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(this post is a continuation update from my prior post in March 2018)

 

We're starting this update off with an update on the #1 most-requested feature here on the Bb Community Site: the ability for users to download documents containing annotations created in New Box View.

 

As I've discussed in previous updates and messages, Blackboard has taken responsibility for building and rolling out this feature and we continue to work with Box on development and implementation details.  For this initial implementation, users will be able to download the latest version of text-based documents containing annotations using a new, simple download option available in the Inline Grading workflow.

 

Here's a design mockup of what the implementation could look like for users within the Learn Ultra Experience:

(design mockup subject to change)

 

We will also be delivering this feature to the Learn Original Experience, and I will update this post with a mockup of the design when it is available.  Generally, the additional option for "download with annotations" will be similar in the Learn Original Experience as it is displayed in the Learn Ultra Experience above.

 

We're actively coding this feature and are expecting to be able to provide this functionality prior to the start of the back-to-school period for many schools in August.  As we get closer to this date, we'll be providing more information and documentation for the feature.

 

For the functionality that Box is responsible for updating, there are a few updates to share:

 

Change in UX for accessing comments on annotations from on-hover to on-click

Due to feedback from both the Blackboard community as well as other Box users, Box is making a change to how users interact with exposing text-based annotations:

 

Today, to access a comment on a highlight or point annotation users must hover over the annotation.  This is one less click to make but requires the user's mouse to hover on the annotation constantly which can be problematic.

 

After this change users will be able to click on an annotation with text comment, view the contents of the comment, then move the mouse while the comment remains visible.  Clicking on the annotation again will close the comment.

 

This means that users can more easily review multiple comments at once as well as navigate within the browser while still reviewing annotation comments.  This change will be implemented on May 21st, 2018. 

 

Summary View

Box has confirmed that they are in active development of the "summary view" (Box may use the term "sidebar element") which will allow users to recognize that annotations exist in multiple locations within a document and navigate to those annotations easily.  The timeframe for availability of this feature is currently expected between July and September.  We'll keep updating the Bb community with more information as we have it.

 

Annotations on Excel-based files

Box has confirmed that this functionality is also in active development, and Blackboard is working with Box on timing for a rollout of this feature.  Currently, we are expecting availability within approximately six weeks though we'll update again with more information as we have it.

 

Lastly, a few operational updates:

 

We're closing voting on the ideas relating to New Box View located in the Idea Exchange section of this site.  Voting has been open for several months, and most of the activity and actual votes were cast early on when the ideas were createdIn recent weeks the feedback has slowed and we're confident that the priorities of the Bb community are well reflected in the votes and comments present within the ideas.  The ideas will be moved to their respective stages of "In Development", "Planned", or "For Future Consideration."  Users will still be able to comment on the ideas, and all previous comments will be retained.

 

We continue to maintain the live tracking spreadsheet here: link

(this post is a continuation update from my prior post in February 2018)

 

Edit: 3/27 - Drawing Annotations were enabled for all customers on 3/26, noted by Box in their changelog here.

 

There has been quite a bit of activity over the past few weeks regarding New Box View, with some good progress being made but also some bumps in the road.  Specifically, Box released both Drawing Annotations and "sticky" Point Annotation Mode as promised in early MarchUnfortunately, unexpected performance problems were quickly identified with the new Drawing Annotations and Box made the decision to remove the new tools until these issues were remedied.  Box has now made progress in fixing the root cause of the performance concerns and have since reenabled sticky Point Annotations and plan to reinstate the Drawing Annotations no later than Tuesday, March 27th.  I will update this post once we have confirmed Drawing Annotations have been made available again. 

 

Note: the Box site link above states this, but I wanted to call out that feedback and data created using Drawing Annotations while they were active will be available again when the tool is reenabled – no data will be lost

 

More broadly, the circumstances of Drawing Annotations mentioned above has highlighted several gaps in communication between Box, Blackboard, and Blackboard clients regarding the timing of changes to the New Box View service.  Generally, the flow of information through the community ecosystem is represented as:

 

(1) Vendor-distributed generalized information

Leads to...

(2) Blackboard-distributed information outlining impact for Bb clients

Leads to...

