May 2018 Blackboard Learn Upgrade

Posted: 4/13/2018

This May, NIU's instance of Blackboard Learn will be updated to the latest version and will be migrated from NIU's data center to Blackboard's cloud-hosted service. This move will reduce costs to the university and provide benefits typically associated with a more modern cloud architecture, such as zero or minimal downtime in future updates, and easy scalability during periods of high usage.

Very little will change with this update, despite the change in servers. All course materials and student data will be available following the move. Dates for the upgrade and required system outage are still being finalized, and will be communicated as soon as they are available.

The update will introduce a few new features and enhancements, like a new attendance tracking feature. In addition to the information below, you can learn more about these features and the upgrade, review frequently asked questions, or attend the What's New in Blackboard? workshop online on June 11 or August 14 from 12-1 CT to learn more.

Record Attendance in Blackboard Learn

With the new Attendance tool, you can mark whether a student is present, late, absent, or excused for each class meeting. The attendance records for each student appear in a single column in the Grade Center, instead of having a column for each session. On the Attendance page, profile pictures appear so you can easily identify students (if they have added a photo to their Blackboard Profile). You can use attendance as part of calculating grades just as you can for an assignment grade column.

blackboard attendance tracker

Learn more about the Attendance tool

Easily Check and Change Course Availability

Now it will be easier to determine if your course is available to students, and to change that with a single click. If you have the Instructor or teaching assistant role in a course, you will now see a lock icon in the upper right corner, near the Edit Mode and Student Preview icons. The lock icon is open when the course is available and closed when it isn't. You can toggle the course availability by clicking the icon, instead of using the Course Properties.

change course availability

Learn more about course availability

Students Receive Email Submission Receipts for Assignments

Introduced in our 2017 upgrade, Submission Receipts provide students with a confirmation number when they have submitted an Assignment. Now these receipts will also be sent to students via email so that they can be confident that their assignment was successfully submitted, and as evidence of submission, if necessary.

student submission receipt for an assignment

Learn more about submission receipts

Discussion Board Replies to Me

Keeping up with large Discussion Board forums is easier with a quick view of how many new and unread posts are replies to you for each discussion forum or thread. You can click the value to see the list of replies to your posts and stay up to date on the conversation.

discussion board replies to me

Learn more about Discussion Threads

Full Grade Center Column Names

More easily identify specific Grade Center columns by viewing the full name in the Grade Center. Now longer column names will wrap onto multiple lines, so that you can see the full column name. If your column headers are too tall, you can use the Grade Center name to override your view to a shorter column name, while students will still see the full name in My Grades.


Grade Center Cleanup

Quickly clean up multiple Grade Center columns at once on the Column Organization page. Simply select the columns using the checkbox and click the Delete button. Any manual or calculated columns you select will be removed completely. If you select any columns which are associated with a gradable item (such as an Assignment, Test, or Graded Discussion), any student submissions or posted grades will be deleted but the columns will remain in the Grade Center. You will need to delete the gradable item directly in the course to remove the columns. Naturally, you should use care when deleting columns in this way, as they cannot be recovered.

delete multiple grade center columns at once

Learn more about deleting multiple Grade Center columns

Learn More

Check out the full list of features, review frequently asked questions, or attend the What's New in Blackboard? workshop online on June 11 or August 14 from 12-1 CT to learn more.

Need Technical Assistance?

Call the IT Service Desk at 815.753.8100, email, or submit a ticket at

Need Assistance Teaching with Blackboard?

Call the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at 815.797.2477 or email

Keeping Current

Stay up-to-date with the latest news regarding teaching with Blackboard at NIU, by following @NIUBlackboard on Twitter