We will be taking the Blackboard system offline from June 3-6 in order to update it to the latest service pack and do other end-of-semester maintenance. When it comes back up, there will be several new or improved functional differences that David has blogged about in the past. Since Dave is on a well-earned vacation now, I would like to review what I think are the highlights of the “new” Blackboard. New and/or improved are the calendar tool, the discussion board (!), an inline grading tool, and a retention center to making it easy for professors to track and contact struggling students.
A Rebuilt Calendar
The Calendar in Blackboard Learn has been significantly enhanced:
My favorite feature of the new calendar is its ability to export ics files (an accumulation of all the events on the calendar) allowing me to import them into my Outlook calendar. 1
Click here for a full description of the new calendar tool.
A Redesigned Discussion Board
The Thread Detail page is thoroughly redesigned yet maintains all of its existing functions. Highlights include:
Click here for a full description of the redesigned discussion board.
This enhancement is very long overdue. The current Blackboard discussion board hasn’t changed in many years, and is far inferior to most other discussion board tools you see on the Internet. At long last we will have a modern DB tool.
Inline Grading of Assignments
This is the best innovation of the batch, and one teachers have been asking for.
Instructors can view student-submitted files “inline,” meaning in the web browser, without requiring any plug-ins, applets, or client-side applications. Additionally, annotations tools areavailable as part of the inline viewer, enabling Instructors to provide feedback – comments, highlights, and even drawing/annotation – directly on the inline view of the document.
- Zoom In and Out. This feature is also available to students when they view their submission.
- Comment – Shows a menu of all annotation tools.
- Download – Downloads a copy of the document. If annotations have been made, there is an option to download the copy in the orginal format or in a PDF version that includes the annotations. This feature is also available to students when they view their submission.
- Page Forward and Back buttons. This feature is also available to students when they view their submission.
- Show all annotations button
Click here for a full discussion of the new inline grading of assignments feature.
This is really an exciting development, giving Word-like review capabilities to professors grading papers in Blackboard.
The Retention Center
Blackboard has consolidated the underutilized performance dashboard and combined it with the also underutilized early warning system into a new Retention Center, a dashboard tool professors can use to easily track the progress of their students and take actions to retain at-risk students.
The Retention Center is an instructor-only tool that enables you to give focused attention to students who need it. It replaces the Early Warning System feature with easy workflows, while retaining all existing Early Warning System data and rules.
From the Retention Center, you can communicate with struggling students and help them take immediate action for improvement. 4
Click here for a full discussion of the Retention Center.
These four features are the major changes in the new version of Blackboard. In addition there will be bug fixes to long standing issues, like the YouTube and Slideshare mashup tools, and the availability status of discussion boards. We will also be introducing a new SIS integration model to fix problems we have been having with student enrollment timing. Some of the new features are already installed in the Blackboard sandbox environment, and the remainder will be installed there before they go live on the production Blackboard system in advance of summer classes.