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We're happy to announce a new feature in BbStats: Latent Class Analysis with Annual adoption report.

Some time ago we reported about a new study at the University of Illinois at Chicago about Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use . This research was featured at the DevCon in 2017 and in Top 7 findings in the new study on Blackboard usage .

 

Running your own Latent Class Analysis study may be of interest to you, but likely many priorities are competing for your time. By the way, Latent Class Analysis is a statistical method for identifying unmeasured class membership among subjects using categorical and/or continuous observed variables. So, while we can't run a custom study for you, it is now possible to identify latent groups already documented. BbStats will graph out how many of your courses belong to each latent group. It doesn't do that by running the model itself, you would do that in order to discover new latent groups or groups unique to your organization. So, as long as you accept the findings of the UIC study, BbStats will identify three documented groups in your data.

 

Latent group analysis is a process of grouping data to discover new patterns. In a way, the data itself speaks to you through the emerging patterns. Extracting the course design data from Blackboard with BbStats and running the statistical model at UIC identified the following groups: Holistic, Complementary, and Content Repository.

 

Course data was extracted from 2562 courses with 98,381 student enrollments during the Fall of 2016. A latent class analysis was conducted to identify the patterns of LMS tool use based on the presence of grade center columns, announcements, assignments, discussion boards, and assessments within each course. Three latent classes of courses were identified and characterized as Holistic tool use (28% of the courses), Complementary tool use (51%), and Content repository (21%).

 

Following is the process to replicate the study report in your Blackboard Learn system:

 

1. Count all courses with an active grade center. According to the study, this includes Holistic and Complementary courses, but excludes Content Repository courses.

2. Count all courses with an active grade center, announcements, and discussion forums, which identify the Holistic group, with very close approximation.

3. Identify all courses accessed by students, which indicate courses that were active at some point in history.

 

With the above three groups identified, the system makes the following calculations:

 

Holistic courses = All courses with an active grade center, announcements, and discussion forums.

Complementary courses = All courses with an active grade center minus Holistic courses

Content Repository = All courses accessed by students minus all courses with an active grade center

 

This figure, taken from the UIC study, shows the basis for the above calculations:

Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 5.12.11 PM.png

There are two ways of running the Latent Class Analysis report in BbStats.

 

1. You can specify a pattern for the course_id to investigate course groups or departments. This may be different for your school (Figure 2). Examples:

 

Show latent groups for the Fall 2018 courses for the Computer Information Systems department:

2018.fall.cis.%

 

Show latent groups for calendar year 2016:

2016.%

 

Identify latent group for a specific course:

2017.fall.cis.101.12345

 

2. The second way of using the new report is to run the Annual Latent Class Analysis. This will show academic year breakdown based on course creation date from March 1, 2013 to March 1, 2018. The assumption is that courses are created prior to the Spring/Summer term after March 1. This report does not require any course_id patterns (Figure 3).

 

Figure 2.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 7.18.05 PM.png

 

Figure 3.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 7.17.36 PM.png

 

Try it in your staging system. OCELOT: BbStats.

 

Note:

The system expects that courses are created inactive and instructors enable courses for students to see. This means that if students access courses, these courses are active. Also, any new gradebook column counts as usage of the gradebook. So, if all new courses are pre-populated with gradebook columns, the complementary category will be very high. However, if faculty create their own gradebook columns by copying courses and if inactive courses are not available to students, the graphs should be accurate.

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

 

Time for another update on this topic! This month's update will be short but juicy, so let's dive in:

 

Addition of 'Comment Summary' to Annotated PDF Downloads

When we rolled out the 'download PDFs with annotations' capability, one of the pieces of feedback we received was that the point- or comment-based annotations had to be expanded one at a time before they could be printed for physical review. Also, expanding the comments within the PDF - particularly longer comments or comments with lots of text - could potentially cover up or block the content on the page making it more difficult to view the content that the annotation was associated with.

