ConnectED Blog

UNMC Ed Tech Newsletter: Fall 2013

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Blackboard Update

UNMC upgraded to the latest version of the campus Learning Management System, Blackboard Version 9 Service Pack 13 in June.  There have been enhancements to various parts of Blackboard and new features have been added with these updates.  The enhancements that are most relevant to the way that UNMC uses Blackboard are enhancements to management of groups, inline grading of assignments, test and survey individualized access capabilities (fyi: a test can be made available just to one student instead having to reopen an exam to all when a student missed an exam), the test access log (instructors can see student test taking activities) and exporting test questions now exports all questions even if using pool.  The enhancements include Mobile, Groups, Accessibility Improvements, Calendar, Math Formulas, Course Menus, Discussion Board Changes, Inline grading, Blackboard Social Media, Test and Grading enhancements and Test Access Logs.


A major update has been released for Blackboard Mobile.  This includes a revised user interface and the ability to do more work directly in the mobile environment without always having to open a browser. You can use the Mobile Learn app to access and keep up with your course materials anytime, anywhere. The latest version of the app was developed with students and faculty in mind. Whether you’re scanning through a course document, catching up on a discussion, or scrolling through new activity in the Dashboard – Mobile Learn is all about reading. A lot of changes in Mobile Learn 4.0 not only make course content look better, but also to be more readable on a mobile device. The interface is definitely different but appears to be a better experience on mobile devices based on a couple of days use so far. Mobile Learn is not intended to replace the online version; rather, it is meant to complement it with the enhancement of key features that translate best to a mobile device.  Blackboard develops this app based on what you customers tell them, so please don’t hesitate to contact them with your feedback. For a brief overview of Blackboard Mobile see Blackboard Mobile Overview.


The Groups Management Building Block provides the ability to:

  • Easily see which students are in which groups, including which students are not in any groups.
  • Easily see and modify group memberships. Avatars are now available to distinguish among users.
  • Choose and manage membership for groups sets with an improved workflow.
  • Import and export groups and group memberships.
  • Sort columns, perform bulk actions for deleting groups, and create Grade Center smart views for one or more groups on the All Groups page.
  • Optionally, manage tool availability for all groups on the All Groups page.

For more information on these groups see Groups Management Building Block

Accessibility Improvements

Quick Links: The Quick Links tool allows a user to quickly locate any heading or section within any page in the Blackboard Learn application and jump directly to it. This type of navigation efficiency for sighted keyboard only users is not available in any other application anywhere in the industry. Located in the top left, the Quick Links icon opens a pop-up window that displays the landmark and navigation links on the page. Any available keyboard shortcuts for the page are also displayed. Accessibility Standards: Blackboard measures and evaluates accessibility levels using two sets of standards: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act issued from the United States federal government and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) issued by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). A third party conducts audits of our software releases to ensure the accessibility of the products. For Blackboard Learn 9.1’s conformance with the accessibility standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act using the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template® (VPAT®) tool, see the VPAT for Blackboard Learn Release 9.1. For Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP11 conformance statement for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Level AA see Learn Accessibility Conformance Statement. To learn more about Blackboard’s commitment to accessibility, see (These resources are available in English only.) For more information on these and other improvements see Accessibility Improvements


The Calendar in Blackboard Learn has been significantly enhanced:

  • When accessed from My Blackboard or the Tools menu on the My Institution tab, the calendar displays a consolidated view of all of your institution, course, organization, and personal calendar events. Calendar events are color coded by course.
  • When accessed from a course, instructors and students see the course calendar from the course menu on the Tools page. Instructors can use the calendar course tool as a primary way of managing and communicating the schedule of events and assignments in the course. Calendar supports due dates, if set, for gradable items. Clicking on calendar items allows an instructor to view or edit the item, or grade attempts on the associated item.
  • Students can use filtering options to selectively view only course level items. They can then click on an item to view item details, and if supported, create an attempt against the item.

Users can create recurring events by selecting the Repeat checkbox. To learn more see Calendar. 

