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Blackboard Release 8.0

New Features in Blackboard 8.0

Listed below is an overview of the primary new features that faculty and TAs will find in Blackboard version 8.0 along with details of additional features in the form of building blocks that have been added to the system to extend its capabilities. Blackboard was upgraded from version 7.3 to 8.0 on May 23-24, 2009.

The written documentation on this page comes from the Blackboard Academic Suite 8.0 Release Notes, the Blackboard Content System User Manual for Release 8.0, the Blackboard Academic Suite User Manual for Release 8.0, the Blackboard Sync Wiki, and Wimba Pronto Website.

Grade Center

Content Collection

Self and Peer Assessment

Blackboard Sync

Instant Messaging

Grade Center

Grade Center Capabilities

Amost entirely redesigned, and newly named, the Grade Center exhibits new capabilities and vast improvements over the previous Gradebook. Some of the new features or improvement include the following:

  • A redesigned tool bar, titled the Action Bar, through which multiple functions are possible
  • The ability to create and print Reports, such as final grades, to hand out to students or other interested parties
  • Inline editing: the ability to enter grades directly through the Grade Center spreadsheet
  • New grade calculations, Average grade and Minimum/Maximum grade, and improvements to the creation of Weighted grades and Total points grades
  • Smart Views - the ability to categorize students into groups based on selected criteria. These views can be displayed in the Grade Center.
  • A multitude of ways to customize the display of the Grade Center
  • The ability to create grading schema: multiple grading scales that match assessment grades to chosen grade displays, such as text and percent grades.
Grade Center

Settings and Display Options

Action links allow to view the contextual menu for a grade and perform selected action.

Action Links

Icon Legend provides convenient definitions of the icons used in the Grade Center.

Icon Legend

Interactive / Non-Interactive Views button allows to toggle between two display views. The Interactive view is the default view that allows inline editing of entries and freezing/unfreezing of columns. The Non-Interactive view displays the data in a simplified grid with no inline editing and no freezing/unfreezing of columns. This view is designed for accessibility: it is easy to navigate using only the keyboard and is accessible by screen readers.

Interactive / Non-Interactive Views

Grade Information Bar displays cell-specific information outside of the table, including Grade Type, Points Possible, and Grade Format.

Grade Information Bar

Inline editing allows to enter student grades right into the spreadsheet.

Inline Editing

Searching and Sorting

To facilitate seeing Grade Center data in different ways, faculty may sort all columns in the Grade Center based on the following criteria: categories, due date, creation date, points possible, and display name. Sorting results based on these criteria are not saved. Once the browser is closed, the view will switch back to its default view.

Sorting

Adding Calculated Columns

Add Calculated Column allows to calculate grades by combining multiple columns. Faculty can choose to have these columns displayed to the students or hidden from their view. Columns can be calculated based on the Weighted Grade, Avarage of Grades, Total, or Minimum/Maximum. A Weighted Grade is a Calculated Column that displays the calculated result of quantities and their respective percentages. A Minimum or Maximum Grade column displays either the minimum or maximum grade for a selection of columns. An Average Grade column diplays the average for any number of quantities. Faculty can choose to display average of all grade columns, average of columns in a graded period, or average of selected columns or categories.

Adding Calculated Column

Smart Views

Smart Views are views of the Grade Center based on a variety of student criteria. Views can be created based on performance criteria for gradable items such as Assessments or Assignments. There are four different types of smart views that specify the student information.

Smart Views

The Group view allows faculty to select a group which was created in the course. The Benchmark view allows faculty to select students based on performance on a single gradable item such as a mid-term. The Focus view enables to select individual students. Investigate is a combination of the other three views. It allows to select from a full list of student attributes and specify multiple search criteria. Smart Views give faculty a comparison of grades for majors, non-majors, or at risk students. Here's an example of a group view:

Smart View Example

Freezing Columns

The Organize Grade Center page aids in configuring the Grade Center display. The Grade Center display can be customized to free or unfreeze columns. If a column is frozen, when scrolling through the Grade Center view, that column will remain stationary. The columns containing students' first and last names are frozen by default. Frozen columns remain in position on the left side of the Grade Center while the rest of the columns can be srolled through. This feature can be used, for example, to easily match up individual students with their date across the length of the Grade Center. Faculty can freeze and unfreeze any of the columns.

Freezing Columns

Grading Periods

Grading periods are time segments which can be created by faculty to help manage the Grade Center. Grading periods can be defined as Terms, Semesters, Quarters, Years, and so on, and can have date ranges that further define them. Grading perionds are not created by default; they must be defined by faculty.

