Blackboard Learn upgrade completed (a little ahead of schedule!)

I’m pleased to let you know that the upgrade to Blackboard Learn Service Pack 14 was completed, with Bb Learn being available early this morning.

The Learning Technology Team and colleagues in the Computer Centre have worked hard on this upgrade, trying to get the system up and running as soon as possible. As usual, I would like to extend my thanks to them and to you all for your patience!

Many of the features that we mentioned earlier were implemented in this latest upgrade. The LTT are currently working on resources to help you make the most of the new features.

Student Expectations of the VLE Blackboard Learn


A recent end-of-year survey asked students what areas of Brunel’s virtual learning environment they found most useful, with the aim to identify, promote and guide staff using Blackboard Learn with ‘good practice’ examples.

The survey appeared to students on the front page of Blackboard during a 2 week period in April 2014, and received 450 responses.

This Learning Technology Team initiative discovered the following areas of good practice that students are finding useful in support of their studies.

  • 25% of votes related to finding things easily
  • 20% of votes were related to clear guidance and ease to use resources
  • 18% of votes related to having a range of content including extra resources (e.g. past papers) and extra reading
  • 12% of votes related to having content that was made available in a timely and up to date manner (e.g. resources that relate to weekly themes of study were uploaded

The remaining 25% of votes related to specific types of content that was well received by students, such as:

  • Having a range of multi-media content such as audio, video and lecture capture resources
  • regular communication from tutors via Blackboard announcements and email tools
  • online discussion boards
  • self-tests and quizzes
  • online assignment submission
  • online assignment grading and feedback

One of the students surveyed said:

“I really liked the use of Blackboard for this course. Lecture notes were uploaded every week. They were absolutely clear and well prepared. There were even some extra notes every now and then. For the communications part, we submitted our assignments online which is so much better than handing in pieces of paper and is more environmentally friendly also. Handing in assignments online was easy and just intuitive. The way we received our grades as well was a lot nicer. The module leader delivered the grades using the Blackboard interface (the tab in the menu that was designed for grades). That way, you could only see your grade and couldn’t see others which is great for privacy.”

The Learning Technology Team then put together the best examples of each of these areas of good practice to showcase and demonstrate real-life uses of the technology, along with a ‘how do I do it?’ poster display. This poster presentation showcased the good practice at the Learning and Teaching Symposium 1st May 2014 as part of the Technologies Zone.

The full presentation including all 10 areas of good practice is now located here. You may find it useful to refer to when considering how to improve you Blackboard module site for students for the upcoming academic year.

The LTT are on hand to support your VLE requirements so if you have any new ideas, or if you want clearer guidance on how to implement some of these ones, please do not hesitate to contact the Learning Technology Team [part of the new Brunel Educational Excellence Centre] on

Blackboard Upgrade – New Features in Service Pack 14

During the week 14th-18th July 2014 Blackboard Learn will be unavailable whilst the system is upgraded to Service Pack 14. This post will briefly highlight a selection of the main features included* in the upgrade (*subject to testing). Click on each feature title to find out more information:


The Achievements tool allows instructors and course designers to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both Badges and Certificates.

Course Messages Notifications

The Course Message Notifications tool gives each course a private and secure system for communication that functions similar to email.

Date Management

Date Management gives instructors the ability to have the system automatically “shift” content and tool dates in a course in a highly efficient way.


Student Preview

With the Student Preview feature, instructors can see their courses and interact with them exactly how students do.

Explorance bluepulse

Bluepulse allows students the opportunity to make daily suggestions about what can be improved in the classroom.


Grade Centre Improvements

Improvements include: improved workflow for setting anonymous and delegated grading on assignments, the ‘My Grades’ page order of display matches the Grade Centre column order, improved workflow for Tests settings, & Grading Schemas can now go over 100%.

Groups Management 

The new Group Management page provides a single page to: manage tool access for all groups, sort columns, perform bulk actions for deleting groups, and create Grade Centre smart views for one or more groups.


Inline Grading 

Instructors can view student-submitted files “inline,” meaning in the web browser.  Annotations tools are available as part of the inline viewer, enabling instructors to provide [electronically written] feedback — comments, highlights, and drawing/annotation — directly on the inline view of the document.


