New Features in Blackboard Learn

What's New in Service Pack 14 - View the Video

Listed below is an overview of the primary new features that faculty and TAs will find in Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 12 and 14 (SP14). We anticipate that Blackboard at NIU will be upgraded from release 9.1 SP11 to 9.1 SP14 in May 2014.

The written documentation on this page comes from the Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP12 and SP14 Feature Guides for End Users provided by Blackboard. Additional manuals, quick guides, and tutorials developed by Blackboard are also available in addition to workshops from the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

Quick Links

New Feature for All Users

The Quick Links tool will help significantly improve the navigation experience for sighted, keyboard-only users. This tool can be quickly accessed on any page using a link at the very top of the page or a keyboard shortcut (Control+Alt+L). It will aggregate a list of all of the landmarks and headings on a page and allow a user to select one and jump directly to that location within the page. It will also collect and highlight any keyboard shortcuts that exist for the current page or tool, providing another method for quickly completing key tasks within the application.

Quick Links

Test Enhancements

Feature Enhancement for Educators

Tests in Blackboard Learn have been updated in response to enhancement requests. These enhancements make specific improvements to how tests are designed and deployed, and will help meet specific scenarios that frequently arise.

The process of creating or editing a Test within Learn has improved in this release. The first change makes it easier to create a new question in the desired location with respect to other questions that have already been created. Faculty can now add a question in the middle of the test exactly where they want it to go.

Add a question to a test

A new rule-based method for adding availability "exceptions" to tests has been added to the Test Options page. Using this new capability, faculty may select one or more groups or users, and make a number of exceptions to the already established delivery settings for other students. Specifically, the exceptions that can be made for users or groups are: Number of attempts, Time of test, Auto submit on/off, Availability start & end date and Force completion on/off.

Test Exceptions

Blackboard has also added a new event-based method for releasing test feedback with additional feedback options to provide faculty with more control over what kinds of feedback students can or can’t see. Events can be specified to trigger specific feedback settings.

Feedback Options


New Feature for All Users

The Achievements tool allows faculty and course designers to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both Badges and Certificates. Students can see which rewards they've earned and what is required of them to receive additional rewards, providing insight into learning progression toward defined competencies. Students are able to publish badges to the Mozilla Open Backpack, transporting evidence of their learning outside the LMS. Faculty can easily see which students have reached learning milestones.

Edit Achievement

Faculty Use

In this release, three Achievement types are supported:

  • Course Completion – The Certificate reward is required; an additional Badge is optional
  • Milestone – The reward can only be a Badge
  • Custom – Badges, Certificates, or both are allowed

Faculty can apply various rules in order to set the criteria for badge and certificate attainment. They can also see all of the Achievements defined in the course. To the right of the Achievements, a count of recipients for each of the Achievements appears. An instructor can click on each of these to see details about those students who have earned each of the Achievements.

Faculty View of Achievements

Student Use

Students can see earned Achievements as well as any unearned Achievements with the visibility enabled. They can also click on an Achievement to see information about the criteria for earning the Reward and their progress toward unearned Achievements.

Student View of Achievements

Achievement Requirements

For awarded Certificates, students can view and print the Certificate. For earned Badges, students can view the Badge details-and in cases of Badges that are allowed to be published to Mozilla, students can publish those Badges to their Mozilla Badge Backpacks.

Publish to Mozilla

Helix Media Library

New Feature for All Users

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.

Screenshot of Helix Media Library

Blackboard Collaborate

Feature Enhancement for Educators

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.

Screenshot of Blackboard Collaborate sessions

The settings for scheduling individual sessions are also streamlined. The settings are on a single page instead of spread across multiple tabs. Faculty can save their own default settings to make it easier to schedule subsequent sessions with the same configuration.

Screenshot of Session Creation page

Groups Management

Feature Enhancement for Educators

Group experiences are critical for fostering a more personal and engaging student experience in courses and organizations. Whether you have a large number of groups with many students or just a few small groups, creating and managing those groups in Blackboard Learn is easier than ever.

Creating Groups

It's simple to create groups in Courses and Organizations. With a new Add Users interface, shown below, Blackboard has made it very easy to choose the students you want to add to a group. Once a group is created, adding and removing members is just as easy.

Create Groups

Grade Center Smart Views

When you create a group, you can now simply click a button to create a Smart View in the Grade Center that corresponds to that group. A Smart View is a focused look at the Grade Center that is saved for continued use. You can also create and access a group's Smart View directly from the All Groups management page, seen below.

Group Menu

One Place to Manage Your Groups

The All Groups management page is a one-stop-shop for managing your groups. It provides bulk actions for deleting groups and creating Smart Views, quick actions on individual groups, and sortable columns. You can also view and manage tool availability for each group right from this page.

