Release Notes for Learn SaaS

This page contains features and updates currently on Learn SaaS Test/Stage and Production environments. Visit Archived SaaS Release Notes to see features and updates in older versions. Visit In-Product Updates to learn more about in-product updates.

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Learn SaaS release 3900.58.0

Blackboard Learn SaaS Continuous Delivery v3900.58.0
Release to Test/Stage: Tuesday, 10 January 2023 | Release to Production: Thursday, 2 February 2023
Original Experience, Ultra Experience
Original Course View, Ultra Course View

For full feature details please review the corresponding notes for the Learn 3900.58.0 version included below on this page. Details can also be found on Behind the Blackboard.

Latest release: 3900.58.0-rel.29+31f3d35 to Production servers to take place on 2 Ferburary 2023.

For more information on updates and bug fixes, please visit Behind the Blackboard.

 


Assessment and Grading

Technical Preview: Improved attempt switching when grading student submissions with multiple attempts – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors

Multiple-attempt assessments can be more complicated for instructors because there are more submissions. To switch between attempts for a student in the past, an instructor would have to close an attempt then select a different attempt. This wasn’t intuitive and required extra clicks. Now instructors can navigate directly between a student’s attempts. If a student has multiple attempts for an assessment, an instructor will see an option to switch attempts. This is more efficient.

Image 1. Instructor view of the attempt drop-down menu on the grading page

Instructor view of the attempt drop-down menu on the grading page

When the instructor clicks a student name in the Submissions list, the most recent submitted attempt will be loaded.

The attempt selector displays information to help instructors select the desired attempt:

  • Attempt number
  • Submission time stamp
  • File size
  • Grade (if graded)
  • Late indicator (if applicable)

Image 2. Navigating between student attempts using the attempt drop-down menu

Navigating between student attempts using the attempt drop-down menu

For administrators:In the February release, this feature can only be enabled in test/stage environments for testing. In the March release, this feature will be available by default. In March, it will be possible to opt out of using this feature. At that time, you can set the feature to unavailable on the Ultra Experience Management page in the administrator panel. The feature flag will be removed in the May release and this feature will become permanent.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Exemptions – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors, Students

There are times that instructors need to exempt students from assessments or activities in the course. Now instructors can provide exemptions. Students can view exempted items. A student is not expected to complete an exempted task. When exempted, a student’s overall calculation will adjust for them. The overall points possible or weighting for a student with exemptions may change compared to other students.

Instructors may exempt any gradebook item in two ways:

  • From the submission list view, select the ellipsis menu of a student and choose to add or edit the exemption.
  • From the student detail view, select the ellipsis menu of the item and choose to add or edit the exemption.

When exempting an item, the item will not be:

  • included in the overall grade calculation,
  • marked late for students who do not make a submission, or
  • assigned an automatic zero.

Students can still supply submissions for exempted items. Instructors can grade and provide feedback for these submissions.

Image 1. Add or edit exceptions from the submission list view

Add or edit exceptions from the submission list view

Image 2. Add or edit exemptions from the student detail view

Add or edit exemptions from the student detail view

For administrators:This feature is enabled by default behind a feature flag. Administrators will have the possibility to turn it off at the institution level.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Extra credit questions in assessments – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors, Students

There are times when instructors allow students to overachieve on an assessment. Some instructors may allow students to earn back points lost on other assessments or activities.

Now instructors can assign one or more questions as extra credit in an assessment. A correct answer results in adding the extra credit question points to the points earned for the assessment. Students are not penalized for incorrect answers to an extra credit question. In other words, points are not deducted because the question is excluded from the assessment’s possible points. If a student answers extra credit questions correctly, it may be possible for the student to earn a score greater than 100% on the assessment.

Students can discern how many extra credit points are available on the assessment. While students are taking an assessment, they can identify questions designated as extra credit. Students can also filter the test to find extra credit questions if present.

