Friday, December 28, 2012

Service Pack 9

Blackboard Service Pack 9 features a new modern look and feel and many feature enhancements and bug fixes.

Some of the new features and enhancements of  Service Pack 9 (which also includes Service Pack 8 enhancements) are:

1.  A new modern look and feel that retains the ease-of-use and placement of features
2.  Quicker course-to-course navigation
3.  Pre-designed course structures and themes to help with your course design
4.  Enhanced grading options, including automatic re-grading of tests/quizzes
5.  Support for the Common Cartridge 1.2 standard
6.  Security and privacy enhancements
7.  An updated Rubric feature
8.  Notifications Dashboard alerts by Text Message (SMS)
9.  Several administrative improvements to enhance the customer support experience

In-depth introductory tutorials are here.  Log in using your Northeastern Blackboard credentials.


The new look and feel (video)

Blackboard is getting an updated look which brings it more in-line with the Web 2.0 experience you've come to expect from a modern application while at the same time retaining the overall placement of features you are used to.  Most noticeable will be the cleaner look which removes the "chevron" editing icons, replacing them with "rollover" editing, meaning that the chevron icons become visible when your mouse cursor hovers over certain areas.  The result is a cleaner, less cluttered, contemporary look and feel.

Course-to-course navigation (video)

You will no longer need to leave the course you are in in order to access your other courses.  Now you can move from course to course from within a course by clicking the drop-down menu in the upper left corner of the page.  Additionally, you can jump to a specific place in the other course.  For example, if you are in the Grade Center of on of your courses, you can easily jump to another course's Grade Center to complete your grading with fewer clicks.

Pre-designed course structures and themes (video)

You can easily change the layout of your course, choosing from a wide variety of pre-built course structures.  Course structures contain course areas, optional sample content, pedagogical information, and instructions to help you design your course easily and efficiently at the beginning of the term.  In addition, course themes provide an a visually engaging course environment. Instructors can apply a variety of themes to their course sites, adding background images to the display and changing the color of the interface including the Course Menu, buttons, and controls. Applying a theme does not affect course content, and the theme can be changed again at any time.

Enhanced grading options

Negative points: the Grade Center will allow for the application of negative point values for wrong answers on test questions. This feature dissuades students from guessing on tests and quizzes by deducting for incorrect answers.

Automated re-grading:  Now you can correct a problematic Test question, and Blackboard will automatically re-grade any student who has already taken the exam, making the necessary correction in the Grade Center.  For any given question, you may drop, give full credit, change a point value, or change the correct answer. After the question has been updated, Blackboard will recalculate the score of all submitted assessments that included the updated question, reflect the update in the Grade Center, and provide notification to both the faculty and optionally to the student for all changes.

Common Cartridge 1.2 support

As of Service Pack 9, Blackboard Learn will support the Common Cartridge 1.2 standard. Common Cartridge 1.2 allows users to export their course content a standard format that can be used in many other LMS environments.

Security and privacy enhancements

Service Pack 9 addresses security fixes for cross-site scripting, link injection, cross-site request forgery, and authorization vulnerabilities.

Rubric enhancement

With Service Pack 9, updated Rubrics include Percentage Range along with Points Range.  The Percentage Range options allows a single rubric to work with any assignment, as the achievement scores are calculated as a percentage of the item being graded.

Text Message (SMS) feature

Allows students to receive course alerts from the courses via SMS on their mobile phones.

Summary and Videos

Blackboard Service Pack 9 also includes all the features of Service Pack 8 and will bring a multitude of improvements.  Here are some additional sources for more information:

1.  Quick video introductions to several new features in Service Pack 9:

2.  Video introduction to Service Pack 8, which is included in the Service Pack 9 update:

3.  Tutorial: Introduction to the new look and feel

4.  Video introduction to Service Pack 9:

5.  Blackboard's Service Pack 8 information page:

6.  Blackboard's Service Pack 9 information page:

7.  In-depth introductory tutorials are here.  Log in using your Northeastern Blackboard credentials.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Difference Between a Running Total and a Non-running Total in the Blackboard Grade Center

The difference between a "running" total and a non-running total is that a running total will not penalize students for ungraded items.

Here is a video showing the difference between a running a non-running Total column in the Blackboard Grade Center, with an example.

Link for full view:
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How to Delete Extra Totals Columns from the Grade Center

You may have duplicate or redundant "Total" or "Weighted Total" columns in your Blackboard Grade Center.

Here is a short video explaining how to remove them.

Link for full view:
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How to Post a Video in Blackboard Outside of Your Course

Here is a method that can be used to post content in Blackboard, such as a video file, outside of the context of a specific Blackboard course site.

Link to full view:
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For this method we recommend using "web-optimized" .MP4 files so that they will playback smoothly.

To convert your video files to web-optimized .mp4 format, try the Handbrake video converter.  Here is a picture of the correct settings to use for Handbrake:

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

How to Post a Link to an RSS Feed into your Blackboard Course

Here is a video showing how to post a link to an RSS feed into your Blackboard course site.

