The new year ushered in a new semester and a new look to the Blackboard learning management system. Marygrove’s Information Technology Services Department launched Service Pack 13 just before the start of the winter 2014 term. A new service pack can include a patch to fix a known problem, security upgrades, visual enhancements, and other changes to improve the users’ teaching and learning experience. Here are some of the new Blackboard features that come with Service Pack 13. (The following information was adapted from the Blackboard On Demand Learning Center.)
New Crisp, Uncluttered Interface
The first thing you will notice is a much cleaner, crisp, uncluttered, yet familiar look to the interface design. This new design makes it easier to navigate the platform and complete tasks.
While you are in one course you can click the Action Link next to the Home button to jump from course to course.
Themes and Structures can be used to make changes to the formatting of a course. Themes are purely a cosmetic change, while Structures fundamentally change the design of a course. Themes are pre-set color schemes that an instructor can apply to a course. Once a theme is selected, all students will see the course with the theme applied. A theme can be changed as often as desired, and the Default theme will return the course back to the original color scheme.
Global Navigation and My Blackboard
Everything you need for your Blackboard experience is in one convenient location. My Blackboard provides you with quick and easy access to critical and timely information regarding your school, courses, and fellow classmates. From My Blackboard you can view how you are doing in each of the courses you are enrolled in, see grades, be reminded of assignments that are due, and much more.
The discussion board has been thoroughly redesigned. Changes include: All posts on one page. The entire discussion thread appears on a single page, thereby maintaining the context of posts and replies to one another.
User Profile — A profile is a reflection of how you want to present yourself to your peers, classmates, and instructors. In your Blackboard profile, you decide what you want to be called, what your academic interests are, and anything else you want to share with other users.
Conditional highlighting of instructor’s posts — Conditional highlighting makes it easier for students to find posts from instructors in a sea of other posts.
Respond to posts inline – When clicking “Reply” the text editor appears in the context of the discussion so as not to interrupt the flow of the conversation.
Post first – In addition to the above, there is also a new setting that permits instructors to specify that students must enter their own thread before viewing other threads in a forum.
The calendar has been completely rebuilt, providing a much more modern tool both in terms of looks and functionality. Calendar events can be color coded to differentiate courses and personal items. Items that have assigned due dates automatically appear on the calendar. It is also now possible to create recurring events.
The Retention Center
This is a new feature. The Center highlights retention factors and student engagement, alerting faculty to potential risk and allowing them to take action. The easy to understand views and pre-configured rules make it easy to identify at-risk students within a course. NO SETUP is required on the part of the instructor. However, instructors can modify the rules to suit their own individual teaching methods.
Inline Assignment Grading
Inline Assignment Grading is an improvement when it comes to grading assignments. Instead of requiring instructors to download student submitted files, instructors can now view student submitted files “inline.”
Also new in this service pack is the ability to fix problematic questions by simply editing them directly and having all updates sent automatically to the Grade Center. Negative Marking allows instructors to apply negative point values for wrong answers.
The newly designed content editor vastly improves the user experience for adding text and other forms of digital content to Blackboard.