What's New for Fall 2013
When you log in to the updated version for the first time, you will encounter an informational overlay screen that you have to click on "Close" to clear. It only appears on your first post-upgrade login.
Now you will land in the My Courses page, rather than in the My Blackboard page you may have been accustomed to. If there are modules in the My Blackboard page you use frequently, and you do not want to have to click into it every time you log on, just use the Add Module button to add them to the My Courses page.
- Global Navigation refers to the new set of links that appears at the very top right of the Blackboard Learn frame. Access points to critical academic information are organized in one place to provide a consistent, quick, and easy way to find information. New components of global navigation include:
- Access to settings that previously were accessed through My Places. My Places has been eliminated. Home and Help links reside here.
- Icons and links to various areas of Blackboard. It aggregates and provides access to all your Blackboard Learn information through a navigation panel that quickly connects to different tools in the system, with icons signaling the presence of new information, such as new messages and new posts.
- Course-to-Course Navigation is a new feature that allows students and instructors to jump from course to course while retaining the context of the page or task of the course they are jumping out of. For example, if you are working in the Grade Center of a course and jump to another course, you will land in its Grade Center.
- New Content Editor: The newly designed Content (WYSIWYG) Editor vastly improves the user experience for adding text and other forms of digital content to Blackboard Learn. Pasting from MS Word is no longer problematic. The new Content Editor is based on the industry standard TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor.
- Video Everywhere is a feature of the new Content Editor providing faculty and students with the ability to record video on the fly using a webcam and have it seamlessly embedded in course materials, interactions, and feedback through the content editor. Reuse previously recorded videos by choosing from one’s own “library” of videos -- the videos are created and managed through an integration with YouTube. Undergraduate students may use their Princeton Google accounts for YouTube; all others must use personal YouTube accounts for now. Watch a brief YouTube video about Video Everywhere.
Calendar Significantly Enhanced
Blackboard finally has a usable Calendar.
- Export to Google and Outlook: External calendars can subscribe to events created on the Blackboard Learn calendar through an iCal feed.
- Schedule Course Events and Assignments: Instructors can use the calendar course tool as a primary way of managing and communicating the schedule of events and assignments in the course. Calendar supports due dates, if set, for gradable items. Clicking on Calendar items allows an instructor to view or edit the item, or grade attempts on the associated item.
- Consolidated, Color Coded View: When accessed from My Blackboard or the Tools menu on the My Institution tab, the calendar displays a consolidated view of all institution, course, organization, and personal calendar events for a user. Calendar events are color coded by course.
- Filtering: Students can use filtering options to selectively view only course level items. They can then click on an item to view item details, and if supported, create an attempt against the item.
See a brief YouTube video about Calendar enhancements.
- Automated Regrading: Instructors can now fix problematic questions in assessments by simply editing the invalid question directly and have all necessary updates flow automatically to the Grade Center. For any assessment question, Instructors can drop, give full credit, change point value, or change which answer is marked as correct. After the question has been updated, Blackboard Learn recalculates the score of all submitted assessments that included the updated question, reflects the updates in the Grade Center, and provides notification to both the Instructor and optionally to the Student for all impacted submissions.
- Negative Marking allows Instructors to apply negative point values for incorrect answers on assessment questions.
- Assessment Item Analysis provides statistics on overall test performance and on individual test questions. This data helps instructors recognize questions that might not adequately discriminate between students who understand the material and those who do not. Instructors can use this information to improve questions for future tests or to adjust credit on current attempts. Ineffective or misleading question can be easily identified, corrected in the Test Canvas, and re-graded automatically.
- Assessment Fill-in-the-Blank Question Enhancement: Fill-in-the-Blank and Fill-in-Multiple Blanks questions now offer "contains" and pattern match (using regular expressions) as grading options for answers. Instructors no longer have to rely only on exact match for grading and manually enter every possible correct answer. Instructors can also make the answers case sensitive.
- Rubric Update: Rubrics now include percentage range along with points range.
Discussion Board Improvements
Discussions have been updated in two primary ways. The “Thread Detail” page has been thoroughly redesigned while maintaining all of its current functionality. Also, new functionality has been added to support specific pedagogical needs for the use of discussions. Selected highlights include:
- All Posts on One Page and Instructor Highlighting - all of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page. Posts now also contain the users’ course role and forum role.
- Inline Replies - when replying to a post, the content editor used to write a response appears on the same page, as opposed to a separate page, so it can be viewed in the context of the discussion.
- Post First Discussions – This setting allows instructors to require students to post to a discussion before seeing other students’ posts.
See a brief YouTube Video about Discussion Board Improvements.
WordPress Blog Integration
While the native Blackboard blogs are easy to use and integrate with the Grade Center, they lack the functionality, extendability, and customizability that WordPress blogs offer. WordPress blog set-up is automated by the instructor clicking the "Blogs (WordPress)" link in the Tools area of the course. These blogs are private, with access limited to course membership.
Piazza 1-Click Integration
A Piazza site can now be created for your course simply by going to Tools in your Blackboard course menu and clicking the Piazza link.
Piazza is the free online gathering place where students can ask, answer, and explore 24/7, under the guidance of their instructors. Students as well as instructors can answer questions, fueling a healthy, collaborative discussion.
While not affiliated with the University, many Princeton instructors are finding Piazza an interesting alternative to the native discussion board in Blackboard.