Image 1. Instructor view – assign one or more questions in an assessment as Extra Credit

Instructor view – assign one or more questions in an assessment as Extra Credit

Image 2. Student view – students can identify which questions are extra credit and the total amount of extra credit available on the assessment

Student view – students can identify which questions are extra credit and the total amount of extra credit available on the assessment.

For administrators:This feature is available for all Ultra courses. There are no configurations needed.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Hotspot question – polygon shapes – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors, Students

Instructors may want to assess a student’s knowledge of visual content. The hotspot question type is popular for this type of assessment. This question type is also good for reducing the potential of cueing or guessing.

Hotspot questions present an image without any answer options for students to choose. Students must mark a certain area of the image that is within the area the instructor defined as correct.

Building on the initial hotspot question introduced in the 3900.52.0 release, we are adding two enhancements to this question type:

  • A new polygon shape selector can be used to draw more complex shapes.
  • Improved keyboard controls. Instructors can now create and place new hotspot shapes on the image canvas directly via the keyboard.

Image 1. Instructor view - Add one or more polygon hotspots to an image

Instructor view - Add one or more polygon hotspots to an image

Image 2. Student view – students may add a pin to the image to mark their selection

Student view – students may add a pin to the image to mark their selection

In Original Course View, instructors can only create hotspot questions using a mouse. In the Ultra Course View, instructors can create the hotspot question using a mouse or keyboard. Students may answer hotspot questions via a mouse or keyboard.

For administrators:This feature is available for all Ultra courses. There are no configurations needed.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Gradebook List View – Gradable items sorting – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors

Instructors may want to sort the items in the Gradable Items view of the Gradebook. Sorting provides a more efficient grading experience. For example, instructors may want to sort by grading status to quickly locate items that need grading.

The sorting controls provide temporary changes to the sort order for all columns in the Gradable Items view. We have also moved the grade post status to a dedicated column.

Image 1. Gradable Items view with sorting controls; here items are sorted in descending order by Grading Status

Gradable Items view with sorting controls; here items are sorted in descending order by Grading Status

For administrators:This feature is available for all Ultra courses. There are no configurations needed.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Student Gradebook sorting – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Students

Students may want to sort the information in their Gradebook. Sorting may help students locate information more efficiently. For example, sorting by due date helps students discern items that are due next.

Now students can use sorting controls to temporarily change the order for all columns in the Gradebook.

Image 1. Student gradebook view with sorting controls; items are sorted in descending order by grade

Student gradebook view with sorting controls; items are sorted in descending order by grade

For administrators:This feature is available for all Ultra courses. There are no configurations needed.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Attendance tool available in GovCloud – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience, Ultra Course Viw
Original Experience, Original Course View
Impact: Instructors, Students

Attendance can be an important factor in determining a student’s level of participation. Sometimes this is used for part of a student’s grade. Previously, the Attendance tool was unavailable to United States government clients hosted in GovCloud. Now government clients can enable this tool.

For each class meeting, instructors can mark whether a student is present, late, absent, or excused. The attendance records for each student appear in a single column next to other grades. On the Attendance page, profile pictures appear. The profile pictures help instructors identify students. Instructors can use attendance as part of grade calculations the same as assignment grade columns.

Image 1. An instructor accessing the Attendance tool in Ultra Course View

An instructor accessing the Attendance tool in Ultra Course View

Image 2. An instructor accessing the Attendance tool in the Original Course View Control Panel

An instructor accessing the Attendance tool in the Original Course View Control Panel

Image 3. An instructor marks attendance for today’s class session

An instructor marks attendance for today’s class session

For administrators: The Attendance tool is not verified for use under FedRAMP certification. If you comply with that security standard, you might choose not to adopt Attendance. In GovCloud, the Attendance tool is off by default. An administrator must enable it with these steps:

- Go to Admin Panel > Building Blocks > Installed Tools.
- In the context menu for Attendance, choose “Set Available.”
- Accept the notice about FedRAMP compliance.
- Go to Admin Panel > Tools.
- Enable Attendance for courses and organizations as appropriate.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Groups

Show Course Group Members – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors, Students

Instructors and students need to see group memberships. In the past, there was not an obvious way for instructors and students to see the members in a group.

