Category Archives: Assessment

Blackboard Essential Update – Saturday 16th December 2017

Blackboard Downtime

On Saturday 16th December Blackboard will be unavailable between 8am and 5pm in order to install a critical update.

Why is this necessary?

Bug Fixes

Firstly the update will fix many system bugs including notifications of discussion board posts and a Grade Centre scroll bar fix where the scroll bar obscures a Grade Centre column.

Change to Blackboard Assignment Feature

Blackboard has two assignment handling features: Turnitin and Blackboard assignments. The Blackboard assignment tool uses third party software licensed by Blackboard which enables assignments to be viewed and graded online and this will no longer be available from 15th January 2018. A replacement document viewer and online grading tool will be available following the Blackboard update.

Once the update is completed on the 16th December, you won’t notice any changes to the Blackboard assignment feature. We can make the decision when to change to the new tool up until the 15th January. We plan on moving to the new tool w/c 8th January and we will communicate an exact date prior to then.

Turnitin assignments remain unaffected so if you use Turnitin assignments rather than Blackboard Assignments then this change will not affect you.

What changes can I expect?

When we move to the new document viewer and online marking tool all assignments using Blackboard Assignments will switch over to the new interface. Any annotations carried out using the old grading tool will be burned in to the document and will no longer be editable. You can make additional annotations on the assignments if necessary. New assignments created will use the new viewer and marking interface.

There are some changes in functionality:

  • The new assignment feature will have much better support for file types and fonts
  • It includes the option to print the assignment
  • It no longer supports free hand drawing
  • Assignments can no longer be downloaded with annotations and comments displayed. Blackboard are reviewing this functionality.

We will keep you updated about this over the coming weeks but please note this DOES NOT affect Turnitin assignments.

Any questions about this please contact

Creating web links in Blackboard

Blackboard runs over a secure protocol to protect security (https) so it will  not allow the majority of websites to open within Blackboard itself.

When creating links to webpages, please choose ‘Open in New Window‘.  This is a setting when creating or editing your link  and is in the ‘Web Link Options‘ section.

It is advisable in the description box, to inform students that they will be taken to a new window. This is particularly beneficial to students who require a screen reader.

Why are my tests from last year not showing in my new module?

The tests have been copied over but will need to be re-deployed so that the new intake of students can see them. This is to allow you to control the delivery of your tests. To redeploy the tests:

1. Go to your Module and the area you want the test to be deployed.
2. Ensure Edit Mode is on and hover over Assessments to reveal the menu
3. Choose Test from the list
4. Find your test in the list and click Submit
5. On the next screen, set the settings (timings etc as appropriate).

Your test will now be redeployed.

Amending or deleting a question from a test after it has taken place

We often get queries about whether it’s possible to amend or delete questions from a test in Blackboard when the test has already taken place.  The answer is yes – and if the test uses question types that have automatic grading Blackboard will automatically regrade the test to reflect the changes you make.

That said, there is a bug in Blackboard which on rare occasions can cause problems with students’ test attempts when you amend or delete a question.  To help safeguard against this we recommend that you take the steps below before you make any changes to a test after it has taken place.

Close the test and make sure that there are no attempts in progress

Ensure that the test is no longer available to students, so that there is no danger that they might be taking the test when you make the change.  To check this:

  1. Go to the Content Area where the test is deployed in the module, and hover over the name of the test.  Click on the dropdown arrow that appears, and select Edit test options:Edit test options
  2. EITHER under Test Availability make sure that for Make the link available the No option is selected:         Make link avail No
  3. OR/AND scroll down to the Display Until date, and make sure this is set to a date and time in the past (this can be 5 minutes from the current time):Display Until date & time
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the test options screen and click Submit to save any changes you have made.
  5. Open the Grade Centre by clicking on Control Panel > Grade Centre > Full Grade Centre.
  6. Find the column for the test, and scroll down to check whether there are any attempts in progress, shown with the ‘Attempt in progress’ icon of a blue clock:Attempt in progress icon
  7. If there are any attempts in progress submit them on behalf of the student if appropriate.  See ‘Attempt in progress’ grade centre icon for an explanation and instructions .

Export grade centre

  1. In the module, open the Full Grade Centre.  In menu bar at the top of the screen you’ll see the option Work Offline on the right hand side.  Click the down arrow and select Download:Work Offline
  2. In the Download Grades screen leave the default options selected, and click Submit.
  3. On the next screen click the Download button and save the file to an appropriate location (e.g. your H: drive or shared file space for your school).

Download test results

  1. In the Grade Centre find the column for the test, and click the dropdown arrow to the right of the column name.  Select Download Results from the menu:Download results
  2. In the Download Results screen leave the default options selected.  Click the button to download results, and again save to an appropriate location.