 

To help alleviate this, on 10/23/2018 we implemented new functionality that adds a 'Comment Summary' section to the end of annotated PDFs when downloaded from New Box View. This new feature does a few things at once:

 

  • Adds numbered labels to comments based on location within the document, with numbering starting at the top comment
  • Adds a 'Comment Summary' section to the end of the PDF
  • Lists comments based on (1) page number and (2) comment number

 

Here are some screenshots of the functionality in action:

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 5.14.22 PM.png

Note the three Point Comments in New Box View

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 5.14.32 PM.png

Same three comments numbered in annotated PDF download

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 5.14.51 PM.png

Comment Summary with page number and numbered comments listed

 

This new functionality has been implemented within the microservice that supports this feature, so no change or update to Learn is required to access this feature. Go check it out now!

 

Note: this is separate and unrelated to the 'Summary View' feature that has been requested that presents an aggregated view of annotations while viewing files online and within New Box View; this new summary of comments is only for downloaded PDFs containing annotations.

 

Box Deprecation of TLS 1.0 and Supported Web Browsers

Technology companies across Internet have been broadly deprecating support for the older TLS 1.0 standard (e.g. Salesforce.com) and Box is following suit. Here is the link to the Box information on the change. There are two relevant points for Blackboard clients:

 

Supported Browsers

The Box and Blackboard matrices for browsers supporting the newer TLS 1.1 standard are available here: Box Supported Browsers and Blackboard Supported Browsers. Directly comparing the matrices:

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 2.27.43 PM.png

Box supported browser versions

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 2.27.50 PM.png

Blackboard Learn supported browser versions

 

The main point is that the oldest browser versions supported by Blackboard are significantly newer than the oldest browsers that support at least TLS 1.1, so there should not be any issue for users on Blackboard-supported versions of browsers.

 

Timing of Deprecation

Box originally announced end of support for TLS 1.0 on 6/25/2018 and completely deprecate TLS 1.0 calls on 11/12/2018. This means users need to be on a browser supporting TLS 1.1 before 11/12 or they will not be able to use New Box View within Learn.

 

Note that Blackboard removed support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1 for Learn SaaS customers on 8/31/2018.

 

Thank you for your continued patience and support as Blackboard and Box continue to improve this area of functionality!

The top findings from the Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use | SpringerLink research study at University of Illinois at Chicago.Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 3.04.16 PM.png

 

1. On-line courses at UIC focus on holistic use of LMS tools.  68.3% of hybrid/elearning courses, as opposed to in-person courses, were in this latent analysis group and used five key tools: content items, grade center, announcements, discussions, and digital assessments.  Only 22.5% of in-person courses were found in this group.  3% of hybrid/elearning courses were in content repository group.

 

2. 53.7% of in-person courses at UIC were in complimentary usage group.  This means they used three main tools: grade center, announcements, and assignments.   In-person courses split 22.5% as holistic and 23.7% as content repository courses.  Content repository courses used content items and announcements (without the use of the grade center, assignments, or digital assessments).

 

3. Holistic group of courses had courses of larger class sizes and greater likelihood of on-line delivery.

 

4. Comparing the student use of time in digital content of courses and faculty design intentions, there is clearly a gap.  Perhaps time spent on course items by students reflects their best judgment on what will make them successful in the course. Faculty may be designing opportunities for students, which are not well communicated and utilized. Further research is needed to bridge this gap and match student digital behavior with faculty expectations and their design for learning.

 

5. The aggregate profiles of courses by school or college often reflect a general nature of the programs and curricular approach.  The adoption of specific tools in the digital portion of a course should not be correlated to academic quality of the program or effectiveness of instruction.  This approach reports only on the selection of tools in Blackboard Learn portion of the course design. However, this presentation of the results may suggest resources that may be needed by specific colleges, such as assigned instructional designers or instructor training sessions in specific Blackboard tool use. Finally, as the body of knowledge about the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) continues to increase, exploring the tool use in the local learning management system may help to distribute SoTL findings to instructors and colleges according to the digital evidence of their course design (Englund, Olofsson, & Price, 2017; Openo et al, 2017).

 

6. The findings in this study need to be related to the patterns, which were identified previously by measuring the student use of courses across a large data set (Whitmer et al., 2016). That study did not report on the faculty intent, in terms of the design of the course, but on the time students spent consuming content. The present study adds that while students may be spending a large amount of time in the content of the course, at least 28% of courses at UIC were created with well-rounded opportunities for students to engage in assessments, discussions, announcements, assignments, and reviewing grade postings.  This affects approximately 31,417 student course enrollments (706 courses with 44.5 enrollments on average out of the total of 2,562 courses with an average of 38.4 student course enrollments). The definition of the Complementary group in the study by Whitmer (2016) included content with announcements and the use of gradebook.  Our study identifies a different course design profile as Complementary tool use.  It includes digital assignments for roughly half of the courses.  Perhaps the time required to complete the assignments cannot be recorded in the student activity data; however, there is a clear intention on the side of faculty for students to submit their assignments through the LMS.  Along with the Holistic tool use profile of courses, they make up 79% of courses at UIC.

