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

Revised date for Blackboard upgrade: 6th – 7th August

Colleagues will be aware that we had previously scheduled this summer’s Blackboard upgrade for 25th June, but this had to be postponed when Blackboard’s quality checks identified a software defect. This bug was quickly resolved, and we are currently testing the revised software version on our Staging system.

We are keen to take advantage of new features offered by the latest version, and have provisionally rescheduled the upgrade for 6th – 7th August.

The upgrade requires system downtime.

 

Blackboard and Turnitin  will be unavailable

from 7.20 p.m. on Sunday 6th August

until no later than midday on Monday 7th August

We will endeavour to complete all post-upgrade checks, and have Blackboard back online, by mid-morning on Monday 7th, but the whole of the morning should be considered as being “at risk”.

 

This downtime window has been planned to minimise disruption, and particularly to avoid any disruption to those resitting exams.

Our apologies if the revised schedule does cause any inconvenience for you and your learners.

Blackboard upgrade postponed

We’re sorry to say that, with very little notice, Blackboard cancelled the upgrade which had been due to take place yesterday. This is because they had discovered a new bug, which was deemed sufficiently serious to put the success of the upgrade in jeopardy. No doubt determining the cause of this bug, and resolving the issue, will now be an absolute priority for Blackboard. However, until we know more about the likely timescales, we are unable to reschedule our upgrade.

In the meantime, our plans for course rollover are unaffected, and this will take place as scheduled on Saturday 8th July.

Advance notice: Blackboard downtime for system upgrade 25-26 June 2017

We are currently testing the most recent Blackboard release, with a view to upgrading to this version in the summer.

Subject to our tests being successful, the upgrade will take place on 25th – 26th June.

Blackboard and Turnitin will be unavailable while this upgrade takes place:

FROM Sunday 25th June, 10:30 a.m. BST

TO Monday 26th June, 12:00 noon BST

It is likely that the system will be back online by mid-morning on Monday 26th, but the whole morning should be considered as being “at risk”.

Further details and reminders will be posted nearer the time.

Blackboard Enhancements January 2017

Blackboard was upgraded 18th-19th December (to Blackboard 9.1 2016 Q2 release, Cumulative Update 3, if you like to know such things).

The upgrade did not introduce any significant new functionality, but it did bring a number of bug fixes – for instance, emails sent from Blackboard with a file attachment should now display correctly for Apple users.

The upgrade also allowed us to introduce some other enhancements:

Blackboard Assignment Receipts

We are now able to customise the receipt which students receive when they submit to a Blackboard assignment. We have added some explanatory text for students, to reiterate that

  • they should retain the receipt in case they need to provide proof of submission
  • proof of submission is not proof that they submitted the correct file, nor that the file(s) uploaded and can be viewed successfully.

In addition, where you have set up a Group Assignment, when one member of a group submits to the assignment, all members of that group will now be notified.

See Blackboard assignment submission receipts for further details.

 

Reusable Objects

Reusable Objects allow you to store in a central location (the Blackboard  Fileshare) pieces of content which you regularly use on a variety of Blackboard  courses. Moreover, you can update the Reusable Object in the Fileshare and the content will be updated in every course where it has been made available.

Reusable Objects are thus a good way to maintain and update content which needs to be made available on multiple courses – perhaps even on every course in a Department or School – but which might need to be updated at various points during the academic year. Examples might include Health and Safety guidance, School and Support Centre staff contact details, or information from central teams such as Careers and the Library.

This functionality is likely to be of most interest to colleagues who manage or support a large number of courses. For details, please see our guide Reusable Objects, and log a call with it@reading.ac.uk if you require further assistance or advice on making use of this feature.

 

Turnitin

The Blackboard upgrade required us to update our Turnitin plug-in, but this should not have affected any Turnitin functionality.

However, in an unrelated change, Turnitin introduced a welcome update to their Feedback Studio just before Christmas, which should remove an issue where some staff were finding themselves logged out while marking. Details in this earlier blog post: Turnitin enhancement: Timeout setting revised

Blackboard upgrade 18th-19th December

Blackboard will be unavailable to users

Sunday 18 December 08:30 a.m. – Monday 19 December 12:00 midday GMT

This period of downtime is for a Blackboard upgrade.

The new Blackboard version does not make any significant changes to functionality, but it does introduce a number of back-end technical improvements, and some welcome bug fixes.

IT and CQSD staff will carry out post-upgrade checks on the morning of Monday 19 December before service is restored to all users.

Having carried out a couple of dry runs, we anticipate that checking will be complete by mid-morning on Monday; however you should treat the whole of the Monday morning as potentially “at risk”.

We would not expect any assessment deadlines to fall in the week immediately preceding the Christmas closure. However, if you do have deadlines set for Monday 19th you will need to amend these.