We upgraded to Blackboard to version 9.1 Service Pack 11 in May. With this upgrade came a number of changes. The most noticeable but in some ways the most superficial, is the interface. Blackboard has modernized the interface and created a cleaner look. Yes, there are social aspects to the interface that are new but some of the most powerful changes are more than interface-deep.
Discussion Board – General improvements such as displaying all posts on one page. Profile images (if the user updates) are posted with individual posts, personalizing the discussion experience. Draft messages are flagged as such and listed with other posts, making it easier for students to see what messages they have saved and which have actually been submitted.
Inline Grading - Inline grading represents an improvement in the grading workflow for Assignments in Blackboard. You can still download, grade, and post comments as in the past or you can add comments to the documents the students post right in the Blackboard interface. Instructors have commenting tools, highlighters, drawing tools and text entry tools available to annotate students submissions, without having to download any files. Students can view comments via the My Grades tool.
Retention Center - Instructors have a dashboard on which to see whether students are missing deadlines, under-participating, not logging in, or are performing poorly. This tool is the old “Early Warning System” upgraded to have default rules that instructors can modify to better suit their needs.
Testing System improvements – Better adaptive release of tests. In past versions test option applied to all students. With the current release, instructors can tweak the options for individual student needs. For example, if you have one or more students with accommodations of extra time on an exam, the affected students can take the same exam as everyone else, except the time limit can be set to a different limit than for the rest of the class. No need to create multiple exams with multiple grade center columns. Another feature of interest, test regrading. If you’ve ever had the experience of misidentifying the correct answer on a Blackboard test question and then had to manually regrade an entire classes tests you’ll know how useful this feature is. With test regrading, you can make corrections to the test answers and the system will automatically apply the corrections to already completed tests.
Item Analysis – The testing system now has item analysis available. Item analysis provides instructors with information on how well individual test questions discriminate student performance. Using this information, instructors can improve questions in tests and test pools to improve future tests.
New Calendar - Blackboard has a new calendar that better integrates with the system and which has the option to be viewed in other applications. So, items in your Blackboard calendar can display in your Outlook calendar. In addition, due dates that are set in a course automatically populate in the course calendar. Instructors no longer have to double enter information.
New text box editor - The new editor allows easy creation of formatted text and renders modern HTML so the content displays the way you want it. The new editor also supports copying and pasting from Word – it strips out extraneous code so the pasted contend displays properly and does not hinder the display of other content on the page (common in earlier versions). There are also some new mashups available, allowing users to embed video and other content in Blackboard. In addition, there is an improved math editor that supports MathML.