From the Course Groups page, users may expand a group set to see a list of groups. Now each group has a "Show Members" option. Group members are listed alphanumerically in a panel. Users may search for a specific group member. A future release will provide profile cards and options for messaging group members from the search results.

Note: Students see only the groups and members for groups where they have membership.

Image 1. Show Members option

Show Members option

Image 2. Group Membership panel with search option

Group Membership panel with search option

For administrators:This feature is available for all Ultra courses. There are no configurations needed at the administrator level.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Data & Analytics

Progress Tracking: visibility filters for the Student Progress tab – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors

The Student Progress tab helps instructors track individual student progress in a course. An instructor can see completed and outstanding tasks for each student. Now instructors can change the Student Progress view to see a student’s progress against everything on the Course Content page. This view includes the items not visible to the student. This helps instructors better understand students’ progress considering all course content.

Viewing with the “Visible to Students” filter:

  • This is the default filter for the Student Progress tab.
  • The view displays only items visible to the student.
  • The display indicates items that the student cannot yet access because they do not meet release conditions.

Viewing with the “All” filter:

  • This filter is new in this release.
  • The entire Course Content page is displayed.
  • Items the student cannot see are indicated with a not visible icon.
  • An item can be hidden from a student’s view for two reasons:
    • It is not available to students.
    • Settings indicate the item should be hidden when release conditions are not met.

Image 1. Student Progress tab with the “Visible to students” content availability filter applied; the instructor only sees content visible to this student

Student Progress tab with the “Visible to students” content availability filter applied; the instructor only sees content visible to this student

Image 2. When the “All” content availability filter is applied, the instructor sees all Course Outline items; the view indicates the items that are not visible to the student

When the “All” content availability filter is applied, the instructor sees all Course Outline items. The view indicates the items that are not visible to the student

For administrators:Progress Tracking is available behind a feature flag. Administrators need to enable it first.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Progress Tracking: Ally alternative format views count towards progress– 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors, Students

An accurate representation of course progress is key for both instructors and students. With this latest addition, any Ally alternative format accessed by a student will reflect in their presented course progress.

Students will:

  • See the progress indicator updated to “started” as they download an alternative format using Ally.
  • Be able to mark an item as complete after accessing any alternative format.

Instructors will see the progress made by each one of their students based on access to the original file or an alternative format.

Image 1. Student view - a PDF in the course content with no progress indicated

Student view - a PDF in the course content with no progress indicated

Image 2. Student view - selects an Ally alternative format

Student view - selects an Ally alternative format

Image 3. Student view – after downloading the alternative format, the PDF in the course content indicates progress

Student view – after downloading the alternative format, the PDF in the course content indicates progress

For administrators: Progress Tracking is available behind a feature flag. Administrators need to enable it first.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Mobile App

User Profile Card – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Mobile App
Ultra Experience
Impact: All users

In the Blackboard Learn mobile app, we now provide expanded options when viewing the user profile. Users will be able to view their information to the full extent, see the profile card, and play name pronunciation.

This is applicable to SaaS environments with Base Navigation enabled. This first iteration of profile improvements does not allow editing profile data in the mobile application. In a future release we plan to add editing options when allowed.

Image 1. Profile Card preview

Profile Card preview

Image 2. User Profile

User Profile

For administrators:This feature is available for all users of the Mobile App. No action is needed from users who have enabled automatic updates on their devices. Users who have disabled automatic updates on their devices must download the update.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Integration, Extension, and Management

Administrator Login As Tool – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Original Experience
Impact: Administrators

Institutions want a way to maximize support to their end users. This needs to happen without sharing or exchanging login credentials. In the past, Blackboard Learn administrators might have used a community-created Building Block (B2)—LoginAs and Impersonate are two examples. These allowed an administrator to impersonate an end user for troubleshooting purposes. This category of third-party add-ons had the highest adoption volume in our global client base. The request to add this feature to Learn was ranked #1 in our Idea Exchange for more than 12 weeks in 2022.