Math Formulas Improved in the Content Editor

You now have full math editing capabilities on all platforms with the new JavaScript-based WIRIS editor. This editor also improves accessibility. The new math editor supports the editing and display of LaTeX formulas. In display mode, the formulas display normally. In editing mode, the LaTeX for the formulas displays. LaTeX formulas can be edited directly using LaTeX or by clicking in the formula and opening the WIRIS editor for true WYSIWYG editing. When you save the formula, it is not converted and retains its LaTeX origin. This is useful for users who have libraries of LaTeX formulas. You can simply copy-paste a formula into the editor for reuse or as the basis for new formula. For more information see Content Editor Math Formulas

Course Menu

Viewing the folder structure of the course now always opens in a new window, to ensure users have the space needed to read the expanded contents. Click an item in the tree to navigate directly to that location. To learn more about your course menu, see selecting the Menu Style.

Discussion Board Changes

The Thread Detail page is thoroughly redesigned yet maintains all of its existing functions. Highlights include:

  • All posts on one page – all of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page.
  • Role highlighting – posts made by forum managers and moderators now contain the user’s course role and forum role.
  • Inline replies – when replying to a post, the content editor used to write a response appears on the same page, in the context of the discussion.
  • Post First Setting – instructors can use a new forum setting to require students to post to a forum before they can see other students’ posts.
  • Accessibility – The new experience of reading a thread is simple to consume with screen reader technology. We also removed clutter on the page, so screen reader and keyboard-only users have less to sift through as they navigate the interface.

To learn more about the updated features, see Discussion Board.

Inline Grading for Assignments – View and Grade Student Submissions in your Web Browser

Instructors can view student-submitted files “inline,” meaning in the web browser, without requiring any plug-ins, applets, or client-side applications. Additionally, annotations tools are available as part of the inline viewer, enabling Instructors to provide feedback – comments, highlights, and even drawing/annotation – directly on the inline view of the document. There are no changes to the workflow for submitting assignments, with the exception for one minor UI change to the field where a user would enter an assignment response using the content editor, as opposed to uploading a file. All of the changes are focused on the Grade Assignment page.  When students view their submitted attempts, they see the converted document in an inline viewer (as well as any annotations the instructor may have added). Students cannot edit instructor annotations or add their own annotations. Inline Assignment Grading can convert, display, and annotate Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and PDF file formats. This accounts for well over 95% of submissions to Blackboard Learn Assignments (based on sampling of Managed Hosting clients). File formats that cannot be converted are presented for download, as in the past.  The conversion retains most formatting for supported file types. There may be some very complex page layouts that don’t render perfectly, but those are uncommon exceptions. The viewer has a toolbar with with following features:

  • Zoom In and Out. This feature is also available to students when they view their submission.
  • Comment – Shows a menu of all annotation tools.
  • Download – Downloads a copy of the document. If annotations have been made, there is an option to download the copy in the original format or in a PDF version that includes the annotations. This feature is also available to students when they view their submission.
  • Page Forward and Back buttons. This feature is also available to students when they view their submission.
  • Show all annotations button

The viewer is supported on current versions of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. No plug-in or other application is necessary. If the student has uploaded a file that isn’t in a format supported by the inline viewer, then instead of seeing the viewer, the Instructor is prompted to download the file in question. To learn more about the updated features, see Grading Assignments.

Retention Center

The Retention Center is an instructor-only tool that enables you to give focused attention to students who need it. It replaces the Early Warning System feature with easy workflows, while retaining all existing Early Warning System data and rules. From the Retention Center, you can communicate with struggling students and help them take immediate action for improvement. You can begin using the Retention Center features immediately—no setup required. To learn more, see Using the Retention Center.

Blackboard Social Learning Tools (Not Activated at UNMC yet)

With the new social learning tools available for Blackboard Learn, you and your students can discover, connect, and collaborate with others from your institution as well as other Blackboard Learn institutions. We have created a Blackboard Learn global learning network to allow users to learn from each other through social, informal means – complementing the more formal classroom and online course experiences. To Learn more, see My Blackboard. or contact to discuss possible uses or to request an overview of the product.

Major Test and Survey Options Improvements – (Can deploy and manage tests for individual students in a course).

Test and survey options allow you to edit the name and description of a test or survey. Options control the availability, presentation, and feedback for an assessment. These options are available only after an assessment is added to a content area. Tests added to a content area are said to be “deployed.” To edit options for a deployed test or survey, access a test or survey’s contextual menu and select Edit the Test Options or Edit the Survey Options.

