January 2012 Blackboard Updates

Bb LogoJust after the New Year arrives, so will our next update to Palomar’s Blackboard system. The Blackboard system will be offline from 6 AM on January 3rd, possibly until 5 PM on January 6th. As always, the system will come back online as soon as it is ready, but you should be safe assuming a four-day outage window.

For those of you who version-watch, we will be upgrading from Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP6 to 9.1 SP7 HF1. What that means for the less version aware is that this update will consist of mostly bug fixes, and should not change the graphical user interface in any significant way.

Band Aid PatchMany of the fixes on the list for this update are security patches, which I am not going to bother listing (particularly since they are, without exception, incredibly esoteric and boring). However, there are a couple of bug fixes that bear mention, as these are bugs that have been reported here over the Fall:

  • Access Denied errors have been corrected in discussion boards, user management, and auto-saved assessments.

Some users would experience Access Denied error messages while navigating around in courses or taking tests. After several iterations of patches for this issue, Blackboard claims to have the problem licked.

  • Duplicate Grade Center categories are now allowed. They will not cause an error when attempting to manage categories in a course.

Remember how you can manage categories for your grade center columns? Well now, should your columns be duplicated, you won’t be utterly locked out of the column controls. Feel a little better about creating categories now.

  • Auto-submitted, auto-graded, timed assessments no longer display as “Needs Grading” after the first attempt is completed by a student. Since all questions were auto-graded, the assessment never needed any additional review from the instructor.

This is a biggie; previously the behavior of a test with auto-submit turned on at the time limit was to submit the answers for the test, but to mark the test attempt as “Needs Grading”, even if there was nothing for the instructor to actually grade. (The idea was to allow instructors to review the attempt that had gone over the time limit for the test attempt. The only problem was that the Auto Submit function made it so the student did not really go over the time limit. Looks like Blackboard realized how silly that behavior was, and they’ve now changed it.) Now, if a student test attempt is “picked up” automatically at the time limit, it will only show as needing grading if it actually needs grading.

And, since we’re on the topic of Blackboard tests, let me suggest a test design strategy: Separate out your objective and subjective questions into two different assessments. That way your objective test attempts will never end up with the Needs Grading icon, which is that much less overhead for an already stressed out professor to deal with, right?

As mentioned back up at the top of this article, these changes will be implemented on Palomar’s production Blackboard system in early January. If faculty want to get an advance look at this new Blackboard version, you are all welcome to use the Blackboard Sandbox environment to try things out. That system is updated to the 9.1 SP7 HF1 version already.