Introducing: Blackboard release 8.0
by Irina Berman, Instructional technology Specialist
Blackboard has developed version 8.0 of the Blackboard Learning System. Touro will be implementing this new system next year. Blackboard 8 has improved performance, is easier to use, and contains smart grading features, as well as tools to help learners develop critical thinking skills. Blackboard 8 also features the newly redesigned gradebook, now named the blackboard grade Center. The grade Center has an easier-to navigate interface that you will appreciate. Self assessment and peer review features will better engage students. Many performance, stability and usability issues have been addressed in this release.
A Smarter Blackboard grade center
Release 8.0 contains a new and easy to use smart grading tool: the Blackboard grade Center. Features within the grade Center include allowing for customization; enabling instructors to access thorough analysis at their fingertips; and helping to maximize their time, so they can focus directly on teaching and how their students are doing.
- Smart views, grading periods and grade history Instructors need to have a way to create and save specific views of information. Four types of Smart Views were created in this release:
- group - which allows an instructor to select students to view based on their membership in course groups
- Focus - which allows an instructor to select specific students to be included in the view
- benchmark - which allows the instructor to select students based on their performance in a particular grade Center column
- Investigate - which allows the instructor to select students based on more complex query structure Instructors can also create an unlimited number of grading periods to organize information into logical sections. Another great feature that Blackboard grade Center offers is called grade History. It allows a faculty to help keep track of what changes were made to the grade (especially with TA’s).
- Entering grades The workflow to enter grades has been simplified. There is now inline editing of grades directly from any view. Easy access to more detailed information about each grade is provided through the use of “Action Links”. You get to these by hovering over the cell for both an individual grade and the grade Center column.
- Communication direct From grade center Communication has been also improved by allowing the instructor to select individual students, multiple students or all students from any grade Center view and send email to those students.
- Downloading and uploading grades Faculty now have the ability to grade offline and synchronize data with the grade Center quickly and easily. When downloading, faculty can now determine what data will be included in the download file. When uploading, you can upload multiple columns and rows in a single step.
- Weighted grades grade calculations are not limited to weighted grades, but could require average, sum, total, or min/max grade formulas as well. Previously, only single Total and Weighted Total columns were available.
- Column & user stats Column statistics were enhanced to include more grade distribution data.
- Progress reports Instructors are able to generate and print progress reports for all or selected students. They can be customized by the instructor to contain only the grade Center information that is necessary.
Critical thinking tools: facilitating self and peer assessments
Students can become more engaged in learning by participating in shared activities, but group work that requires reflection and develops critical thinking skills is difficult to manage logistically and time-consuming for faculty members. Release 8.0 of the Blackboard Learning System contains Self Evaluation, a new feature created by a Blackboard client that enables students to review and grade their own assessment submissions by following criteria set by their instructor. With another feature, Peer Evaluation, students can review and grade work submitted by their peers in a course, following instructor criteria and even compare their responses. These features of Release 8.0 enable students to understand their own strengths and weaknesses and better learn how to collaborate and offer constructive criticism— skills they will need throughout life.
Preventing plagiarism: safeassign
Plagiarism has always been a challenge for institutions - historically one of the most challenging to measure and control. SafeAssign by Blackboard is a plagiarism prevention service that enables institutions to protect the originality of student work and ensure a fair academic environment for all learners. SafeAssign helps prevent plagiarism by detecting unoriginal content in student papers within the existing teaching and learning environment. It also deters plagiarism by helping students learn proper attribution and citations. SafeAssign is integrated into Release 8.0. (It is already available to you in 7.3, as an add on installed on Touro’s Blackboard system).