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About this release
Blackboard continues our commitment and investment in the Learn Original Experience (Learn 9.1). We focused on these areas in 9.1 Q4 2019:
- Enhancements through platform features. Enhancements are delivered in the Original Experience through enhancements to platform features, capabilities not specific to the Original Experience. In some cases, these features can also be enhanced without requiring a Learn release upgrade. These features sometimes have differing timelines for global availability due to regional requirements for data storage and handling.
- Iterative feature improvements. Enhancements to existing features in the Original Experience that are implemented as part of work happening in that feature area for the Ultra Experience.
- Mobile optimization and responsiveness. Improving the responsiveness of the Original Experience and its use on smaller devices.
- Standards and interoperability. As a leader in openness, Blackboard continues to invest in expanding support for standards and interoperability within Learn in order to give institutions increasing options for expanding and defining their unique EdTech platforms.
- Quality and maintenance. Blackboard continues to make changes to technologies and processes to further improve quality. This includes improvements to security frameworks and processes to achieve various security certifications, performance improvements, changes to address compliance with ever-evolving global regulations, and updating technologies and libraries used within the application.
Cumulative Update 1 for Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q4 2019
Cumulative Update 1 for Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q4 2019 release is now available.
Too many failed attempts to log in to a user account could be a security risk. In this release, if Blackboard Learn is involved in the authentication process (default authentication type or LDAP), administrators can decide when Learn locks user accounts to protect them from unauthorized access.
By default, Learn will lock user accounts after 5 failed login attempts. Administrators can disable the feature or edit its limits in the Administrator Panel > Security > Account Lock Settings. Administrators can decide the maximum failed attempts allowed within a specified period. They can also choose how long accounts remain locked and whether accounts unlock automatically if users reset their passwords.
For security reasons, Blackboard recommends enabling Authentication Lockout any time the default authentication type is enabled since it is often used for fallback administrator accounts in scenarios where the authentication service isn’t available. Administrators can confirm enabled authentication types in the Administrator Panel > Integrations > Authentication.
Open file upload warning for Edge browser users
Due to a known Microsoft Edge issue, some users who access Blackboard Learn through the Microsoft Edge browser have encountered problems attaching and submitting open Microsoft Office files. To help prevent file submission problems, Learn now warns Microsoft Edge users that they should close files before uploading them. The message only displays the first time the user encounters a file upload workflow in a Blackboard Learn session.
Course availability controls in more places
We first introduced a course availability indicator and toggle control for Blackboard Learn Original courses with the 9.1 Q4 2017 release. In 9.1 Q4 2019, the indicator and toggle now appears in additional tools and management pages, including the Discussion Board.
When an instructor, teaching assistant, or other entitled user has the privileges to edit course availability settings, they can select the padlock icon to toggle availability. If availability date settings need adjustment, the padlock icon will take the user to the Settings Management page.
Administrator tools list sorts alphabetically
To help administrators more easily find the tools they need, the Tools and Utilities list in the Administrator Panel now displays alphabetically.
Needs Grading filter selection is remembered
With this release, Blackboard Learn will remember instructors’ preferences for the Show attempts that don’t contribute to user’s grade filter on the Needs Grading page. By default, the checkbox is unselected and student attempts that don’t affect grades won’t show on the Needs Grading list. When an instructor changes the setting, Learn will remember the preference across that user’s sessions and courses.
Grade Center improvements on desktop for the Learn 2016 Theme
For the Learn 2016 Theme, we’ve decreased the cell padding in the Grade Center for desktop users so that more Grade Center data will display.
Grade Center improvements on mobile for the Learn 2016 Theme
With this release, instructors can more efficiently manage the Grade Center on their mobile devices. We’ve made the behavior, display, and actions of the Grade Center’s mobile card view more consistent with the grid view.
Usability improvements for the Learn 2016 Theme
We’ve made several improvements for the Learn 2016 Theme in this release, including:
- When configured, course color menus also apply to the pop-out course menu
- Contextual menus now display with dividers between sections
- We’ve improved tab and sub-tab navigation for unauthenticated users who use Tab Page (Direct Access) as the start page. This can be configured in the Administrator Panel > Gateway Options.
Legacy authentication type removed
When Blackboard introduced the extensible authentication framework long ago, our main authentication moved to the Default type. We retained the previous framework as Legacy to support older custom authentication types, but have since deprecated it. With this release, we’ve removed the deprecated and unsupported Legacy authentication type from the Administrator Panel > Authentication. Custom authentications should use the extensible authentication framework instead.
Administrators should confirm that the legacy authentication type is disabled prior to upgrading so it can be removed by the installer. If it is enabled, the installer will stop and request legacy authentication type is disabled before restarting the installer.
Hostname configuration management
To improve security, all URLs allowed access to the application must be explicitly defined. This includes older URLs that institutions would still like to support because of historic links or bookmarks. Previously, hostname information was handled in the server-level bbconfig.properties file. This information can now be managed in the Administrator Panel > Security > Hostname Configuration.
LTI Advantage improvements
If a tool implements the grading and submission state handling in the LTI Assignment and Grades service, instructors can see which students have submitted including in the Needs Grading workflow and whether grading has started. Students will have more accurate due and overdue notifications because their submissions will register with Blackboard Learn even if the submission requires grading before a score is sent to the grade book. An integrated tool must implement these capabilities of the standard in order to users to have the improved experience.
In prior releases, tools have been able to request a list of students in a class, if allowed, to create a better experience for users in the tool—this uses the Names and Roles Provisioning Service. In this release, tools can now also request group definition and group membership data through the extension to this service, the Context Membership Service. Tools can then use the existing group data in Learn to create group activities or list filters as appropriate for the tool without requiring instructors to set up their groups again.
- Tool providers can now fully own their key set and issue them at a JWKS endpoint in the OAuth2 authorization workflow. If used, tool creators will add the tool’s JWKS endpoint URL when registering the security of an application in the Developer Portal. No action is required for Learn administrators adopting a tool.
- When using LTI Advantage and LTI 1.3, administrators can now add custom parameters for an approved domain. This capability was available previously for LTI 1.1 tools; this release adds support for this capability when using LTI 1.3 and Advantage.
- Disabled users are filtered automatically for tools when tools use the Names and Roles Provisioning Service.
Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) is a standards specification defined and certified by the IMS Global organization. Blackboard participated in the development of the LTI Advantage specification.
New and updated REST APIs
This release includes new REST APIs and enhancements to previously-released web services, including:
- Assignment (expanded, including Attempt Modified filter)
- Content (expanded, including Created/Modified Date filter)
- Oauth Token (expanded, including create, compare, modify)
- Course Resources (new)
- Content Review Status (new)
- Course Categories (expanded, including filters)
- Performance Dashboard (new)
Java 11 JDK and Building Blocks
As we have previously announced, Blackboard Learn 9.1’s Q4 2019 release uses a new version of Java, Java 11 JDK. Java are the libraries on which the Learn application runs and also the libraries that power Building Blocks, the add-on tools and features you may use in your environment. We’re implementing Java 11 to improve security and performance. Staying on recently updated libraries is crucial to staying ahead of those who may try to compromise your learning environment.
This important update can impact custom and third-party add-on tools using the Building Blocks (B2) integration framework, and we strongly encourage all clients and partners who use Building Blocks to test them with Java 11.
To help identify potential incompatibilities with third-party add-ons, we’ve developed a Building Block scanning tool. While the tool doesn’t replace functional testing, it can help developers understand what changes need to be made if issues are found with a Building Block. Because the tool can be resource-intensive, it should only be run on your staging or test environment.
For additional resources on Java 11 testing and details about the Building Block scanning tool, visit the Developer portal.
Self-hosted clients can download the Amazon Corretto 11 installer
Guest accounts can't be enrolled in courses
Previously, when an unauthenticated user accessed Blackboard Learn and the "Enable Guest" property was enabled they were associated with the "Guest" account. Instructors were able to enroll this "Guest" account in courses and organizations, circumventing application entitlement handling.
This account is a unique Blackboard System Level account that was never intended to be enrolled. Allowing this account to be enrolled meant possible data exposure to unauthenticated users as multiple un-authenticated users could be associated with the account.
Therefore, in this release we removed the ability for the "Guest" account to be enrolled in courses stopping potential data exposure concerns between unauthenticated users. Existing "Guest" account enrollments will remain and be visible to instructors and administrators so they can clean up these existing enrollments through the user interface.
- Course Copy performance has been improved. The time to create copies, exports, and archives are all improved.
- Course Copy handling for links has been improved. Previously, if link URLs were manually copied from the details page for a resource in the Content Collection and added to the Content Editor, these links would break on course copy. The Course Copy procedure now attempts to identify common scenarios of bypassing the linking process with a URL cut-and-paste to allow access for users in the new course.
- The 360 view for a resource in the Content Collection has been improved to more accurately display the various ways the resource can be used.
- Empty searches in Content Collection are now restricted to prevent accidental long-running searches that have negative performance impact.
- Numerous libraries have been updated to improve security and performance, including a number of Spring libraries.
- Pearson MyLab and Mastering are now supported in Partner Cloud (Content Market). The Building Blocks can continue to be used for existing links but aren’t necessary for new uses. Visit Behind the Blackboard for more information on the Pearson MLM Partner Cloud integration and migration tool, including system requirements and admin guide.
- Accessibility improvements
- A cloud-based implementation of Grades Journey is enabled in this release—an enhancement through platform feature. This Grades Journey capability will allow more rapid response in the future to the continuously evolving and changing behaviors of student information systems (SIS). The existing Grades Journey capability can continue to be used as-is, even after the introduction of the cloud-based capabilities.
- For users of Analytics for Learn, the standalone Building Block to enable Analytics for Learn is no longer necessary with this release.