Innovation Center

Innovation Center Resources


New features in Blackboard 7.3

Here are the features and enhancements in future Blackboard versions that affect teaching and learning:

Discussion Board
      · Course Discussions
      · Collections
      · Thread Detail
      · Tagging Messages
      · Modify Forum
      · Enhancements of Existing Features
Visual Text Box Editor
      · Cross-Browser, Cross-Platform Support
      · Additional locations for the Visual Text Box Editor
      · WebEQ and MathML
Assessments and Gradebook
      · Multiple Attempts
      · Self-Assessment Options
      · Extra Credit
      · Customized Feedback
      · Enhanced Submission Reports
      · Spell Check
Learning System Enhancements
      · Announcements
      · Email
      · Messages
      · Gradebook
      · Metadata
      · Archive/Restore
Early Warning System
      · Overview
      · Using the Early Warning System
      · Early Warning System and Gradebook

In addition to the new features, there are many Building Blocks (add-ons) available for Blackboard that can affect teaching and learning. Here is a list of such available Building Blocks (as of January 2008) and a brief description of each.



Discussion Board

Course Discussions

Restoring the capability in release 7.1, the Instructor can again view the Course Discussions in a Tree View, in which the post titles to a particular thread are visible. The user must select the Tree View icon located on the right side of the Course Discussions page. Selecting a post from the Course Discussions page will navigate the user to the Thread Detail page and will display the post as well.

On the action toolbar, there are new icons. Mark as Read and Mark as Unread allow the Instructor to classify which forums have been read or not. The Search area has been rolled up into a graphic icon of a magnifying glass. Selecting this icon will drop down the search area. Within the Search tool, it is now possible to search by time. Also, Subscribe and Unsubscribe icons allow users to subscribe or unsubscribe to a forum.

Within the Thread table of the Course Discussion page, several enhancements have been made. Grade and Tag columns have been added to the page, as well as a Grade icon that allows the Instructor to navigate to Modify Grade Item page and grade the students’ forum performance. As well, the Subscribe and Flag indicators columns have been added, allowing the user to see the subscribed and flagged forums. Also, the Date column includes the exact time of the latest change to the forum. Also, the number of unread posts in the Unread Posts column is a clickable icon that directs the Instructor to the text of these unread posts.


There are several new features on the Collections page. Atop the page is the Grade field and entry box for the Instructor. Within the action bar, like the Course Discussions page, there are icons for Mark Read and Mark Unread.

Within the Filter action bar, the user will notice a filter that includes filters for Author, Status, read Status, and Tags. As well, under this bar, the user can sort by a number of options, and choose the order in which they are displayed.

Within each post, the Instructor has the ability to Reply, Quote, and Mark as Unread, the preceding post. Also, there is now an area for Tags that displays the tags that correspond to a particular post. There is also an Add icon to allow Instructors to add tags.

Thread Detail

The Thread Detail page has been changed and enhanced. Now, within the action bar are the icons to Subscribe and Unsubscribe. As well, there are the icons to Mark Read and Mark Unread.

Also, a new field, New Replies to my Post, has been added. Clickable number links for Unread Posts and New Replies to my Post have been added and direct the Instructor to either the Unread Posts or the New Replies to my Post.

The new Quote icon is located within the action bar of a post. Selecting the icon directs the Instructor to the Reply to Post page, to reply to a post, and within the Message text box is included the text from the post to which the Instructor is responding.

Within a post, an Instructor can now rate a post based on a star rating system. The Instructor can also navigate to both the Previous Post and the Next Post.

Tagging Messages

Post rating allows users to rate posts in the forum on a scale of one to five stars. When enabled, post rating is a simple yet effective tool for peer review.

Modify Forum

The Subscribe to Thread notifies users each time a new post is added to the thread. The notification is enabled by the user and sent to the email address stored in the user’s Personal Information. Users will not be able to enter a different email address to which notifications will be sent to prevent spam from being generated from the Discussion Board. This feature is available to all users with a forum role other than “blocked” if the feature is enabled for the forum.

Enhancements of Existing Features

The following enhancements improve the user experience in the Discussion Board:

• Instructors can copy Discussion Board forums to the same Discussion Board or to another Discussion Board in the course.

• Users can save posts as drafts, allowing them to work on a post over more than one Blackboard session until the post is ready for publishing.

• Instructors now have an availability option for all forums on the Add/Modify Forum page. The availability option replaces the functionality of archiving forums. Forums that were archived before an update to 7.0 Application pack 1 will become Unavailable after the update process.

• The Discussion Board uses Adaptive Release rules and other availability rules such as Date set on any tool links to the Discussion Board.

• Searches can be limited or expanded to include current forum, current thread, or all forums in the course.

• Users can group posts into Collections. Collections can be sorted and filtered to customize the Collection for easy viewing and printing.