 

7. The use of the Blackboard Learn system as a “Content repository” makes up only 21% of the system, 3% of hybrid/elearning courses.  This latent class profile, content repository, may represent initial phases of a faculty member digitizing a course experience.  It may represent the view of the role of technology in teaching as faculty-to-student communication and content-to-student communication.  Certainly, this intent by faculty does not tap into student-to-student communication, digital collaboration between either faculty and students (assignments) or student-to-student collaboration (groups, discussions), or digital assessment (quizzes or exams) in the  system.  It may be that these teaching and learning dimensions are facilitated in the classroom or in other systems.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 5.12.23 PM.png

Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 5.12.11 PM.png

 

 

More:

Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use

ResearchGate: Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use

Springer Nature Reader

 

References:

Machajewski, S., Steffen, A., Romero Fuerte, E., & Rivera, E. (2018). Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use. TechTrends. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-018-0327-0

Last week we had an email avalanche when a teacher sent an email by a personal learning desiger rule.
The idea was to send a personalized email to every student.
The rule was simple: send an email at a specific date and time.
The email contained the token ((student_firstname)) and was sent to all users in the course with the role student.

This apparently created 400 emails, one for every student, that were all sent to every student, making 160000 emails. Expected behaviour was: send one email to every student.

We now realize that he should probably have sent the email to 'Triggering user', but it's not evidently clear that including the token is actually a trigger. Or is it? Maybe you can clarify this for us.

It would be nice to have a preview feature for PLD, maybe even a warning when a user tries does something that would trigger so many emails: "You will be sending 160000 emails! Do you really want to do that?"

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

 

9/28 Edit: updated expected CU delivery dates

9/14 Edit: updated Excel file annotations info

10/16 Edit: updated delivered CU dates and links

 

It's been ~six weeks since my last update and there has been some new developments on multiple fronts that I thought I'd share:

 

Excel-based File Annotations

Box has informed Blackboard that today, September 13th, they will be enabling annotations capabilities for Excel-based file formats (.xls, .xlsx, etc.).  Once available, this functionality will represent another improvement to New Box View and another gap closed against the former Crocodoc solution.

 

The exact time this functionality will be available is not known, but I will keep checking and update this post once confirmed!

Excel files can now be annotated!  Go try it yourself!

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 4.20.35 PM.png

 

Download with Annotations in Learn Original Bug Fix Availability

Since the release of the Download with Annotations capability, a bug was identified that prevents the download of annotated documents when using the 'My Grades' workflow.  We've identified the underlying issue and have a fix ready, but the fix must be applied to Learn instances (not within a microservice).  The next round of planned Cumulative Updates for Learn will provide this fix, and are currently targeted for the following dates:

 

 

These dates are still targets and could move, but this is our expected timing based on what we know right now.  I'll update this post as the CUs become available.

 

In the interim, the workaround for this issue is to use the Download with Annotations capability by accessing the attempt through the Content -> Assignment -> Attempt workflow.

 

Accessibility Update

Box has made internal progress on improve the accessibility of New Box View: the main content and navigation UI has been accessible for quite a while, and the annotations have been the next priority and progress has been made.  However, the improvements will not be available until the general annotations features make their way into the main Box content management application, and I don't yet have a timeframe from Box on that action.  However given the development cadence and agile methodology that Box follows, movement and communication from Box means that we're getting closer!  As soon as I have more information, I'll share it via an update to this post or a new blog post.

 

I've also updated the issue tracking spreadsheet this month as well.

I was going to start a discussion and solicit feedback, then I realized I could just as easily create a blog post and have the discussion in the comments section.   So here we are.

 

What's this about?

 

Part of staying on top of my work is keeping up with Known Issues in Blackboard.  A lot of times, I don't have time to log in to BtBb and look things up, so what I'll do is keep a copy of the Known Issues spreadsheet on my workstation for quick reference. This blog post explains the hows and the whys, and also goes into what I do with the data once I've got it.

