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2018

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!