Changes to Blackboard Assignments

Additional features in the New Box Viewer

If you make use of the Blackboard assignment tool, you will be aware that the interface for leaving comments directly on students’ submissions changed in January this year. Our guidance for staff on using the new Box interface can be found on this page: Marking a Blackboard Assignment online using the in-built tool (Inline Grading).

Please be aware that the Box Viewer runs as Software as a Service – that is to say, new features and improvements are added on a continuous basis, and do not rely on us upgrading the Blackboard system as a whole. A number of improvements requested by Blackboard users have already been introduced, with more promised for the coming months.

As of yesterday. the ability for markers to draw on the student’s submission (available via the old marking interface) has been added. And fewer clicks are required when adding multiple drawing or text comments on the page. These updated features are now included in our PDF guide: Marking a Blackboard assignment online using Inline Grading (New Box View)

Box drawing tool

We have also updated our student guidance on submitting to Blackboard Assignments, and locating and viewing marks and feedback, following our transition to the New Box Viewer.


Edit 12th March: new annotation features temporarily withdrawn

Box have discovered that the new annotation mentioned above were causing performance issues, and have temporarily removed them. We understand that the drawing tool and other features should be restored later this week, once Box have resolved their technical issues.


Important: Known issue for students Saving as Draft

Blackboard have identified an issue which could have serious consequences if a student

  • uploads a file to a Blackboard Assignment
  • selects Save Draft
  • uploads a later version of the file, with the same filename, before submitting the attempt.

In this situation, the later version of the file will be successfully submitted to Blackboard, but the earlier version still displays on screen – i.e. the marker will inadvertently mark an earlier draft of the work.

Fortunately, this sequence of events is probably fairly rare, and it will always be possible to download the later file from Blackboard.

We have provided a warning about this on the Blackboard assignment submission screen, with a link to our guidance for students on how to avoid the issue.

Blackboard Assignment submission help text

Blackboard are working on a fix for this, which we expect to be available in the next week or two. However, with many assessment deadlines coming up, if you are using the Blackboard Assignment tool, please make your students aware of this serious, but easily-avoided, problem. Please direct them to the relevant information on the Student Support site, and tell them to contact IT if they have any issues.






Help us improve your experience of using Blackboard – staff workshops, 26/27 Feb (with coffee & biscuits!)

Have you used Blackboard and thought things like “this interface could look better”, “there’s too much information on this page” or, perhaps, “it would be better if THIS was THERE”? Do you think Blackboard’s look, feel and ease of use could be improved?

We are pleased to let you know that the TEL team will be undertaking an important piece of work with Blackboard Consulting around improving your experience of using Blackboard as a resource in teaching and learning here at UoR.

Blackboard logo

We will be running some workshops on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 February to give Blackboard users like yourself an opportunity to share your experience of using it and to suggest what improvements could be made to help it better meet your needs. Whilst we can’t currently change the functionality and features, we can improve the look and feel – the layout, branding, the organisation and presentation of information (the usability, if you will). We’d really like people who use Blackboard to help us to do this and would be delighted if you could be involved.


As a user of Blackboard, we’d like to invite you to attend one of the following workshops:

Monday 26 February

  • 11:30-13:00
  • 13:30-15:00
  • 15:30-17:00

Tuesday 27 February

  • 09:30-11:00
  • 11:30-13:00
  • 13:30-15:00
  • 15:30-17:00

*Tea/coffee and biscuits will be available at all sessions!*

Pic of cup of tea






I’m interested – what shall I do?

If you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity to help improve Blackboard, please complete this short online form by close of play on Friday 16 February, indicating which workshops you would be available to attend. Please indicate ALL sessions you would be available for and hold this availability in your diary – you will then be allocated to one workshop.

We will confirm your attendance by email by close of play on Monday 19 February, along with details of the workshop you’ve been allocated to join.

Will I need to do anything else?

Having analysed the feedback from these workshops, Blackboard Consulting will create some prototypes for the new look and layout of Blackboard. We will then invite you to preview and comment on the proposed improvements (likely to be sometime during April – June), and then to feed back on the improvements once they’ve been implemented (September-October).

We hope this is something you feel able to help us with and we look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks in advance for your help,

The TEL team 


Dates for forthcoming Blackboard upgrades and course rollover

The following dates have been scheduled for the 2018 Course Rollover, and for Blackboard upgrades over the next twelve months.

Course rollover

Saturday 30th June 2018

downtime required approximately 08:00 – 17:00


Summer Blackboard Upgrade

Sunday 5th – Monday 6th August 2018

downtime required, probably from Sunday afternoon till Monday lunchtime


Winter Upgrade

Sunday 6th – Monday 7th January 2019

downtime required, probably from Sunday afternoon till Monday lunchtime)


These dates have been agreed by CQSD and IT after consultation with Support Centres, the Examinations Office, ISLI and other staff both at Reading and in Malaysia. While we appreciate that there is never an entirely convenient time to make Blackboard unavailable, these downtime windows have been scheduled to avoid inconvenience to most users.


Further, more detailed information on Course Rollover and these Blackboard upgrades will of course follow in due course.

In the meantime, if you are aware of any assessment deadlines or other activity which might be affected by one of these downtime windows, please take steps to reschedule the activity.

Updated inline grading interface for Blackboard Assignments now live

As previously advertised, our transition to the new Box interface for inline grading of Blackboard Assignments took place at 8 a.m. today.

