NIU to unveil Blackboard upgrades in late May

Blackboard logoNIU students and faculty members taking and teaching summer courses will work with an improved and upgraded Blackboard system.

The 1,300 faculty members and thousands of students who depend on the university’s online course management system to receive assignments and communicate with classmates and instructors will see the upgrades when they are unveiled Monday, May 28.

Changes to Blackboard will call for fewer clicks and less-cluttered pages, said Ruperto Herrera, the system administrator from NIU Information Technology Services.

“With the new version (Blackboard Learn, Version 9.1, Service Pack 8), students and faculty members will be able to move from course to course without going back to the homepage each time they want to change,” Herrera said. “The newer version also has a sleeker look to it. It’s better organized.”

Another feature of the new version is “negative marking” that allows for the application of negative point values for wrong answers on test questions.

This enables faculty to penalize and prevent guessing on a multiple-choice quiz. A student will not be rewarded for correctly guessing the right answer.

In addition, problematic questions in a Blackboard quiz or test will be easier to fix using the new automated regrading feature. Administrative users simply edit those questions directly and have all necessary updates flow automatically to the Grade Center.

Blackboard then will recalculate the scores, reflect those updates in the Grade Center and provide notification to both the faculty – and, if desired, the student – for all impacted submissions.

There is also a new course set-up wizard and visual themes to help faculty design their courses.

Blackboard Service Pack 8 logo“Faculty will have more choices in course structures and themes when using Blackboard Learn, Version 9.1 SP8,” said Jason Rhode, assistant director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. “Faculty will be able to see a preview of the new features before the upgrade, and we will offer regular workshops on the new features after the upgrade.”

“We’re excited with the positive feedback we’ve had about the last Blackboard Next Generation upgrade,” Herrera said. “People who have used it are just as excited about it.”

Blackboard’s last major upgrade was a year ago. Planning for the imminent changes began two months ago.

Service during the Memorial Day weekend of Saturday, May 26, and Sunday, May 27, will be disrupted. Faculty teaching intersession courses that weekend will be notified prior to the upgrade so they are aware of the changes, Herrera said.

More details concerning the upgrade, as well as information on available upcoming workshops and support materials for faculty, are available online.

by Gerard Dziuba

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