Resource

March 2022 Release

Educator Insights Learn SaaS 3900.34.0

There are many ways educators can improve the learner experience online and keep them motivated to continue their education. Have you ever been in a class where you had to take an online quiz or submit an assignment through a Learning Management System (LMS)? If so, you may have experienced the anxiety that comes with waiting for your grade. You're not alone; many people feel this way. In fact, grading and assessment can be one of the most stressful aspects of teaching and learning. But it doesn't have to be that way! 

In the March 2022 - 3900.34.0 release Blackboard includes new features that improve the learner and instructor experience for assessment, and grading. In learning design, the sequence of learning steps is just as important as their individual design. In this release, we have made a series of improvements to the workflows related to learning modules including Microsoft OneDrive document linking. These improvements are more intuitive and provide time-saving efficiencies for instructors. There are also several improvements for administrators.

These new features are available on production as of 3 March 2022. Full release notes including API updates and bug fixes https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Administrator/SaaS/Release_ Details can also be found on Behind the Blackboard.

Administrators and Learning and Teaching Support Staff will find this information helpful to support their end-users.

Learning Modules - Forced Sequence and Other Improvements

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors

Video: Educator Insights: Learning Modules Enhancements

In learning design, the sequence of learning steps is just as important as their individual design. This feature supports instructors by providing more options for sequencing learning. We have made a series of improvements to the workflows related to learning modules. These improvements are more intuitive and provide time-saving efficiencies for instructors.

Updated behavior for learning modules:

When an instructor creates a learning module, all settings appear in a peek panel. From the peek panel an instructor can:

  • name the learning module,
  • set the visibility of the learning module for students,
  • add an optional description,
  • and apply forced sequence to the content in the module. Note this option is no longer available on the Release Conditions panel.

New behavior for learning modules:

An instructor can add more content to a learning module with forced sequence applied. If an instructor adds or changes content, a warning notifies the instructor: "Additions and changes in content can make students who already started the module follow a different order."

Figure 1. Before

Screen capture for Learning modules forced sequence - before

Figure 2. After

Screen capture for Learning modules forced sequence - after

For Administrators: These improvements are on by default for all Ultra courses. There are no configurations required.

Automatic grades release for 3rd party tools using LTI Advantage

Blackboard Learn SaaS, Learn 9.1 MH/SH
Original & Ultra Experience, Original & Ultra Course Views
Impact: Instructors and Students

We support the latest interoperability standards for adding 3rd-party apps into your courses. We use LTI Advantage from IMS Global. In the past, scores from integrated apps would not auto-post in Ultra Course View. This required instructors to act so students could see their grades.

The specification for LTI Advantage was ambiguous about how to handle grade visibility. We partnered with the IMS organization to update the standard. Now the LTI Advantage / LTI v1.3 tools can define whether grades should auto-post to students.

Updated behavior for tools

  • Ultra Course View: We now default to auto-post grades for LTI Advantage tools. Instructors will not have to remember to post grades. One exception exists when a tool indicates that grades should not post to students.
  • Original Course View: The behavior for LTI Advantage tools remains unchanged. Grades auto-release when the tool sends scores. One exception exists when the Grade Center column is not visible.

New capability for tools

We also now support the ability for an LTI Advantage tool to manage the release of grades. When appropriate, grades auto-post to students. TurnItIn, for example, plans to use this approach in an upcoming release.

  • Ultra Course View: If a tool sets that grades should not auto-post, scores sent to the Learn Gradebook only display to instructors. Instructors can choose to post grades for students, or the tool can auto-release grades later.
  • Original Course View: If a tool sets that grades should not auto-post, scores sent to the Learn Grade Center appear behind a “Needs Grading” status indicator. Students and instructors see that students have submitted work but not the result. When the tool releases grades, all students will see their scores.

The improvements in this release are specific to LTI Advantage/LTI 1.3 tools. Behavior for older LTI 1.1 tools remains unchanged. For older LTI 1.1 tools in Ultra Course View, new scores sent from tools are always auto posted.

For developers and tool providers: LTI Advantage has a new Line Item attribute - gradesReleased. You can specify it in a Deep Linking message or an Assignment and Grades service call. You only need to update your tool if you want to send scores to Learn but release them to students later. The default value for gradesReleased is true if you do not specify the attribute. When set to false, students will not see scores sent to the gradebook. When the attribute is true, students see current scores and future updates. If you use the gradesReleased=false attribute and want to maintain compatibility with Original Course View, you will need to manage the release of grades. Instructors do not have a post action in Original Course View to release grades. Instructors do have the post action in Ultra Course View.

