When is it Happening?
The upgrade is set to begin after the fall and before the spring term, on Tuesday, December 26 2017, at 11:00 PM. Blackboard will be unavailable to all students, faculty, and staff during the upgrade, which should conclude no later than 7:00 AM Thursday, December 28 2017. Blackboard will be available earlier if possible.
What is Happening?
We’re bringing Blackboard up to date. Blackboard named this application update Quarter Two (Q2) 2017 Cumulative Update 5. It will fix bugs, and most importantly will enable the transition between the software behind the inline grading features of the Assignment tool. The old software, Crocodoc, has been purchased by Box, and will no longer be available in early January 2018 requiring this transition. See more below.
Inline Grading Changes: Crocodoc to Box Transition
A change in the software that powers the inline grading tool is the biggest change in this update. The inline grading features have historically been enabled by Crocodoc, which was aquired by Box Inc., who scheduled an end-of-life date for the Crocodoc API for early Januaray 2018. As a result, the inline grading features would no longer be available without a transition to the new software, the New Box View API. You can learn more about that transition from Blackboard here: Crocodoc to New Box View.
In order to minimize the impact, this transition will be made during the current Blackboard upgrade. While we’re working to minimize the impact of this transition, it will come with some changes in functionality. The biggest change will be a reduction in the feedback options, as well as the loss of the ability to download assignments with feedback embedded. Existing assignments that have feedback from the Crocodoc software, will be converted into a new format that is viewable in the New Box View.
This will include previous feedback, which will be preserved in a “read only” capacity, including downloadable copies. Instructors can continue to add feedback using the tools in the New Box View, but will be unable to edit past feedback. Furthermore, any additional feedback provided using the New Box View will not be a part of any downloaded copies. For all future assignments, feedback given using the New Box View will not be part of any downloaded copies. You can learn more from Blackboard about various use cases here: Crocodoc and New Box View Annotations Use Cases.
For instructors wishing to provide feedback that can be part of a downloadable copy, we recommend using the inline grading features of Turnitin or downloading student assignments, providing feedback in Microsoft Word, and then uploading the annotated document as “Feedback to Learner” within the assignment tool.
While Turnitin is best known as a plagiarism detection tool, it does have some nice inline grading features that go above and beyond those available in Blackboard. Furthermore, Turnitin is integrated with Blackboard, which enables you to create an assignment from within your Blackboard course. You can learn more about the Blackboard integration here: Creating a Turnitin Direct Assignment in Blackboard, and you can learn more about using the grading features here: Viewing and Grading Turnitin Direct Assignments.
If you are interested in using Microsoft Word to provide feedback on student Assignment submissions, you can find instructions on doing so here: Providing Assignment Annotations Using Word and Feedback to Learner.