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Fall Blackboard News: New Features, New Support

Posted by on Sunday, August 16, 2015 in News.

As the new administrative home for Blackboard, the Center for Teaching (CFT) is excited to announce a number of developments for Vanderbilt’s primary course management system, all part of Vanderbilt’s strategic investment in the use of technology to support student learning.

New Features

A number of platform upgrades were rolled out this summer providing new features and enhancements to existing tools.

  • Instructors can now view their courses as students see them using the Student Preview tool, a feature that has been frequently requested.
  • Rubrics are also available in Blackboard, allowing instructors to more easily provide structured feedback on student work.
  • SafeAssign, Blackboard’s plagiarism detection tool, is now more fully integrated into assignments of various types.
  • Profile Photos have been enabled, allowing each student and instructor to upload a photo to be displayed on discussion boards and elsewhere in the system.

More information about these and other Blackboard features is available on the Blackboard website,

In addition, three third-party tools are being piloted this fall as recommended by the Blackboard Faculty Advisory Committee:

  • Respondus Lockdown Browser, used to restrict access to websites during tests
  • Cengage MindLinks, which allows integration between Blackboard and materials from the publisher Cengage Learning
  • courseflo, a content authoring tool that enhances the formatting of learning materials on mobile devices.

If you’re interested in piloting any of these tools, or if you want to recommend other tools for evaluation, please reach out to

New Support Team

Beginning today, August 16th, the Center for Teaching will provide both technical and pedagogical support for instructors using Blackboard across campus. Whether you’re interested in learning how Blackboard tools can support your teaching goals or you have a technical question or problem, the CFT can help.

To provide this support, the CFT has added three new staff members:

  • Stacey Johnson, Assistant Director for Educational Technology
  • Lee Scarborough, Instructional Technologist
  • Rebecca Panter, Instructional Technologist

By shifting Blackboard support to a more centralized model, with multiple Blackboard specialists housed at the CFT, Vanderbilt instructors will receive more robust assistance in using the course management system efficiently and effectively.

While providing frontline Blackboard support to instructors, the CFT will collaborate and coordinate with other technology units on campus, including Vanderbilt University Information Technology (VUIT) and Enrollment Management Operations Support (EMOS), to ensure that Vanderbilt’s teaching community has access to the tools and resources it needs to use Blackboard effectively.

New Support Options

Vanderbilt instructors now have a number of options for seeking Blackboard support at the CFT.

Email: Instructors are encouraged to email their questions about Blackboard to Beginning August 16th, the Blackboard support team will respond to inquiries—normally within one hour—per the following schedule:

  • Sundays 5pm to 11pm
  • Mondays through Thursdays 7am to 11pm
  • Fridays 7am to 5pm

Drop-In Hours: The CFT is hosting drop-in hours, during which instructors who have Blackboard questions can stop by the CFT without an appointment to find a team of specialists ready to assist. See the August drop-in schedule.

Workshops: On August 24th, CFT Assistant Director Stacey Johnson will run an “Intro to Blackboard” workshop for instructors new to Blackboard and for those who have been away for a while and need a refresher. See the Blackboard workshops page for details and registration. CFT staff are also available to facilitate Blackboard workshops for departments, programs, and schools upon request.

On-Demand Resources: On-demand Blackboard resources can be accessed 24/7 on the Blackboard website, Text and video walkthroughs are available to help instructors with a number of frequently asked questions. The CFT will be adding to this collection of on-demand resources in the coming months.

Consultations: Instructors can also email to schedule an individual consultation with a member of the Blackboard team, ideally at least 24 hours in advance. This option is particularly helpful for instructors who aren’t sure what kind of technology (Blackboard or otherwise) might best match their teaching goals.

New Governance

The CFT has led strategic planning for Blackboard since last fall and will continue to do so. Oversight of the Blackboard project is provided by Cynthia Cyrus, Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs, and, with his recent appointment as Associate Provost for Digital Learning, John Sloop. Additionally, the Blackboard Faculty Advisory Committee, now in its second year, will continue to provide advice and input into strategic planning for Blackboard at Vanderbilt. Visit the Faculty Advisory Committee page to see the membership of this committee.

The committee recently approved a new process by which individuals and groups at Vanderbilt may request new features for Blackboard. In brief, feature requests should be sent to the CFT through the email account. Requests will be vetted for compatibility with Vanderbilt systems, conformance with Vanderbilt policies, and pedagogical utility across campus, with input as necessary from EMOS, the Provost’s Office, and the Blackboard Faculty Advisory Committee. See the Feature Request Process page for more information on this process, as well as updates about new features.

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