Grading Period

Defining Grading Periods and associating Grade Center columns to a Grading Period allows faculty to effectively organize and report the Grade Center date. Grade Center can be filtered by Grading Periods to display only columns in the segment, for example the first half of the semester.

Grading periods can also be used to view the performance of students in a certain Grading period, create a report that displays the performance for a grading period, calculate a grade column for a grading period. Grade Center items cannot be associated with more than one grading period.

Viewing Grades for a Grading Period

Showing / Hiding Users and Columns

Users can be hidden from the Grade Center view, reducing the number of rows in the grid. Hidden users are not removed from the Grade Center and can be revealed at any time. Users that are hidden will appear grayed out on the Users page and will not appear in the Grade Center view.

Hiding Users

Additionally, individual columns can be hidden from the view in the Grade Center. If an assessment column is hidden from the Grade Center view, students can still view their grades for that assessment.

Hiding Columns

Generating Reports

Faculty can create printable Reports for the courses they teach. A report can function as a progress report for students. It can be customized to contain grades from a certain grading period or grades for a specific group of students. Additionally, reports can display select columns, calculated columns or all columns in the Grade Center. Reports can be customized to include a header and a footer, a signature line, date, and Course Information. Reports display data for one student per page.

Generating Reports

Sending Email From the Grade Center

Faculty can communicate using Email with students directly from the Grade Center. This form of direct contact allows instructors to actively communicate with relevant parties while engaged in grading in the Grade Center. Such immediate feedback can quickly lead to intervention, if required, promoting positive outcomes for students.

Sending Email From the Grade Center

Adding Comments to a Grade

Adding comments to a grade provides a way that faculty can give additional feedback to students on their performance. It is also a way to expand on grading decisions or take notes for future reference or to share with other faculty or TAs.

Adding Comments to a Grade

Exempting a Grade / Dropping the Lowest Grade

Students can be exempted from a grade from the Grade Center page or the Grade Details page. When a grade has been exempted, it will display an exempted icon in the cell of the exempted grade. Comments can be added to any exempted grade. Faculty can drop students' lowest grade by selecting that grade to be exempted.

Exempting a Grade

Grade History and Reverting a Grade

Grades that have been overriden can be reverted to clear a previously entered override and then display the appropriate attempt if one exists.

Reverting a Grade

The Grade History page in the Grade Center acts like a log file that records all of the changes that occur to grades within a course. The Grade History page displays all the data for grade submissions within a set date range. It is possible to manipulate the view and export the information.

Grade History

Click here for more details about the new Grade Center in Blackboard 8.0



Content Collection

Collaboration (Workflow)

New to the Blackboard Content System is the Collaboration page. Through this page it is possible to create, initiate, and manage Workflows. A Workflow is a chronological collection of tasks that comprise a business process, an Assignment, or a collaboration project. Now, all faculty can create multi-stage Workflows, thereby creating tasks, defining task order, and managing the Workflow.

Collaboration (Workflow)

Portfolios

Portfolios are an invaluable tool in academic and professional development, providing a powerful medium for users to efficiently collect and organize artifacts representative of work completed over time. Portfolios offer a means to demostrate formative and/or summative progress and achievement. The new features in Blackboard 8.0 Content Collection allow faculty to create their personal portfolios, organize artifacts, and also view portfolios that have been shared by others. Students will receive access to the new Portfolios tool after ITS finishes a hardware upgrade anticipated during Summer 2009.

Portfolios

Notifications

Users can subsribe to a directory to receive notification that items were added or that certain items were modified (such as permission or metadata changes). Users must have Manage permissions on the item to subscribe.

Notifications



Self and Peer Assessment

Self and Peer Assessment Capabilities

One of the key skills that educational institutions want their students to develop is the ability to assess their own work and that of their colleagues. The Self and Peer Assessment tool allows faculty to create an exercise, composed of one or more questions, each with one or more criteria to be presented to the students for completion and assessment.

The Self and Peer Assessment Tool is designed to enhance the reflective learning skills of students. Reviewing the work of colleagues through criterion-based reference evaluation promotes constructive feedback. The constructive feedback that students receive from their peers can provide valuable insights into their own effors.

Self and Peer Assessment

Assessments can be precisely scheduled to allow the proper time for the submission and evaluation process to be completed; including the time to access any content items associated with the assessment. Faculty have the option of using Self and Anonymous evaluations. These optons may provide a comfort level that can result in more candid assessments and evaluations. They may also impact the integrity of the assessment process; care must be exercised in their use.