• Instructors can now “lock” a forum to prevent additional posts, but allow users to read existing threads.
This feature replaces the “archive” forum.

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Visual Text Box Editor

Cross-Browser, Cross Platform Support

The Visual Text Box Editor is now available to users running any supported browser.

The Visual Text Box Editor is compatible with the following browsers on Windows Operating Systems:

• Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 and 7.0

• Mozilla Firefox 1.0 and 2.0

The Visual Text Box Editor will not work with older versions of these browsers. Instead, the standard options for entering text will appear.

The Visual Text Box Editor is compatible with the following browsers on Macintosh Operating Systems:
• Safari 2.0
• Mozilla Firefox 1.0 and 2.0

When run on Safari, the Visual Text Box Editor Lite Version appears. The Lite Version does not include the button controls for several features because Safari does not yet support those rich-text editing features.

Some features that are not accessible from a button in the Lite Version may still be activated using keyboard shortcuts. For example, the cut, copy, and paste functions may still be used through the keyboard shortcuts.

Macintosh users may also download and use the free Mozilla Firefox 1.0 (or higher) Web Browser to use all the features of the Text Box Editor.

Firefox users, on all operating systems, must perform an extra step to enable the cut, copy, and paste functions. This is a function of the Firefox browser, and not Blackboard applications. The first time an attempt is made to cut, copy, or paste text in the Visual Text Box Editor, a message from Firefox will appear explaining that the action is not allowed. A link is provided for information on how to enable the cut, copy, and paste functions by editing a Firefox configuration file. The link currently points to Please check with Firefox for the most up-todate information on using rich-text tools for cut, copy, and paste. Macintosh users may find that this does not fully resolve the problem, particularly because Firefox does not permit pasting text from Microsoft Office files on Mac.

Additional Locations for the Visual Text Box editor

The Visual Text Box Editor has been added to many pages in the application.

WebEQ and MathML

The WebEQ and MathML tools on the Visual Text Box Editor have been enhanced. When a WebEQ equation is inserted using the new Visual Text Box Editor, a place holder will appear in the body of the editor. Clicking Preview will display the equation, and the equation will render in Display View, including equations that contain left angle brackets (<). The spacing around the equation has been enlarged and the text size has been decreased so that the entire equation is clearly visible by default. The equation may be modified by selecting the place holder and clicking the WebEQ icon on the Visual Text Box Editor.

Users may receive a pop-up box when launching WebEQ that asks the user to trust an applet provided by Design Science, the maker of WebEQ. If users click Always, the pop-up will no longer appear on that computer when launching WebEQ.

MathML may now include whitespace in the editor without affecting the equation.

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Assessments and Gradebook

Multiple Attempts

Assessments may now be set to allow unlimited attempts or a specific number of attempts. The Gradebook displays all of the attempts. The Gradebook item is scored based on grading option: last attempt, first attempt, highest score, lowest score, or average of scores. Additionally, an Override field has been included so that the instructor can override the score independent of any attempts.

Now that all attempts are visible in the Gradebook, the clearing options have been enhanced as well. The instructor may choose to clear (or delete) the last attempt, first attempt, highest attempt, lowest attempt, or all attempts within a specified date range. This action may be performed by item (for all students at once) or by user (for a specific user).

Self-Assessment Options

The deployment of tests has been enhanced to permit Self-Assessment in two forms: allow the instructor and student to view the grade, or only allow the student to view the grade. In each case, the grade is not included in the final score for the student.

When deploying a test in a course, the instructor should uncheck the option called Include this test in Gradebook score calculations to allow students to take the test without affecting their overall score. Both the instructor and the student will still be able to review the results of the test. This option was previously only available through the Gradebook but is now also available in the course content area when deploying a test.

The second self-assessment option, called Hide the score of this test from the Gradebook will allow the student to take the test without displaying the results to the instructor.

Extra Credit

When creating a test, questions may now be marked as extra credit only. This means that the points possible for the entire test will not include the points possible for that question. If the question is answered correctly, the question points will be added to the points correct, but if the question is answered incorrectly, there is no score penalty.

Customized Feedback

Feedback options were previously organized into four groups: score only, score + detailed results, all of the above + correct answers, and all of the above + detailed results, all of the above + feedback. These options have been ungrouped so that users may select any combination of the score, submitted answers, correct answers and feedback to be displayed to the student at the end of an assessment.

Enhanced Submission Reports

The submission report for assessments now includes the following user information: First Name, Last Name, Course Name, Username, Course ID, name of the Assessment, and date/time of submission. This may be used as verification by the student that they have indeed submitted the assessment. Some instructors may require students to print this as a permanent record of the activity.

Spell Check

Spell Check is now present in all places where email is used in the application, plus other key areas where proper spelling is essential, such as the Glossary tool and Assignment comments to/from instructors.

