We would like to announce the upgrade of Blackboard for 2013. We have scheduled the upgrade to happen between 5pm Friday 29 November until 9am Monday 2 December. This will mean that there will be no access to Blackboard during this timeframe.
This upgrade to Blackboard includes several behind the scenes improvements as well as some new features. Some of the new features include:
- New calendar – The update to the calendar provides some welcome features including a change to the interface. You can find out more about the new calendar on Blackboard’s official helpsite (help.blackboard.com)
- New Content Editor – This is a significant upgrade to the Content Editor in the new version of Blackboard which brings it inline with modern web standards. You can find out more about the new content editor on Blackboard’s official helpsite (help.blackboard.com)
As a consequence of the upgrade the Collaboration service (Virtual Classroom and Blackboard Chat) will no longer be offered. Users of the Collaboration services can achieve the same functionality by using Otago Connect.
You can keep up-to-date with news about this update by following the ITS Service Desk notices and here on the eLearning blog (www.otago.ac.nz/elearning). We will be using this blog to talk in more depth about the new features and improvements that have been made.
eLearning is excited to introduce a new way of managing staff in Blackboard papers. This new application provides Instructors and Coordinators direct control over the staff that are in their papers and what level of access these staff have. Some of the features include:
- Timely staff changes: Any staff changes are applied as soon as possible to Blackboard
- A clear audit trail of which users have been added and when
- A clear list of all staff with paper coordinators easily identified
Recently I was asked by PACKT Publishing to review the book ‘Blackboard Essentials for Teachers’ by William Rice. After four years supporting university lecturers with Blackboard I thought this was a good opportunity as I am frequently asked if there are any useful books about Blackboard available. I was interested to see how this book would deal with the complex, multifaceted nature of Blackboard and guide users to get the most out of the software.
As the book’s title suggests, it describes the essential features you need to teach and deliver a course in Blackboard. The book is set out in a logical series of chapters that walk you through Blackboard’s many features, from organizing pages in your course, through to adding content and using discussion boards to assess students.
- Chapter 1: The Blackboard Experience
- Chapter 2: Organizing a Course with Pages and Learning Modules
- Chapter 3: Adding Static Material to a Course
- Chapter 4: Discussion Boards
- Chapter 5: Blogs and Wikis
- Chapter 6: Assignments
- Chapter 7: Testing Students
- Chapter 8: Working with Groups
- Chapter 9: Communicating with Students Using E-mails, Messages and Announcements
- Chapter 10: Using Collaborate/CourseSites Live
- Chapter 11: Grading Students
The book does a fantastic job of covering a wide range of Blackboard features in a clear logical manner. There are many helpful screenshots and useful tips scattered throughout. Whole chapters are dedicated to using Discussion Boards and Blogs and Wikis to get students engaged with a course and contributing their thoughts and ideas. However, I felt the chapter on the Grade Centre could have been more in-depth as the Grade Centre is one of the key features of Blackboard, in my opinion.
William Rice has included a chapter explaining Blackboard Collaborate, Blackboard’s Web Conferencing solution (very similar to Otago Connect). Blackboard Collaborate is not used at the University of Otago, which means I’m not able to comment in any depth.
Published in July 2012 this book appears to focus on Blackboard version 9.1 Service Pack 7/8. Since then Blackboard has had a couple of updates which have introduced new features that are not covered in this edition, but much of the information is still relevant.
Who should read this book?
I recommend this book to anyone just starting out with Blackboard who needs a clear and straightforward overview for many of the key features of the platform. It would be nice to see a future edition of book for the ‘power users’ of Blackboard featuring more on the Grade Centre and advanced content management.
Reviewed by: Kimberley Johnston and Matthew Smart