(3) Bb clients'-distributed targeted information specific for clients' end users' needs

 

After continued discussions between Blackboard and Box, we have identified several specific actions which will help fulfill the expectations at all points in that communication chain:

  • Monthly updates from Box to Blackboard with expected changes coming in the next month
  • Email and publicly reference-able location from Box for monthly updates
  • Additional end user-facing documentation (e.g. "how does this new feature work?")

 

These additional activities help reinforce the information in coming from Box in (1); will allow Blackboard to tailor our communications across our established channels (here on the Bb Community Site, on Help.blackboard.com, and through Behind the Blackboard) to meet the needs of (2); and enable the Administrators, Instructional Designers, content creators, facilitators and other end-user facing roles at Blackboard client institutions to be successful at (3).

 

This additional work continues to strengthen the partnership between Blackboard and Box to provide timely and accurate information to Blackboard clients regarding product updates.  We appreciate the community's patience as we work through these actions and look forward to continuing to improve the communication, features, and overall experience of using Inline Grading within Blackboard Learn and the New Box View service.

4/12/18 edit: updated information about IP addresses

 

A quick update: the previously-planned and then deferred AWS migration for SafeAssign is back on!  New date and time are April 2nd starting at 3am EDT.  All other information previously provided is still correct.

 

There was an additional question from the community about whitelisted IP addresses for SafeAssign, and I can confirm that IP address changes will be necessary with this migration.  If you have whitelisted IPs for SafeAssign, they should be updated to the values listed here: Cloud FAQs | Blackboard Help

 

Here is the link to the updated Support Bulletin from Behind the Blackboard: https://blackboard.secure.force.com/btbb_articleview?id=kAA3900000000JTGAY

The planned SafeAssign migration to AWS recently announced for March 8th, and covered in my blog post last week, has been delayed.

 

The SafeAssign Team has been preparing for this migration for around 12 months. Due to the size of the SafeAssign database, the plan for migrating data was based on an iterative approach which would limit downtime to a few hours. During the 12 months of planning both test migrations and a migration of the SafeAssign Staging environment were completed.  Originally, these tests were thought to be successful, which led to our plan to complete the migration on March 8th.

 

When finalizing the migration activities of the SafeAssign production environment, we discovered a risk for issues regarding concurrency and data table inaccuracies, which could cause data corruption or loss for student submissions after the migration. This was not apparent during test and staging migrations and not something the team could easily correct before the March 8th migration.

 

Given the potential data loss and corruption we are postponing the AWS migration scheduled for March 8th until solutions for the identified problems can be resolved.  We will publish a new bulletin when we have a new migration date.

 

We understand that our administrator partners have notified end-users of the disruption and we apologize for the last-minute postponement of the migration.

We recently announced a downtime event for the SafeAssign service on March 8th, and I'd like to take the opportunity to provide more information about the reason for this downtime to provide transparency for the Bb Community:

 

For over a decade, the SafeAssign service has been hosted in Blackboard's Managed Hosting datacenters and for most of those years the performance of the service was stable and able to support the volume of submissions coming from Blackboard Learn customers.  However, over the past several years Learn clients' interest and usage of Safeassign has increased significantly:

 


 

SafeAssign is also a very cyclical product and there are small periods of very high numbers of submissions followed by long periods of low to medium numbers of submissions.  This peak load period is difficult to accommodate without relying on modern cloud computing techniques:

 


 

The graph above represents the number of papers submitted per minute over the past two weeks as of this writing; the spikes are ~midnight EST, and the big spikes are Sunday nights leading into Monday mornings.  You can see that each day has a relative peak but Sunday nights are the highest volume days with volume trailing off towards Saturday each week.

 

To handle both the increases in volume over the years and the peak volume periods, we're moving the SafeAssign infrastructure into the Amazon Web Services platform on March 8.  Actually, we've been moving the service to AWS in pieces over the course of about nine months, and March 8 represents the final migration of the remaining components of the service.

 

Unfortunately, given the scope of the migration it is not possible to prevent some downtime for the service during this transition.  We understand the impact that downtime for the SafeAssign service has on clients and users.  We are planning this downtime on a Thursday to allow enough buffer prior to the expected peak of Sunday night (per the graph above) should any problems arise during the migration.

