April 2021 Release

Educator Insights Blackboard Learn SaaS Release 3900.10.0

This month's release is jam-packed with new features! It includes improvements for Peer Review and Peer Assessmentconditional availability to content by users and groups, the ability to disable notifications for users with high enrolments, Rich Text Editor improvements, and scripts to bulk download course archives.

This post is designed to provide an educator lens over relevant new features and updates provided by Release 3900.10.0 of Blackboard Learn SaaS. These new features are available on production as of 15 April 2021. Full release notes including API updates and bug fixes

Administrators and Learning and Teaching Support Staff will find this information helpful as they work on change management with their end-users.


Assignment with Peer Review for Qualitative Peer Assessment

Impact: Instructors and Students

We are working on a number of developments to improve the Peer Review Assessment experience in the Ultra Course View

Peer assessment as a practice is becoming more common because it encourages the development of students’ critical thinking abilities, gives them practice in the critique of others in a professional manner, and allows for measurement of students’ analysis and communication skills.

With this release, qualitative peer review can be enabled for an Assignment in the Ultra Course View. It’s simple for instructors and students to use, and has the following features:

  • Set different due dates for the initial assignment submission and the completion of peer review: Instructors can set how many reviews are expected from each student. Peers are assigned randomly and automatically.

    Set different due dates for the initial assignment submission and the completion of peer review
  • Late submitters and reviewers remain part of the task and can continue to participate: Instructors can clearly see who was late. This is a huge improvement over the implementation in Original Course View and superior to implementations found in other learning management systems where students who are late on anything can no longer participate.
  • Tracking: Instructors can track students’ progress toward completion.
  • Rubrics: Students can see the rubric that will optionally be used for the grade. Instructors can grade using a rubric.
  • Complete, single view: When grading, the instructor can see all this information in a single view: the student’s submission, feedback provided by the students’ peers, and the feedback the current student gave to their peers.

    Complete, single view
  • Anonymous mode for students: The identities of peers are hidden from students but viewable by instructors.
  • Censoring: Instructors can hide reviews deemed inappropriate or harmful.

As this is the first release of the Peer Review option for Assignments, there are some use cases that aren’t part of this development but are planned as future improvements including quantitative peer reviews, non-anonymous mode for students, no direct group support, multiple prompts with essay questions, and separate grades for students’ submissions and their reviews. Refer to the Release Notes for full details.

Conditional availability by users and groups

Impact: Administrators and Instructors

Instructors, and other roles with elevated rights, can now give students access to specific content by user and/or group. This is a new addition to the existing conditional availability rules for date/time and performance-based availability.

This feature will support a number of learner-centered design use cases including creating remedial paths for certain students and providing different learning paths to undergraduate and postgraduate students in a course.

Conditional availability by users and groups

Disable notifications for users with high enrolments

Impact: Administrators, Instructors, Learning Designers, Support Staff

We've improved the timeliness and performance of notifications for all users including emails, push notifications, and stream. A user with a large volume of course enrolments will still have access to all course resources but won’t receive notifications regardless of their settings. This change applies to users with more than 500 course enrolments.

Typically, users enroled in this many courses are support staff or instructional designers. We recommend administrators configure these users as Node Administrators, with privileges to enrol and unenrol themselves from any course in the appropriate Institutional Hierarchy nodes, and with access to all the courses they may need without enrolling them. Enrolment availability or enablement states don't count towards a user as having over 500 enrolment records.

Rich Text Editor improvements

Impact: Instructors and Learners

This release has Rich Text Editor improvements to paragraph formatting that support you to create more rich and customisable pages. They include:

  • Clear formatting
  • Text alignment

  • Line height

  • Undo

Rich Text Editor improvements

Scripts for Learn SaaS to bulk download course archives

Impact: Administrators

In order to comply with data retention policies and reduce utilised space, administrators often want to move course archives to another location for longer-term storage. In SaaS, course archives are created automatically, and daily back-ups of course archives are stored in the cloud. We’ve included these scripts written in Python in the System Logs and Auto Archive Settings pages to allow admins to copy archives locally or to an AWS S3 bucket prior to deleting them from Learn.