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Bb TLC 2017 Main Conference

Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference 2017


These are my notes and thoughts and should not be seen as an accurate account of the information provided.  Some of the information included here contains features that Blackboard are working on / towards but have no guarantee to bring to market.

If you feel I have missed something / been inaccurate in my note taking please let me know in the comments and I will correct / discuss / debate with you 🙂

Interesting thoughts from Keynote

Technology adoption > utilisation.
Digital Natives, Natives of what they use and know but not all encompassing knowledge of technology.

Sneaky teaching – teaching students how to use and utilise technology by integration with their course. Improves Digital Literacy & Capability.

Digital fluency – a spectrum.

Staff need digital capability / literacy in order to be able to teach / support digital capability / literacy

Whilst “Blackboard Skills” on a student’s CV might not help their employability, the transferable skills / digital competencies they pick up in using Blackboard will greatly help support their application and future career.

Get people in that sandbox of learning – get your hands dirty

slides from Eric Stoller:

TEL: A journey from ‘brave new world’ to ‘business as usual’ – How do we engage our academics?

All undergraduate programmes at Reading will have to be reviewed next academic year.

  • TEL Programme
    • Moved some pre-content online and compulsory prior to attending f-2-f sessions.
Embedded session in the Academic Practice Programme / preparing to teach.

Asked why Bb student app doesn have Organisations included – Bb > because you use them very differently. Us > no we don’t always and expect it to work.

Offline marking – Us> where is it? Bb> it’s not a top request we’re getting back.

Search and find; a homegrown search engine for Blackboard Learn

Self Hosted on April 2014 release.  Upgrading Q2 2017 this summer – hopefully


Near realtime when new content is added and it showing in search
Conforms to availability to student in Bb so if not available then student can not see.

Attached Files also also parsed and added to elasticsearch index.

Searching returns results but also allows filtering e.g. by course, file type etc.

Client Listening Session

Planned Investment ares aiming for Q4 2017
  • Office 365 Integration
  • Google Integration
    • I asked how this will look, put simply they do not know yet and are interested in scenarios / uses so that they can consider how to shape the integration model.
  • Attendance Tracking
    • Would allow integration into Bb and out to SIS
  • Audio & Video recording within Learn
    • Mixed opinion on this – I pointed out that a recording tool would be nice BUT they really would need to think of the way this recording would then be served up to the user – it needs to be as good as youtube.
  • A new role for Facilitators or Reviewers on a course
Bb were asked what about sorting out Assessments and Peer assessment. They agreed that they need to and said that they are considering a new peer assessment tool.
Bb very interested in why we strongly wanted offline.
Bb suggesting allowing branding of their apps – I suggested that if too much branding is allowed support materials are no longer shareable and it will increase work for those supporting the users.

Exceeding student expectations: On the go with Blackboard Mobile

App vs Responsive design – students want a single click to access, they don’t want to have to always type their username and password and and app allows they to stay signed in.  It also allows the user to utilise the onboard hardware of the device they’re on.

Going to start showing calculated marks in the app.

Students will have ability to register themselves in attendance in a class by typing the code displayed by an instructor.

Bb Instructor 

Staff will be able to review their content on mobile to make sure it looks good to the students. Participate in discussions, create announcements etc

Grading due Late Q3 2017
Tablet optimised only

Questions to be asked / answered:

  • Which version of Bb Learn 9.1 will work with the app?  Do you always have to be on the latest release of Learn?
  • How can students use this when we don’t have a site licence – students could use Bb Mobile app and pay then they can use Bb Student.
    • Bb> There is no plan to add a pay for model in the new app.
  • Attendance monitoring – could this also grab the students Geo data to confirm location in the room / close to it?
    • ibeacon could do this and Bb are looking at this – no dates

From Desk to Desktop: Making Online Exams Work

TEL Team working hand in hand with the Exams Team to deliver online exams.

Produced policy and guidelines as a framework to help staff.

Test deployed into VLE by the academic, they then inform the TEL team who check it over to make sure all settings are correct.
This allowed confidence and reassured the exams team.
Later on this was changed to academic sending the exam to the TEL team to add to a new exam course.