 

Getting the Data from BtBb

 

Log in to Behind the Blackboard and click on the link to Known Issues.btbb_platform_select.png

Once the Known Issues page is loaded, you'll want to narrow down the results a bit.  To do this, click the "Release" dropdown and select your environment.

 

NOTE:  There are only two options available, 9.1 and SaaS. If you don't know which of these is applicable to your institution, you probably shouldn't be logging into BtBb in the first place.

 

So as the image to the right will attest, I've selected my release (SaaS), and my Product (Learn) and Article Type (Known Issues) were selected by default when I clicked on the "Known Issues" link from the BtBb main page.

 

 

export_to_excel.pngSo once I've selected my Release, I click on  "Export to Excel" to download the data.  (The "Export to Excel" icon is on the upper region of the page, on the right-hand side, hidden in plain sight, as it were.)

 

Your browser will download the file, and depending on your browser and system configuration, you may or may not be prompted to do something. My machine is so accustomed to me doing this that it doesn't even bother me when I go to download pretty much anything from Bb.

 

We've got data, 'cause we've got a band.1

 

Now that the XLS file has been downloaded to your workstation, you're ready to get to work and do all sorts of magical things.   So locate that file on your machine and open it in Excel.

 

excel_btbb_error.pngWhen you try to open the file, Excel will return an error, indicating that the file format and extension don't match and asks if you want to open it anyway.  Click "yes" to ignore the error and open the file.

 

 

When you open the file (against Excel's better judgement) something weird happens. 
There's data that resembles a spreadsheet but what in tarnation is all that gobbledegook in the very first cell?btbb_export_01.png

 

That, my friends, is something they didn't teach you at Monument University.

When you download the .XLS file, there's a surprise hidden inside.

 

The spreadsheet from BtBb is NOT an XLS file at all, but rather an HTML document with a .XLS extension.  Excel can open it and present the data because it’s HTML and it’s laid out in tables, so Excel says “oh.  Ok.  I can figure this out.” and it goes from there.  But because it’s not “real” Excel data, it’s hard to work with (and that’s also why it’s always got that big ugly line of code in the top row).

 

To see for yourself, download the file from BtBb, change the extension to .HTM (or .HTML), then open the renamed file in your favorite text editor or browser.   It will look okay, but it’s still not quite right.  If you copy and paste that text into Excel, you’ll have a lot of blank rows and your sorts will be wonky as a result.

 

The next section shows here’s how to fix that. 

 

Making Sense of the Weird Exported Data

 

Open the HTML document in a text editor (There are tons of them out there.  I'm a fan of Atom because it's cross-platform.  But I confess, if I'm on a PC, I'm partial to Notepad++).

 

PART ONE - CLEAR YOUR HEAD

 

Once you've opened the document, delete everything before the <table> tag.  There's a lot.  Most of it is in the <script>, which is actually the only thing you need to get rid of, but it's simpler just to get rid of everything rather than look for the start and end of the <script>, especially if you're not used to working with HTML code in a text editor.

btbb_delete_header.png

 

Now we are left with a document with no HTML heading information.  This would be a terrible practice for actual HTML coding, but we're not doing actual HTML coding for publication, we're just cleaning up a mess.  Your browser will still read it without issue (browsers are smart like that).

 

PART TWO - ELIMINATE THE EMPTY PARAGRAPHS

If you saved the file at this point and opened it with your browser (or with Excel), you'd see that the garbage at the top was gone.   But we want to do something else before we save it.   What you can't see in the browser is that there are several <p> elements in the code that would cause Excel to render the data as a blank row.  This isn't cool.   So you want to eradicate all of these. 

 

So...  do a find/replace for <p>, replacing each instance of <p> with a delimiter of your choice (I like ; in this instance, but that’s just me). 

btbb_remove_p_tags.png

Save the file.

 

PART THREE - GETTING USABLE DATA INTO EXCEL

 

We're not quite done.  Now that you've saved the HTML file, open it in your web browser of choice.  Magically, all of the extraneous rows are now gone.  Now, copy all of that data in the table (the one in your browser) into a blank Excel document.  Depending on your computer, it may take a bit, as there is a lot of data there.

