This year’s update to Blackboard is smaller than some years, but it still has a big impact on teaching and learning. The update (planned to occur over Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25, 2015) will move NIU to the April 2014 Release of Blackboard. Although there is a more recent release from October 2014, the April 2014 Release is considered to be more stable. Read on to learn about what changes you can expect.
Completely Redesigned Portfolio System
The biggest change coming is a completely redesigned and rebuilt portfolio system, although existing portfolios created with the current portfolio tool will continue to be editable and shareable. The new portfolios are easier to create, so students can focus on the most important aspect of portfolios: reflecting on their work. Students can create new artifacts by uploading or linking to files, or they can use artifacts that have been submitted and graded with the Assignment tool as part of their course work. For the latter artifact type, they can also include metadata about the artifact, including the Assignment details, the grade they received, and any feedback their instructor provided.
In addition to the new Portfolio system, the Assignment tool has been updated to include a Portfolio option. This requires that students create and submit a Portfolio to be graded, instead of uploading individual files.
Learn more about the new Portfolio System at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade/features.shtml#portfolio
SafeAssignment Integrated with the Assignment Tool
In the past, Assignment and SafeAssign were distinct and separate features. Now, SafeAssign is integrated with the Assignment feature, making it easy to check student submissions for plagiriarm by clicking a checkbox when creating an Assignment. This means that many of the features of Assignments, which were not available to SafeAssignments, can now be used with plagiarism detection. For example, Group submissions can now be checked for plagiarism, multiple submissions can be enabled, and the submissions can be graded with rubrics.
New Student Preview Mode
Previously in Blackboard Learn, the Edit Mode On/Off control was the only way to approximate a student view. NIU faculty could request a student ID to view their courses, but that was not a convenient process. The new Student Preview features provides faculty with the ability to easily see the course exactly how a student would see it, including content, Assignments, Tests, Grades, and the Discussion Board. While in Student Preview mode the faculty member can interact with the course as a student, including taking quizzes/tests, submitting assignments, posting to forums, posting to blogs, and more.
Enhanced Anonymous Grading, and New Delegated Grading
Anonymous Grading provides a more useful, robust option and best practice than has been implemented previously by the “Hide User Names” capability to enable anonymous grading. This functionality meets the needs for high-stakes assessments, when you want to ensure anonymous grading to avoid bias. For Anonymously Graded Attempts, the system information that could identify a student will be replaced with a unique and anonymous identifier that can be used by the graders and instructors to identify a particular attempt for further discussion without discovering the identity of the student. If an Assignment is set to be Anonymous, the student will be informed of this when submitting the assignment, when reviewing the grade with My Grades, and on the Review Submission History page.
Delegated Grading is a new mechanism that facilitates sharing the responsibility for grading among anyone with the Instructor, Teaching Assistant, or Grader role in a given course. It promotes reliability of grading by using two or more grades from separate individuals to determine the final grade. Those teaching large courses can also use the tool to easily assign grading responsibilities to multiple TAs, whether or not multiple graders are used per student.
Significant Figures in Calculated Formula Test Questions
The Calculated Formula question type in Tests creates quantitative problem-solving test questions using a formula and variables. Questions can be dynamically generated, calculated, and scored automatically. Now, Calculated Formula questions can include specific rules for how many significant figures should be in the answer. In addition, the existing support for scientific/exponential notation has improved.
Learn more about upcoming features at www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade and look for preview and tune-up workshops about the new features starting in April, 2015.