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Learning System Enhancements


All Instructors will now be able to deliver information to students by generating a broadcast email when creating or modifying a course announcement. Instructors will not have to rely on their students visiting the course site to see new information. This email will be sent to all users enrolled in the course, and will contain the title and body of the announcement.

This feature appears as a new step on the following pages:
Control Panel > Course Tools > Announcements > Add Announcement
Control Panel > Course Tools > Announcements > Modify

If the course email tool is disabled in the course, the feature will be unavailable (the step will not appear) and Announcements will continue to function as in previous releases. This is not available for System Announcements.


A new Course Email tool has been added that allows mail to be sent to all Student users (no other course roles are included).

The functionality is exactly the same as the other course email tools.
Course > Communications > Send Email > All Student Users

All mail sent from within Blackboard can now include support for HTML-formatted messages. Users will not have access to the Visual Text Box Editor when composing an email, but the content may include HTML. This enhancement supports the rich-text formatting supported by Announcements which can now be emailed to users (see above).

Administrators may be affected by this change due to the larger size of HTML-formatted messages.


All users will now benefit from a more streamlined workflow and easier access to information when using the Messages tool.

Enhancements include:

• The number of unread messages and total number of messages now appear in the folder list Course > Communications > Messages

• The list of sent messages now displays the message recipients Course > Communications > Messages > Folder

• Selecting recipients has been made easier to use by displaying it directly on the page and adding an “invert” option for quick results Course > Communications > Messages > Compose Message

• The destination folder list when moving messages now sorts alphabetically. This enhancement is only visible when the "Allow Personal Folders" option is enabled by the administrator at the system level Course > Communications > Messages > Folder > Move Message


For each grade Instructors can now add comments that are visible to students. Comments can be created by clicking on a grade, a hyphen, or a lock symbol within the gradebook spreadsheet to navigate to the Modify Grade page; or click on an assignment to the Item Options page, then click on Item Grade List. The instructor must click on Modify Comments to add a comment, which uses a simple, spell-check-only text area in a pop-up box. The instructor can add comments to a Blackboard-generated assessment when the assessment is in progress or completed, while an instructor can only add comments to a manual grade or a manually created assignment once a grade has been entered. The instructor cannot add comments to any grade that has been entered through Override Grade. Pop-up blockers must also be “off,” or the instructor must press CTRL + Modify Comments.

The existing Date field will be relabeled Due Date and will no longer be required for Gradebook Items. The Creation Date of the Item is now exposed as a read-only field. It is important to note that no new date fields were added to the database to support the changes described above. Existing Gradebook Items’ date values will not be adversely impacted upon system update. (See Early Warning System for additional information.)


Instructors now have the ability to create, modify, and search for Metadata forms and their fields to efficiently organize content. As well, Metadata can be applied to content folders and not just individual files.

Metadata templates are setup with three default templates and an icon for custom templates. The IMS Metadata template has been enhanced with added multiplicity fields that allow a Instructor to add multiple values to one field. As well, Instructors have the privilege to modify some of the default templates’ fields.


Instructors now have the ability to fully archive and restore content items, including their associated Metadata.



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Early Warning System


The Early Warning System is a new feature that builds upon the success of the Performance Dashboard and introduces the ability for instructors to proactively measure and monitor student performance based on key performance metrics.

• Instructors can proactively communicate student performance throughout the learning process to parents and guardians of K – 12 students so that they can be actively involved in the academic development of their children.

• Instructors can partner with advisors to target specific performance metrics to improve student retention, generating significant student satisfaction and considerable cost reductions.

Using the Early Warning System

The Early Warning System will appear as a new link on the course control panel. The Early Warning System tool is closely associated with the Performance Dashboard. Critical Early Warning Statistics will be displayed in the Performance Dashboard in a new column along with direct access to the relevant details for each student.

Instructors will use the Early Warning System to actively communicate with relevant parties based on the results of defined rules. Instructors can define rules that monitor for both positive and negative trends. Rules are defined against three key performance metrics within a course:

• Item Score/Grade

• Item Due Date

• Course Attendance

The latest results of how students measure against the rules are displayed each time the instructor refreshes the rule in a series of dashboard like views.

Instructors have the option to easily email the students and associated Observers. A comprehensive log tracks the notification activity for each course as initiated through the Early Warning System.

Early Warning System and Gradebook

The Early Warning System can be integrated with the Gradebook by using the Due Date field as the basis of a rule. The Date field on each item in the Gradebook has been updated to facilitate a more standard application of the value and to allow this optional integration with the Early Warning System.

Beginning with this release, the Date field will be relabeled Due Date and will no longer be required. The Creation Date of the Item is now exposed as a read-only field.

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Page last modified: August 25, 2009