 

The move to AWS should represent one of the final full-downtime events that SafeAssign should ever experience.  Aside from the entire AWS infrastructure we rely on going down (which can happen, though is quite rare), the risk of SafeAssign outages should be significantly reduced by this transition.  The AWS infrastructure also provides opportunity to implement automated scaling policies which will reduce the possibility of delays during peak load periods.  Finally, our architecture design within AWS will support additional improvements to things like matching algorithms, search data sources, and other areas which will improve the overall quality of the SafeAssign service.

(This post is meant to serve as an update to the prior post in December 2017)

 

To provide as much information and transparency as possible, we held several webinars on February 15th and February 21st to provide updates to clients across multiple markets on the status of changes to the New Box View service (recording available here).  The goal of these webinars was to continue to track and communicate changes to the New Box View service over the past several months since the Blackboard Learn integration with New Box View was made available and to provide information on new functionality coming soon.

 

As discussed in these webinars, there we are using two classifications of issues:

  • Bugs which are problems with existing functionality
  • Features which are new functionality not currently present

 

From these categorizations, we can track the progress over time of changes to the New Box View service. For bugs, Box and Blackboard continue to be responsive to customer reports of issues relating to both the New Box View service and the integration between Blackboard Learn and New Box View.  Below represents an accounting and status of bugs reported at the time of this writing:

 

Live tracking spreadsheet available here: link

 

For features, one specific improvement has already been delivered and a date has been provided for several new features:

 

UX for point- and highlight-based annotations – delivered on January 10, 2018 by Box

Previously, comments on point-based annotations were accessed by hovering with the mouse cursor over the point annotation while comments on highlight-based annotations were accessed by clicking on the highlight.  This caused confusion for users who expected the same interaction between comments on the two types of annotations.

 

On January 10, Box updated the interactions for comments on both point- and highlight-based annotations to be accessed by hovering over the annotation:

 

Point and Highlight Annotation OnHover.gif

Sticky annotation mode – in development, planned for delivery March 5 by Box

A less-requested but still relevant improvement to the New Box View service has been to make it easier for users to add multiple annotations of the same type in sequence without having to re-select the annotation mode from the main navigation bar.

 

On March 5th, 2018 Box will be updating the New Box View service with a “sticky” mode for annotations (specifically point- and drawing- annotations):

 

point annotations sticky small.gif

Drawing annotations – in development, planned for delivery March 5 by Box

One of the most-requested features for the New Box View service is to provide users the ability to add freehand drawings to documents.

 

On March 5th, 2018 Box will be updating the New Box View service with the ability to add drawings by entering into “drawing mode” (similar to “sticky” mode for point annotations):

 

Drawing Annotations.gif

 

Downloading documents w/ annotations – in design, timing TBD by Blackboard

The most-requested feature addition on the Bb Community Site is the ability for users to download PDF versions of their documents containing the existing annotations at that point in time. 

 

Blackboard recognizes the significance and importance of this functionality and has begun investigation into building this functionality within Blackboard Learn.  We have recently raised the priority of this work and completed a proof of concept for a technical design.  Blackboard is scoping the effort required to move from proof of concept to full scale implementation.  When the scoping effort is complete, we will be able to provide a timeline for the availability of this feature.  We are targeting this work for Q2 2018, and will confirm timing in the coming weeks.

 

Going forward, we will continue to use the input from the Blackboard client community (including voting on outstanding ideas here on the Community Site) to prioritize and communicate the importance and need for improvements in the New Box View service with Box, Inc.  Blackboard and Box remain closely partnered to improve the Inline Grading and document rendering capabilities.  As progress is made with New Box View functionality and new timing information becomes available, Blackboard will provide periodic updates on new features on a timely basis.  The roadmap below represents our current, best understanding of timing for the work I've just discussed:

 

 

 

A Focus on Assessment

We'd also like to expand on Blackboard's larger strategic approach to feedback and assessment of which Inline Grading is one component of a larger suite of assessment tools within Blackboard Learn.  While we continue to make progress with improvements and changes to the New Box View service, note that document rendering and annotation is also only one part of the overall feedback and assessment capabilities within Blackboard Learn.  Blackboard's intent to provide users with valuable tools for managing and communicating the process of assessing student work extends to several other existing and upcoming functional areas as well:

 

 

These changes in combination with improvements to the New Box View service represent a holistic approach to feedback and assessment from Blackboard.

