New Enhancements for Blackboard Learn With the Original Experience

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Last week we made the Blackboard Learn Q4 2018 release for the Original experience available for self-hosted and managed-hosted clients. With a focus on academic effectiveness, quality improvements, and updated technologies, this latest release is designed to ensure Learn with the Original experience (aka Learn 9.1) continues to be a viable platform for self-hosted and managed-hosted clients. Through the Learn Q4 2018 release, clients will gain capabilities in four key areas.

Platform Feature Enhancements

One area of focus is to enhance “platform features” for Learn, which refers to features that are available for both the Original and Ultra experiences (i.e., across the entire Learn platform). In the Q4 2018 release, we’ve continued to improve Learn’s cloud storage integrations, enabling instructors and students to easily upload documents from their preferred cloud storage accounts like OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox. These enhancements, also made available in a cumulative update for the Q2 2018 release, enable both students and instructors to save time when attaching files in Assignments and the Content Editor; instructors also gain efficiency with attachments in Content Items.

Also in this release, and available for Q2 2018 via a cumulative update, clients can now take advantage of assignment grading in the Blackboard Instructor mobile app. Instructors can easily review assignment submissions and attachments, provide comments and inline annotations, grade with rubrics, and publish grades to students from the app.

Iterative Feature Improvements

A second area of focus for us is making iterative improvements to existing capabilities found in the Original experience. In the Q4 2018 release, we’ve made improvements to delegated grading capabilities. Delegated grading lets an instructor share grading responsibility by assigning course members to grade sets of submissions. It also makes possible parallel marking scenarios where the final grade is reconciled from multiple graders’ scores. The ability to reconcile grades was previously limited to instructors and users who were granted the permission by an administrator. In this release, instructors can grant this permission to graders. Another grading enhancement in this release and available via a cumulative update for earlier releases allows for annotations created using in-line grading (aka New Box View) to be downloaded for permanent records.

Clients using the Outcomes Assessment capabilities can now respect the access limitations put in place by their institutional hierarchy. Outcomes Assessment provides an additional set of tools that allow privileged users to collect samples of student work that can be used for both institutional and program assessment activities. Institutions can now assign Outcomes Assessment roles to key stakeholders within each department and those users will be able to create evidence collections, manage evaluation projects, and view reports only within their node of the Institutional Hierarchy.

Standards & Interoperability

We recognize that the LMS is but one part of an institution’s educational eco-system. That’s why Blackboard is such a strong supporter of standards, particularly those of the IMS Global Consortium. The Learn Q4 2018 release continues to improve our support of the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) standards. For one, capabilities are now more fully aligned between the Learn Original and Ultra experiences, smoothing the transition from one experience to the other. Use cases have also increased for administrator tools, instructor course tools, and student tools. Integration of tools outside of the course context has also been made easier.

Another area of development which allows for the integration of content and tools with the LMS are Learn’s APIs. Our focus on the future is with REST APIs, and a number of new and updated REST APIs are now available through this release.

Quality & Maintenance

Ensuring the highest quality continues to be a key area of focus for us across all Blackboard technologies. An important aspect of quality is privacy and compliance. The Q4 2018 release and recent cumulative updates for prior releases address a number of requirements for the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR defines the rights for data record ownership, update, removal, and retrieval as well as the transparency of policy and practice. Capabilities added include:

  • Increased visibility of Blackboard’s privacy and data use and Blackboard’s terms of use statements
  • The ability for an institution to add their own privacy and data use statement
  • An updated end user acceptance experience with additional data use disclosures when using Blackboard Learn for the first time
  • The ability for an institution to generate reports of personal information collected about an individual

Additionally, the Q4 release adds support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7.5, a number of performance, security, and user interface enhancements based on client feedback, as well as support for Nynorsk (written Norwegian).

In summary, the Learn Q4 2018 release continues our investment in the Original experience (aka Learn 9.1). In addition to enhancements in the areas of user efficiency, assessment, grading, and standards support, we’ve also focused a lot of effort on quality improvements and updated technologies to ensure that Learn Original continues to successfully support the millions of instructors and students using it every day.