Exam invigilator and TEL team present in the room during the exam.

Staff had to be stopped from giving feedback by allowing the students to see it directly in the exam later on. This contravened policy around access to exam papers after exams.

Now use Respondus lockdown browser as the standard exam browser

Creation of hotline to TEL team for exams as this took off and resulted in not having enough TEL staff to cover all exams.  Team can be in exam within 5 minutes.

How Blackboard approaches data privacy and security

A good and reassuring run down of the new GDPR and how Bb will make sure we are covered.

Gamification – with Blackboard

11.8% of students time in discussion boards but only 8 posts – 1 from a student. 5000 students on course.
Chose to bring Gamification in to improve student engagement.
The word missing from education right now is “Fun”. You need students to want to do the tasks you are setting them.
Using ‘gamelearn‘ product to teach time management.
Terms used in games:
  • Points – Grades
  • Badges – Achievements
  • Leaderboards – ???
  • Dashboards – Portal / course Modules
  • Instant Feedback – (not instant) feedback
  • Levels
  • Quests
Asked students to make sure that they had uploaded and avatar. When the student has done this they mark the item in Bb giving this instruction as ‘reviewed’ – this then allows them to see the next item of content – level one passed.
Well, no – on Bb Student app they could already see the second item of content and couldn’t mark the first a ‘reviewed’
So Malcolm changed the mark reviewed to a test.  The online version ends up with a lot of clicks on OKs but that wouldn’t be too bad if the app worked.  App results with even more clicks and swipes and required the student to navigate the app to find the test in a different area, submit the test twice and the leave the app and come back in to see the second bit of content.
Added badges, checked it was working on the desktop – all good. Checked the app – doesn’t do badges.
Tried to add his avatar via the app – app doesn’t allow you to add your first avatar via the app, you need to add your first via the website.
You need to know your audience – ask your students how they want to play / what they want to play.
Malcolm built his own B2 to allow for links on each item of content to point at discussion boards based on them.

Take away – if you want to do gamification- don’t buy BB Mobile – it’s asking too much of it right now.

[ – high resolution All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

Innovations in Learn 9.1: Roadmaps for Self-Hosted and Managed Hosted Clients

Improving the installer to make quicker.
CU patches / requests to patch are being done quicker. 
Admitted that they didn’t communicate well whilst they have been changing / improving the update / install processes.
Pointed out the new REST APIs – saw these in detail in the DevCon.
Q2 2017 Release:
  • More Rest APIs
  • ActiveMQ update
  • JQuery on more pages
  • New SIS integration logs REST services
  • B2 APIs for LTI management
  • Smaller installer – Faster startups
In Development and design (but not 100% for Q4 2017)
  • LTI 2.0
    • Register proxy
    • Results service
  • More REST APIs
  • Caliper
    • For Self-hosted
    • Transmission to 3rd Party BI solutions
  • SQL server 2016 – listen out for updates
  • RHEL 7 – listen out for updates
Responsive: More optimisation – 
  • My Blackboard
  • Tables and Context Menus
  • Discussions
  • Course Menu improvements
Next release
  • System navigation
  • Course navigation
  • Blogs and Journals
Integration with Collaborate Ultra has been improved.
Adding more places for drag and drop
Working on replacement for Video everywhere – Communication: Audio and Video in development.
Discussion Replies to Me – wasn’t easy for students to see when someone had replied directly to them – being improved – planned Q4 2017.
Cloud services integration: OneDrive first then Google.
Assessment Submission Receipts – Q4 2016 released the first stage of their updates. When a student submits there is a receipt created that can not be removed. In Q2 2017 this will have an email out to the student and the student can also go to MyGrades to see a copy.  This also works when groups are submitting – each member would get a receipt copy sent out to them.
Attendance tracking is in design.
Improved Student Activity Reporting – already in original courses when ultra experience is turned on. working on original experience.

NOTE: LTI 2.0 has moved to Q4 2017

Targeting April 12th for Q2 2017 release.

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