I’m sure we’ve all noticed the e-mails that have appeared in our inboxes over the last couple of months with “Blackboard 9 is Coming!” in their subject titles. I know I definitely have. But is anyone else wondering what exactly “Blackboard 9” means and what changes we should expect to see with the new version?
Well, I had a chance to preview the next version of Blackboard. From both a student and professor’s perspective, and I think all Blackboard users on campus will find the new features to be exciting, helpful, and, best of all, even easier to navigate.
First, let me tell you about the new Course Homepage. As you are already familiar with, the course homepage appears whenever an individual course is clicked on. With the current version of Blackboard, students can view announcements posted by professors. With the new version, students will not only see Course Announcements (where professors will have the option to post, add dates, add attachments, and eventually the ability to e-mail announcements to their students), they will also see a What’s New section.This will inform them of any new course documents, blogs, discussion boards, quiz, etc. that have been posted by the teacher but the student has not viewed yet. Once the student views anything in the What’s New section it will be dismissed from the homepage. There will also be a Needs Attention space on the course homepage for professors to see what needs grading and a To Do section that tells the students what assignments are past due and what’s due in the upcoming days.
Students can also modify the notifications they see and there will be a calendar feature where students can add personal items to a course calendar. It is important to note that this calendar will not be connected to your DonsApps Calendar. Also, students will see a timer on any Blackboard quiz and it will give you a warning when you reach the last few minutes of the quiz. Groups can now be created by students and professors. There are options to self-enroll, randomly enroll, or manual enroll. Also, if the professor uses the Grade Center, students can check their grades and leave comments for their instructor.
The Course Side Bar Menu may also seem a little different next time you look at it. Besides its sleek new look, it will actually help students and faculty alike trim down extra tabs that are not being used. For example, if a professor has selected to use a Course Information tab, until they put any type of information in there it won’t show up on the student’s view. No longer will we click on tabs that tell us “Folder Empty!”
One plus for faculty and staff is that the control panels will now sit directly under the Course Side Bar Menu. With the Recorder feature, content tabs have never been easier to arrange in a new order and the Modify Items feature makes it easier to edit. Also, you can click on the Control Panel area link and the menu opens with the option. Click on any link and it will take you to a page that allows you to create or edit the option selected.
While we’re on the topic of Content, let me tell you about the new Content Area. It is accessible by just clicking the link/button to the area. For example, if you want to add an interactive tool to the Discussion Board, when in editing mode in the Content Area , click on the Interactive Tool, a menu will drop down for you to select where to apply to it (in this case the Discussion Board).
Another great new feature in the Content Area is Mashups. In any Content Area, professors can easily search and add a Flicker Photo, Slide Share Presentation or YouTube Video and place it directly with the assignment, blog, discussion, journal or whatever content it directly applies to. One last thing for professors to note is the Digital Dropbox is gone. It has been replaced by the Assignment tool which allows students to submit assignments privately and professors to download all student files for a particular assignment in a single zip file. This is also available in any content area. Professors can assign textbooks in Blackboard now, too.
The Edit Button, an icon that sits at the top right, allows a professor/TA/Course Builder to edit the course site. The Edit Off option shows the student view of your courses, while the Edit On allows you to change the course.
There is a More Help link available in the content creation areas. The main Blackboard site will have a ton of interactive videos to help instructors figure out exactly how to do something. Also, you can visit the Blackboard 9 wiki at http://blackboard9.usfca.edu and always contact Ginny Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.