Easier Marking in Bb Learn

Alex Osmond has recently been working with the LTT to take forward some work around marking and feedback in Bb Learn. Here is an update on what he has been up to…

“We know how much work marking assignments is! We also know that different Schools, teams, and individual members of staff want to handle assignments in different ways.

Many of you already take advantage of the tools that the Blackboard system offers – the Grade Centre, grading rubrics, assignment tools, and others.

There is definitely room for improvement in how the VLE handles assignments, and we’ve been working closely with Blackboard for quite a while now to see how we can best meet the varied requirements of Brunel’s staff and students. Some of you will have been in touch with us to discuss what these requirements are- particularly those already using online assignment tools (though more and more members of staff are doing this now!).

One of the things I’m working on, then – among a wide range of other projects! – is setting up some new functionality within the VLE that should make it easier to mark assignments anonymously, and to download assignment ‘packages’, which you can add feedback to, before uploading again- perfect for working with batches of work.

This is of course in addition to the enhanced reporting we’ve set up for students submitting online.

At the moment I’m working with Blackboard to test the new tools, and once the LTT is comfortable with them, we will determine how best to roll them out across Brunel.

If you have any questions, or are interested in these new tools, please email me (Alex.Osmond@brunel.ac.uk). As always, we want to make sure that you have the tools you need to make your work easier!”

Service Pack 13: What’s New?

Ahead of the upcoming December upgrade to Service Pack 13, we have cherry picked those features that will help you to get a flavour of what you can expect to see in the new version (obviously subject to approval!)

Quick Links: Allows a user to quickly locate any heading or section within any page in Blackboard Learn and jump directly to it


Test Availability Exceptions: When setting online tests, you can now select different availability rules for different users, or groups of users – for example, certain students with disabilities who might need more time to complete a test.

Calendar: The Calendar building block now replaces the old calendar tool. Staff and students can view institution level, course and personal events in a single calendar view. Calendar events are colour coded for ease of navigation.

Discussions: The thread detail page has been thoroughly redesigned while maintaining all of its current functionality. Staff can also now require students to post to a discussion before seeing other students’ posts.

Inline Grading for Assignments: Staff can view student-submitted files “inline” (i.e. in the web browser). Additionally, annotations tools are available as part of the inline viewer, enabling academics to provide feedback – comments, highlights, and even drawing/annotation – directly on the inline view of the document. To learn more about the tool, see Inline Assignment Grading.


Retention Centre: The Retention Centre enables staff to give focused attention to students who need it. Using this, you can communicate with struggling students and help them take immediate action for improvement. To learn more, see Using the Retention Centre.


Interesting stats about Blackboard Learn

Phil has recently been looking into various usage statistics for Blackboard Learn. Here are a few selected insights that he wants to share with you…

Between January 2013 and October 2013, there has been a marked increase in the number of active Blackboard Learn users, as well as an increase in the number of active Blackboard Learn Courses (click on the graphs to enlarge): 


There is also an increase in the use of many Blackboard Learn tools, especially those that were previously overlooked. There has been a 400% increase in the use of Panopto links and a 300% increase in the use of Turnitin Assignment links since January this year!  The use of other selected tools has also generally grown as you can see from the graph below.


If this inspires you to get started using some of the tools featured, do get in touch with us!

December Downtime

Hi Folks- it has been a while since we last posted a blog. Of course, that means we have been extra busy dealing with the hectic start of term (which I’m sure you can all empathise with!)

We have also been busy settling into our new home in the Library and we do feel very much part of a bigger family now!

Back to business… as you know, we continually strive to improve the Blackboard Learn experience. As part of this we undertake to upgrade the system twice annually (once each in the 3rd week of December and July).

This year the date of the upgrade falls during the week 16-20th December 2013. This means that the system will not be accessible during this period. Of course, we will aim to minimise the downtime as far as possible.

Key contacts from Schools and Central Services will also be reminded in a separate email.

We will post a follow up blog to tell you more about the new features you can expect in Blackboard Learn  – Service Pack 13!

We have moved!!

The Learning Technology Team has now relocated and, as of today, is based within the Library.

We have been busy moving our belongings from the Lecture Centre and are now settling into our new space. Unfortunately there has been a temporary disruption to our service, but we have done our best to minimise this.

We are confident the move will impact our service to you positively!

LibraryThe Library: our new home!

Noticed a difference?

 You may well have tried logging into Blackboard Learn today to find that there is a difference.

The Computer Centre has launched “Brunel Sign In” which has integrated IntraBrunel and Blackboard Learn under one authentication system.

What does this mean? Seamless access to Blackboard Learn when you access this via Intra Brunel (i.e. no need to log in separately!)

If you do happen access Blackboard Learn without “Brunel Sign In” you will also see the new (and hopefully improved!) login page:


 We believe this should lead to a better user experience overall!

Thanks to the folks in the Computer Centre for their hard work.

Launching the Blackboard Newsletter

The Blackboard Newsletter has recently been launched by the LTT. This is designed to provide a quick summary of key Bb Learn developments at Brunel on a quarterly basis.

Given that we at Brunel are all such a busy bunch, the newsletter is deliberately designed to be brief and NEVER longer than a single page! For those who are interested in reading a little more, the articles will usually link to further information.

Take a look at our first issue today!


New Look Bb Mobile App

Hi Folks! You may have noticed that Blackboard completely redesigned the mobile app (launched last week).

For those that have previously downloaded this (or any new users), you may wish to download/ update it to take advantage of the new look interface.

Some of the new features include:

  • You can now “favourite” an area of a Course for easy access later on
  • More support for text formatting (e.g. bold, underline, italics and hyperlinks)
  • New layout for discussions that show you the history of each reply

Below are a few previews to demonstrate what you can expect.

We think it looks great. Take a look and see what you think!



Launching the Blackboard Banter Blog

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed some changes to this blog (which was previously known as the “Blackboard Project Blog”). Now, as it was a successful part of the Bb Learn Project, we thought “why do away with it??”

So after a spate of rebranding and a new title, we would like to present to you the new look “Blackboard Banter Blog”! This is your one stop source to get the latest news about Blackboard Learn tools, features and updates. You are also free to post comments to the LTT here.

So if you like this blog, please do spread the word and get your colleagues to subscribe today!Image

Bb Learn is back in business!

We know how much you all missed Bb Learn whilst it was down for the upgrade, so it makes me very happy to let you know that it is now back up and available for use.

The upgrade to Service Pack 11 was designed to address some of the persistent bugs (“headaches”) in the system, so you should have a better user experience overall.

Thanks to the Computer Centre and the Learning Technology Team who worked very hard on the upgrade this week.