Blackboard Spring Cleaning: Archiving Your Gradebook and Courses

The term has ended; the dorm rooms have been emptied. Painstakingly-taken class notes were thrown away just minutes after final grades were distributed. Students sold books back or passed them along to friends. No one wanted to carry the minutia of the spring term into their summer.

Post-Semester Blackboard Clean-Up

Cleaning up all the papers.

Thanks to Blackboard, your office clean-up at the end of the semester probably doesn’t look like this anymore, but there is still archiving to do! Image is courtesy of the Library of Congress and is of an “office” in 1932 or 1933.

A similar ritual takes place on the Blackboard server each term. Thirty days after the semester ends we remove all student grade information. This frees up much needed server space and allows our Blackboard to stay nimble and responsive. The more data stored on the Blackboard server, the harder it is for Blackboard to return information — just like those students trying to find one piece of paper in their overstuffed backpacks.

So just like they empty their backpacks over a trash can, the Blackboard server is purged. We’re a little more careful about it though, saving course information and removing only the student grade information. That way professors who teach the same courses term after term don’t have to start from scratch, or worse, have to remember to delete every student’s assignment from their course before the new term starts.

But what happens when a professor needs access to that Grade Center information? In a few limited cases IT may be able to restore a student’s grades. The process takes at least 24 hours, and there’s no guarantee that a specific class or student will be recoverable. The better, more reliable option is for the professor to archive the Grade Center before the deletion that happens 30 days after the end of the term.

Archiving Your Grade Center

Archiving can be accomplished in less than ten minutes for each class, and takes only seven steps:

In the Grade Center:

  1. Click the ‘Work Offline’ button
  2. Click ‘Download’
  3. Select Full Grade Center (this is the default setting)
  4. Select Tab Delimited (this is the default setting)
  5. Click ‘Submit’
  6. Click the Download button
  7. View the file with Excel

You can save the Excel file anywhere you’d like as long as it’s password protected, we don’t want any FERPA violations, of course. You can also password-protect Excel files themselves in order to ensure that a lost file won’t compromise student information.

Archiving Your Course

Recognizing that it’s easier to copy from old course than start with a blank slate, courses remain on the Blackboard server for two years. This allows us to copy from classes that are taught every other spring, or in the fall of odd numbered years. Eventually though, old classes need to be removed to make room for new classes.

The Blackboard Availability and Retention policy states that courses will be deleted twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. This spring our inactive and out-of-date courses were deleted on May 27. Instructors for those courses received emails 60 days before, 30 days before, and two weeks before the purge to give them ample time to archive their courses.

Archiving is a fairly simple process:

  1. Log into your course
  2. Click the Control Panel
  3. Click Packages and Utilities
  4. Click Export/Archive Course

On the Export/Archive Course page:

  1. Click the Export Package button (located in the upper left)
  2. Scroll to the Select Course Materials section
  3. Select the check boxes for each course area you wish to archive. If you would like to archive the whole course click ‘Select All’.
  4. Click ‘Submit’

Your archive is now being compiled. This process may take some time. You will receive an email when it is ready for download. After the email has arrived:

  1. Log into your course
  2. Click Packages and Utilities
  3. Click Export/Archive Course
  4. Click on the name of the Export File
  5. Click Save File and save the file to your computer

The trick here is waiting for the email to arrive. If you download the file before the archive is compiled, it won’t contain any useable data. Thankfully, the process usually takes less than 20 minutes. There’s no limit to the amount of archive you can compile at once. If you have five courses to back up, start all five running at one time. Just remember not to download the archives until you’ve received an email for each course.

If you have any questions about archiving or downloading content from the Blackboard you can contact the Blackboard support team through the Technology Support Center: 757-221-4357 (1-HELP) or via email.