Blackboard Inc. today announced a major update for its flagship online learning platform with a new release incorporating a modern design that marks the platform's biggest shift in look and feel in years. Service Pack 8 for Blackboard Learn(TM) 9.1 also brings a number of feature enhancements that make it easier to navigate the system, take advantage of its powerful capabilities and complete common tasks more quickly.
The new design, applied to the user interface and throughout the course environment, is more intuitive and offers a real advancement in the system's usability. The design also makes some of the platform's capabilities easier to access and use by bringing key features into clearer focus for users. The release also offers instructors the ability to customize and personalize the visual presentation of their courses with over 50 pre-built course themes.
To help instructors get started quickly and successfully, the release adds a quick course set-up guide including a set of course structures and content options that have been designed in accordance with pedagogical best practices. The release also brings a range of feature enhancements that make system navigation and workflows much easier. For example, instructors can now quickly move from a grading area in one course to another, and instructors can also apply changes to a previously graded question that automatically updates across the entire system, significantly reducing the amount of time spent on process.
"I love the new features in this release, especially the new look and feel - it is much cleaner and is really the next step for Blackboard," said Rene J. Aube, Blackboard Administrator, College communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick. "Blackboard continues to do a great job listening to their customers. They get our input and we have direct access to shape the technology supporting our institution."
Development of the release was informed by input from thousands of users at nearly 600 institutions that participated in Blackboard community programs that span every phase of the software development lifecycle and directly influence features and functionality.
"The institutions we serve face greater demands from their consumers than ever before," said Ray Henderson, Chief Technology Officer and President of Blackboard Learn. "Students and faculty have high expectations for the experience they'll have with learning technology. This release should serve as a clear signal about our intent to meet those expectations with great design and an approach that makes it easier to manage and use technology to deliver a high quality experience and drive student outcomes. And its part of a larger approach we're taking to support everything needed to do that well in terms of client and user support, openness and product quality."
Nearly 2,000 institutions have adopted Blackboard's newest learning platform to take advantage of its improved stability and integration of social learning tools. Release 9.1 can be enabled for interactive mobile learning and integrated with Blackboard's mass notification service to enable instructors to communicate with students via email, text and voice to text messages. Release 9.1 also integrates with the Blackboard Collaborate(TM) platform to enable instructors to record and embed audio files and collaborate with students through instant messaging and Web conferencing capabilities. Elements of the new design for Blackboard Learn are also featured in Blackboard Collaborate, creating a consistent user experience between the platforms.
Release 9.1 also supports K-12 schools and districts with standards alignment, enabling teachers and administrators to report on student performance against aligned standards and provide greater visibility into the achievement of learning outcomes. Course and student activity reports also allow teachers and administrators to see how students are using online course materials and track student time on various learning activities.
Service Pack 8 for Blackboard Learn 9.1 is available today, and current Blackboard clients can upgrade to the new release at no extra charge. CourseSites, Blackboard's free cloud-based learning management solution for instructors will be updated to include features from Release 9.1, Service Pack 8 later this month. Institutions can try CourseSites when considering a move to Release 9.1 and can import courses easily into CourseSites from a range of learning management systems, now including ANGEL Learning.