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Information Technology Services

System Upgrades

As part of our commitment to improving teaching and learning technology, SIUE upgraded the Blackboard learning management system on December 20th, 2013.

Several core Blackboard tools were amended and additional features were added, including:


Please note that the upgrade will not affect content you have saved in current or prior Blackboard courses. Any work you have been doing - such as building course shells for next semester or adjusting content for an existing course - will remain after the upgrade.

For additional information, contact ITS at:

Highlighted Features and Enhancements

  • Assessment - Tests and Surveys

    Bb test screen

The core capabilities of Tests and Surveys in Blackboard Learn are robust, but the upgrade provided  enhancements to make workflows even more seamless, such as:

    • Test Begin Page – Instructors can now choose to “Show instructions to students before they begin the test,” rather than having those instructions display to them after they enter the test.

    • Test Availability Exceptions - Instructors have options to vary the availability of tests for different students through Test Availability Exceptions.  Once an individual or group of users is identified, their access to the exam can be differentiated from the class standard. Instructors can:

      1. permit single, multiple or unlimited attempts

      2. afford additional time to take the test (e.g. for documented disabilities)

      3. enable or disable auto submission of the test when time expires

      4. set different start and end dates and times (e.g. for students in different sections of a multi-section course

      5. enable or disable “force completion,” (when enabled, students must complete the test once they open it.)

    • Tests Results and Feedback to Students - Instructors have more options with respect to when and how test results and feedback are presented to students. For instance, initially, “After Submission,” a student may not be able to see anything.  The instructor could then apply a second option to show everything (score, answers, and feedback) on a specific date at a specific time (e.g. during the following class period).

    • Due Dates and Late Submissions - A new setting allows instructors to decide whether or not students will be permitted to take a test after the established due date has passed.  If a late submission is permitted, the student’s attempt will clearly be flagged as “Late” in the Grade Center.  Instructors may then choose to manually apply any late submission penalty.

    • Adding Questions to a Test (Test Canvas Settings) - Tired of dragging and dropping new test questions from the bottom of the test canvas up to the specific location where you want them to display?  Insert a question wherever you want it to appear within the test. Just mouse over an existing question, and click on the new “plus sign” that appears at the top and bottom of that question frame to insert your new question before or after it. Learn more about these all of these Tests and Survey features.

    • Test Access Log - For those who have ever attempted to discern what really happened during student-reported issues with online tests, Blackboard introduces the Test Access Log. Now instructors can verify student activity (or lack of activity) during a test. Available from the “Attempts” page of a test, the Test Access Log provides detailed information about student's test attempt interactions. Learn more about Test Access Logs.

    • Importing and Exporting Test Questions - All questions within a test are now retained in exported and imported tests, irrespective of their origin.  Previously, exported tests that included Question Sets, Random Blocks, and Question Links excluded those question types. Learn more about this enhanced feature.

  • Retention Center

    Retention Center screen shot

Do you want to see if students are struggling in your course with a simple mouse click? The Retention Center is an instructor-only tool that lets you monitor students’ progress through the creation of customized rules that reflect course expectations. It is an evaluation tool that can keep track of student performance across multiple courses and can be viewed collectively in the control panel, if the instructor desires.

The Retention Center replaced the Early Warning System feature with easy workflows, while retaining all existing Early Warning System data and rules.

Four rule (alert) types are available within the Retention Center:

    • Course Activity - This alert monitors the student’s activity, engagement, and participation within the course and based on a defined level of activity sends an alert if a student falls below the level.

    • Grade - You can set a threshold for a specific grade to trigger an alert.

    • Course Access - A student who has not logged in for a defined number of days triggers an alert.

    • Missed Deadline - This alert can be tailored to include all course deadlines or a specific deadline.

If you are interested in learning how the Retention Center looks in Blackboard, watch this brief video. To learn more about how to customize the Retention Center, watch this video tutorial or visit Blackboard’s help page.

  • Achievements

The Achievements tool allows instructors and course designers to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students. The two types of Achievements, Certificates and Badges, can be issued for course completions, milestones, or other custom-designated actions.

Achievements are associated with rules integrated into certain activities including: attempts on assignments or assessments; specific grades on assignments, assessments, discussion boards, wikis, blogs, and journals; and marked Review status on course content items.

Mechanisms exist that allow students to monitor their progress and determine what remains in respect to meeting the specified criteria and receiving an Achievement. Students can print or save Achievements they receive. Learn more about Achievements.

  • Discussions

discussion board exampleA number of new Discussion Board enhancements came with the latest Blackboard upgrade, all of which were designed to make the tool easier to use and to promote connectivity between students. The Thread Detail page has been redesigned so that users automatically see all posts on one page. Within each thread, users can: 

    • Reply inline with the content editor appearing on the same page in the context of the discussion.

    • See a “marked as read” icon next to the avatar to indicate that a post has been read. Note: when the icon is white, the post has been read.

Other changes to the Discussion Board include:

    • The action bar (Subscribe, Search and Refresh in the top right) only appears when the mouse hovers over it to increase the amount of space on the screen.

    • Two new buttons, Expand All and Collapse All, let users control how much of the thread is visible at once.

    • The number of read and unread posts are visible at the thread level.

    • Avatar images are now larger.

    • The user’s role in the course (such as “moderator” or “instructor”) can be revealed by hovering over the yellow star next to the user’s avatar.

    • Enhanced "Post First" feature, a setting that requires students to post to the Discussion Board before being able to view existing posts in the thread.

For more information about changes to the Discussion Board, please visit Blackboard's help page.

Other Features and Enhancements

    • Content Editor Math Formulas:  Service Pack 12 brings a new WIRIS editor that is based on JavaScript. This removes dependence on Java and, as a result, enables full math-editing capabilities on platforms that cannot run java in browsers e.g.: iOS. This extends the functionality of the WIRIS math editor to all platforms capable of running a JavaScript enabled browser. Learn more about Math Formulas Improved in the Content Editor.

    • Mobile Support for Mashups:  Changes in how mashups are processed allow them to now play on mobile devices. Media-rich learning can happen anywhere students can access Blackboard Learn.

    • Video Everywhere:  First released as a standalone update to the Content Editor Building Block for Service Pack 10, Video Everywhere is now bundled with Service Pack 11. Video Everywhere is a feature of the Content Editor Building Block providing Instructors and students with the ability to record and reuse videos in Blackboard Learn. The videos are created and managed through an integration with YouTube.

Additional Information on Blackboard 9 Service Pack Upgrades

Overview of new features in Service Pack 11, Service Pack 12, Service Pack 13, and Service Pack 14
Note: Not all features mentioned on Blackboard's website were implemented in the December 2013 upgrade.

Past Blackboard 9 Service Packs

Service Pack 10 (implemented December 2012)

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