We prioritized client feedback and are happy to share that the ability for an admin to log in as a user is now available.

Administrators can:

  • Search and select a user to login as.
  • Add in a reason for logging in as that user for institutional audit purposes.
    • This is optional. Institutions may wish to determine a policy for the use of this feature.
  • Start the session as that user.

To login as a user:

  • Search for a user in Administrator Panel > Users.
  • Open the dropdown menu for the user.
  • Select the “Login As” option.
  • When done, logout.

Image 1. Search for a user and select the Login As option

Login As – Search for a user and select the Login As option

Image 2. End user acknowledgement and Session Start

Login As - End user acknowledgement and Session Start

For administrators: This release has certain constraints:
- “Login as” is available only for the full System Administrator (Z) role. We have plans to support permissions that can be assigned to other support roles.
- Administrators can access log data, including who logged in as whom and reasons for login, using the Learn “Sessions” public API. Documentation is at https://developer.anthology.com/portal/displayApi . We have plans to provide access to this data in the admin user interface.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Course Auto-Archive Retention Policy Change – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Original Experience
Impact: Administrators

This change is part of a series of ongoing policy and product changes for automatic course archives in Learn SaaS.

Background on Automatic Course Archives

Learn SaaS creates archives for active courses every day. This process is automatic and lets administrators retrieve data deleted by accident. To align to Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Anthology has always required a minimum 30 days of archives since we released this feature.

In the past, administrators could choose to keep archives longer than 30 days. On large environments, setting a policy longer then 30 days could prevent the automatic backup process from running properly.

Also in the past, clients had to pay for storage for all course archives. We heard from clients that it was unfair to charge storage for the archives we required for the SLA. In response to this feedback, we stopped charging for course archive storage in April 2022. For storage use, we couldn’t distinguish between older archives and the 30-day archives we require for the SLA. Since April 2022, Anthology has also covered storage costs for archives older than 30 days. However, this situation is temporary pending product improvements.

We also found clients relying on older auto-archive packages for long-term, legally required data backups of learner activity. This was not intended and is not recommended. The auto-archive process creates new archives when there is new course activity. Changes to a course will overwrite prior archives after 30 days.

  • Example: An instructor completes a course in 2022. The course is archived automatically. In preparing for teaching that same course again in 2023, the instructor accidentally deletes the student submissions in the 2022 course. In 30 days, the new archive for the 2022 version of the course will overwrite the backup made a year earlier. The student data is gone. Therefore, we recommend storing long-term course archives in a location not associated with daily backup overwrites.

Changes in this release:

  • We removed the archive retention policy configuration in Admin Panel > Course Settings > Automatic Archive Settings. Now the behavior will be consistent on all SaaS environments.
  • If a course still exists in Learn, the process always removes archives older than 30 days.
  • If a course no longer exists in Learn, the process will retain the final archive. This behavior will change in a future release. Administrators should move older archives to another location for long-term storage.
  • If a course is deleted, the process will still create and retain an archive. This behavior will change in a future release. For now, administrators should move these archives to another location for long-term storage. Once copied elsewhere, administrators should delete these older archives.

Future plans:

We plan to continue to improve the auto-archive process. In the next phases, we will make it easier for administrators to manage archives and move them to external storage. We will also require older archives to be removed or they will count against storage use. These changes will be announced before they happen.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description


Retain third-party app icons defined in the Developer Portal – 3900.58

Blackboard Learn SaaS
Ultra Experience
Original Experience
Impact: Administrators

LTI icons help users better differentiate between third-party app content (LTI tools). In the December 2022 release (3900.54), we began displaying icons selected by the third-party app provider or configured by the administrator.

Now, when a tool provider or an administrator sets an icon in the Developer Portal, administrators cannot change it.

For administrators: Administrators may continue to configure icons for LTI tools that do not have default icons configured.

Return to February 2023 – 3900.58 Release description



Looking for older release notes?

Check out the Blackboard Learn Release Notes Archive for more information on past releases.

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