Any staff interested in utilising some of these new features are welcome to contact the Learning Technology Team for further information and support.


Blackboard Learn Downtime: July 2014

The July upgrade to Blackboard Learn will be taking place between 14th – 18th July 2014. This means that the system will not be accessible during this period. As usual, the Learning Technology Team will aim to minimise the downtime as far as possible by working very hard to bring the system back to life quickly!

A notice will go up on IntraBrunel tomorrow. Key contacts from Schools and Central Services will be reminded in a separate email and students will also be informed.

We will soon post a follow up blog message to tell you more about the new features you can expect to see in this upgrade.

The “new” LTT

As we know there are many changes going on across the University at the moment, and our team has also been influenced by these.

Last week marked the beginning of the new Learning Technology Team structure (now located within the Brunel Educational Excellence Centre, headed up by Dr Fiona Denney). This has been reorganised to more closely meet the needs of the new colleges following TXP. So what does this mean for us?

We have a Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Team Manager (myself), with 3 TEL Advisers to liaise with each of the 3 Colleges (Alastair Gemmill, Natalie Parnis and currently a vacancy). Also part of the team is a TEL Developer (a technical role) covered by Alex Osmond and an administrator (yet to be appointed).

We are confident that these changes will help us to enhance learning and teaching at Brunel, by becoming more aligned with the Colleges, being better resourced and ultimately building closer relationships with our colleagues within BEEC to help drive educational excellence at Brunel.

Goodbye Phil!

It is with much sadness that we will be saying goodbye to Dr Phil Alberts, who is leaving Brunel at the end of this week. Many of you will know that Phil has been leading the Learning Technology Team in its many guises throughout the years since it was first established in 2002.


Over the years he has overseen not one, not two but three (!!!) changes in VLE here at Brunel. For those of you who have been here long enough to remember… we first had WebCT Campus Edition in 2002, followed by WebCT Vista/ u-Link in 2007 and finally Blackboard Learn in 2012.

Phil has led the team tirelessly throughout the years, supporting many projects and initiatives whilst raising the profile of e-Learning at Brunel, both internally and externally.

He has now decided to take early retirement.  We know that one thing he won’t miss for sure is the traffic on the dreaded M25 during his daily commute!

Thanks for all your hard work over the years, Phil – time to have your well-earned break now!

Have you ever wondered what students REALLY want to see in Blackboard Learn?

We recently asked Brunel students what they liked about the way their lecturers were using Blackboard Learn.

We received over 450 responses!

Here are just a few extracts…..


If you are interested to get inspired and to learn about how you can make your Bb Learn Courses more student friendly, why not drop by to the Tech Zone at this year’s Learning & Teaching Symposium?

You can find us in the Mead Room (Hamilton Building) on 1st May 2014.

Further details about the event are available here

Bb Learn and IE11


It has recently come to our attention that some of you may have experienced problems accessing Blackboard Learn when using Internet Explorer 11 from your own personal computers.

We are aware of this and we know that Blackboard Support are currently working on a solution, which we will implement as soon as it’s available. In the mean time we recommend that you use Firefox or Google Chrome (we have tested compatibility against Firefox 24 and Google Chrome 33).

Network computers on campus should not be affected by this issue, as we have tested these browsers.

Also, do you know that there is a browser checker in Bb Learn? After logging in, you can use this to check the compatibility of your browser if in any doubt…


 As always, let us know if you have any questions (

Blackboard Learn Upgrade Complete

I am pleased to let you know that the upgrade to Blackboard Learn Service Pack 13 was successfully completed this morning (a little ahead of schedule!)

As usual the other members of the Learning Technology Team and the Computer Centre have been working very hard to ensure that we can get this work completed with minimum disruption- so thanks to them and to you for your patience.

All the features we mentioned in our earlier blog post were implemented in Blackboard Learn, with the exception of “Inline Grading”. There was a small bug we discovered. However Blackboard Support are aware and are working on correcting this so that we can benefit from this feature soon!

We are currently busy working on some guides that will tell you more about how to make the most of the new features in Bb Learn. Watch this space for an update!!