Blackboard and our clients have been well served over many years by the Crocodoc service.  Due to the upcoming end of life of the Crocodoc service, Blackboard has made several releases of Blackboard Learn available that support integration with New Box View service which replaces the Crocodoc service and functionality within Inline Grading workflows.

 

As clients have started to upgrade to these new versions of Learn, we have received a great deal of feedback about the New Box View service as a replacement for Crocodoc, and we have been working with Box to address several areas of concern.

 

The overall feedback has a been a mixture of positive sentiment and identification of several areas that clients have found challenging which could be improved.  Some examples of positive feedback include:

 

  • Support for significantly more file types, including audio, video, and image formats
  • More responsive browser support for accessing documents on any device across mobile browsers and within Bb Grader
  • A more modern, cleaner UI that more seamlessly blends with Learn

 

Additionally, because New Box View is provided by Box, Inc. – one of the world's largest SaaS-based content management services – the New Box View service includes compliance with the strictest security and compliance standards including SOC, ISO, HIPAA standards and more.  With over 44 million users on Box platform, Box is one of the most proven and scalable solutions in the market to provide direct access to user-submitted content within any web browser.  Blackboard is proud to rely on Box for this important functionality and we have confidence Box will deliver a reliable, robust service to our clients even at the peak of our clients' submission times. However, in addition to these improvements over Crocodoc, there has also been significant concern regarding some features that are present in Crocodoc but not currently present in New Box View.  Areas of concern have included:

 

  • Lack of annotation types (e.g. drawing annotation)
  • Inability to view multiple annotations at once
  • Inability to download documents containing annotations
  • Accessibility of the New Box View service

 

Based on this feedback, Blackboard has been working to organize and communicate these concerns to Box to help prioritize these concerns amongst Box's overall roadmap and development efforts.  To help this effort, Blackboard is organizing a community-based voting effort on the most important features needed in New Box View.  Ideas can be viewed here and users can now vote on the importance of the ideas.

 

We are happy to share that Box – based on feedback from Blackboard, and on behalf of our clients – has already begun work to improve the New Box View service in several areas of concern:

 

  • Drawing Annotations – Box has confirmed that drawing annotations are in development and are planned to be delivered early in 2018. 
  • Accessibility – generally, Box is committed to Accessibility as a core tenant of their offerings.  Specifically, New Box View already supports viewing, reading, posting, and downloading document contents using a screen reader for all content submitted in text format.  More Accessibility enhancements for text-based documents – specifically accessing annotations within these documents – are planned for implementation in the first half of 2018 as well.  Box has also recently implemented support for several features specifically relating to Accessibility for video content including closed captioning, keyboard shortcuts for controls, and screen-readable controls.

 

In addition, some customers have also identified some functional bugs within the New Box View service, and these bugs have been reported to Box and are being addressed.

 

These planned enhancements and fixes – along with additional improvements based on feedback from the Blackboard community – will help improve the New Box View offering to meet the needs of Learn users around the world.  Blackboard is committed to working with Box to make the New Box View service the best Inline Document rendering tool in the Education market for our mutual users.

jg27383

Organizations in Bb Student

Posted by jg27383 Oct 17, 2017

I know that organizations are coming to Bb Student soon in the next release.         

 

Where can I find the release notes for Blackboard Student app?

The following link did not help.

Feature Guide for the Blackboard App | Blackboard Help

Any chance of considering adding a CHAT function in the Bb Student App. I think that this would be a great way for students to connect with other students in classes, especially fully online or hybrid courses.

Thanks for considering!

Steve

 

Hello, community. Thank you for participating in our most recent round of voting. This round was focused on ideas for Ultra courses. Over the next month or so, we will be finalizing our list of targeted work for Q4. Once that list is firm, I will reach out to the community members who voted for the ideas we're moving forward with to schedule a discussion with the Product Manager and/or Designer who will be responsible for that feature. We will share designs if they're available and talk about how we might implement the idea(s). For the ideas we are not moving forward with in Q4, I'll add a note to them describing where they fit in our current plans. So, more to come soon! In the meantime, I've included the voting results below.

 

Thank you again for contributing to our community!

