Blackboard: 9.1 SP9

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In keeping with our efforts to help faculty prepare for changes in technology before they have to deal with it live in front of their students, we have upgraded the BbSandbox environment here at Palomar to the latest build out from the company, Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP9.

Being an odd-numbered service pack, the bulk of the changes in SP9 are of the “bug fix” and “security update” variety, which I won’t bother going into here. There are also some administrator-side improvements to the system, but as all three of Palomar’s Blackboard sysadmins are already aware of these… again that’s not for here. What is important to faculty are the couple changes made in the courses themselves:

  • Common Cartridge 1.2: Support for Common Cartridge 1.2 includes enhancements to allow inclusion of alignments to Curriculum Standards, as well as supporting assignments in both export and import.
  • Rubric Update: Rubrics now include percentage range along with points range.
  • Collapse Course Menu Behavior: In response to user confusion around the collapsing course menu behavior, the course menu has been modified to only retain its collapsed state for the duration of the user session and on a per-course basis.

The take-away point from this list is the change in behavior of the Course Menu collapse; this caused a good number of support tickets for us, and confused many a student, by causing them to not see the course menu at all. Now, even if someone manually hides the course menu in one course, it won’t hide the menu in all courses, and the menu will be expanded out again if they simply log out of the system and log back on.

In addition to these changes, there are updates to the client browser/OS matrix (the thing that tells us what browsers people can be using and still get support from the company):

  • Google Chrome® Stable Channel is certified on Mac® OSX 10.7. The tested version of Chrome is 19.
  • Apple Safari® 5.1 is certified on Mac® OSX 10.6 and Mac® OSX 10.7.
  • Firefox Final Release Channel is certified on Mac® OSX 10.7.  The tested version of Firefox is 12.

Although browser/OS information is dull, it’s also fairly important should your students run into trouble. The “big four” browsers are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari; the various browsers (and different versions even under the same browser name) can behave very differently. I can now make a whole-hearted browser recommendation though, when it comes to using Blackboard: Chrome or Firefox, either one, regardless of operating system. That way, you can continue to allow your browser versions to update automatically, but still be using a supported browser should you need to file a support ticket with us.

Now all of this is, frankly, dull. There is one additional change that is in place on BbSandbox now that it is at service pack 9, but it’s not something we can discuss in a public forum like this blog. (As in, we are under a non-disclosure agreement, so public chatter is not allowed.) So, Palomar faculty, look for an email from Academic Technology in the near future. THAT is going to be the biggest change coming to our production Blackboard environment prior to the start of Fall 2012, and we want to get your feedback on it.