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 82% of teaching faculty using the system during Fall 2012. 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 next upgrade to Blackboard Learn at NIU scheduled for June 8, 2013 will provide an even more user friendly and modern experience for students and faculty alike. Educators and students were in fact the driving force behind the development of the latest release, with nearly nearly 640 institutions, including NIU, as well as over 600 educators and nearly 600 students contributing to the development process. This has made Blackboard Learn simply better for educators and students.
Many existing features have been improved and some exciting new features added to make the user experience more efficient. The following is a quick overview of the tools that you can expect to be using soon.
The new Content Editor vastly improves the user experience for formatting text, pasting content from Microsoft Word, and adding content to all areas of Blackboard. Simply bring your course materials to life. Blackboard has also replaced the old math editor with a new mathML equation editor.
Item Analysis provides statistics on overall test performance and on individual test questions. This data helps faculty recognize questions that might not adequately discriminate between students who understand the material and those who do not. Faculty can use this information to improve questions for future tests or to adjust credit on current attempts. Ineffective or misleading question are identified easily, corrected in the Test Canvas, and are re-graded automatically.
Fill-in-the-Blank and Fill-in-Multiple Blanks questions now offer contains and pattern match (using regular expressions) as grading options for answers. Faculty no longer have to rely only on exact match for grading and manually enter every possible correct answer. Faculty can also make the answers case sensitive.
My Blackboard aggregates information from across the Blackboard Learn system for users. Users access My Blackboard using the new Global Navigation Menu at the top of the screen. My Blackboard has a navigation panel that quickly connects to the new My Blackboard tools - Profile, Updates, People, and Posts - as well as courses, organizations, and settings. The tools users have access to depend on whether Blackboard Cloud Settings are enabled, and whether the institution licenses Community Engagement capabilities.
Global Navigation refers to the set of links that appears at the very top right of the Blackboard Learn frame. This set of links has been streamlined and becomes the entry point to My Blackboard and social learning tools. Access points to critical academic information are organized in one place to provide a consistent, quick, and easy way to find information.
Inline Assignment Grading is a revision to the workflow for grading Assignments in Blackboard Learn. Instead of requiring Instructors to download student-submitted files to view or edit those submissions, Instructors will now be able to view student-submitted files “inline,” i.e. in the web browser, without requiring any plugins, applets, or client-side applications. Additionally, annotation tools will be made available as part of the inline viewer, enabling Instructors to provide feedback including comments, highlights, and even drawings/annotations directly on the inline view of the document.
The Retention Center provides an easy-to-use data visualization and pre-configured rules for identifying at-risk students in a course. Because it requires no set up on the part of the instructor or administrator, it automatically calls out students who may need the instructor’s attention, making it easy for instructors to catch and respond to risk factors quickly, while there is time to help the at-risk students succeed in the course.
A new and improved Calendar significantly enhances the Calendar features in Blackboard Learn. Students and instructors can view items that are past due, due today, or due this week by navigating to the overview capability in My Blackboard.
Calendar events are color coded to indicate which place/entity they are associated. Easily add calendar events by clicking on a date and adding an item. Items with due dates automatically appear on the calendar. Faculty can move calendar events by dragging and dropping them to a new date. The due date on the associated item is automatically updated. Users can click through calendar events directly to the associated item.
For a complete listing of new features coming in Blackboard 9.1 SP10/11, visit www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade/features.shtml
Last Updated: 4/1/2013