Blackboard Learn, the course management system utiilized by Northern Illinois University faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students, continues to be an important platform for facilitating teaching at learning at NIU, with over 97% of students and 85% of teaching faculty using the system during Fall 2013. Over the past several years, there have been significant upgrades implemented to the system which have added many new features as well as an improved overall user experience.
The upcoming upgrade will be completed over Memorial Day weekend, from 5:00 AM May 24 - 3:00 AM May 25, 2014 and will provide an even more user friendly and modern experience for students and faculty alike. An outage will be necessary to perform the upgrade, and details will be announced as they become available. In this upgrade, many existing features have been improved and some exciting new features added to make the user experience more accessible and efficient. The following is a quick overview of the tools that are now available.
The Quick Links tool significantly improves the navigation experience for keyboard-only users. This tool can be quickly accessed on any page using a link at the very top of the page, or by a keyboard shortcut (Control+Alt+L). It allows a user to select a landmark or heading on the page and jump directly to that location, and highlights keyboard shortcuts that exist for that page.
With the new Date Management tool, faculty will be able to have the system automatically "shift" content and tool dates in a course, after performing a course copy. After specifying a start date for the shift, the faculty member is able to see all the dates in one place - due dates, adaptive release dates, and test dates - to validate and tweak dates.
For further information see: Date Management
The Achievements tool makes it possible to add excitement and recognition to courses by offering badges and certificates for course progress. This new tool allows faculty and instructors to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both Badges and Certificates. Students can see which rewards they have earned and what is required of them to receive additional rewards. Furthermore, students have the option to publish badges to the Mozilla Open Backpack, which lets them display and promote their learning outside of Blackboard. Faculty can easily see which students have reached learning milestones.
For further information see: Achievements
In addition to the upgrade to Service Pack 14, this upgrade will also introduce the Helix Media Library. This is a separate service that is integrated into Blackboard to handle streaming video. Both faculty and students will have the ability to upload video to the server by using the Mashup tool in the visual text box editor from anywhere in Blackboard. The video is stored on a server owned by NIU and is optimized for playing video. The video is embedded directly in the course to make it easy for students to watch.
This update includes two new types of Blackboard Collaborate sessions: Course Rooms and My Room. The Course Room is a default room provided for every course that is available for the entire semester. You and your students can use this room at any time, without scheduling individual sessions. My Room is a default room provided to each instructor that is available for as long as you have an account at NIU. The room carries the faculty member's name and is accessible from any course where they have the role of Instructor and to all students in any of those courses.
This update also streamlines the settings for scheduling individual sessions. The settings are on a single page and faculty can save their own default settings to make it easier to schedule subsequent sessions
For further information see: Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing
The process of creating or editing a Test within Learn has improved. Faculty can now add a question in the middle of the test exactly where they want it to go. Plus, the Test Exceptions on the Test Options page allows faculty to select one or more groups or users to set exceptions to the delivery settings, such as number of attempts, timer, auto submit, availability dates, and force completion. Test feedback can be set up as events, so that students automatically see the correct feedback at the appropriate time.
For further information see: Tests and Quizzes
This update to Groups simplifies the process of creating and managing groups. Manage all course groups at once from the "All Groups" page, including deleting multiple groups at once, creating Grade Center Smart Views, and enabling or disabling Group Tools. Plus, on the Users page, group membership is now listed for each student.
For further information see: Groups
There are two updates to the Inline Grading view. For Assignments, a new full screen view minimizes the side bar to make it easier to focus on commenting and annotating. Second, the side bar design that is already available for Assignments is now available for Blogs, Journals, Wikis, and Discussion Boards, which creates a more consistent and user-friendly grading experience.
For further information see: Inline Assignment Grading
There are several small Grade Center enhancements that have a big impact. First, it will be possible to adjust the total points possible for a test, instead of being limited to the automatic total based on test questions. Second, grading schemas will now be able to interpret student grades higher than 100%. Finally, for tools that support multiple attempts (such as Assignments and Tests), the option for "Score Attempts Using" will be included on the options page when setting up a tool. For example, faculty will be prompted to determine which attempt to use for grading when creating an Assignemnt with multiple attempts, instead of changing this setting in the Grade Center after creating the Assignment.
For further information see: Grade Center
The My Grades page for students has been redesigned to include feedback in-line with grades, as well as to reduce text size and row spacing so that more information is displayed on the page at once. In addition, new ordering options will allow students to determine the order in which scores are presented - by last activity, due date, or the order established by their professor in the Grade Center. Filters will also allow students to narrow down the number of rows displayed according to whether items are "Graded", "Upcoming", or "Submitted".
For further information see: Checking Your Grades
For a complete listing of new features coming in Blackboard 9.1 SP14, visit www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade/features.shtml
Manuals, quick guides, and tutorials developed by Blackboard are also available in addition to workshops from the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.
Last Updated: 5/14/2014