Test Availability Exceptions

New settings have been added to to Test and Survey Options pages, available only after the test is added to a content area, called Test Availability Exceptions. The new settings allow you to select one or more groups of students and make a number of exceptions to the already established availability settings. You can use exceptions to provide an accommodation to a disabled student or provide accommodations for technology and language differences. You can change these settings at any time, even after the test has been attempted by some students. If conflicts in rules occur, the most permissive settings for that user or groups of users is granted. For example, students would receive the greatest number of attempts, longest availability time, and so on. You can create exceptions for:

  • Number of attempts
  • Time of test
  • Auto submit on or off
  • Availability of test using start and end dates
  • Force completion on or off

Show Test Results and Feedback to Students

After they complete a test, test results and feedback are available to students. By setting up rules, you can set the release of progressive feedback to keep test results secure and prevent cheating. For example, you can choose After Submission to present Score, All Answers, Correct, Submitted, Feedback, and Show Incorrect Answers to show students their scores along with all answer options. Student also see their submitted answers marked as correct or incorrect and any feedback you provided.

Feedback Mode Description
When Sets the time when test results and feedback are shown to students:v  After Submission  One-time View  On Specific Date  After Due Date  After Availability and End Date  After Attempts are Graded
Score Shows the final score out of points possible to students.
All Answers Shows all answer options for certain question types, such as multiple choice.
Correct Shows the answers the student answered correctly.
Submitted Shows all the student’s submitted answers.
Feedback Shows instructor generated feedback messages for each question.
Show Incorrect Answers Shows the answers the student answered incorrectly or partially incorrectly.

Test Begin Page

The first page students see before a test includes several changes that clarify taking the test including:

  • The test description, when provided by the instructor.
  • The test instructions, when provided by the instructor.
  • Forced completion and timer setting descriptions.

If students already completed an attempt, they see a test previously taken page. From here they can:

  • See previous completion information, and the number of attempts remaining, if any.
  • Go back to their courses.
  • View previous attempts.
  • Take the test again, if permitted.

Adding Questions to a Test

Before students take a test, you can add new questions exactly where they want them on the test canvas. Click the plus sign before or after another question and choose a question type.

Due Date and Late Submissions

A new setting allows instructors to decide whether to allow a student to take a test after the due date has passed. If students are not allowed to take a test after the due date has passed, they will receive a message telling them the test cannot be completed because the due date has passed. When you allow late submissions, they are clearly marked on the Needs Grading page, the View All Attempts page, the Review Test Submission page, and the Grade Details page.

To Learn More

To learn more, see Using the Test and Survey Canvas, and Test and Survey Options.

Exporting Test Questions

All questions are now retained in exported and imported tests, including questions that originate outside the exported test, such as Question Sets, Random Blocks, and Question Links. When the user exports a test and imports it back into a different course, all questions are now present irrespective of their origin. Questions that are in question sets and random blocks in the originating test are imported into the new course in question pools. Single questions that were linked in the originating test are imported as “native” (non-linked) questions. To learn more see Creating Question SetsCreating and Editing a Random Block, and Creating and Editing Pools.

Test Access Log – Now possible to obtain detailed information on student actions during a testing session.

A source of frustration for students, instructors, and test proctors is the inability to confirm whether students began a test or ran into problems during a test. Teachers and proctors have no way to verify student activity or lack of activity during a test. Students have no way to prove that they did begin a test and when. If students reported problems occurring during a test, they were either given the benefit of the doubt and the test was reset, or they were penalized for circumstances beyond their control. SP13 addresses this issue by providing detailed information on student test attempt interactions. Instructors and other users who are granted permission, can view the Access Log for a test from the Attempts page of the test. The access log shows a detailed list of every interaction that students engage in when taking a test. If a student claims to have started a test, the log will show the time the test was started. If a network or internet disruption occurred during the test for example, the log would show an unusual gap in the time.

Resources to Help

To ensure you can familiarize yourself with these new features of Blackboard Learn and be ready to integrate them in your instruction.   Here are a few valuable resources that you may be interested in reviewing which are offered by Blackboard:

If you have questions or concerns about these upcoming changes, please contact us at or call one of the members of the ITS LEIS team. We expect to complete the upgrade and regular system maintenance within a 4 hour window, during which the system will be unavailable. More details including update time frames and release notes will be available in the next 2 weeks. If you have any questions, please contact your account manager, Margaret, for more information.