 

However, if you check out the Excel spreadsheet, you'll notice that the data is clean and much easier to work with.

 

So save the Excel file, and you now have a copy of the Known Issues saved locally.  YAY!!

 

Wrapping it up

 

This isn't the end, but it gives you something to work with.  The real tricky part comes when you want to make those dates something you can actually use, because at the moment, Excel is treating that data as generic text because it doesn't know any better.

 

If there's interest, I'll write a follow-up piece to this about how to clean up the date data so that it actually means something.

 

I will confess, this is a clunky, labor-intensive method, and I’ll come up with a more elegant method eventually, but for the moment, it gets the job done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

1Okay, it should be noted that while I'm writing this, I'm watching a live Phish concert (on the web, not in person), hence the oddball headers and occasionally goofy tone of the article).

All right, so you implemented the Open Photo Roster to show campus photo ids to instructors.  This helps with learning student names, managing new faculty anxiety about teaching, and allows proctors validate identities before the exam.  However, a question sometimes comes up: What about the pictures of freshmen, now that they are seniors, who don't look anything like their pictures!

 

You are in luck.  We implemented image manipulation to age the freshmen photos and simulate how they will look in just 4 years.

 

illustration.png

 

Ok, maybe not exactly ... we're not there yet.  What we added are two additional rosters, which may help faculty see more current photos.  The two rosters are Blackboard Avatars and Gravatars.

 

Many schools are allowing students to upload avatars to the My Institution cloud interface.  These photos can be useful, and now you can see them in the photo roster.  On the other hand, the Gravatar system is very popular in WordPress and other social media.  It allows students to associate pictures with their school email address.  Instructors can specifically encourage the upload of photos to Bb Avatars or Gravatars to make sure their rosters are complete.

 

The new B2 has two versions: Open Photo Roster, and Open Photo Roster Plus.  The Open Photo Roster displays Bb Avatars and Gravatars.  The Plus requires custom setup arranged by support@dataii.com.  The B2s were tested on local installation, Managed Hosting, and Saas.  They work with Original and Ultra courses (Ultra menu setup arranged by support@dataii.com).

 

We are excited to announce that the Collaborate Session Timer is now available! This highly requested feature reinforces our commitment to delivering the teaching and learning workflows that ultimately contribute to several of our product unifying themes including, academic effectiveness and learner engagement.

 

This means that you can now set a timer at the beginning of the session to give students a visible indication of how much time is remaining before the Instructor starts, giving everyone time to prepare for the start of class. Instructors will be able to name, pause, and restart the timer that is also available in breakout groups - you might want to break up the class into several breakout rooms, have them work on an activity for a fixed amount of time, and then bring them back into the main room. With the new session timer, you’ll be able to do that.

 

 

For more details on this update, please see the Collaborate Ultra release notes.

As our LMS becomes more cloud based, we are dependent on external services.  Blackboard Collaborate, Saas, Ally, SafeAssign, behind Blackboard, or Connect are some examples.  You can check their status at: Blackboard Services Status (status.blackboard.com both Americas and Global tags). However, what if you prefer an email, phone call or a text message when the service changes status?

 

This can be done with IFTTT triggered by the RSS sources on status.blackboard.com.

 

Here are the steps to setup email notification on a change of SafeAssign:

 

1. Setup IFTTT account

2. Determine URL to the specific RSS feed of the service.  For SafeAssign navigate to status.blackboard.com and click on Global tab.  From here an orange RSS icon contains the URL.  The URL is: http://status.blackboard.com/rss?services=safeassign

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.05.53 AM.png

 

3. Create a new applet on IFTTT that uses THIS as RSS trigger and THAT as email (options: SMS, phone, etc).  This steps may require that you first setup your email.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.07.08 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.07.22 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.07.47 AM.png

 

The end result should be that when status is added to the SafeAssign listing, your IFTTT recipe is triggered and you get an email.  For a more advanced approach see this IFTTT action that generates a phone call:

Blackboard Button - IoT and IFTTT with Amazon Comprehend - YouTube

 

Let us know in the comments how you are using IFTTT already or if this recipe may work for you!

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

 

8/13 edit: added release information for Cumulative Updates!

