Listed below is an overview of the primary new features that faculty and TAs will find in Blackboard version 7.1. Information concerning the new features and tools in Blackboard 7.1 is also available in the form of this 15 minute multimedia presentation and accompanying handout (pdf). A list of other helpful links is also available by visiting Additional Resources and clicking Links page (Links to Additional Blackboard Resources).
In version 7.1, users will notice a new appearance to the discussion board. Upon first glance when entering the discussion board area of the course, users will see a robust search engine has been added to the top of the list of fora along with data regarding the number of total posts, unread posts, and total unique participants in each forum. Just as in previous versions of the discussion board, faculty and staff have the ability to modify, manage, remove, and copy each individual discussion forum. And, as in the past, clicking on the title of the forum enters the forum.
The view within the forum looks somewhat different from previous versions, as discussion threads are now separated rather than each being expandable or collapsible from the forum view. The reader has much more control now over how he or she wishes to view the threads, sort them, as well as search within them. As is currently the case, clicking the title of a thread allows the one to read that thread, including the initial message and all subsequent replies.
The thread detail view of a discussion includes not only a search box at the top, but also a box displaying the structure of the entire thread along with another box below that displays the substance of the individual posting currently selected. Notice the three little buttons outlined in red. The first, with the down arrow, allows for the reordering of the thread view and individual posting boxes, so that in effect the view of all threads to be moved below the posting box if the user desires. There other two buttons next to the down arrow allow for the thread view box to be either minimized or maximized. This affords the reader with many new ways in which to customize their discussion experience based upon their personal interface preferences.
Discussion fora can now be graded either by forum or thread. The process for grading a forum simply involves checking the appropropriate box selecting whether to grade by forum or thread either when creating or modifying the discussion forum. Enabling grading allows those with the either Faculty Member, teaching assistant, grader or manager forum roles to grade discussion postings.
The forum manager role is assigned by default to the faculty member for the course or leader of the community. Forum managers can choose to moderate the forum personally or delegate the forum moderator role to another user in the course. If a moderated forum is desired, working much like a moderated listserv, this can be enabled by choosing the option to force moderation in forum settings when creating or modifying a forum. When this option is enabled, the manager or moderator must review posts and decide whether to accept them or not.
Group discussion board members can now create new threads in the group discussion board by default without the Faculty Member having to create a forum or thread first.
As a way of peer review, when this new feature is enabled by the faculty member in forum settings, users can then assign a scaled rating to posts.
Statistics of user forum participation such as total posts, date of last post and average post length are now available in the Performance Dashboard. These statistics can be accessed by faculty or TAs in the Control Panel by clicking on the number indicating average post position in the “discussion board” column. The resulting page will display the list of each forum that the individual has posted to, total number of posts for each forum, date of last post, and average post length, minimum post length, and maximum post length. Also displayed within the discussion board area of the Performance Dashboard for a user is the average post position for each forum. A 1 indicates that the user posted on average top-level threads, a 2 would indicate responses to top level threads, etc.
Faculty members can allow forum users to subscribe to threads. A notification email to the email address stored in Blackboard is sent to the user when a new post has been added to the thread.
Blackboard has also enhanced other already existing features in the new version:
Feedback options are now ungrouped so that any combination of them may be displayed to students upon completion of an assessment.
Assessment submission reports now include first name, last name, course name, username, course ID, name of the assessment and date/time of the submission, serving as verification of assessment completion for the student.
Faculty members and TAs can now mark questions as 'extra credit only' when creating tests. The total number of possible points for the test will not include extra credit points. These points will be added if the question is answered correctly but not deducted if the questions is answered incorrectly.
Assessments can now be configured in order to allow a student to take an assessment for an unlimited or specified number of attempts. In the Gradebook all attempts will be displayed and the faculty member or TA can choose to grade by last attempt, first attempt, highest score, lowest score or average score. It is also possible to clear the last, first, highest or lowest attempts or all attempts within a certain date range, either for each student individually or for a specific assessment item for all users. The newly added override field allows for overriding a student's assessment score.
Assessments can now be used for self-assessment purposes without figuring the results into the gradebook final score calculations. The faculty member or TA can choose to view test results as well as allow the student to view them or only permit the student to view results.
Faculty members and TAs can now disable the display of the Average Score for tests and quizzes. Average Score Display option can be disabled under Gradebook click Gradebook Settings and then click Column Settings. When it's disabled, students will see only how they scored in a test and the average class grade won't be displayed.
Tests and surveys can now be exported from Blackboard individually as well as imported individually into a specific course section. In the past, only question pools could be individually exported.
When downloading test results and grades, faculty and TAs can now choose whether they want the output in a comma delimited or tab delimited file. Both file formats will work with most spreadsheet applications, but the way they are handled is different. It is recommended that faculty choose the tab delimited format. This way the file can be opened with Microsoft Excel simply by double-clicking on it. When the comma delimited file is selected, however, it will have to be imported into the Excel spreadsheet.
When downloading test results, faculty and TAs can now choose to format results either by user or by question and user. And they can download only valid attempts or all attempts. Downloading only valid attempts will only use the attempt that is being graded. For example, if the grading option is Last attempt then only the last attempt will be provided. If the Grading option is Average, all attempts will be provided.
The visual text box editor has been completely rebuilt and includes a variety of new functions and features.
The visual text box editor is now available to users with the following browser versions but not their older versions (the standard options for entering text will appear for those):
MathML is an XML-based language to encode mathematics for inclusion in web pages. MathML forms the basis of WebEQ, the Math and Science Notation Tool in Blackboard, which allows faculty members to use mathematical and scientific notation and equations in assessments and other Blackboard content.
With the new enhanced Visual Text Box Editor, an inserted equation will now have a place holder in the body of the editor for easy access and modification. By simply selecting the place holder and clicking the WebEQ icon in the Visual Text Box Editor, it is possible to then compose an equation for insertion into Blackboard. When launching WebEQ, users may at times be prompted to trust an applet provided by the maker of WebEQ. By clicking "always" and the window will no longer appear in susequent uses of WebEQ that your computer.
In MathML users can now also use white space (spaces, tabs, new lines) in the editor without affecting the equation.
Last Updated: 09/05/2007