Blackboard Catalyst Awards

Blackboard Catalyst Awards honor those who push the boundaries of their educational programs and technology in order to deliver innovative and effective learning experience in 11 categories. Submissions due for all categories on February 17, 2014. To receive additional information about the 2014 Catalyst Awards, please complete this form.

Echo360 New Version

Highlights of EchoSystem 5 include:

  • Classroom Capture Software: The new EchoSystem Classroom Capture software is completely rewritten, and offers an easy way to outfit hundreds of classrooms and small learning spaces with lecture capture. It is a cost-effective, scalable choice that takes advantage of existing computer investments and consumer-grade USB cameras for recording video.
  • Heat Maps: EchoSystem 5 also delivers additional student usage data through heat maps. Red, orange and blue color codes provide an at-a-glance guide to recording flash points. Instructors get an immediate “red flag” for lecture trouble spots in need of remediation or can identify the parts of the lecture that are seeing the most student discussions.
  • Personal Capture Software Enhancements: EchoSystem Personal Capture software installs on laptops enabling instructors to create rich media screencasts to augment lectures or to support flipped classroom pedagogies. The latest version includes recording pause-resume capabilities and support for Apple® OS X Lion.

“EchoSystem 5 provides colleges and universities exciting new options to design and implement a blended learning and lecture capture solution that exactly suits each institution’s needs,” said Fred Singer, CEO of Echo360. “EchoSystem Classroom Capture software is a cost-effective, automated solution to scale blended learning to a campus-wide service, setting a consistent expectation for the institution, instructors and students.” Classroom Capture and Personal Capture software are two elements in the comprehensive suite of recording capabilities that also include the SafeCapture HD recording device. Rolling availability of other EchoSystem 5 features, including live webcasting and hosting options, will provide additional viewing and backend deployment choice. “EchoSystem 5 delivers the most comprehensive blended learning solution available today,” continued Singer. “Institutions can choose exactly the technology they need for a customized blended learning solution.”

Student Engagement Reports in the EchoCenter

Instructors can see both aggregate and student-specific analytics on student engagement (“engagement analytics”). The aggregate report shows how many Echoes each student has viewed, how many discussion topics each student has posted, and other parameters. The detailed report shows further analytics for each student.

Live Webcasting

With this release, Echo360 presents a much requested feature: live webcasting. Live webcasting is a one-to-many delivery service of video over the web that uses a streaming server to support a large number of viewers. Unlike video conferencing systems that require expensive end points, codecs and customized networks, viewers only need a web browser with a robust broadband Internet connection. Authenticated viewers can directly engage with the Presenter and other participants via an integrated chat platform. Of course, the presentation (including the chat content) is captured as an Echo and can be viewed later. Any venue or lecture hall enabled with a SafeCapture HD device can stream audio, video and display to these remote viewers in near real time.  Live webcasts (because of their low bandwidth requirement) can be viewed on a broad range of devices and networks.  You can also establish an agreement with a CDN (Content Delivery Network) provider to reach a geographically diverse audience. See Live Webcasting and child pages for details. Schedule webcasting events. See Configure a Schedule for a Live Webcast Section


With this release, EchoCenter has a completely new look and feel. In response to your feedback, we have completely redesigned the EchoCenter, creating a sleeker, better-organized interface that:

  • Provides easier navigation and sorting
  • Optimizes the use of space
  • Gives more context about each recording

EchoCenter capabilities are much enhanced as well, allowing Academic Staff to teach better and students to learn better. The main features supporting the experience include: A detail view for each Echo that allows Instructors to easily identify learning moments and learning challenges. This view shows Echo-specific usage statistics, a usage heat map, and public discussions occurring in the Echo.  The detail view for each Echo also benefits students, who can quickly reference their notes and the public discussions for each Echo. In addition, a student study guide provides all the contextual notes (“bookmarks”) a student has taken throughout the term, making it easy to reference notes when it comes time to study Administrators benefit from greatly improved performance and better logging capabilities. For more information see:

Summer Campus classroom updates

  • Minimal updates this past summer
  • New wide-screen sympodiums added to MSC 3001, 3002, 1010, 2010, 2014, 4053?
  • 2 new printers installed in Sorrell cluster
  • All computers updated with patches and software updates.
2013-08-26 16:41

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