New Blackboard Features for Fall 2014

Our Blackboard downtime on August 15th was a success. In addition to the needed security updates and patches, Blackboard added some two great new features.

Student Preview Mode

I’m most excited about the new Student Preview mode. In the past W&M professors who wanted to see what their class looked like to students or how a test actually worked needed to create a separate ID. Now they can simply click the “Student Preview” button located at the top right of the screen.

The new Student Preview button is circled in red.

The new Student Preview button is circled in red.

Entering the Student Preview mode creates a student account with all of the privileges of a regular student. The preview account can post to discussion forums, take a test, or create a journal.

The Student Preview mode Banner

The Student Preview mode Banner

A large orange bar at the top of your screen indicates when you’re in Student Preview mode. Click “Exit Preview” on this bar to exit. If you leave Blackboard without clicking on Exit Preview, when you next log in you’ll still be in Student Preview mode. When you do exit, you’ll be given the choice of deleting the preview student data or letting it remain. If you exit the Student Preview without deleting the data other students will be able to interact with that account.

One thing to be aware of the Student Preview mode always starts with the course home page. If you’re working deep inside a class it can be frustrating to have to navigate your way back to where you were. You can save yourself some clicks by displaying the course menu in a separate window:

Course Menu button circled in red

The Course Menu button, circled in red.

Clicking this button pops up a new window with a hierarchical view of all of your course content.  You’ll be able to click once for content that is nested several folders deep.

Integrated SafeAssign

Before this upgrade, using the built in plagiarism checker, SafeAssign, meant submitting an assignment twice — once for grading and once for SafeAssign.  Now when you create an assignment, you’ll see three gray areas with additional options. SafeAssign is included in the first area, “Submission Details.”

The new submission details area that appears when you create an assignment.

The new submission details area that appears when you create an assignment.

Check the first box to check the assignment in SafeAssign. The SafeAssign report will be available via the Course Tools menu after students submit the assignment. Check the second option if you’d like students to be able to view the report as well. The third option, “exclude submissions,” stops assignments from being added to the nation-wide database.

This upgrade chose quality over quantity when it came to new features. Both of these have been requested several times. I hope they’ll be as useful as we imagine!