Brad

 

Currently, there is a set of predetermined modules on the Blackboard course home site.  Also, there is the ability to create a template for course sites with specific left nav course links.  With the ability to create unique modules, it would benefit the institution to have a predetermined Homepage for each course.  These modules can provide students with meaningful resources such as Learner Support, Help Desk hours, etc. To be honest, at this point, most of our instructors remove the modules and leave Announcements. 

Thank you for engaging in the recent round of voting on ideas for the Original course experience. Voting was open for three weeks and you collectively cast over 900 votes! I love seeing the increased participation in views, comments, and new ideas you’ve been creating. As we speak, we are working with our Developers and Designers on a handful of the top-voted ideas to familiarize them with your needs and determine what we can prioritize for the Q4 2017 release. Once we have that list finalized, I’ll be reaching out to the community members who voted for those ideas to talk about how the feature will be developed and what you can expect to see within the product. Please see below for a full list of the ideas we opened for voting and the vote totals for each. We will continue building on this momentum with a round of voting for Ultra course ideas leading up to BbWorld. As we continue to develop Ultra, we welcome your feedback and ideas to directly impact included features and capabilities. Thank you again for participating in this exercise and in the community overall. Your input has a direct impact on our roadmap and we are committed to building innovative, integrated, and relevant solutions that enable you continue delivering quality educational experiences for your users.

 

brad.evans

Idea Review Process

Posted by brad.evans Jan 10, 2017

CommunityProcess_Stack2.png

 

 

Goal

Implement a simple, transparent process for reviewing, voting for, and building your most popular ideas for new features. While I’ve generally outlined the voting process we used earlier this year, the backlog and inflow of new ideas has reached a point where it has become necessary to formalize the entire lifecycle of ideas. In the next week or so, we will be reviewing and updating all existing ideas based on this process.

 

New Ideas

The way you’ve been creating new ideas will not change. Either myself or another Product Manager will continue reviewing all new ideas and tagging, updating the product and experience (Original or Ultra), and posting follow-up questions as needed. Remember, the most useful ideas are focused on a problem or business need rather than the exact way the solution should be built. New ideas will remain open for at least 30 days. After that time, its stage will be updated based on how many views, comments, and bookmarks it has received, and other external factors.

 

Voting

Several times per year, we will open a set of ideas for voting. These voting periods will generally align with our development planning cycles for both Original and Ultra experiences in order to receive the most timely feedback from the community. The ideas chosen for voting will be based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to: number and nature of comments, number of views, feedback from users outside of the community site, business goals/priorities, and prior voting results. Voting will remain open for two weeks. While we will be interested in pursuing all ideas that receive a large number of votes, we will not be able to deliver on every idea, even those that finish very high or at the top of a voting period. However, we will strive to be transparent and share our reasoning when we choose not to add ideas that the community is passionate about to our near-term plans. Ideas not chosen for voting will either be archived or remain in the For Future Consideration stage, depending again on the same criteria outlined above.

 

Product Development Partnership

As a follow-up activity for the ideas we will be moving forward with, we are bringing back the Product Development Partnership. After each voting period, we will choose at least one of the ideas for a set of collaborative webinars. During these discussions we intend to share designs, talk about how we will break down the functionality into deliverable milestones, and project rough timelines for building the new feature. We will begin by inviting the community members who voted for the idea, but will include as many interested participants as we can support.

 

Because it will not be feasible to do this for every idea we intend to build, we will kick it off with one per voting period. We certainly expect to build more than one idea from each voting period, though, so an idea not being chosen for this activity does not mean that we are not interested in building it! Also at the end of each voting session, the stage of each idea will be updated appropriately, based on number of votes, number and nature of comments, and our intentions for building or not building that idea.

 

Archiving Ideas

In the interest of maintaining an orderly, working backlog, we will review and archive ideas at each step of the lifecycle. Between voting periods, we will archive ideas that have been open for at least 30 days that have not garnered a minimum level of activity. We will seek to normalize activity across all open ideas, so that an idea that has been open for 60 days is given similar consideration as an idea that has been open for 30. Ideas may also be archived if they are not chosen for voting or if they finish very low in a round of voting. We will never archive an idea that has moved beyond the Under Review stage without first posting a comment explaining why we are not moving the idea forward at that time.