8/23 edit: added info on 'Print' option that previously existed in the Box UI

 

Now that we're on the other side of BbWorld and getting closer to back-to-school period for many institutions it is a good time for an update on progress with New Box View!

 

Download with Annotations

As I discussed in my May update, we continue working to build the capability to download student submissions with instructor annotations embedded within the documents.  We've been coding for several months and we're very close to completion!  In fact, here's a quick demo video of the functionality in action:

 

 

Direct link to video hosted on Collaborate, with download in mp4 format available from the "hamburger" menu in the top left corner: Bb Collaborate

 

This new feature is being implemented with a combination of Learn-side changes and a new microservice: on the Learn side, when annotations are present within the document being rendered by New Box View a new button will be present for all users to download the document with annotations; on the microservice side, the new microservice will work in tandem with the existing microservice and help build the new PDF with original content plus annotations and provide it to Learn for download by the user.

 

This functionality will be made available through a Cumulative Update to the versions of Learn listed below:

 

 

We are finalizing the timeframes for each of these releases over the coming days.  As I have specific dates for availability, I will add them to the information above.  Stay tuned!

 

Some additional details that will be noted in release notes or documentation, but I thought would be relevant to provide ahead of time:

 

For the initial release, we are focusing on the ability to download text-based documents only.  While New Box View allows users to annotate on both text-based documents and images, the ability to download images with annotations applied is a significantly more challenging problem than applying annotations to documents in PDF format.  We will continue to investigate supporting downloading annotated images as well as new file types that will support annotations in the future (e.g. Excel-based files).

 

All downloaded documents with annotations will be in PDF format, regardless of original file format.  The time it takes to create the PDF version of the document will depend primarily on the size of the original file, with larger files inherently taking more time.  Because of this, there may be a small delay between the time users click the "download with annotations" button and when the file is made available for download within the browser.  We do not expect a significant delay; however New Box View allows for file sizes up to five gigabyte and converting a file that large to PDF may take several seconds.

 

We also removed the native 'Print' option from the Box UI (in the toolbar that contains the annotation capabilities) to help reduce confusion for users when looking for the right place to download documents.

 

There is a known issue with Chrome's built-in PDF viewer which may cause problems when viewing the PDF documents created with this functionality.  Therefore, we recommend viewing PDFs using a native PDF viewer like Adobe Acrobat.

 

Annotations on Excel-based Files

Unfortunately, Box has been delayed in making this feature available due to technical limitations on their side and the previous timeline I had stated will not be accomplishable.  We are continuing to receive updates from Box on the situation, and I expect to be able to provide a new timeline in my next update.

 

As always, thank you for your continued patience and we look forward to providing another update with more release information shortly!

The Collaborate Ultra July Release (18.7) was pushed to production environments yesterday (July 25, 2018). This release includes new features that span across several of our unifying product themes: learner engagement and education insight. The new additions provide a more engaging experience for students, save instructors time, and improve the accessibility and inclusivity of educational content.

 

Recording Post-Captioning

For situations where there is no live captioner, but you still want to add captions after the fact, you can now upload captioning post-recording. This new feature provides you with an additional tool for creating educational content in accessible formats. In the future, we’re also planning to support automated speech-to-text so captions can be created programmatically or automatically.

The Metric Report

The new Metric report is designed to provide a detailed overview of your Collaborate Ultra usage. Information includes the frequency and scale of your institutional usage so you can make informed decisions about the service. The Metric report will be available as a CSV download and can be requested by your Collaborate administrator by creating a case on Behind the Blackboard. 

 

Fast Mic

We have removed the delay when you first turn on your mic, improving the experience for all participants.

 

For more details on the updates, please see the Collaborate Ultra release notes.

 

Timer Update

The timer capability is still in beta and not available in the Collaborate July update. We will keep you informed of a new release date and you can follow the support bulletin for additional updates.

Over the past several weeks we have conducted our quarterly Collaborate Roadmap webinars to ensure that you are up to date on what’s new and what’s coming for Blackboard Collaborate. If you were unable to attend one of the live webinars, we have compiled the top takeaways below. You can also check out the full recording here.https://us.bbcollab.com/recording/38da4701aa7342a68eb45936b21bfb0b

 

If you are attending BbWorld 2018, you can attend the Collaborate Roadmap session LIVE on Wednesday, July 18th at 4:40PM!