When opening student papers submitted to a Blackboard Assignment, you may see a message saying “this file is being converted”.

Blackboard Assignment - please wait message

If you see this message, just press your browser’s Refresh / Reload button (F5). The file should then display immediately.

We have updated our guidance on marking Blackboard Assignments using the inline grading features:

Marking a Blackboard Assignment online using the in-built tool (Inline Grading)

Blackboard Assignments – New Box Viewer – technical information (including a list of supported file types).


These supplement our more general guidance on using

Blackboard Assignments

Group Assignments

and the Blackboard Grade Centre


If you have queries relating to this change, please contact the TEL team via the IT Self-Service portal.

Changes to the inline grading interface for Blackboard Assignments

As mentioned in a previous blog post, there are a few changes being introduced this week to the interface used when marking work submitted to a Blackboard Assignment.

Please note – this change does not affect Turnitin assignments, only Blackboard assignments.

The new Box marking interface will go live at 8 a.m. this Wednesday, 10th January.

There may be a brief period when papers submitted to a Blackboard assignment do not display inside Blackboard – at this time you will see a message saying “this file is being converted”.

Blackboard Assignment - please wait message

Once the transition to the new Box interface is complete, you may sometimes still see this message when opening a submission.

If you experience this, just press your browser’s Refresh / Reload button (F5). The file should then display immediately.


What annotation options are available?

When viewing a student submission you can

  • highlight text in the submission
  • highlight text and type a text comment
  • type a text comment

This short Blackboard video gives a good overview:

Highlighting text

Using your mouse, highlight any text, and a small toolbar appears.

Box - highlight menu

Box - highlight text icon Click on the pen icon to simply highlight the text.

Box - add comment to highlighted text icon Click on the speech bubble icon to associate a comment with the highlighted text.

Box - add comment to highlighted text

Click Post to save the comment.


Adding free text comments

Box - text comment icon Click on the speech bubble icon at the top of the page.

This message will appear.

Box - add text comment

Now click anywhere in the document, and you can leave a text comment.

Box - text comment

Click Post to save the comment.


Supported filetypes

The new Box viewer supports a greater range of files – for instance most image and video files can now be viewed directly inside Blackboard.

Not all files which can be viewed in Blackboard support highlighting / annotations, however. This list of supported filetypes shows which files can be viewed, and which annotated.

Please note that, at present, there are a few common file types – notably Excel and RTF files – which it is not possible to annotate directly in Blackboard.

Box, the third party company which provides the viewing/marking interface, are making constant improvements to their service, so additional functionality is being added on an ongoing basis – and Blackboard are working with Box to see that desired improvements are delivered as early as possible. Blackboard have also emphasised that Box provides

  • support for significantly more file types, including audio, video, and image formats
  • rore responsive browser support for accessing documents on any device across mobile browsers 
  • a more modern, cleaner UI that more seamlessly blends with Blackboard Learn

Additionally, Box is one of the world’s largest SaaS-based content management services, and as a result the New Box View service includes compliance with the strictest security and compliance standards.  


What will happen to feedback previously provided using Crocodoc?

The most important thing to know is that all feedback left using Crocodoc (the previous marking interface) will still be available when we move to Box.

The feedback will continue to be visible – to both staff and students – within Blackboard, and when the marked paper is downloaded as a PDF.

Please note however that, once we move to Box, annotations made using Crocodoc are “burnt in”, and cannot be edited or deleted.

Annotations added using Crocodoc, after the transition to Box

Annotations added using Crocodoc, after the transition to Box

Annotations added using Crocodoc, downloaded as a PDF, after the transition to Box

Annotations added using Crocodoc, downloaded as a PDF, after the transition to Box

Important notice for staff marking work submitted in December and early January:

In accordance with University policy, feedback on assignments where the submission deadline fell on or before 8th December (the last day of UG term), should have been made available to students by Tuesday 9th January.

However we are aware that there are some Blackboard assignments – particularly those set up for late submission after the due date – where our move to Box falls within the 15 day turnaround period.

If you are still marking work using the Crocodoc interface, please ensure that any annotations made on or before 9th January are in their final version – i.e. make sure that your annotations do not require further editing before they become visible to students.



What is affected / what is not affected

  • This change affects only Blackboard assignments. Turnitin assignments are not affected.
  • This change affects only annotations made using the inline grading features.
  • It does not affect
    • feedback provided via an uploaded feedback file
    • feedback typed into the ‘Feedback to Learner’ area
    • student Grades
  • Switching to the new interface is a relatively quick process, and we do not expect it to cause any disruption to students submitting work, or to the Blackboard service as a whole. There may be a brief period after 8 a.m. on 10th January when staff are unable to mark work submitted to Blackboard assignments.


Further questions?

If you have queries relating to this change, please contact the TEL team via the IT Self-Service portal.

Happy new year – Burning of the Apps TEL Showcase videos

Happy new year!

Photo of the burning of the apps









If you missed Brighton University’s excellent online Burning of the Apps TEL showcase just before the festive break, you can access the videos of the 1 hour sessions here (or individually below):

New Learning Spaces at the University of Brighton (video)

From Lecture to Lego: Innovative teaching and technology (video)
Tricking out your Blackboard module areas (video)
Twine – Choose your own ad-learn-ture… (video)
The Student Nursing Affirmation ‘app’ (video)
Technology Showcase (video)