What’s New in Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 13

Over the Winter 2013-2014 break, USC upgraded Blackboard to version 9.1 Service Pack 13 (SP13). This upgraded version of Blackboard includes many instructor-requested improvements, 11 of which are featured below.

Global Navigation and My Blackboard

Available at all times in the top right corner of Blackboard, the new Global Navigation menu provides one-click access to your courses, organizations, settings, help, and the new My Blackboard tools. You can see these new tools down the left-hand side of the menu, and the numbers in red tell you if there’s something new or that needs your attention. For more information, please watch the Global Navigation and My Blackboard tutorial.

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New Content Editor and Equation Editor

Blackboard’s old Visual Text Box Editor has been replaced with a new, standards-based Content Editor that improves the user experience for entering text, pasting content from Microsoft Word, and adding, embedding, or attaching new content. Blackboard’s legacy WebEQ equation editor has also been replaced with a new MathML equation editor (WIRIS) that no longer requires Java and that supports the non-destructive editing and display of LaTeX formulas. For more information, please watch the New Content Editor tutorial.

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Retention Center

The Retention Center, which replaces Blackboard’s Early Warning System, lets you quickly pinpoint student performance problems and take action. Intuitive risk factor categories quickly alert you to trends so that you can take action quickly, and you can easily tailor your own alert rules to spot student performance problems or issues at the onset. For more information, please watch the Retention Center tutorial.

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Redesigned Discussion Boards

Blackboard has overhauled the entire Discussions interface and added new functionality. The entire discussion thread appears on a single page, keeping posts and replies in context.  Conditional formatting also helps students effortlessly find instructor posts. For more information, please watch the Discussion Boards tutorial.

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Redesigned Calendar

Blackboard’s new Calendar tool lets you spend less time organizing your calendar and more time doing what’s on it. Course items created with due dates are automatically added to your course calendar.  Change a due date in a course or drag the due date on the calendar to a new date and time, and the item is automatically updated. You can also export Blackboard’s calendar to third-party calendars like Outlook or Google. For more information, please watch the Calendar Feature tutorial.

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Improved Needs Grading View

The Needs Grading View provides you with an instant, streamlined view into the items that need to be graded in their course. Once you grade one student’s work, in just one click you can easily navigate to the next assignment that needs to be graded, all without having to go back to the GradeCenter to enter grades.

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Improved Test Canvas

The experience of the Test Canvas and Create/Edit pages has been improved to make the process of adding questions more efficient for you. Whether it’s creating another question of same type, or easily positioning them, the new enhancements eliminate steps, saving you time.  Using Test Availability Exceptions, you can override the default test settings to create exceptions like providing a certain student or groups of students more time for a test, additional attempts, or different start/end dates.  You can also decide what feedback options are displayed to students and when.

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Item Analysis on Tests

Item Analysis helps you refine assessments by evaluating the quality and validity of each question. Far better than the usual frequency and distribution reports, item analysis reports provide discrimination statistics that allow you to identify questions that are poor performers, diagnose the problem, and then fix it in a streamlined workflow. Thanks to the automatic re-grading feature, you can easily edit the test from the same page and change a question, its answers or its value, even if students have already completed the assessments. And the corrected score flows automatically into the Grade Center.  For more information, please watch the Item Analysis tutorial.

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Test Access Log

Blackboard’s Test Access Log lets you learn whether or not that certain student really did start their test and have connectivity issues…or if they just did not do it.  The information provided includes the date and time of each event, various access types (starting the test, saving a question, completing the test), and a running total of the elapsed time from when the test was started.

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