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.

Changes to Blackboard colour scheme and design

The Blackboard upgrade originally scheduled for Bank Holiday Monday has been postponed until later in the academic year.

However we have applied some changes to the colour scheme and styles in use on our Blackboard system.

For most users the most noticeable change will be that – in response to user comments, and after consultation with DPS – the top banner is now grey rather than red.

However changes have also been made to improve the visibility of information on the Enrolments tab and elsewhere. For instance, where you are enrolled on a number of courses with different roles, it was previously difficult to see where one list ended and the next began. With the new styles in place, this should now be much clearer.

Courses listing

There are other areas in Blackboard e.g. the Groups management pages, where the visibility of text and menu items has been improved.

Henley Business School staff:

you will continue to see a blue top banner in Blackboard, but the other improvements mentioned here have also been applied to the HBS Blackboard brand.

 

If you find any areas where information on the page is not clearly visible, please log these with it@reading.ac.uk as it may be possible to tweak our stylesheets further to address the issues.

Introducing the new Turnitin Feedback Studio

We have today enabled a new interface for marking work in Turnitin, called the Turnitin Feedback Studio.

What is the Turnitin Feedback Studio?

The Feedback Studio replaces the Grademark and Originality features used when marking work and combines them into a single set of features accessed from a simple menu when viewing a student’s paper. It retains all of the tools that were previously available to you to provide feedback or check originality. These can now be used via a set of ‘Instructor Feedback’ and ‘Similarity’ buttons that you can choose to enable using the new Layers feature.

The Turnitin Feedback Studio has been designed to provide a simple and clear interface for you to check originality and mark online. Turnitin is still accessed in the same way and there is no change to the design of the assignment Inbox.

The Feedback Studio lets you and your students have immediate access to the information and the tools needed for an efficient marking and feedback process. Navigation has been improved in the Turnitin Feedback Studio, allowing you to more easily annotate work with comments, and to switch between features and student papers whilst marking.

For full details go to https://guides.turnitin.com/01_Manuals_and_Guides/Turnitin_Feedback_Studio_Success_Kit/Instructor_User_Guide

 

The new interface has been put in place for the 2016-17 academic year. It replaces the previous Document Viewer (now referred to as ‘Turnitin Classic’).

The new ‘Feedback Studio’ interface will display by default to both staff and students. However, any user has the option to switch back to ‘Turnitin Classic’ up until the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

Turnitin Feedback Studio does not alter the way Turnitin integrates with Blackboard – it does not require any changes to the way you create Turnitin assignments, or the way students submit their work or gain access to their feedback.

Where can I get help?

Getting started

The first time you access the Feedback Studio you will be offered a quick tour of the new interface, which may well be enough to get you started.

Welcome to the Feedback Studio

The Turnitin website has some really good help resources:

Turnitin Feedback Studio – Instructor User Guide

Interactive Feedback Studio demo – site where you can try out how the new interface works.

Video comparison of Feedback Studio and Turnitin Classic – highlighting the key changes.

 

We have also prepared some quick reference guides to the new interface:

Turnitin Feedback Studio: Finding your way around the new interface

Overview of the Feedback Studio – explanation of the key features all on one screen

Turnitin Feedback Studio overview

 

Help for students

The following guidance is available for students:

Turnitin Feedback Studio – Student User Guide (Turnitin website)

Turnitin Feedback Studio – student guide

Student guide to accessing feedback in Turnitin Feedback Studio

 

Not ready to use the new interface?

If you are currently using Turnitin  to mark student work, you should find the new interface fairly intuitive.

But, if you prefer, you can take advantage of this button at the bottom of the screen:

return to Turnitin Classic

That will restore the familiar version.

You can then try out the new version at a later date, when it is more convenient for you to do so.

 

For more help with using Turnitin for originality checking, e-submission, e-marking and feedback, please see the Turnitin pages in the Support section of this blog.

Uploading and embedding audio and video files into your Blackboard course

The TEL team generally recommend Google Chrome as the browser which provides the most satisfactory performance with Blackboard. During the last year, however, Google introduced changes which made it impossible to play certain types of media file in Chrome. In addition, there is a Known Issue in Blackboard which causes MP3 audio files to start playing automatically in Google Chrome, even when the auto-start option has been deselected.

The latest Blackboard release, now installed on our system, gets round these issues by enabling audio and video files to be embedded as HTML5 elements.

This change means that

  • MP3 audio files uploaded to Blackboard can be played in any Internet Browser.
  • MP4 video files uploaded to Blackboard can be played in any Internet Browser.

Our guide Uploading and embedding audio and video files into your Blackboard course provides details on how to use the new HTML5 Audio and HTML5 Video options to upload and embed media files, so that they can be played in any browser, on any device.

embedded audio file

embedded video file

 

Please note

  • The new functionality is available only for newly-created audio and video links in Blackboard. The guide suggests how you can deal with previously-uploaded media content to take advantage of the new functionality.
  • Other file types (Ogg, WAV and WebM) are also supported by the HTML5 tools, but MP3 and MP4 are the only types playable in all of the main Internet Browsers.
  • Windows Media files (wma and wmv) are not supported, and should be avoided when uploading media content to Blackboard.
  • We also have guides to help you embed video content from sites such as YouTube into your Blackboard course: