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Blackboard’s current service for the implementation of inline grading is through the Crocodoc API, and Box Inc. has decided to discontinue it. The end-of-life date for the Crocodoc API is January 15, 2018.
As a result, we’ve updated our inline grading capability to leverage the New Box View API. New Box View offers several improvements over Crocodoc, including improved rendering fidelity and expanded support for new file types. Inline grading will continue to work in supported Blackboard Learn releases after January 15th, 2018.
Clients who want to continue to use the inline grading capability need to upgrade their Learn instances to a version that supports the New Box View API:
- Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q2 2016 CU6 (3000.1.6) (available now — released 11/17/2017)
- Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q4 2016 CU4 (3100.0.4) (available now — released 10/18/2017)
- Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q2 2017 CU4 (3200.0.4) (available now — released 10/30/2017)
- Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q4 2017 (3300.0.1) (available now — released 11/16/2017)
- Blackboard Learn SaaS CD (3300.2.0) (available now — released 11/10/2017)
- Blackboard Learn SaaS FDO (3300.0.1) (available now in Test/Stage, various dates available for Production release)
The change is delivered in a Cumulative Update for all above releases except Q4 2017 and Learn SaaS CD. After the upgrade is complete, no other action is required.
After you switch to New Box View, you can’t switch back to Crocodoc.
You can choose when your Learn instance and users are transitioned to the New Box View service with a new setting available in the Assignments Building Block. This work has been completed:
- Learn work that is applied within core Learn code and the Assignments B2 — complete
- New Box View/Crocodoc work that is applied within the external services owned by Box, Inc. — complete
- Blackboard microservice work that serves as middleware between Learn instances and Crocodoc/New Box View — complete
The setting in the Learn Assignments B2 won’t be visible until the microservice is deployed*. If you want to use the New Box View service for your Learn instance, please wait until the microservice is available or contact Support.
*After the microservice has been deployed, there's a known issue requiring the en_US language pack to see the New Box View toggle.
Due to a short period of unavailability for the inline grading service, we recommend that you transition to New Box View during an off-academic period when grades are complete. During this time period, the Crocodoc service and ability to view documents within the browser won’t be available but the rest of Learn will function properly. The document viewing capabilities are the only feature affected during the transition.
After the transition, users can’t change the existing annotations made in Crocodoc as all annotations are read-only in New Box View. The Crocodoc annotations are “burned” into a PDF and users can’t remove or change the annotations. Users can add new annotations with the New Box View annotation tools, but they can't interact with annotations created in Crocodoc.
Instructors and roles with grading privileges
- Must assign grades, and in the Ultra Course View, post the grades, before students can view annotations.
- Can’t edit or remove existing Crocodoc annotations in New Box View as the annotations are “burned” into a PDF during migration.
- Can add or edit New Box View annotations after a grade is assigned. However, when delegated grading is enabled, only instructors can add or edit annotations in New Box View after grades are assigned.
Delegated grading is enabled and no grades are assigned
- Graders who aren’t allowed to view other graders’ annotations, won’t see any annotations—even their own—after the migration to New Box View. Graders see students’ original documents. The “hidden annotations” are necessary because graders shouldn’t see other grader or instructor annotations that existed before the migration.
Delegated grading is enabled and grades are assigned
- After grades are assigned in Learn, graders can view all annotations made in Crocodoc and New Box View.
- Students may be able to see all annotations based on the Provisional Grades setting within the Delegated Grading capabilities.
We understand that your users may have come to rely on Crocodoc when they grade. After you upgrade, we’ve made the transition to the New Box View as seamless as possible.
Admin Panel > Building Blocks > Building Blocks > Installed Tools > Assignments > Settings
On the Assignment Settings page, select Yes for Switch to New Box View? and submit. The page may close while processing.
Crocodoc isn’t available for a few minutes and then New Box View replaces Crocodoc in the affected course grading areas.
*Comparison view of Crocodoc and New Box View annotations on an Ultra assignment
After the transition to New Box View, the Assignment Settings page displays the New Box View options that are set to ON by default.
The Upload Waiting Time setting determines how long Learn should wait for a response from New Box View before the document conversion dialog (“This file is being converted…”) appears. You can adjust this setting to higher values if users see excessive instances of the document conversion dialog.
No Timeout means Learn doesn't wait for a response from New Box View before the document conversion dialog appears. Users see the next page immediately, but the document conversion dialog always shows.
After the end-of-life date for Crocodoc, what will happen to data stored in Crocodoc if a Learn instance isn’t updated to use New Box View?
While the Crocodoc service will technically reach end-of-life, the databases that contain student-submitted data and documents won’t be deleted or destroyed. The data will still be available for migrations that occur after the end-of-life date, as well as for critical situations such as grade challenges. The data that persists in Crocodoc doesn’t imply that your institution can continue to use the service in any way beyond January 15, 2018. The Crocodoc service will display a “Service Unavailable” message to users after this date.
Blackboard is working with Box to define a long-term strategy for the decommission of Crocodoc servers permanently. While we don’t have a timeline available yet, we have no expectation of a decommission of Crocodoc servers.
Can I download data from Crocodoc?
Yes. To learn more, see Download Files from Crocodoc.
After the end-of-life date for Crocodoc and during the migration, what will users see in a course if a Learn instance isn’t updated to use New Box View? Will training will be required for users?
After the end-of-life date and during the migration, the Crocodoc service will display a “Service Unavailable” message to users:
How does the New Box View interface differ from Crocodoc?
New Box View will completely replace the Crocodoc feature in Learn, with the same general user experience and interface elements. Users will see some slight differences in the UI, primarily more streamlined buttons and options.
*Comparison view of Crocodoc and New Box View annotations on an Ultra assignment
Will the transition have any impact on the use of rubrics for grading? Will instructors be able to use the same rubrics for the New Box View as they currently do for Crocodoc?
The transition won’t impact Learn’s rubrics or rubric data. Instructors will be able to use the same rubrics within the inline grading interface alongside the New Box View service. Rubrics are a separate feature that doesn’t share code with the Crocodoc or New Box View service.
Can an institution customize or alter the integration with New Box View?
Blackboard has a central account with Box and manages all Learn customer accounts centrally, so customers have no management burden. We don’t have the ability for customers to customize or alter the integration. A Learn customer can’t request that Blackboard enable a special Box tool or feature.
*Statements regarding our product development initiatives, including new products and future product upgrades, updates or enhancements represent our current intentions, but may be modified, delayed or abandoned without prior notice and there is no assurance that such offering, upgrades, updates or functionality will become available unless and until they have been made generally available to our customers.
The Crocodoc annotation service will be discontinued on January 15, 2018. For more information, see Crocodoc transition to New Box View.
Assignments are the only tools that currently support Inline Grading.
Visit System Admin > Building Blocks > Building Blocks > Installed Tools > Assignment > Settings to edit Crocodoc settings, such as annotations and upload waiting time.
When an instructor views student-submitted files inline, they view the files in their web browser without any plug-ins, applets, or client-side applications. Instructors can use annotation tools in the inline viewer to provide feedback, such as comments, highlights, and even drawing/annotation, directly on the inline view of the document.
To get started with inline grading, you must first enable Cloud Connector and configure it to contact Blackboard Cloud.
After you've enabled cloud services, you must make inline assignment grading available in existing courses.
- On the Administrator Panel in the Tools and Utilities section, select Tools.
- In the list of tools, find Assignments and select On. Select Default On to allow instructors to turn it on or off in their courses.
The only requirements to use inline grading are a Blackboard Learn instance with the Course Delivery module and a modern browser.
Users see no changes to the workflow for submitting assignments, with the exception for one minor UI change to the field where they type an assignment response in the editor instead of uploading a file. All the changes are focused on the Grade Assignment page. Inline assignment grading can convert, display, and annotate Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and PDF file formats. These file types account for the majority of submissions for Blackboard Learn assignments. If a file format can't be converted, an instructor still has the option to download it. The conversion retains most formatting for supported file types. Some complex page layouts may not render perfectly but is an uncommon exception.
When students view their submitted attempts, they see the converted document in an inline viewer, as well as any annotations their instructors may have added. Students can't edit instructor annotations or add their own annotations.
Users have the ability to download the annotated document as a PDF file.
Inline assignment grading is powered by Crocodoc (http://www.crocodoc.com). Crocodoc is a third-party, cloud-based conversion, display, and annotation service.
Inline assignment grading contacts a Blackboard-managed Cloud service to retrieve a unique Crocodoc token for each Blackboard Learn instance. This token is used to identify the Blackboard Learn instance with the Crocodoc service. Acquisition of this token happens automatically when inline assignment grading is available. For this acquisition to occur, the Cloud Connector needs to be enabled and configured to contact the Blackboard Cloud. In the event that inline assignment grading has difficulty obtaining the Crocodoc token from the Blackboard-managed Cloud service, you'll see an error on the Assignment Settings page.
The Cloud Connector only needs to be enabled for inline assignment grading to request and retrieve the Crocodoc token. The Cloud Connector isn't required for regular use of the inline assignment grading feature after the token has been successfully retrieved.
Student file submissions are stored in your Blackboard Learn instance as always. A copy of the submission is transmitted to the Crocodoc cloud service for conversion. The converted version of the document lives in the cloud on servers managed by Crocodoc. Annotations are made to the converted document. They are stored as metadata associated with the converted document in the Crocodoc cloud service.
When documents are removed/deleted from Learn using the standard methods (submission delete, assignment delete, course delete, and so on), the reciprocal content stored in Crocodoc is also removed programmatically through the integration between the two services. When users delete content from a course, they don't need to take additional actions to remove content from Crocodoc.
Crocodoc annotations for attempts aren't carried over when a course is copied or restored from an archive.
The Crocodoc service can convert files in any character set, including double-byte character sets. Likewise, comment annotations can be added in any character set, including double-byte character sets. However, the inline viewer's interface itself is not localized, so the labels on the inline viewer toolbar and any other textual interface elements of the inline viewer will always be displayed in English. Blackboard is working with Crocodoc to get more clarity around their timeline for supporting localized interfaces.
Text files, HTML files, and content created with the editor can't be annotated because they already display inline natively in the browser. These files aren't sent to Crocodoc for conversion and therefore can't be annotated.
When a converted document is loaded, a session is initiated in Crocodoc. Annotations made during a session are saved automatically. However, the Crocodoc session expires after an hour. If an instructor takes longer than an hour to annotate a document, annotations made after that session expiration may not be saved. As a workaround, navigate away from the Grade Assignment page to another page in Blackboard Learn, then navigate back to the Grade Assignment page to re-establish a new session. Blackboard is working with Crocodoc to determine how we might extend this session to be more in sync with the Blackboard Learn session itself.
The Crocodoc application and associated data—converted documents and annotations—live in the Amazon Web Services cloud, hosted in the United States. The files are secure in the Crocodoc service and stored only in the U.S. Blackboard, Crocodoc, and Amazon Web Services go to great lengths to secure access to the content stored in the Cloud.
No personally identifiable data about students is sent to Crocodoc. Blackboard Learn retrieves a document ID from Crocodoc and assigns it to the document. That mapping of document ID to user, course, assignment, and attempt is tracked locally in Blackboard Learn. None of that data is available to Crocodoc. All that is transmitted to Crocodoc is the file for conversion. However, the content of the file could contain personally identifiable information. The converted file is stored in the Crocodoc service, as are any annotations instructors make on the converted file.
- Students can't annotate documents.
- Inline grading doesn't work with SafeAssign, Self & Peer, forums, or Content Collections.
- The Crocodoc inline viewer interface is displayed in English only at this time.
- Annotation sessions expire after an hour. If an instructor takes longer than an hour to annotate a document, annotations made after that session expiration may not be saved.
- To ensure that point- or text-annotations are saved, instructors must click outside of the annotation text entry area, but within the Crocodoc iframe, before leaving the inline grading page.