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.

Blackboard upgrade complete

Last night’s upgrade completed successfully, and the system was made available to users again at around 10.30 this morning.

What’s new in Blackboard?

Links to Talis

This update fixes the issue with broken links to Talis Aspire Reading Lists from Blackboard course menus.

Reading lists for Spring term modules – information for Module Convenors

The Blackboard upgrade at the beginning of August 2017 introduced a bug which broke links from Blackboard course menus to Talis Aspire reading lists.

To deal with this issue, these broken links were automatically hidden in course menus to prevent confusion for students.

Following the most recent upgrade, if you want to use a Reading List link on your Blackboard course menu you will need to:

  • Configure the Reading List link in the Blackboard course to point to your 2017-18 list.
    See how to do this at https://libguides.reading.ac.uk/reading-lists/staff/blackboard
  • Un-hide the Reading List link on the course menu:
    • Hover over the link, click the ‘Reading List menu item options’ button that appears.
    • Click ‘Show Link’ from the menu. (See screenshot below)

      Make a course menu link visible to students

        Make a course menu link visible to students

 

Please continue to update reading lists for the 2017/18 session, and remember to publish all lists that are still in draft. Until published, a list can’t be seen by your students. For further information please contact your Liaison Librarian.


Please note that the problem described affects Blackboard courses where there is a single module reading list, with a link from the Blackboard course menu.
 If a Blackboard course has multiple reading lists, or module convenors have created links from Blackboard to specific sections of a Talis list, these links will be inside a Blackboard content area, and were not affected by the Blackboard bug.

Portfolios

The upgrade fixes a number of bugs which affected Blackboard Portfolios. In particular, when students include web links in their portfolio, this no longer causes an error for those trying to view the portfolio.

For more on Portfolios, see https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Assignments/Portfolios

Blackboard Assignments and Inline Grading

The upgrade was essential for us to make the move to the new inline grading platform for Blackboard assignments which comes online in January. You will notice no difference now – our transition is scheduled for the morning of Wednesday 10th January. Please see our post Changes to Inline Grading in Blackboard for more details – and, if you are currently marking work submitted to a Blackboard assignment, please note that all comments added using the current interface will be “burnt in” on 10th January (i.e. you will not be able to edit or delete them once we have made the change).

Student view of Grades

One slight niggle with the new Blackboard version: when students go to My Grades, all grades are shown to five decimal places – so a mark of 55 will display as 55.00000

That’s not incorrect but, equally, it’s not particularly helpful. Hopefully this feature will be addressed when we next upgrade in the summer.

My Grades showing 5 decimal places

 

If you have any queries, please log them via the IT Self-Service portal.

Changes to Inline Grading in Blackboard

What is changing?

The Inline Grading features in Blackboard make use of a third party tool called Crocodoc.

The company who own Crocodoc are moving to a new tool called Box, and all Blackboard institutions need to switch to this new interface by 15th January 2018.

We will be making the transition to Box at the start of the working day on Wednesday 10th January.

The new Box interface is very similar to the current Crocodoc interface.

Comparison of Crocodoc and Box

Comparison of Crocodoc and Box

 

Box is able to display many more file types than is currently possible. In particular, you will be able to view image, audio and video files inside the Blackboard marking interface, and will also be able to annotate JPG and PNG image files inside Blackboard.

There’s a smaller range of annotation options available in Crocodoc, but when marking Word documents, PDFs and similar files, you will still be able to

  • highlight text
  • highlight text and add a comment
  • add a text comment anywhere on the submitted paper
    (this option is also available when annotating image files)

 

Box - adding a comment

Box – adding a comment

 

Box - adding a comment to highlighted text

Box – adding a comment to highlighted text

Box – add comment to a JPG image file

 

One function which is not available in Box, is the ability for staff and students to download papers with the annotations left by markers. We hope that this functionality may be reintroduced in a future version of the Box viewer.

For more information, please see the Blackboard help site: Transitioning from Crocodoc to New Box View

 

What will happen to feedback provided using Crocodoc?

The most important thing to know is that all feedback left using Crocodoc 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 online in December and early January:

In accordance with University policy, feedback on assignments where the submission deadline falls on or before 8th December (the last day of UG term), should be made available to students by Tuesday 9th January. By switching to the new Box viewer on 10th January we hope to avoid any inconvenience to staff marking work due on or before 8th December.

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 marking work where 10th January falls within the 15 day turnaround period, please ensure that any annotations you make before 10th January are in their final version – i.e. make sure that your annotations do not require 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.

 

Blackboard upgrade 17th December: planned system downtime, Talis issue resolved

There will be a Blackboard upgrade taking place on 17th – 18th December. This upgrade requires system downtime.

Blackboard and Turnitin will be unavailable to all users

from: 14:30 GMT on Sunday 17th December (22:30 MYT)

to: 12:00 midday GMT on Monday 18th December (20:00 MYT)

NOTE: We aim to make Blackboard available as soon as possible following the upgrade and it may be available before midday.

 

This update fixes the issue with broken links to Talis Aspire Reading Lists from Blackboard course menus.

If you are responsible for module reading lists, please read the guidance below.

 

Reading lists for Spring term modules – information for Module Convenors

The Blackboard upgrade at the beginning of August introduced a bug which broke links from Blackboard course menus to Talis Aspire reading lists.

To deal with this issue, these broken links were automatically hidden in course menus to prevent confusion for students.

The Blackboard software update taking place on the 17th – 18th December resolves this issue.

After this time, if Module Convenors want to use the Reading List course menu link you will need to:

  • Configure the Reading List link in the Blackboard course to point to your 2017-18 list.
    See how to do this at https://libguides.reading.ac.uk/reading-lists/staff/blackboard
  • Un-hide the Reading List link on the course menu:
    • Hover over the link, click the ‘Reading List menu item options’ button that appears.
    • Click ‘Show Link’ from the menu. (See screenshot below)

      Make a course menu link visible to students

        Make a course menu link visible to students

Module convenors / list owners should not postpone the publication of their Spring Term 2018 reading lists until the Blackboard issue has been fixed.

If setting up links from Blackboard to Talis before 18th December, Tutors will need to continue to embed links in an appropriate Blackboard course content area – as shown in this user guide Setting up links to your Talis reading list.

Academic staff should continue to update reading lists for the 2017/18 session, and remember to publish all lists that are still in draft. Until published, a list can’t be seen by your students. For further information please contact your Liaison Librarian.


Please note that the problem described affects Blackboard courses where there is a single module reading list, with a link from the Blackboard course menu.
If a Blackboard course has multiple reading lists, or module convenors have created links from Blackboard to specific sections of a Talis list, these links will be inside a Blackboard content area, and are not affected by the Blackboard bug.