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We've had a few questions about whether users are able to use their mobile devices with the new CourseSites experience. The answer is "Yes!"

 

The Ultra experience is responsively designed, meaning it adjusts to a wide variety of screen sizes for mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and desktops. It also pairs with the Blackboard app for students and the Blackboard Instructor app, so you and your students can easily stay connected and informed as well as complete common tasks from anywhere. Simply download the app, type CourseSites (NEW) by Blackboard as the school name, and use your CourseSites username and password. View the instruction guide for more details on the mobile app.

Blackboard Mobile Apps and CourseSites Guide

It’s been almost three months since we launched the new CourseSites with the Ultra experience enabled and it feels like a good time to reflect on progress over that period. We made the new CourseSites available on 27 June. Since we have gone live we have had over 58,000 new accounts created. New CourseSites was made available using what was formerly the Educator Preview platform and this means at the time of writing we now have 72,097 users. While we have been delighted to hear many positive comments from users, I also wanted to take the opportunity to address some of the questions that users have raised in order to provide some context.

 

Some users may be wondering why we decided to transition users to a new version of CourseSites. In order to explain this, we need to consider why we created CourseSites in the first place. The original CourseSites was always intended to serve two purposes:

  1. It was our way of giving something back. As an organisation our commitment to education meant that we had a desire to enable users who would otherwise not have access to a learning environment to support their teaching activities.
  2. It was a way for users who were interested in Blackboard Learn to experience what it was like for themselves through a simple self-service process.

 

We have always felt that the experience we provide for CourseSites should be the very best experience a user can get from us. We no longer felt this was the case with the original CourseSites. This in turn meant that we weren’t meeting either of our two primary goals stated above in the way we wanted to.

 

The original CourseSites is based on a very old version of Blackboard Learn (released in April 2014), which has been heavily customised. The customisations which were made to the environment included things like the ability to create Instructor pages with their own URLs and enabling Instructors to search for students already on their courses to enrol them in other courses. However, these customisations (and a number of others) have meant that we have been unable to update CourseSites since April 2014. Therefore, while it contains a great deal of functionality to support teaching and learning, CourseSites users have not received any of the new innovations we have added to our environments in the last 4 years.

 

We wanted to change this to again provide CourseSites users with the best teaching and learning experience – both now and in the future. Since we first introduced the original CourseSites, and last updated it, we have been moving our solutions into the cloud. Our best experience now runs on a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform using a continuous delivery model. What this means in practical terms for the end user is that we are able to deliver updates on a regular basis without needing to have downtime on the environment. In order to support this modern approach to software delivery we have also made the decision to not customise CourseSites. The experience that users have as either Instructors or Students in the new CourseSites is exactly the same as in the core Blackboard Learn solution which is currently used by 29 million students globally.

 

While we have received positive feedback about the new experience from many, we acknowledge that the transition has also led to some confusion, including within our own support teams. Users have asked how to do things which they could do previously in the original CourseSites through the customisations, but which are typically reserved for users with Administration capabilities in the core Blackboard Learn solution. As we do not enable CourseSites users to have administration access to the site, this means that some of the responses received from our support teams has not been helpful. We are also aware that there has been confusion on occasion about which environment – the original or new CourseSites – a ticket has been logged for. We are working to address these issues and can only apologise for any confusion caused by unclear responses in the meantime. We are confident however that it is still possible for users to do everything they need to do in the new CourseSites, although the mechanism for achieving this may be different.

 

CourseSites users have access to support through a variety of sources. One item that has been requested is a pdf Quick Start guide akin to what was provided for original CourseSites. We have decided not to do this for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is the delivery model for the new CourseSites platform. Because we are using a continuous delivery model, pdf documentation would be out of date as soon as we published it. This would cause immense frustration for users saving local copies or printing copies for students. Additionally, one of the key reasons for producing the pdf guide in the first place was that it provided supporting documentation for the customisations in the original CourseSites which were unique to that environment. Now that CourseSites is based on the core Blackboard Learn solution a separate document set is unnecessary and it makes sense to refer users to the core help documentation at help.blackboard.com. On visiting help.blackboard.com, users can search for the most appropriate help for their role by entering the help portal as either a student or an instructor.

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As mentioned above, one of the benefits of the new platform is that we are able to deliver new innovations to users far more rapidly and on an ongoing basis and without requiring downtime. Since we launched new CourseSites in June we have actually delivered three updates already, adding the following new features in Ultra courses:

 

  • SCORM support
  • Download gradebook
  • Group creation and grading enhancements
  • Course list optimisation
  • Conversation improvements
  • Download annotated PDFs
  • Anonymous grading
  • Unsubmitted work counts as zero
  • Improvements for course messages

 

You can read the full details of the release notes for the SaaS deployment of Learn at https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Administrator/SaaS/Release_Notes (note that this will also include features that require administration rights to take advantage of, which are not part of CourseSites). Another update is due in early October and you should expect to see updates to CourseSites on a monthly basis.

