Blackboard Upgrade on August 11, 2014

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On Monday, August 11, 2014, Palomar’s Blackboard system will be upgraded to release version 9.1.201404.160205, known as the April 2014 release. This process is set to begin August 11, 2014 at 12:30 AM Pacific time and is expected to take around 12 to 16 hours to complete, but as always we will get the system available to users again as soon as possible.

Should there be anything worthy of note that crops up during the actual upgrade, I’ll be sure to post something on the PalomarATRC Twitter feed, so look there for updates.

The major instructor-focused changes in this new version are:

  • Anonymous and Delegated Grading – Blackboard has implemented a robust Anonymous Grading feature to add another layer of fairness and impartiality to Grading capabilities. Without knowing who submitted the assignment, a Grader is not influenced by a student’s previous performance, class participation, conflicts, race, gender, or perceived student aptitude. Delegated Grading promotes reliability and removes bias by using grades and feedback from more than one Grader. These features may be used together or individually to meet grading requirements.

David says: Since Palomar doesn’t have Graders in your courses, the delegated grading function isn’t significant. But the true anonymous grading function may be useful… if you can get your students to NOT put their names on their papers.

  • Assessments: Significant Figures – Blackboard has improved Calculated Formula Questions by adding the ability to define the significant figures required and used in the creation of answers and the automated grading process.

David says: The Calculated Formula question type is exceptionally niche. However, if you’re using that question type in your tests, you’re doing the happy dance right now.

  • SafeAssign – Blackboard has enhanced the SafeAssign service to provide a more seamless integration with native Blackboard Learn Assignments and updated the SafeAssign Originality Report interface. With this update, the SafeAssignment content type is removed from the content areas, and SafeAssign becomes an additional feature available when creating native Blackboard Learn Assignments. All Blackboard Learn Assignment features are available in tandem with SafeAssign services with the exception of Portfolio submissions to Blackboard Learn Assignments.

David says: Finally! Now the plagiarism detection functions of SafeAssign are integrated with the regular Assignment tool. I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time now. Want to see this from the instructor point-of-view?

  • Student Preview – The new Student Preview feature provides the capability for an instructor to see the course exactly as a student would see it. It accomplishes this by allowing the Instructor to easily transition into and out of a system-managed preview account that is automatically enrolled in the course as a student. This provides all the advantages of a “dummy” account while absolving the instructor and System Administrator of the management overhead.

David says: Since 2005 I’ve been telling faculty that they have a second account, which is a student in all their courses. But soon I’ll be able to get rid of that second account… because this Student Preview function is wonderful. Want to see this in action?

Finally, because I keep hearing confusion regarding our fate with Blackboard Managed Hosting, let me try to clarify things: Palomar’s Blackboard system is now physically located in Chantilly, Virginia, but the support staff you deal with are still exactly the same. Chris Norcross, Shay Phillips, and I will continue to serve your Blackboard support needs moving into the future. So if you have any problems, just open a ticket on the ATRC Helpdesk.