What’s new in the Blackboard upgrade?

The recent update to Blackboard Learn affords you some very useful and timely new capabilities, particularly those that will make grading easier to manage, improve the usability of our course sites, provide for better student activity reporting, and transform the way we assess and report on our students’ learning performance.

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What’s new in the way my Blackboard course appears?

You’ll notice that the overall look and feel of your Blackboard course site appears cleaner, with much less clutter. Navigation is easier to find, colors pop a bit more, buttons are larger, and the content is organized in a more pleasing and logical manner.

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You are now able to modify your course theme – its overall look and feel – with the click of a button. Ready-made course themes are available that are optimized to support specific teaching styles, course types, and/or available resources.

For example, if you use a constructivist teaching style, you could select a constructivist-learning theme that would automatically provision the appropriate toolsets and site architecture to support such an approach. A lab course would be created with the appropriate toolsets and site sections that a lab course might normally use.

All of these themes, of course, can be modified and customized in the usual way, but this feature provides a great way to set up all the tools, sections, and site structure your course requires in just a few seconds.

The upgrade also allows you to easily change the order in which items appear in the course menu and more easily arrange information in ways that are meaningful to your students.

Learn how to implement these changes here.

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What is course-to-course navigation?

Course to course navigation is a great new feature that allows you to move from one course to another but keep you in the same area.

For example, if you are in the grade center and switch to another course, you will be in the grade center in the new course.

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What is the new McGraw-Hill integration?

The McGraw-Hill Content link allows faculty to easily discover and embed McGraw-Hill content within their normal Blackboard Learn course workflow. In order to begin working with Connect content inside the Blackboard Learn platform, faculty should first pair their course.

Click on the McGraw-Hill Connect content link and the pairing process automatically launches. To pair a course, faculty will need to sign in with their McGraw-Hill account credentials. New customers will be prompted to register for a new account via the Instructor Registration Process. Instructors can pair existing courses or create new ones.

Once the pairing process is complete, faculty can begin building out their course in Blackboard Learn. Moving forward, faculty will access their McGraw-Hill Connect course content inside Blackboard Learn.

To see how to pair your course with McGraw-Hill Connect, click here.

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How can I get started creating my course in Blackboard quickly?

The Quick Set-Up Guide was created just for this purpose. You will find the Quick Set-Up Guide by locating the Control Panel, clicking on Customization, then on Quick Set-Up Guide. A pop-up window appears that can lead you through the set-up of a new course.

Follow the numbered steps to Set Up Your Course, Choose a Course Structure, Choose a Course theme, and then Learn More About Your New Course.

Watch a video on creating a new course using the Quick Set-Up Guide

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What’s new in the Grade Center?

The Grade Center, one of the most popular toolsets on Blackboard, got some useful enhancements with the upgrade.

Negative marking (the ability to assign a negative score in the Grade Center) is now available. Also, you’ll find improved abilities to grade student work more contextually, that is, by opening a submitted file, making comments, entering a grade, then moving on to the next student’s submission without ever having to leave the Grade Center.

You will also be able to grade a portion of any submission – say an essay question on a test – and move on to another student’s answer for the same question, all without losing your place. Other enhancements include an improved filtered view of what needs grading and the ability to color-code entries to improve viewing and organizing data.

With contextual grading you can grade and comment while you review wikis, blogs, journals and discussions, and just move from one submission to the next, without ever having to go to the Grade Center!

Automatic re-grading allows you to change a test question and have Blackboard automatically recalculate the score for all submissions affected by the change.

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What’s changed with Assessments?

The new alignment function allows you to identify a key metric used for assessing students’ learning outcomes. When creating an assignment that is aligned specifically with a learning outcome, you will now be able to identify that assignment, collect evidence of learning, sample it, use a standard rubric to evaluate, and create a coverage report. This feature is a completely new and very timely addition to the mix of Blackboard toolsets, particularly as faculty will want to collect, evaluate, and report on student learning outcomes in a systematic way.

Learn more about the learning outcomes alignment here.

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What’s new with Student Activity Reporting?

Student activity reporting is a useful way for faculty to see how, when, and for how long students are accessing their Blackboard course and course materials. Faculty can generate a Course Activity Overview report that displays overall activity within a single course, sorted by student and date. Data available includes the total and average time spent per user and the total amount of activity the user had in the course.

Instructors can also get a Student Overview for a Single Course report, which displays an individual student’s activity within a course, sorted by date. Data includes the total overall time the student spent in the course as well as detailed information about the student’s activity, such as which items and content areas the student accessed and the time spent on each.

With more insight into how students are interacting with their courses, faculty can identify patterns of success and retention and inform better decision-making.

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How can I get hands-on training for Blackboard?

Throughout the summer and into the Fall 2012 semester, we will be offering a range of Blackboard workshops to help our customers make the transition to the new version of Bb.

This software update is just an addition of a new service pack. It is not a major change to the application and is doubtful that any current experienced Blackboard user would need specific training to recognize and use many of the new features in the updated version.

The whole idea of the change is that this system will be easier to use not harder.
In our upcoming workshops, we will be focusing on the new capabilities of these features and how they can be used strategically to help improve the way we all use Blackboard for teaching and learning.

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