Policies and Procedures

Using Publisher Building Blocks

Academic textbook publishers now frequently offer web-based services to accompany the digital versions of their textbooks. It is common practice for publishers’ sales representatives to excite individual faculty with the features of their digital books and services. All too often this is done without consulting local campus I/T or Distance Education departments in order to understand whether they can support faculty using these services.

In some cases, these offerings are merely links to the publishers’ web sites with additional information such as videos, interactive demonstrations, or additional readings. Such links can be added to your Blackboard courses, seamlessly connecting your students to the additional content.

In other cases, the services may include one or more of the following:

  • Full hosting of the lesson content on the publisher’s web site
  • Graded activities and exams
  • Other interactive features that are hosted on the publisher’s web site that appeal to faculty for grading or participation credit

In a few cases beyond that, the entire course’s content (including quizzes and exams) is stored on the book publisher’s learning management system, and not on UTA’s Blackboard.

It is important to remember that use of these services results in course-based data stored off-campus at a publisher site; use of these services must be consistent with UTA policies on student support, data retention and data security.

In many cases you and your students could mistakenly assume that all activity is occurring on UTA’s Blackboard, when it is not. Evaluation grades and student activity records are often stored on the book publisher’s servers. For example, if you as an instructor should receive any type of concern from a student regarding the taking of a test or access to course content on the publisher’s server, UTA cannot provide you with records of the student’s activity on the publisher’s server. Any technical issues that may occur on the publisher’s servers cannot be resolved by UTA support staff.

Individual publishers and their learning management systems may provide a means to synchronize student data on their servers with your course on UTA’s Blackboard server. These synchronizations, however, require building blocks to be installed and configured on UTA’s Blackboard server. Introducing these building blocks into UTA’s production Blackboard environment requires time and testing to ensure stability.

If you are considering adoption of a digital textbook with extended publisher’s services for use in UTA’s Blackboard, please contact James Stewart, Director of the Center for Distance Education, well in advance of adopting the textbook. CDE will assist in evaluating the publisher’s services and advise you of any support issues that could limit our ability to support you and your students in using a publisher’s services.

James Stewart
Director, Center for Distance Education 
jstewart@uta.edu
817-272-5727