Microsoft OneDrive - Document Linking - 3900.34.0

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors and Students

Video: Educator Insights: OneDrive Integration

We have partnered with Microsoft to create a new LTI integration for OneDrive. This new, intuitive workflow allows instructors to add OneDrive files to:

  • the Course Content area
  • Learning Modules
  • Folders

The instructor may need to sign into a Microsoft account to view and select files. After adding the OneDrive file, the instructor may rename the file in the course. The instructor may also set student visibility. To edit the content of the file, the instructor may enter full screen. A new browser tab opens, and the file is now editable.

Figure 1. Add a OneDrive file to the Course Content.

Screen capture for OneDrive integration - Add a OneDrive file to the Course Content

Figure 2. Select the OneDrive file.

Screen capture for OneDrive integration - Select the OneDrive file

Figure 3. To change the name of the file and set visibility, select the file.

Screen capture for OneDrive integration - Change file name and set visibility

Figure 4. After changing the title and visibility, the instructor can modify the contents of the file by selecting the "Full Screen" option.

Screen capture for OneDrive integration - Modify file content

Figure 5. The instructor can make edits as desired.

Screen capture for OneDrive integration - File edition for instructors

The student has a read-only view of the file in the course.

Other existing LTI options in the course remain unchanged:

  • Content Market
  • Books and Tools
  • Rich text editor

For Administrators: Please register the LTI Tool Provider in the Administrator Panel.

Sticky Test Header

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View
Impact: Students

Video: Educator Insights: New Test Header

Test-taking can be a stressful experience. We have designed a new test header to improve the student's testing experience. The new header provides students with key information to inform their test-taking strategy. The new header displays the following helpful information:

  • a progress bar,
  • the number of answered questions out of the total questions in the test or assignment,
  • and time remaining if the instructor has set a time limit.

The header is sticky, meaning that it is always visible as a student navigates the test. This header also appears in assignments that include questions.

Figure 1. Before

Screen capture for Sticky header - Before

Figure 2. After

Screen capture for Sticky header - After

For Instructors and Administrators: This feature is on by default for all Ultra courses. There are no configurations required.

Automatic cleanup of user-created archive and export packages

Blackboard Learn SaaS, Learn 9.1 MH/SH
Original and Ultra Experience, Original and Ultra Course Views
Impact: Users with permission to create course packages (Administrators; in some cases, instructors, course builders, and other privileged users)

Export and archive packages within a course will now have auto-delete settings. This automatic cleanup enables institutions to reduce the storage space used. The auto-cleanup also allows administrators to control storage growth. This also saves time and reduces frustration for administrators.

In the past, all packages remained in the course until the deletion of the packages or the course. The retention of the course packages resulted in extensive storage usage.

Now, existing user-generated course packages will be set to expire in 90 days from the 3900.34 upgrade. Users who can create course packages will receive a one-time email notification about this change. The email will explain that they have 90 days to retrieve and save any existing packages. In the course package list view, the expiry date for these packages will reflect a 90-day expiry. These emails will auto-send as part of the upgrade process to 3900.34.

Course packages created after the upgrade to 3900.34 will expire and auto-delete 30 days after the creation date.

We will notify users of this behavior in three ways:

  • When creating the package, the interface informs the user of this time constraint.
  • The notification that a package is ready to download informs the user of the time constraint.
  • In the course package list view for the course, the removal date displays for each package.

This improvement does not change the way administrators delete courses. These changes only apply to the export/archive packages stored within the course. There are no changes to the behavior of automatic archive creation or deletion.

For Administrators: Please leverage your own communication channels to reinforce this change to affected users.

Access automatic archive packages from within courses

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Original and Ultra Experience, Original and Ultra Course Views
Impact: Administrators, others to whom admins grant permissions

In SaaS, daily archives are auto-created for active courses. Administrators can retrieve lost data from these archives. These archives are available for 30 days. Now privileged users can now access and download archive packages from the course. The daily archives often lessen the need for other users to create their own packages. This change in access reduces the storage space used. The access change saves time and reduces frustration for privileged users and administrators.

For Administrators:

  • This permission is not on by default for instructors. Required permission: Course/Organization Control Panel (Packages and Utilities) > Archive Course/Organization, including user passwords
  • Automatic archive packages include highly sensitive personal information for users. If you use the default authentication type in Learn, the package includes an encrypted version of users' passwords. When this is the case, we recommend that you do not enable this feature for instructors.
  • The password values in the Learn database pose no security risk if you use an identity provider (IdP) for authentication (e.g., SAML/LDAP) without fallback to the default Learn authentication.
  • We recommend that you review policies about storing and handling sensitive personal data. These archives contain highly sensitive data. Please ensure it is appropriate to grant users privileges to access these archives.
  • There are no changes to the restore process with this enhancement. Only administrators can retrieve user data through a restore process. We always recommend restoring courses into a non-production environment. This helps to ensure no disruption to current courses/users in production.