 

What’s (Almost) New – Countdown Timer

Collaborate's July release will include one of our most requested features, the Countdown Timer. This means that you will soon be able to (late July!) set a timer at the beginning of the session to give participants a visible indication of how much time is remaining before the Instructor starts. Instructors will also be able to use the Countdown Timer in breakout groups - you might want to break up the class into several breakout rooms, have them work on an activity for a fixed amount of time, and then bring them back into the main room. With the new Countdown Timer, you’ll be able to do that.

 

What’s (Almost) New – Recording Post-Captioning

For situations where there is no live captioner, but the Instructor still wants to add captions after the fact, we will allow you to associate a caption file to the recording – you can use any captioning service you choose, get the caption files, and upload/associate them to your Collaborate Ultra recordings. We’re referring to this as recording post-captioning and it will be available in late July.

 

What’s New – Download Session Attendance Report

We recently added the ability to export the existing Session Attendance report to calculate key metrics, reducing administrative overhead for Instructors and providing invaluable educational insight.  This highly requested feature will allow you to import the Session Attendance report into a tool like Microsoft Excel and calculate key metrics such as total # of sessions, total duration of all sessions, average session duration, and largest session by # of attendees.

 

Roadmap – Netstats: Network Quality Indicator

Netstats, which will be released in the coming months, will provide attendees with insight into the network conditions of other participants in the room. The strength of a participant’s network connection, if their connection is excellent or poor, and their upload & download bandwidth will all be available upon quick glance in the session. Instructors can use this information to easily identify if a participant is having a unique network connectivity issue, without disrupting the rest of the group.

 

RoadmapPause & Resume Recordings

We're adding the ability for Instructors to pause and resume the recording of a session, providing greater control over what gets recorded, and what doesn’t.  For example, if an Instructor is teaching and recording a two hour session and decides to take a 10 minute break, they can pause the recording for those 10 minutes and then resume the recording after the break.

 

Roadmap – AWS Infrastructure Migration

We're also moving our infrastructure into AWS to leverage the scalability and reliability of Amazon Web Services. This will allow us to improve our session scalability and capacity and expand into additional International regions.

 

 

All timelines related to the Collaborate Roadmap are subject to change without notice.

Digital communication in a course, and in a professional team, can be tricky.  Email can quickly overwhelm a group with repeated message, irrelevant reply-all, and a significant overhead in busy-work.  Native Blackboard Learn discussion forums can also make it difficult to share files, snippets of code, and breaking out into private discussions. In the last few years, Slack has been conquering the field of professional team communication. It has also been used in online courses.  A few more examples: political science course, digital history. There are many reasons why Slack is being adopted, but I will list the top 7 reasons.

 

  1. Slack discussions happen in one place and can be divided into Channels for specific topics. Users can be assigned to as many (or as few) channels as needed. A balance is kept between clarity and complexity. The discussion maintains transparency and users can effectively identify relevant messages.
  2. Slack integrates with important systems like GitHub, Trello, and many others. Full list is available at https://slack.com/integrations
  3. All content can be searched through one search control.
  4. Files can be easily shared.
  5. Code snippets render well and are easy to share (very important in computer classes).
  6. Team discussions can be quickly switched to private discussions.
  7. Slack is fun on any device.

 

Learn about Slack on Lynda.com

 

You can now place a link to your Slack workspace in Blackboard Learn as well as invite your class through this REST API integration.  In addition, you'll know which students in your class have already joined Slack and who needs a reminder.

 

System administrator instructions:

 

REST Application ID:   cc908933-00d0-4143-87be-47aee29ed984 

LTI domain: apps.dataii.com

LTI URL: https://apps.dataii.com/bb/slack/

The icon: http://apps.dataii.com/bb/slack/slack1.png

 

Minimum Bb version: 3000.1.0

Ultra Courses & Original in Saas with REST API/LTI apps

More: Did someone try to integrate Slack as forum in Blackboard ?

 

Ultra course:

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 12.28.24 PM.png

 

Original course:

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 12.29.22 PM.png

 

Instructor Control Panel:

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 5.07.24 PM.png

 

Slack analytics in a Winter 2018 course:

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 11.01.50 PM.png

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 11.01.20 PM.png

 

For computer courses sample code snippet formatting in Slack:

004-slack-code-snippets-700x330.jpg

 

 

What can you integrate in Slack?

