New Blackboard Features for Summer 2013

Photo credit:  NOAA's National Ocean Service Photographer Ellen Sanpere.
Photo credit: NOAA’s National Ocean Service
Photographer Ellen Sanpere.

Blackboard has released a few new features in time for the Summer semester. These updates will make it easier for you to grade students’ work, use the discussion boards, monitor your students’ performance, and communicate key dates. You will be able to access each of these features by May 17, 2013.

Click on the tabs below to learn more.

If you have questions about any of these features or Blackboard in general, get in touch with any member of the Instructional Design team. We’re happy to go over them with you!

If you have previously used Blackboard’s assignment submission tool, you know that downloading and managing all of the students’ submissions can be cumbersome. This file management is no longer necessary with the new Online Assignment Tool. This tool allows you to view, comment, markup, and grade students’ assignments all from within your Internet browser. You don’t have to download or upload anything!

Screenshot of the updated assignment grading tool
Screenshot of the updated assignment grading tool

Once you click to view a student’s assignment attempt from the Grade Center, the submission will open in a document viewer that looks like the screen above.

The left side displays the student’s work.  The right side is for entering numerical grades and any overall feedback for the student. Above the student’s submission is a toolbar that gives you access to the following tools:

  • Annotation tools: Use the labeled buttons to add comments, draw freehand with your mouse, highlight or cross out text, or add plain text.
  • Download options: You can download a copy of students’ original submissions or, if you have made annotations, you can download the annotated copy.
  • Comments and markups list: You can use the toggle button (shown below) to view a full list of all comments and markups on the student’s work. If this takes up too much space on the screen, you can click the X to minimize it.
Use this toggle button to view a full list of all comments and markups
Use this toggle button to view a full list of all comments and markups

Students’ work will be visible in the online viewer if it is submitted in one of the supported document types, which are: Word (doc, docx); PowerPoint (ppt, pptx); Excel (xls, xlsx); and PDF files.

You can preview the updates to the assignment grading tool in this quick video from Blackboard:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X9Rerz0VX0]

Blackboard has made two helpful updates to the Discussion Board tool.

Your question prompts and instructions will now be more conveniently displayed when students go to post their initial threads and replies in the discussion board. This is shown in the screenshot below. This will help students to fully address your discussion questions and will make it easier for them to reply to their peers.

Screenshot of how your forum questions will appear to students when they post a new thread.
Screenshot of how your forum questions will appear to students when they post a new thread.

Also, instructors will have the option to “hide” discussion threads from a student until that student posts an initial response to the discussion forum. This encourages students to post an original response to your questions without having the chance to consult their peers’ responses and reiterate what’s already been said. This option will be available when you create or edit a discussion forum.

New forum settings allow you to prevent students from seeing active threads until they post their first thread.
New forum settings allow you to prevent students from seeing active threads until they post their first thread.

The new Retention Center is a great tool for monitoring your class’s activity in Blackboard and tracking students that may be at-risk. This can be helpful for updating information in GradesFirst and getting students the support they need from La Salle’s Academic and Learning Support Services staff.

The Retention Center replaces what was previously the Early Warning System in Blackboard and is a much more visual and user-friendly tool for tracking students’ performance.

You can check out this video tutorial from Blackboard which reviews the main features of the Retention Center tool or continue reading this tab for more information.

There are three main components of the Retention Center: the at risk table, monitoring, and the instructor’s course activity.

At Risk Table

The At Risk Table lists students in your class that might be considered at risk based on four categories:

  • Missed deadlines: For Blackboard assignments with due dates assigned
  • Low grades: Those that are 25% below the class average
  • Course Activity: Whether students’ activity is 20% lower than the course average each week
  • Course Access: Flags students that have not signed on to Blackboard in more than 5 days

Most of the settings for these categories can be customized to your own preferred thresholds by clicking on the Customize menu in the Retention Center.

Screenshot of the At Risk Table in the Retention Center
Screenshot of the At Risk Table in the Retention Center

You can click on a student’s name in the at risk table to get a more detailed view. Here you will have the option to select the student for monitoring and track that student’s performance.  You can also send an email notification to the student about his/her current performance or leave a note about the student for your own private records.

Depending on the student’s issue, this may also be a good opportunity to file an early alert report through the GradesFirst system to notify the student’s adviser and Academic Learning and Support Services.

Monitoring

This area shows information about the students you chose to monitor.
This area shows information about the students you chose to monitor.

Once you opt to monitor a specific student, that student will appear in the Students you are monitoring section of the Retention Center, so that you can stay up-to-date on that student’s performance at a glance.

You can also choose to monitor for other information, such as the top 5% of students in your course, by clicking on the Customize menu.

Your Course Activity

The Your Course Activity section provides you with a summary of your own activities and participation in the course, including:

  • How many items you need to grade
  • How frequently you have participated in collaborative tools like discussions, blogs, and journals
  • When you last added new content or sent an announcement to the class
This section is a summary of the instructor's activities and participation.
This section is a summary of the instructor’s activities and participation.

This information is only available to you. Your students can’t see it. It is meant as a snapshot of how you are supporting the students in your course and may indicate steps that you can take to further engage your at-risk students.

Locating the Retention Center

The link to the Retention Center is located in the Control Panel, under the Evaluation Menu.

It is also one of the icons on the new My Blackboard menu that is always accessible at the top right of your Blackboard screen.

Blackboard will now allow you to add due dates for discussion board forums, wikis, blogs, and journals. You can only add due dates when these tools are set up as graded assignments.

One advantage of adding due dates is that the alert system in the My Blackboard menu will let students know when they have something due.

If you use the updated calendar tool in Blackboard, items with due dates will be automatically added to the course’s calendar, which is another way that you can help your students stay on track.

Screenshot of the calendar tool in Blackboard. Assigned due dates will automatically appear on this calendar.
Screenshot of the calendar tool in Blackboard. Assigned due dates will automatically appear on this calendar.

Add Tool LinkIf you think the course calendar may be a useful feature for your course, you can add it to your course menu by clicking on the plus sign at the top left of the screen. Then, select to add a Tool Link.

Next to Type, choose Calendar from the drop down menu. Give the link a name and select the checkbox to make it available to users so that your students can view it. Once you click Submit, this link will be on your course menu.

3 Responses

  1. […] On Thursday, May 16, Blackboard will be unavailable from 8am until 2pm. During this time, Blackboard will receive necessary updates as well as useful new features. For more information, please visit http://wp.lasalle.edu/blog/blackboard-features-summer-2013/. […]

  2. Mary Williams

    these features will be VERY helpful

  3. […] recently updated online assignment submission tool now allows you to make electronic comments and annotations directly to students’ […]

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