 

Ideas that are archived can be resubmitted, but it may be best to give the idea some time before doing so. If an idea is resubmitted but does not meet the minimum level of activity, it will be eligible for archiving after its first 30 days. Again, our intention is to keep a consumable number of open, active ideas in the backlog. If we do not have a desire to develop a feature in the next 12-24 months, it benefits the backlog to archive it and revisit the idea in the future.

 

Stages

 

  • Under Review: This is the default stage for new ideas. Ideas in this stage are available for viewing, comments, and bookmarks. Ideas will remain in the Under Review stage for at least 30 days.
  • For Future Consideration: Ideas meeting a minimum level of activity will be moved from Under Review to the For Future Consideration stage. Many of the ideas that are chosen for voting will come from this stage. We will also use this stage for ideas that have gone through a round of voting but will not be included in the next few releases. In order to keep the backlog meaningful and manageable, we will limit the number of ideas in the For Future Consideration stage to 100.
  • Open for Voting: Ideas in this stage are open for your votes! You can vote one time on each idea and you can vote on as many ideas as you’d like. Ideas will remain in the Open for Voting stage for two weeks.
  • Planned: Ideas in this stage have usually gone through a round of voting and we intend to deliver them in a coming release.
  • Delivered: These ideas have made it all the way through the process and are now available in Learn!
  • Archived: Archived ideas were open for at least 30 days and may have even gone through a round of voting, but either did not interest the community or will not be built in the next 12-24 months. We will never archive an idea that has moved beyond the Under Review stage without first posting a comment explaining why we are not moving the idea forward at that time.
brad.evans

Voting Kick-off!

Posted by brad.evans May 6, 2016

We are excited to announce our first round of community voting! The purpose of this voting is to get your direct feedback on where you would like us to focus development efforts for Learn. Beginning this week and going through the end of May, we are moving a filtered set of Ideas to the Active stage and making them available for voting you to vote on what is most important to your institution. The list we’re we are opening for voting is a combination of Ideas you’ve submitted and some work we’re considering for the next couple upcoming releases. We’ve included some Ideas of our own in order to validate our priorities and see how important they are to you relative to the Ideas you have created submitted.

 

You will be able to vote for each Idea once and you can vote for as many Ideas as you’d like. At the end of this voting period, we will move each Idea to a new stage based on your votes, comments, and our plans for that feature.

 

For this round, we will be voting on Ideas for environments using the Original experience only. Our next round of voting, which we expect to run during the month of June, will focus on Ideas for the Ultra experience. Please see below for the list of Ideas that are open for voting in May. We are looking forward to seeing the results and want to thank you again for your participation and for sharing your insights!

 

June 13 Update: I have updated the Ideas that are open for voting. For this round, please keep in mind that we are focused specifically on the Ultra course experience. If you have not yet explored Ultra courses, please take a minute to check out the Educator Preview site to get first hand experience with the new look and feel. I'm expecting these Ideas to be open through BbWorld, so please help spread the word and share your feedback!

 

Beta Phase Ideation:

Within the next few weeks, we will open up Idea submission to you, the users! You will be able to create ideas, provide descriptions, add images or videos to illustrate, add categories to your idea based on the product, and even @mention other users or posted ideas that give further context to your brilliant idea (see Using @mention or Creating @mentions to learn more).

 

For the beta phase, we will be asking for your feedback in our Ideas space. Think of this as a Suggestion Box that will be reviewed and triaged by your Blackboard Product Managers. Once you hit submit, it will go into our moderation queue where our Product Managers will review your idea and compare it with ideas that other users have submitted to try to avoid duplicates. Once a Product Manager has read your idea, asked for any clarification that may be needed, and is ready for the Community to view and discuss it, we'll move it to the "First Submission" stage. This is the initial feedback stage and will allow other members to view and comment on your idea. Voting is not active in this stage.

 

first.png

 

Periodically, we will move ideas to the 'Active' stage -- this is where we want your vote. Voting an idea up or down will add or subtract 5 points. Vote on as many ideas in the Active stage as you wish. You can also continue to add your feedback in the comments section. We expect that ideas that are moved to Active will be open to voting for a specified time period. When a voting period ends, ideas will be moved to one of many different stages (i.e., In Progress, Under Review, etc.) based on your feedback, votes, and our current expectations or plans for that idea.

 

Do you have any questions or concerns? We would love to hear your ideas about ideas in the comments to this blog. We are excited to see what you and your community of Blackboard users will submit!