Blackboard: New Features

What’s New in Blackboard 9.1 2014

Student Preview

With student preview, instructors can experience their courses exactly as their students do. Learn more at Blackboard's Student Preview page.

Delegated Grading

With delegated grading, instructors can distribute grading tasks between Teaching Assistants and other graders. Learn more at Blackboard's Delegated Grading page.

My Blackboard Profiles

With profiles, anyone can create an online representation of himself/herself in Blackboard. Upload a profile photo, add a short bio, connect with classmates, create collaborative spaces, and integrate with Facebook or Twitter. Profiles are set as private by default. Learn more by viewing Blackboard’s My Blackboard Profiles YouTube video.

Blackboard 9.1 SP 12 and SP 13 Features

New Global Navigation Menu

The new navigation menu is the entry point to My Blackboard and also provides one-click access to your Courses, Organizations, Settings and Help.

Note: You will not be able to change personal information within the “Settings” panel (e.g.; password).

For more details, see Blackboard's brief tutorial on the navigation menu [3:40].

Inline Assignment Grading

Inline Assignment Grading enhances the grading experience for faculty and instructors in Blackboard Learn. In the past, instructors needed to download student-­submitted files in order to view or edit those submissions. Now, instructors can view those files "inline" (i.e. in a web browser).

Annotation tools also enable instructors to provide feedback -­ comments, highlights and even drawings - directly on the inline view of the document.

For more details, see Blackboard’s brief video on Inline Assignment Grading [1:53].

Test Item Analysis and Automatic Regrading

You can evaluate the quality of objective test questions, including each question’s ability to discriminate between students who understand the material and those who do not. Ineffective questions can be easily identified and then quickly corrected with the Automatic Regrade feature.

For more details, see Blackboard’s brief tutorial on the Test Item Analysis function [5:00].


Mobile-Compatible Testing

Easily create mobile-compatible tests with a streamlined interface in Blackboard.

Students have the option to take Mobile Tests via their desktop computer or the Blackboard Mobile Learn app using their iOS or Android mobile device.

Additionally, any previously-created tests that contain the following compatible question types may be taken using the Blackboard Mobile Learn app:

  • Calculated Numeric
  • File Response
  • Fill in Multiple Blanks
  • Hot Spot
  • Multiple Choice
  • Short Answer
  • True/False

Any tests containing question types other than those listed above cannot be taken via a mobile device.

For more information, see Blackboard's Faculty Guide to Mobile Tests [.pdf]. Note: Images and colors in the guide may vary slightly from your Blackboard Learn course interface.

Enhanced Content Editor

The new Content Editor improves your ability to enter text, paste from Microsoft Word and add content to all areas of your Blackboard course or organization.

For more details, see Blackboard’s brief tutorial on the enhanced Content Editor [3:59].


Video Everywhere

Video Everywhere is a feature of the content editor. You will see a new icon in the content editor that accesses your webcam. You and your students can:

  • Record a video on the fly using a webcam and have it seamlessly embedded in course materials, interactions and feedback through the content editor.
  • Reuse previously recorded videos by choosing from one’s own “library” of videos.
    • Note that re-used videos need to be captioned for accessibility.

For a highlights video, see Blackboard's brief video on Video Everywhere [1:34].


The Calendar in Blackboard Learn has been enhanced with the following features:

  • When accessed from the New Global Navigation Menu or the Tools menu on the My Blackboard tab, the calendar displays a consolidated view of all institution, course, organization and personal calendar events for a user. 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 to manage and communicate 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 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.

For a highlights video, see Blackboard’s brief video on the Calendar feature [1:24].

Discussion Board

The Discussion Board maintains all of its existing functions but with improved aesthetic and functional design. Highlights include:

  • All posts on one page - all of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page.
  • Inline replies – when you reply to a post, the new content editor appears on the same page, in the context of the discussion, so you can include rich media and formatting in your postings.
  • “Post First” setting – instructors set a requirement for students to post to a forum before they can see other students’ posts. This encourages thoughtful first posts and discourages “me too” posts.
  • Role highlighting (especially useful in organizations) - posts made by forum managers and moderators now contain the course role and forum role of the person posting, making it easy to identify the role of the person who is posting.

For a highlights video, see Blackboard’s brief video on Discussions [1:20].