All Groups Page

On the All Users management page, below, you have a complete picture of group membership across all of your students. You can easily search and sort students to quickly view and manage their group memberships. You can view which groups each student belongs to, add users to groups, and delete users from groups - all from this page.

All Users Page

Importing and Exporting Groups

You can now also import and export groups and group memberships as well as view a history of import and export actions. For example, you can export a CSV (comma-separated value) file containing your existing groups and group members, reorganize as needed offline, and then import them. Or you may want to export groups from one course and import them into another course to replicate the same structure.

Import Groups

Date Management

New Feature for Educators

Date Management is a new utility that allows faculty to have the system automatically "shift" content and tool dates in a course in a highly efficient way. After the system makes this shift, the instructor is able to see all the dates in one place - due dates, adaptive release dates, test dates - they’re all pre-populated based on your previous course setup. And of course you'll be able to validate and tweak dates using a single user interface.

Date Management Review Edit Dates

And what if you decide to add a new lesson that will shift everything in your course? No problem. With the bulk move option, you can push the dates of multiple items at once.

Date Management Review Shift Items

Course Message Notifications

Feature Enhancement for All Users

Knowing what needs attention and/or needs to get done is essential for saving time and keeping educators and learners aware of what is most important. Notification Dashboards and My Blackboard keep them informed as to what is current and any alerts they should be aware of.

By adding messages to the Notifications framework, it's never been easier to stay on top of your communications. You can receive alerts via email, manage your preferences in terms of delivery, frequency and more. These notifications show up in a number of places including your What's New module and My Blackboard - so you’ll never miss another message again.

Course Messages

In summary, you can now:

  • View notifications for Course Messages as part of the "Updates" area in My Blackboard
  • View notifications for Course Messages as part of the "What's New" module, both on institutional module pages and on course module pages
  • View notifications for Course Messages via individual email
  • View notifications for Course Messages via daily email digest
  • Users can manage notification preferences for Course Messages
  • Admins can include Course Message notifications as part of notification cleanup
  • All of the above apply to Messages in Organizations as well as Courses

Inline Assignment Grading Updates

Feature Enhancement for Educators

Blackboard heard user feedback from when they first released this feature in March of 2013 and have added two enhancements, directly requested by faculty! The first adds a full screen view, allowing you to slide the sidebar out of the way and maximize the converted document, so you'll have plenty of room for commenting and annotating.

Inline Grading Full Screen View

Second, the new assignment grading sidebar design has been added to all the other tools where we support inline grading (such as Blogs, Journals, Wikis, and Discussion Boards). This creates a more consistent and user-friendly grading experience for you.

Inline Grading for a Discussion Board

Test IP Address Filtering

New Feature for All Users

With IP Address Filtering you can now restrict student access to tests by indicating a specific location during the set-up process, like a proctored testing center or computer lab.

Test Location Filtering

Administrators can set up a range of IP addresses or you can do this yourself. Once this is complete, students must access the test from a computer within the specified IP range in order to begin the attempt.

Test IP Address Filtering

There may be situations where you need to make an exception for a student or group of students to allow them to take the test from someplace outside of the specified location or to only restrict a select group. When this is the case, you can use Test Availability Exceptions.

Test IP Address Exceptions

If a student tries to access the test outside the specified location, they will get a pop up warning, directing them to the right place.

Location Restricted Warning

Grade Center Improvements

Feature Enhancements for Educators

Blackboard understands how much time faculty spend in the Grade Center, and how critical it is that your workflow be as easy and seamless as possible. Therefore, there are several improvements to the Grade Center in this release.

My Grades Ordering and Design Update

Based on your feedback, the My Grades page for students has been redesigned. Now students can control the presentation of scores – by last activity, due date or Grade Center alignment. Other improvements make this view easy on the eyes and easy to comprehend including:

  • New Order By option in the top-right
  • The All, Graded, Upcoming, and Submitted filters allow the student to narrow down the number of rows they see
  • The text size and row spacing have been reduced, resulting in more information being displayed on the page at once
  • Feedback is included right in-line, so the student doesn't need to click on anything to view it - it just shows up on the page

My Grades

Test total points adjustment

You have more control over Grade Center fields that are auto-summed from tests. Faculty can adjust the total points possible while maintaining the integrity of the exam.

Column Information

Grading Schemas greater than 100%

Previously, the grading schema in the Grade Center had a maximum value of 100%. In this update, this is no longer the case and percentages can be greater than 100%

Column Information

Define "Score Attempts Using" setting from the "Options" page

This is a basic workflow improvement to ensure that faculty know about and can easily find this setting for tools that support multiple attempts.

The written documentation on this page comes from the Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP12 and SP14 Feature Guides for End Users provided by Blackboard. Additional 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: 3/30/2016