Link to video:
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Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Post a Google Docs link into your Blackboard Course

To use Google Docs within Blackboard, create a Google Doc and then post a link to it in your Blackboard course.  You may also choose to embed a copy of the document as a preview for students.

The first time each student clicks the link to edit the document, the owner of the Google Doc will receive an email requesting access.  You may click the link in the email to grant the student access to edit.

Here is a video demonstrating the process.  This video has audio.

(direct link to video
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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Blackboard Mobile

Now available at Northeastern University for everyone

The Blackboard Mobile Learn App allows students and instructors to access Blackboard while on the go by giving students and educators access to their courses, content and organizations over both WiFi and 3G/4G on a variety of mobile devices including Android, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and BlackBerry.
Blackboard Mobile Learn offers features for easy viewing of Blackboard content on mobile devices. Some features include: viewing and posting announcements, discussions, blogs, tasks, view roster, and journals.
Blackboard Mobile Learn also supports playing embedded media such as videos and music from a course’s Blackboard site.
Students can also view grades for assignments on mobile devices using Blackboard Mobile Learn.
Student Features:
  • View selected course content for your available courses
  • View Announcements, Tasks, Class Roster, Grades, and some types of embedded media.
  • Participate in Discussion Board forums, Blogs, and Journals
  • Comment on classmates’ blogs and journals.

Instructor Features:
  • Create and view Announcements.
  • Create and view Discussion Board threads.
  • Post comments on students’ Blogs and Journals.
  • View Tasks, Class Roster, and embedded media.
To use Blackboard Mobile, start by downloading the app for your device:

Click here, then download the application for your platform.

After you have installed the application, launch it and search for "Northeastern" in the list of schools.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How to Create an iTunes U Site for your Blackboard Course

You can create a "private" iTunes U page for your Blackboard course.  You can use the site to upload media files for your course.  Your students can subscribe to your course's iTunes U site using the Apple iTunes client on their computer (Mac or PC), or their iOS devices (iPad, iPod, iPhone).  Once a student has subscribed to your iTunes U site, any content you subsequently add will be automatically downloaded for that student.

Adding an iTunes U site to your Blackboard course is a 3-step process.  Here are videos demonstrating how to perform each step in your course.

1.  Enable iTunes U for your Course.

Video has audio, please enable sound. Please click here for video instructions.

2.  Post a link in your Blackboard course that students can use to access the iTunes U site

Video has audio, please enable sound.  Please click here for video instructions.

3.  Upload and manage content (media files) in your iTunes U site

Video has audio, please enable sound.  Please click here for video instructions.

When uploading files to iTunes U, you may select one file at a time.  You may repeat the select as many times as necessary to queue the remaining files for upload.  Here is a video demonstrating how to upload multiple files.

To remove content that you have added to your private iTunes U site, use the "Delete" option from the "Choose Action" drop-down.  Here is a video showing how to delete content.

More information:

For information regarding recommended file formats for iTunes U, audience/access questions, questions regarding Copyright, and other questions, please see our Blackboard iTunes U site FAQ here.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

iTunes U Content in Blackboard - FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about iTunes U content in Blackboard.

How do I publish content to iTunes U?

To publish content to your students in your Blackboard course, please see this article.  Content published to iTunes U via Blackboard is not public; it is only available to the students enrolled in your course*.  This is known as a "private" iTunes U page.

To publish content on Northeastern University's public iTunes U site, see this page.

Who has access to the content published in iTunes U?

The content published to your course-based "private" iTunes U site is available only to the students enrolled in your in your course in Blackboard.  Students access the material by using the link that you post in your Blackboard course.  See this article for instructions.

Can I post copyrighted material in my private iTunes U site?

Material posted to the a private iTunes U site is subject to the provisions of copyright law and the TEACH act.  Please see policies pertaining to patent and copyright in the Northeastern University Faculty handbook.  Apple's copyright overview is here.

Can I restrict access to material posted on iTunes U?

*Only students enrolled in your course have access to the link to your private iTunes U site in Blackboard.  It is technically possible for a student to distribute this link intentionally to another person outside of your Blackboard site.  Also, the iTunes U service is a subscription download service (not a streaming video service) - media files posted to iTunes U are automatically downloaded to the computers of the students using the service.  For these reasons, if you have material that is particularly sensitive to redistribution, you may want to post it via another method, such as an online streaming video service that has a 'no-download' option (e.g. services such as Youtube or Vimeo).

What are the file formats supported in iTunes?

Here is a link to Apple's recommended file format information for iTunes U.

If you need to convert from another video format to an iTunes U-supported video format, we recommend using the Handbrake converter, available for free download here:

Whom can I contact if I have another question?

Please contact the NU Service Desk at 617.373.4357 or  Questions regarding the public iTunes U site may be directed to