What’s new in the latest Blackboard version

Blackboard has now been upgraded to the most recent software release, Q2 2017.

Here’s a quick run-down of some of the changes you’ll notice in the new version.

Drag and Drop files

When you want to attach files to a course content item, the Browse button is still present, but if you prefer you can now drag and drop files from your computer.

This functionality is available in most places you see the Browse button. Students will be able to take advantage of it in blogs, journals and wikis (although not, as yet, in Discussion Forums). It is also available to students when uploading files to a Blackboard assignment.

Users of the Blackboard Fileshare will also find this a boon, as it restores the ability to upload multiple files in the Chrome and Firefox browsers.

Read more about Drag and Drop and uploading multiple files.

Submit button always visible

It’s a small thing, but very useful: you should now find that on any page which is too long to fit onto your screen without scrolling, the Submit button is always visible, at the foot of the screen.

Submit button visible

 

Blackboard Assignment  Submission receipts

Last year we paid Blackboard for a custom building block, so that students submitting to a Blackboard assignment would get a submission receipt emailed to them. With the latest release, this has become part of the core functionality.

For every submission to a Blackboard assignment a receipt is generated. This receipt is

  • emailed to the student
    (on Group assignments, all members of the Group are sent a receipt)
  • available for the student to view via My Grades
  • available for staff to view via the Grade Centre.

Blackboard Assignment receipt

more on Blackboard Assignment Receipts

 

 

Assignment Submission Reminders

Staff can send email reminders from the Grade Centre to students who have not yet submitted to a specific assignment. Students receive a system-generated email listing the course, coursework, and the assessment due date.

Staff can use this tool to send reminders for assignments even where anonymous marking is enabled. To protect anonymity, students’ names and attempt statuses are not revealed in this situation – so you will not know which students have been sent an email reminder, only how many.

Please note – you have no control over what the reminder email says, The text at present reads as in this example:

You currently don’t have a mark or submission for the following coursework: Title: Anon June 2017 Course: 2016 Q4 Test course 04Apr2017 Course ID: RDDEV_2016Q4_04Apr17 Please log in to review the instructions for this coursework and check the calendar for all due dates.

More on how to send reminders for missing coursework (Blackboard help site)

 

You can use the Send Reminder feature with Blackboard assignments and Blackboard Tests.

This tool should not be used for Turnitin assignments – especially not for anonymous Turnitin assignments. For Turnitin Assignments please use the Email non-submitters option available in the Turnitin assignment inbox.

 

Marking Anonymous Blackboard Assignments

On assignments where multiple attempts were allowed, and which were set up to be marked anonymously, staff would previously see all submissions in Needs Marking – even those which had been superseded by a later attempt. That is no longer the case – only the most recent attempt will appear in Needs Marking.

Please note, there are other issues associated with managing anonymous Blackboard assignments, and where anonymous marking is essential, we recommend either that you use Turnitin, or adopt a less rigid approach to anonymity (e.g. “Grade with usernames hidden).

More on grading multiple attempts on the Needs Grading page  (Blackboard help site)

Blackboard Instructor app

Following the upgrade, staff will be able to access the new Instructor app.

Initially the app provides limited functionality, but the range of features will increase over the coming months. In this first version you can

  • preview course content, including tests and assignments – this could be really useful to check how well students are able to view your course content on a mobile device
  • post announcements
  • post and reply to discussion forums
  • launch Collaborate Ultra sessions

Future releases will allow tablet users to view, mark and provide feedback on assignment submissions.

You can get an idea of what the app can do from this short video

 

and on the Blackboard Help site: https://help.blackboard.com/Blackboard_App/Instructor

Students now get submission receipts for Blackboard Assignments

In the past, when students have submitted work to the Blackboard Assignment tool they did not receive a receipt. This was a source of dissatisfaction for both staff and students, as work submitted via the Turnitin tool does generate a receipt, emailed to their University email address.

This issue has now been addressed – the University has paid Blackboard for an additional building block (plug-in) and this was made live on Wednesday evening.

So now, every time a student submits work to a Blackboard assignment, a receipt will be sent to their University email address. This receipt contains the following information:

  • a submission ID
  • the student’s name and student number
  • the assignment title
  • the title and ID of the Blackboard course
  • date and time of submission
  • a link to the file(s) submitted
  • a link to a web version of the receipt

Blackboard Assignment receipt

 

We have updated the guidance available to students via the Support for Students tab on Blackboard

Please note our advice to students

  • Do not delete the email receipt – you should retain it as proof of submission.
  • This receipt only indicates that a submission has been made by you on the date and time shown, and received by Blackboard.
  • It is not confirmation that a file you have submitted is correct or has uploaded properly.
    Always check the files you have submitted to make sure that they can be viewed or downloaded.