Retention Center (Replacing Early Warning System)

The Retention Center enables instructors to identify and give focused attention to students who are at risk of not performing well. The Retention Center replaces the Early Warning System feature, providing easier workflow while retaining the Early Warning System’s data and rules.

From the Retention Center, you can communicate with struggling students and help them take immediate action for improvement. No set-up is required, so you can begin using the Retention Center features immediately. The Retention Center settings can be customized. Only the “Instructors” in a course can see the Retention Center.

For more details, see Blackboard's brief tutorial on the Retention Center [4:30].



Simplified Buttons

Buttons for adding content have been renamed, but contain the same functionality.


Accessibility and Ease-of-Use Updates – for your information and awareness

For more information on making your online materials accessible or if you have students that need academic accommodations for disabilities, contact eLearning.

Content Editor

Previous challenges with the Blackboard content editor have been resolved with the new content editor. Formatting controls such as bold, italics and underline can be accessed with common keyboard shortcuts.

The full set of formatting toolbars can be accessed at any time by pressing Alt+F10 (on a PC) or Alt+Fn+F10 (on a Mac).

Contrast Issues

All default color schemes in Blackboard now meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA expectations for color contrast, making the screen easier to read for viewers with visual disabilities. Contrast ratios are now 4:5:1 consistently across the whole of Blackboard.

Taking a Test

Test-taking has been improved at the form mark-up level to ensure the best experience for both keyboard-only and screen reader users. Specific improvements have been made to the screen reader interaction with a "fill-in, multiple blanks" question when building and taking a test.

Skip Links

The Skip Links function allows users to skip over major navigation sections (such as the course menu) and jump directly to the most relevant content. Skip Links is available to keyboard users and screen reader users.

ARIA Markup

This Blackboard release includes an increased use of ARIA markup across the application to improve the screen reader's experience navigating the Blackboard Learn application. ARIA landmarks have been implemented on some new pages but this is not yet application-wide.

Forms Markup

The structure of forms (any text-field box that requires a user to enter information) has been improved to help users understand what is required within each of the form's text fields.

Global Navigation Menu

A new global navigation menu has been developed, providing quick links to courses, organizations, settings, bookmarked files and user settings in addition to some of the new tools provided within the new My Blackboard feature set (see below).

This menu can be accessed at any time throughout the application by pressing Shift+Alt+M (PC) or Control+Alt+M (Mac) on your keyboard.

My Blackboard

My Blackboard aggregates conversations, grades and activities within a user’s courses into a central location within Blackboard. Users can get an overall sense of what's happening for their courses and organizations within Blackboard without having to navigate into and out of each course or organization individually.

My Grades

The My Grades tool for students was completely re-designed to simplify students’ ability to access their grades within a single course and across all courses they are enrolled in.

Needs Grading

The "Needs Grading" workflow for teachers was improved to provide easier access to see and grade all outstanding student submissions within a course.

Grade Center

There is now a controlled focus when completing tasks within the screen reader view of the Grade Center, ensuring that the user is returned to the proper cell in the main Grade Center table.

Discussion Board

The complexity of the messages page in the Discussion board still needs improvement to work with assistive technology tools. Viewing collections of messages (for example, all messages from a specific user or all unread messages) can somewhat improve the experience, but training may be required for users to be successful with assistive technology tools.

Virtual Classroom

Although the Accessible Chat alternative is provided, this feature is not considered "equal access" to all users.

Multi-file Upload

The multi-file upload function within Course Files and the Content System uses a Java Applet that does not interact well with various assistive technology tools. Users have the option to upload files one at a time using the "Single File Upload" function. Multiple files can still be attached to content items, but the process takes much longer.

Keyboard Navigation

Keyboard navigation within contextual menus and list action menus has been updated to ensure that these menus follow commonly-understood keyboard patterns.

Test Availability Exceptions

New settings have been added to the Test and Survey Options pages 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 test or survey availability settings. You can use exceptions to provide an accommodation to Disability Resource Center registered students or provide accommodations for technology and language differences.

You can change these settings at any time, even after some students have attempted the test.

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

Improved Test Results and Feedback to Students

After students complete a test, test results and feedback are available to them. 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. Students 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:
  • 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 Access Log

The Access Log provides 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.