002-slack-integrations-list-700x664.png

 

more about Slack

For the better part of 12 months, the Blackboard SafeAssign Team had been designing the infrastructure and implementation plan for moving the SafeAssign service out of the Blackboard Managed Hosting facilities and into the cloud-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure.  The benefits of an AWS-based deployment include increased flexibility in hardware allocation, the ability to be more responsive to changing submission volume, and the potential for more rapid innovation across the SafeAssign technology stack.

 

On April 3rd, 2018 the SafeAssign migration to AWS was completed (link to BtBb announcement) and all new user submissions and requests would be processed in the SafeAssign environment deployed within AWS going forward.  The timing of this transition was important as many schools were starting to enter an end-of-year "Finals" period in which we typically observe a greater amount of student assessment (and by extension SafeAssign usage) than other periods of the academic and calendar year.

 

We typically track two metrics as representative of the client experience with respect to performance:

  • Paper Load represents the number of documents in the queue waiting to be processed
  • Paper Turnaround Time represents the average amount of time a user waits to receive a SafeAssign Originality Report back from the service

 

These two metrics are highly correlated and help us to understand the performance of the service at any given time.  In previous years and while hosted within Blackboard Managed Hosting facilities, SafeAssign often struggled to maintain acceptable performance for all clients during the critical Finals period:


SafeAssign Paper Load Apr to June 2017.png

Paper Load April 1 to June 1, 2017

 

SafeAssign Paper Turnaround Time Apr to June 2017.png

Paper Turnaround Time April 1 to June 1, 2017

 

As you can see from the graphs above, during the 2017 Spring Finals period SafeAssign struggled to keep paper turnaround times under 12 hours for a period of almost three weeks and paper turnaround times reached almost 45 hours average at their peak; this means that some students and instructors were waiting nearly two days to get Originality Reports and results from SafeAssign, which is clearly not the experience we want to provide for our clients.

 

We are pleased to report that after the move to AWS, the SafeAssign service performed significantly better during this high-volume Finals period than in previous years.  Here are the graphs of the same Paper Load and Paper Turnaround Time metrics from the 2018 Spring Finals period:

 

SafeAssign Paper Load Apr to June 2018.png

Paper Load April 1 to June 1, 2018

 

SafeAssign Paper Turnaround Time Apr to June 2018.png

Paper Turnaround Time April 1 to June 1, 2018

 

Comparing the graphs from 2017 to 2018, the improved performance of the service is clear: while there were still small spikes of load, the average paper turnaround time was just over nine minutes!  This represents a significant positive change in user experience and perception of the performance of the service.  We received no reports of delays from clients during this period, and we're proud to announce this information to all users of the SafeAssign service!

 

As we progress through 2018, we will continue to make performance improvements to SafeAssign that should continue to reduce these metrics over time.  In addition to this, we're working on a new responsive and accessible Originality Report user interface that will be enabled by the AWS infrastructure.  We'll be providing more details about this new interface at BbWorld 2018 this year, so look for more information coming soon!

 

We would like to thank our students, teachers, and administrators for continuing to rely on SafeAssign for originality and plagiarism reporting, and we look forward to continuing to improve the service in the months to come.

The Intelligent Learning Platform (ILP) block provides Ellucian (formerly Datatel) clients with the ability to set midterm and final grades for a course, send retention alerts, and view the last date of attendance for a student in the course. The midterm and final grades can also be published directly to the Datatel system.

 

We are currently beginning the implementation process here at Alvin Community College.  As I could locate little information about the specifics I thought that I would share the step-by-step process as we work though the entire implementation process. 

I find that initially there are more questions than answers, but I am excited to add these excellent options for faculty use in Blackboard especially.

 

I will be sharing from the perspective of the BB Administrator.  We are on BB SAAS and use Ellucian/Colleague, so my information will come form this unique role.  Even though I am not a programmer or DB administrator I will do my best to share information that is pertinent to these roles but ask that you forgive my use of "layman's terms" to express my ideas.

 

If interested please follow this blog as i share the good, the bad, and the ugly of ILP implementation. 

 

Information From Blackboard

https://help.blackboard.com/Moodlerooms/Teacher/Content/Blocks/ILP_Integration