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Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP12 Adds Retention Center, Inline Assignment Grading

Blackboard has added a new supports for at-risk students to its learning management system, Blackboard Learn. The new retention tool is one of several enhancements added to the latest version of Blackboard Learn, Release 9.1 Service Pack 12.

Retention Center, which replaces the previous Early Warning System, uses both pre-defined and instructor-defined rules to help identify students who are at risk and provides a means to "communicate with struggling students and help them take immediate action for improvement," according to Blackboard.

While replacing Early Warning System, Retention Center does keep data and rules created using the previous system.

SP12 also adds inline grading to Blackboard, allowing instructors to highlight portions of an assignment, make notes, zoom in, access rubrics, and leave comments without printing out the assignment. Annotated work can also be downloaded and shared with the student offline.

The following is a promotional video from Blackboard that demonstrates the new inline grading functionality.

A new Calendar building block in SP12 has replaced the previous calendar tool. It adds a comprehensive view of institution-wide events, support for displaying due dates for gradable items, filtering for viewing course-level elements, a Repeat checkbox for adding recurring events, and administration of institution-wide events via the System Admin page.

Other updates in the latest release include:

  • A Discussions building block, offering inline replies, display of all posts on a single page, support for instructor highlighting, and an optional requirement to force students to post before they can see other students' posts;
  • A new JavaScript math formula editor (replacing the Java applet from SP10) with support for LaTeX formula display and editing;
  • Social learning tools, including an enhanced People tool for creating profiles, connecting with other Blackboard users, and engaging in collaborative activities;
  • Improved accessibility, including navigation for "sighted keyboard-only users, through page header and landmark aggregation";
  • New tool deployment options;
  • Test exceptions in the Test and Survey Options;
  • New options for showing test results and feedback to students;
  • Enhancements to test begin pages;
  • The ability to drag new test questions to the desired position;
  • Support for allowing late submissions; and
  • Student information system integration improvements, including new new field mapping control and removal of data management restrictions.

Blackboard Learn Release 9.1 Service Pack 12 is available now and supports major recent browsers on Mac OS X and Windows. Server hardware and software requirements for self-hosting can be found in the SP12 release notes. Blackboard has also released a "Communication and Adoption Toolkit" designed to help communicate about the software to end users. Additional details and an overview of new features can be found on Blackboard's site.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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