daily basis, we are more aware of some common problems to avoid. If you plan to create tests as you go, and you would like to convert the tests yourself, we’d be more than happy to show you how the conversion process works. In either case,  feel free to check with us what is the best way to proceed. We hope that the initial investment in converting the test will save you tons of time in having to grade standardized portions of tests.

OpenClass Course Conversion Form: Summer & Fall 2013 Courses

The Instructional Design team in the Adams Center is here to help you convert your Blackboard courses to OpenClass more easily! To request a course conversion for your Summer and Fall 2013 courses, please fill out this form as soon as possible. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Mindi Thompson at ext. 3706.

OpenClass Social and iPad App Information

OpenClass users:  please note below specific differences between the new OpenClass Social and the iPad App.

OpenClass Social on the web:

– Will have the new social stream, which includes Share Posts and Top-level Discussion Posts.

– Will allow for authoring Share Posts

– Will have Follow/Following/Followers in Profile

– Will have Notifications, with Read/Unread status

– Will NOT show or allow for posting of Remarks (140 character text)

The iPad App (current release): 

– Will have the Activity Stream, with Grades, Submissions, Discussion, Top-level Posts and Responses, and Remarks.

– Will allow authoring and posting of Remarks (140 character text)

– Will NOT have Follow/Following/Followers in Profile

– Will NOT have Notifications


Pearson is working to update the iPad App to more closely align with Social.  This update is scheduled for release in April.

Pearson Release: OpenClass Social

OpenClass added a social component today called, OpenClass Social.  These new components act as a Social Media platform aimed at increasing social and academic engagement.  Below is a statement released by Pearson outlining the changes:


  • This product is in BETA status. This means that certain issues may arise with respect to performance, intermittent system stability, feature defects and so forth. As always, the full spectrum of support for OpenClass Design Partners is provided during normal business hours. That stated, the OpenClass team takes great pride in ensuring that your Design Partner experience exceeds your expectations and we are committed to working with you as a partner in resolving issues as they arise.
  • When this product is enabled, the activity feed is replaced with the stream. The new social tool will no longer have access to remarks or the data that was associated to them. (For example, grades will not be published in the stream).
  • When this product is enabled, the people tab is replaced with the network. There isn’t a network shown on course home.
  • Share data created in OpenClass prior to migration may not be available once migrated.
  • Share data will not be available within the iPad experience.
  • The Faculty Tool, Import Content, is not available at this time.


The Dashboard is the landing page that you see when you login to OpenClass. The new Dashboard contains the following features:

· Share & Stream: Share posts can be made directly on the dashboard and are viewable in the stream. The stream contains your share posts, posts from people you are following and classmates. Additionally the dashboard stream contains threaded discussion responses created by you and your classmates.

  • Only top level threaded discussion responses are populated in the stream. These are direct responses to the discussion topic created by the instructor, as opposed to responses to discussion posts made by classmates.
  • The stream can be filtered to display only posts from people you are following with those that you’ve shared to your followers, or only posts for an individual course at a time.
  • The audience of a share post changes depending on the filter applied to the stream. If you are sharing a post from ‘All Activity’ or ‘Following’, share posts will be defaulted to followers. If you are filtered to a specific course, share posts will be defaulted to the course. You can override the default.
  • Streams link to profiles & courses. Simply click on an avatar or name to access the profile of the person that created the share post. Also, click on the course title to launch the course that the post was shared with.
  • The stream is sorted by date/time, with your most recent items displayed at the top.

· Your Network: Your Network consists of people you are following, people that are following you and your classmates. You can easily view a list of your classmates in order to follow any that you wish to be connected to outside of the context of the course relationship. ‘Following’ allows you to create a personal network of peers.

  • Your Network will update based on the filter that is applied on the dashboard.

· Additionally, the below existing OpenClass features are still supported in Dashboard:

  • Faculty tools (ex. roster management & course creation)
  • View & launch enrolled courses
  • Access to your profile, admin pages, help & community forums
  • View ‘who’s online’ & chat
  • Access to your gmail, google docs & google calendar

Course Home

Course Home is the landing page that you see when you launch a course. Course Home contains the following features:

· Share & Stream: Posts can be made directly on Course Home and are viewable in the stream. The stream contains posts & threaded discussions created by you and your classmates.

  • Only top level threaded discussion responses are populated in the stream. These are direct responses to the discussion topic created by the instructor, as opposed to responses to discussion posts made by classmates.
  • Posts made from the stream default to share with the course. This can be overridden.
  • The stream links to profiles. Simply click on an avatar or name to access the profile of the person that created the share post.
  • The stream is sorted by date/time.

· Additionally, the following existing OpenClass features are still supported in Course Home:

  • Announcements
  • Course Introduction
  • For Review
  • Upcoming
  • Articles


Share posts can be made directly on the dashboard & course home and are viewable by you and your followers or your classmates. Share posts made to followers are also viewable on the profile. You can edit & delete your own share posts. Additionally, any viewable share post can be commented on, and a comment can be deleted by the person that posted it. The following share posts are supported:

• Text

• Inline links

• Links to photos

• Links to YouTube or Vimeo videos


The profile is the destination for viewing a summary of information about a person. This information can be used to determine if you want to follow the individual. The information can also be used to see what is new with someone you are already following, as well as providing methods to contact him/her. The following features are part of the profile:

• Person’s Stream: All share posts the person has made to his/her followers will appear in the user’s stream.

• Follow: You can follow a person from their profile.

• Profile Information: View the person’s avatar, basic information, contact information, as well as education and employment information. Additionally, you can initiate a Skype session if the person is using a Skype account.

• Person’s Network: View the person’s network which consists of who he/she is following as well as who is following him/her. This can help you expand your network manually.

Edit Profile:

• Enhance Avatar Upload: Avatars of up to 3 MB are permitted.

Additionally, avatars are centered and cropped.

• Profile Information : Profile information has been trimmed down to support the data we anticipate people being willing to fill out such

as contact information, education and employment information.

• Privacy Settings: People can hide their profile or online status. Even if the individual is being followed, the profile and/or online status will be unavailable if the user selects these options.

  • Share posts will be visible regardless of the privacy setting. If the profile is set to ‘private’ the user’s avatar & name will not appear in the stream.


• Notifications are available in the toolbar when you are logged into OpenClass. You will be notified of the following activities:

  • Someone is following you.
  • Someone commented on a post that you are participating in.
  • Someone responded to a threaded discussion that you are participating in.
  • Students will receive a notification when an instructor returns a submission.

• Notifications link you to the appropriate location. For example, if you receive a notification that someone responded to a threaded discussion that you are participating in, clicking on that notification will take you to the threaded discussion.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call Mindi Thompson (x3706), David Christianson (x2456) or Scott Hamm (x4944).