Even with a receipt, the onus is still on the student to ensure that they have submitted the correct files, that they are in the correct format, and that they can be viewed in and/or downloaded from Blackboard. Not all students will read our guidance, of course, so please reiterate these points to any of your students who are required to submit work to Blackboard assignments.

Staff access to receipts

Once a student has submitted to a Blackboard assignment on your course, you will find that a Receipts folder has been created in the course Fileshare, and all submission receipts will be stored here.

Receipts folder

 

For each receipt you can identify

  1. the student username (contained within the filename)
  2. the date and time of submission

assignment receipts

 

You would have to open a receipt to see other details, such as which assignment it relates to, or what files were submitted.

So identifying submission by a specific student to a specific assignment could be time-consuming. But, in case of dispute, the first step would be to ask the student to forward to you the receipt which was emailed to them.

We hope that the introduction of Blackboard assignment receipts will reduce student anxiety around e-submission, and increase transparency for both staff and students as to what was submitted when.

Blackboard upgrade 17th – 18th February

The Blackboard VLE will be unavailable from 20:00 GMT on Wednesday 17th until around 08:00 GMT on Thursday 18th February while an upgrade takes place.

Turnitin will also be unavailable while this upgrade takes place.

Following the upgrade we will be running the 2015 Q4 release of Blackboard.

This is a fairly minor upgrade, but it does bring some welcome usability enhancements:

  • When creating an announcement, “Not Date Restricted” is now selected by default.
    This brings announcements in line with other Blackboard content, where date restrictions are only applied if you specifically select them.
  • Emails sent from Blackboard, including emailed Announcements, show the instructor’s name as the sender.
    This change removes a source of confusion for students.
  • Support for the Microsoft Edge internet browser.
  • The Content Editor now supports HTML5 Audio and Video playback in Chrome and Edge browsers.
    This means that when you upload audio and video files to your course, you can embed them as HTML5 Audio or HTML5 Video, thus avoiding the issues currently encountered  in the Chrome and Edge browsers.
  • Discussion Board enhancements: users can navigate from thread to thread without having to return to the main Discussions page.

Moreover the release fixes a number of bugs, in particular some which have been causing issues for us, relating to Blackboard Tests and Assignments.

For further details of what this release brings, please see the Release Notes.

 

Please note that our ability to introduce these improvements in a timely fashion is a direct result of our move to Blackboard Managed Hosting. We have scheduled the upgrade to take place as an overnight process in Enhancement Week so as to minimise disruption.   However, apologies for any inconvenience this may still cause.

Emailing Turnitin non-submitters

A few weeks ago Turnitin introduced a new ‘Email non-submitters’ feature – but unfortunately we then had to advise staff that this wouldn’t work in Blackboard.

We’re pleased to be able to announce that Turnitin have now carried out some additional development work, and as a result you will be able to email students who have not yet submitted to a Turnitin assignment – even if that assignment is set to be marked anonymously.

How to use this feature

When you go into a Turnitin inbox (via Control Panel > Course Tools > Turnitin Assignments on your Blackboard course) you will see ‘Email non-submitters’ just above the list of student names.

Turnitin: Email non-submitters

Clicking on that link allows you to compose an email which will be sent to any student on the course who has not yet submitted to the Turnitin assignment in question. Continue reading

What’s new in Blackboard

Over the bank holiday we successfully upgraded Blackboard, which now includes a number of long-awaited new enhancements. We are very excited that Blackboard has had a make-over and now includes a new look, easier navigation and quick access to courses, fully automated anonymous and delegated marking, a student preview and two brand new tools, tracking students’ online performance and creating sign up lists.

Experience the new features by watching the screencast (4 min) below. For detailed overviews and video tutorials of the new features please read on and access the links below the screencast. Do not forget to visit the ‘Support for Staff’ tab to find our step-by-step guides!

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Blackboard Upgrade – Summer 2015

The upgrade of Blackboard in the summer to the latest version (9.1 2014) will provide you with access to some new and enhanced features. Here is a round-up of some of the new features:

A real student preview. Instructors can see exactly what a student sees in a course area, including the ability to submit assignments, take an online test or join a group, and even view results in My Grades.

True Anonymous grading using the Blackboard assignment tool.

Delegated marking of Blackboard assignments. This feature provides a streamlined online workflow for the allocation of assignments to markers, double marking and the reconciliation of grades.

Continue reading