Self and Peer Assessment

Click here for more details about the new Self and Peer Assessment features in Blackboard 8.0



Blackboard Sync

Blackboard Sync is a building block to Blackboard that lets users receive notifications of changes and updates to their Blackboard courses and communities in external services and devices. There are currently two applications available for end users that NIU is testing and anticipates making available to users when Blackboard is upgraded to version 8.0. Once enabled in Blackboard version 8.0, both applications will be available after logging into Blackboard by clicking on the link for "Blackboard Sync." A screen will then appear with links to either install the Facebook or iPhone/iPod Touch applications.

Blackboard Sync

Blackboard Learn for Facebook

Blackboard Learn for the Facebook Platform application lets users receive notifications of changes and updates to their Blackboard courses and communities in Facebook. Blackboard Sync provides the user with the following information about each of their Blackboard courses or communities:

  • Announcements
  • Notifications about new Materials & content posted
  • Notifications about new Forum posts
  • Notifications about new Grades
  • Rosters
  • Course Maps or Organization Maps

The Announcements and notifications will be kept for at least seven and up to thirty days, depending on the user's settings.

Except for Announcements, none of the actual content is pulled out of the Blackboard system. Users receive notifications about each new or updated piece of information, complete with a direct link to the item in their Blackboard course. So for example, if there is a new grade posted, Blackboard Sync will notify the student via the Blackboard Learn for Facebook application that there is a new grade posted, and provide a link to their View My Grades page in NIU's Blackboard system. The student will still need to navigate to Blackboard through their browser and authenticate into the system to see that grade. Similarly, assignments and other course materials, forum posts, etc. are not transmitted to the end-user apps; just notifications about them.

Facebook

Blackboard Learn for iPhone and iPod Touch

Blackboard Learn for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch is an application that lets users receive notifications of changes and updates to their Blackboard courses and organizations in their iPhone or iPod touch mobile device. These include updates on new Assignments, Course Content, Study Group updates, Community Discussions, even Grades. Currently this application is only available in English and is available for download through the Apple iTunes App Store.

Once installing from the Apple iTunes App store, users will log in to Blackboard system as normal. On the main page, they will click Blackboard Sync in the Tools Panel on the left. Then, following the instructions, they will be issued a PIN by NIU's Blackboard server. After entering this PIN when launching the Blackboard Learn application, Blackboard with sync with the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Similar to Blackboard Learn for Facebook, Blackboard Learn for iPhone and iPod Touch provides the user with the following information about each of their Blackboard courses or communities:

  • Announcements
  • Notifications about new Materials & content posted
  • Notifications about new Forum posts
  • Notifications about new Grades
  • Rosters
  • Course Maps or Organization Maps

The Announcements and notifications will be kept for at least seven and up to thirty days, depending on the user's settings.

Except for Announcements, none of the actual content is pulled out of the Blackboard system. Users receive notifications about each new or updated piece of information, complete with a direct link to the item in their Blackboard course. So for example, if there is a new grade posted, Blackboard Sync will notify the student via the Blackboard Learn for iPhone app that there is a new grade posted, and provide a link to their View My Grades page in NIU's Blackboard system. The student will still need to navigate to Blackboard through their browser and authenticate into the system to see that grade. Similarly, assignments and other course materials, forum posts, etc. are not transmitted to the end-user apps; just notifications about them.

iPhone



Instant Messaging Using Wimba Pronto

Wimba and Blackboard have partnered to give Blackboard users free access to Wimba Pronto Basic, the only instant messaging system designed for educators to advance and promote learning.

Unique features that benefit students andteachers, include:

  • Auto-Population of Courses, Organizations & Rosters
  • Text Chat
  • Group Chat
  • Presence Awareness
  • VoIP Conferencing (unlimited)
  • User Profiles: photo, contact information
  • Customizable availability status
  • Privacy Features: blocking and invisibility
  • Emoticons
  • Spanish Language Option
  • Meets Accessibility Guidelines

 

Pronto Basic

More details regarding Pronto will be added here later in Summer 2009.


The written documentation on this page comes from the Blackboard Academic Suite 8.0 Release Notes, the Blackboard Content System User Manual for Release 8.0, the Blackboard Academic Suite User Manual for Release 8.0, the Blackboard Sync Wiki, and Wimba Pronto Website.

Last Updated: 7/9/2009