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May 28, 2008

Changes and Enhancements in Blackboard 7.3

Blackboard 7.3 is, for the most part, very similar to Blackboard 7.1 (the previous version we were running at Case.) The few changes and improvements in Blackboard 7.3 can be found primarily in the discussion board, though there are a few changes in the communications tools, as well as a minor change in the gradebook. Blackboard 7.3 also introduces a new tool called the Early Warning System, accessible to instructors from the Assessment area of the Control Panel, but the Early Warning System will be addressed in the next post.

Blackboard 7.3: Email Enhancements

Blackboard has returned to listing individual participants (visible from the Email: Select Users option) alphabetically by last name. In Blackboard 7.1, course participants were listed alphabetically by first name, causing trouble for managers and instructors of some large courses. This change also affects the blog and wiki member selection.

Blackboard has introduced an "All Student Users" option when sending email, allowing anybody in the course to send email only to to the students in the course.

The Email message box still does not use the Visual Text Box Editor tools, but it is now possible to include formatted text and links in a Blackboard email by entering HTML code. If you want to know more about using HTML to format text, you can find a basic HTML tutorial here and more advanced information from the Office of Web Development.

Blackboard 7.3: Enhancements to the Discussion Board

Tree View and List View

There are now two options for viewing discussion forums: Tree View and List View. List View shows only the first post in each thread, while Tree View allows readers to expand or collapse all of the threads in the forum at once.Expanding all threads shows the full hierarchical structure of the forum. (Click here to see a comparison.)

Forum Availability/Unavailability

Unavailable discussion forums now appear to the instructor with the following message:

Collecting Unread Posts

When viewing the discussion board, you will see the total number of posts, the number of unread posts, and the number of participants in each discussion forum. To help improve access and navigation within discussion forums, the number of unread posts now acts as a link that, when clicked, will collect all unread posts in a thread.

Locking and Unlocking threads

Instructors have the ability to lock and unlock discussion threads. A locked discussion thread is visible to all participants and can be read by anyone in the course who is not blocked, but it is incapable of being modified. The Lock and Unlock options have been moved into the Change Status To: drop-down menu, which is only visible in List View:

Changes in Forum Settings

Blackboard has introduced two new options in Forum Settings, and has updated a third.

Allow Post Tagging
Instructors can now "tag" messages or collections of messages with relevant search terms. Once the message or messages have been tagged, any discussion board participant working in List View can click on a tag to view the collected message(s.) Students cannot create these tags, but can use them to view collected messages. Click here to see an example.

Allow Users to Reply with Quote
Instructors can allow users to reply with quote, giving discussion participants the option of simply replying to a post or including the original message text in the reply. Participants must choose one of the two buttons: .

Blackboard has increased the Subscription options. Discussion participants may now subscribe to either message threads or discussion forums. Instructors can also choose whether subscribers to a discussion forum should see a notification email or a message with the discussion post text contained in the email. Participants must still opt in to receive the messages.

Blackboard 7.3: Gradebook Enhangements

Instructors now have the ability to give students comments on any gradebook item. Once a student has been assigned a grade, the Modify Comments button appears.

Clicking on the button opens a pop-up window with a text box and a checkbox that gives the instructor the option to share the comment with the student.

If the "Is Public" checkbox is selected, the comment will be available to the student through the student's My Grades. If the checkbox is not selected, the comment remains only for the instructor to view.

Posted by gxm11 at May 28, 2008 03:52 PM

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