 

Please continue to provide us with feedback on your experience of using the new CourseSites. We do value this, both the positive and the negative, and it is considered in the future development of the Blackboard Learn solution even if we are not able to respond or implement all suggestions in the short-term. The best place to provide us with feedback and ask questions is the CourseSites community pages: https://community.blackboard.com/groups/coursesites/pages/welcome

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I've submitted 2 "support tickets" from within CourseSites by using the question mark icon on the bottom right and then clicking Support Ticket.

I haven't received any confirmation that they were submitted or looked at - does this help feature actually work?

 

Thanks,

 

Candi Phaneuf

LMS Administrator / eLearning Specialist

 

 

 

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This message is intended for the use of the person to whom it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential, and protected from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, your use of this message for any purpose is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please delete the message and notify the sender so that we may correct our records.

 

If you haven’t looked at Learn with the Ultra experience for a while, it’s time to take another look. Find out why in our latest blog post and try it out using the new CourseSites (formerly Educator Preview).

Over 11,000 institutions in 48 countries are using Educator Preview to explore the Ultra experience for Blackboard Learn.

 

We are now excited to share that Educator Preview is undergoing development to equip you with the ability to teach and deploy live courses online – for free. The platform will still serve as the premier place to test drive the Ultra experience, but with the added bonus of having a course delivery option for you to teach with either the new Ultra Course View or the Original Course View.. You will be able to start teaching live courses in late June. 

 

To reflect the new vision and maturation of Educator Preview, we will be rebranding the platform as CourseSites and refreshing the log in page as well.

 

In the coming months, expect multiple communications from the Blackboard Learn Team with updates on the development of the new CourseSites platform.

 

If you have questions surrounding this initiative, please email us at community@blackboard.com or engage with us via the Blackboard Community site.

 

We look forward to introducing you to the new CourseSites platform!

 

The Blackboard Learn Team

Instructors often need flexibility with how timed tests and assignments are delivered to students for a variety of circumstances. Therefore, we’ve afforded instructors the ability to allow students to continue working on a timed test or assignment after the set time expires.

 

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Students and instructors desire a quick and easy way to understand what activity has transpired since last visiting a course . Are there new discussion posts? Is there a new assignment? Rather than opening each item to view this information, users can quickly identify new course activity directly on the Course Content page via a visual indicator. This enhancement is a direct response to client feedback.

 

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Students and instructors now have the ability to receive notifications via SMS Text message. This opt-in feature allows you and your on-the-go students to stay current on important updates while outside of the LMS. This feature comes at no additional cost to the institution. However, standard messaging rates and data charges from the recipient’s carrier can apply.

 

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Instructors yearn to provide tailored pedagogical experiences for their students. To support this, we have introduced functionality to Ultra courses to define rules that control the release of content to students based on performance. An instructor can set conditional availability for a content item or folder and release it once a student achieves a certain score demonstrating a strong understanding of the learning outcomes.

 

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With your round-the-clock workload in mind, we’ve created a workflow which easily allows instructors to copy content between Ultra courses. This functionality saves time and allows you to pick and choose the content you want to bring into a new course. Because sometimes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

 

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The Blackboard Learn Team is giving away a free pair of jazzy Blackboard socks to the first 50 individuals who reveal their favorite Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience feature. As many of you know, our product management team is continuously pushing out new features, fixes and updates to Educator Preview to exhibit the new modern, intuitive, and efficient user interface. We’ve pushed out quite a few updates within the past several months, so we want to take a moment to gather some feedback from you.

 

So, how do you enter?

  1. Simply, check out the Release Notes for Learn SaaS to discover what’s been released
  2. Visit Educator Preview to take your favorite feature or features for a test drive
  3. Come back to the Educator Preview Community site
  4. Create a discussion and fire off what your favorite Learn with the Ultra experience feature is and why?

 

And if you happen to tell me 3 of your favorite features, I’ll throw in a Blackboard Learn laptop sticker for kicks.

 

Don’t have an Educator Preview account? No worries. Visit preview.blackboard.com to register and to join in on the fun.

 

PS: We do indeed have 2 cool designs to choose from – so take your pick: argyle or polka dots!

 

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If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me!

 

Jasmine

Tracking classroom attendance is of importance to instructors for a myriad of reasons such as: detecting at-risk students, federal financial aid and accreditation compliance, and to support instructor pedagogical preference where attendance is a component of a course grade. In Ultra courses, a gradebook column is added when the instructor begins taking attendance. That attendance column provides the overall attendance score in the gradebook, where it can be included in the student’s overall grade.

 

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Instructors now have the ability to easily embed videos directly into their courses to help heighten student engagement, tailor the course experience, and create an all-around improved student experience. Simply paste the video source, add alternative text, and hit save. The editor automatically embeds the video so it appears alongside content. Students can watch the video within the same window, without having to navigate to the video's host site. Don’t believe it’s this easy?  Login to Educator Preview to test drive it for yourself.

 

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Please visit the below link to access the blog:

10 Things to Try in Educator Preview | Blackboard Help

 

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