Let’s be real — do you dread the announcement of new Blackboard updates? Do you just close your eyes and hope nothing will change? Do you go searching to find which parts of your course are now inexplicably broken? The big news of the May 2019 update is that the Internet Explorer browser is no longer supported, meaning that many users will need to make the switch to Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. Yes, this can be frustrating.

However, let’s take a moment to highlight some positives! Blackboard is big, and it’s easy to miss new and useful features. In this article, I’ll explain three areas of Blackboard that have been seriously updated in the past six months. Here are three scenarios you might find yourself in — and three new-ish Blackboard features that could help you out. If you see yourself in any of these situations, come to an eCampus Open Lab to learn more.

I’m Tired of Typing and Want to Record My Feedback

Screenshot of audio feedback to a student. Microphone icon is circled.

Video or audio feedback on assignments has been a feature on mobile devices for a while, but with the newest update, you are now able to record feedback on your computer as well. The new microphone icon in the Feedback text box allows you to mix audio or video up to five minutes in with any written comments. We all know how tricky it can be to convey tone in an online environment, and this is a great way to make your interactions with students more personable. Also, it makes it easier to lay on the couch and grade papers. (As always, be cognizant of students in low-bandwidth areas and seek feedback as to whether it’s a format that works for them.) For more information: Blackboard Help – Record Audio and Video

My Entire Life Is in the Cloud

Are you an avid user of Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive? Does it irk you to download a document or image from cloud storage in order to re-upload it to Blackboard?

Screenshot of Blackboard. "Browse Cloud Storage" button is circled.

Integration with cloud storage is something that has improved a lot in the past six months. It will take a few moments to set up the link between Blackboard and your cloud-based account, but once it’s done you are now able to access files online with the same ease you upload documents from your desktop. Here’s where to go with further questions: Blackboard Help – Add Files from Cloud Storage.

I Need More Out of the Annotation Tool

Instructors were thrown for a loop a couple years ago when box became the new in-line annotation tool for Blackboard assignment submissions, and many of the old annotation options disappeared. The most recent update includes something many people have been asking for — the ability for both instructors and students to download a PDF of the graded assignment with instructor comments included. This allows you both to save the valuable feedback that you give in Blackboard. For more information: Blackboard Help – Assignment Inline Grading.

Download the PDF for this Teaching Tip

Clara Noomah

Clara Noomah, M.Ed, is an instructional designer who has worked in the world of education for almost 10 years. She is part of the eCampus accessibility task force.

cfnoomah@alaska.edu