Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

Highlights of Blackboard SP 13

UAF’s Blackboard was recently updated to Service Pack 13 (SP13). There are several new features that have been added for increased functionality, as well as solutions to some issues with the previous version. Some features that were added include:

Achievements (certificates or badges)

You create criteria definitions for how students can receive a certificate (to print) or what students need to complete to earn badges (to display through Mozilla Open Backpack). Find Achievements in a content area using Tools —> Achievements or under the Control Panel. You can create achievements for reaching milestones, for completion of the course or for custom achievements particular to your course. If you don’t see Achievements in your Control Panel, you’ll need to activate it by going to Customization -> Tool Availability.

More information:

Date Management

Date Management can be found under the Control Panel, and used to quickly update all of your established due dates from one semester to the next. Change the date by a specific number of days, or review all the dates on one page and make changes accordingly. If you don’t see Date Management in your Control Panel, you’ll need to activate it by going to Customization -> Tool Availability.

More information:


Added features to help with the management of groups and group membership, managing tool availability, and creating Grade Center columns for groups, will make working with groups much easier. Bulk action items have been added to make changes quicker. Encourage users to add a profile picture to their overall Blackboard account so pictures can be seen by the group.

Did you know that you can create an assignment or a test for specific groups? Check out Section 6, when you create an Assignment, or Section 3, under Test Options for a specific test.

More information:

Inline Grading

This feature isn’t new, but improvements on using Inline Grading have been made under this upgrade. View student submitted attachments directly in the gradebook. Add comments and assign a grade without leaving Blackboard. Limited to specific files types. Useful for, blogs, discussions, journals and wikis is quick access to a feedback and grading box if your blog, discussion, journal or wiki is set up for grading. Caution: if you use a fillable PDF forms some of the question types on the form (like checkboxes) won’t show the answers using Inline Grading, but the attached PDF will be correct.

More information:


Did you notice the link icon in the header right under the UAF logo? If you toggle this icon you’ll get a link for Quick Links. You can use it to see all landmark and navigation links as well as keyboard shortcuts for that specific page. This is especially helpful for sighted only keyboard users.


More information:

A new Math Formula Editor is based on JavaScript which can be read by more browsers. Other improvements to discussion and content areas makes it easier for screen readers and keyboard-only users.

More information:

Tests, Surveys, and Pools

Create Test Availability Exceptions so you can make a test available only to certain students (or groups) or give students (or groups) more attempts, adjust the timer for timed tests, as well as make exceptions for forced completion or auto-submitting a test at the end of a specific time.

You now can customize how you want Test Results and Feedback to show for your students. Do you want to hold off showing the correct answers until after the due date? Or give a one-time view of the correct answers until the availability date? You decide how much, and when to release answers and feedback.

More information:

The option to Export Test Questions has been fixed! You can now export and import from one course to another.

I’m not sure when it happened, but vast improvements have been made to creating answer options for Fill in the Blank questions. You now have the option to select “contains,’ “exact match,’ or “pattern match’ to add increased functionality to auto-graded tests.

More information:


Through “Attempt’ in the gradebook, review Access Log in the Test Information area. See information on time spent per question or if there were network issues which may have caused extended delays.

More information:

One of the best upgrades to SP 13 is on the student side, where My Grades has been improved to give students more options on how to view their grade book. Students can now view and sort items in the gradebook by submitted, graded, due date, course view (listed as you have the items ordered on your side of the grade book), and more.

Be sure to use the Student View button to see exactly what the options are for students.


Author: Heidi Olson

Heidi enjoys working with content experts in developing eCampus courses to provide alternatives for students. Her other interests include faculty training in best practices for eCampus and researching eCampus tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 20 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as technology and pedagogy evolve.