Submitting Programming Assignments through Blackboard

The Assignment tool in Blackboard is powerful and robust for many instructors on Blackboard. Student upload their materials easy and papers can be graded in your browser. It also allows for a central repository of assignments and grades in a course, easily retrievable by both students and instructors. Reports can be pulled to see if students accessed materials, attempted to submit work, and technical problems can be addressed by the Helpdesk.

Except for computer science.

Blackboard doesn’t make it as simple to upload programming assignments to Blackboard, but it can be done, and still provides the benefit of that central repository for assignment files and grades, as well as student activity and attempts. The files can also be downloaded in bulk, making it easy to go through and grade each student’s work without clicking 20 or more times to download each individual’s assignment.

So, how can we make this work for a programming class?

First, we need to tell students how to submit their programming assignments. Students are generally used to uploading individual files to Blackboard, so this is a paradigm shift for them. In order to successfully upload their program files to Blackboard, they MUST zip the files. Blackboard will not accept many formats associated with programming, so submitting a .zip file circumvents this problem.

What I’ve found is that new programming students don’t know how to zip up files. Providing instructions right in the description for the assignment will help students over any bumps in the process.

In Windows select the files you want to zip. Right-click the selection and choose Send To > Compressed (zipped) Folder. Rename the resultant zip file to something meaningful (such as your name and the name of the assignment).

menu for zipping file on PC

On a Mac, select the files you want to zip, and right-click (or control-click) and select Compress fileName. If the result is just named, rename it to something meaningful (such as your name and the name of the assignment).

Mac menu with Compress 2 Items highlighted


Now your students have submitted their work to Blackboard. As the instructor, you can now go in and bulk download those assignments for grading. If you would prefer to look at them one by one, you can go through the standard method of Grade Center > Needs Grading in your Blackboard course and look at each student’s attempt. Or instead, you can download all of the files at once, then grade the student’s work in Blackboard.

assignment menu for file download option

If you want to bulk download all of those files for review, go into the Grade Center > Full Grade Center and locate the column for your assignment. Here, you can click on the drop down arrow next to the name of the column and select Assignment File Download. It will then ask you to select the students who you want to download. Choose them, and click Submit. You will then receive a zip file that contains all of your students’ (presumably zipped) work. You can review those files, and using the submissions in the Needs Grading area, provide grades and feedback to your students on the grade and feedback areas of the inline grading page.