Note: both of these actions produce a .csv file, which you can open and amend in Excel as required.

Amend or delete a test question and regrade attempts

Once you have completed the steps above  you can go ahead and make the required changes to the test.

  1. Open the test canvas.  You can do this via the Control Panel > Tests, Surveys and Pools > Tests, then hover over the name of the exam and click the dropdown arrow.  Select the Edit Test option.
  2. Scroll to the question that you need to amend or delete, and hover over the title.  Click the dropdown arrow that appears:Edit question dropdown
  3. To amend a question select Edit from the dropdown menu.  Make the required changes.  Click Submit and Update Attempts.  Blackboard will display a warning message; click OK, and the test will automatically be regraded:amending question warning
  4. To delete a question select Delete and Regrade from the dropdown menu.  Blackboard will display a warning message.  Click OK, and the test will automatically be regraded:deleting question warning
  5. Once you have amended or deleted all of the required questions, check the Grade Centre column for the test to ensure that the attempts have been automatically graded as expected.

Blackboard module rollover for 2015/16

All 2015/16 modules will be available in Blackboard by Monday 27 July 2015.  There is no Blackboard downtime scheduled and there will be no changes to Blackboard for the new academic year.  However, you will notice some changes in the way that assessments are copied over from existing 2014/15 modules into the new 2015/16 modules.  These changes have been made in order to tidy up the grade centre, and to avoid potential issues with assessments being accidentally made available to students.

Blackboard tests are copied over, but not deployed

This applies to all Blackboard tests, including OLAF exams.  An existing test will not be available to students, and there will not be a column for the test in the grade centre.  As an instructor you can access the test to edit it, and you can deploy it to make it available again to the 2015/16 cohort.  The steps to do this are outlined below:

1. To view and edit an existing test: click on Course Tools in the Control Panel.  Select ‘Tests, Surveys and Pools’ from the drop down menu, then click on Tests.

tests 1

2. The tests area lists all tests that exist in the module.  Locate the test you wish to view/edit in the list (you can sort items in the list by Name and Date Last Edited).  Hover over the name of the test and click on the drop down arrow.  Click ‘Edit’ to open the test for editing.

test 2 find and edit


3. To deploy an existing test: go to the area in the module where you want to make the test available to students.  Click on the Assessment menu and select Test.

test 3 deploy


4. See the information on Blackboard Help for instructions on making the test available.  You may also find the help page on test options useful.

Turnitin assignments are copied over but hidden from students

It is not possible to reuse an existing Turnitin assignment, so you do not have an option to deploy an assignment again.  However, as an instructor you can view hidden assignments if you need to refer to them (for example to check the settings that you used for Turnitin assignments run in 2014/15).

Note that no student data is rolled forward from one year to the next, so a rolled over Turnitin assignment in a 2015/16 module will not contain any student work.  If you need to refer back to 2014/15 students’ work you will need to access this in the 2014/15 version of the module.

Useful Tips

Date Management Tool

If there is any content in a module which has Date/Time Restrictions set up for it, at the Blackboard rollover the content is copied and the date restrictions rolled forward by one calendar year (e.g. an item that was made available from 1 November 2014 will now be set to become available from 1 November 2015).

Blackboard has a Date Management Tool that allows you to easily amend Date/Time Restrictions for all content in a module in one place.  The tool can be used to amend all content simultaneously, or choose to amend dates/times for individual items.  This Blackboard Help page explains how to use the different options in the tool.

Content areas are hidden by default

When content is copied from an existing 2014/15 module into a 2015/16 module by default it is hidden from students at the top level.  This is done to allow instructors to update/amend content if required, before making it available to the new cohort of students.

Hidden content areas are identified by an icon of a white box with a black line through it, like this: hidden area

To make a content area available to students, hover over it in the menu, click the drop down arrow, and select ‘Show Link’:

show link


Remember that you can double check what students can see in a module using the student preview mode (explained in this post).


Last year’s ReCap recordings are not copied over

A reminder that ReCap recordings are not copied when modules are rolled over in Blackboard.  If the 2014/15 version of a module included a ReCap content area this will be copied into the 2015/16 module, but it will not contain any recordings until new ones are created during the module.



How could Respondus help you to run online exams and tests?

Learning and Teaching Development Service’s Rebecca Gill answers your questions about making this software work for you….

1) What is Respondus for?

Respondus is a piece of software that can be used with Blackboard to help set up online tests or exams. It is widely used by the Online Assessment and Feedback (OLAF) Service, and it can also be very useful to academic and support staff who are running their own formative or summative online tests.

2) How might staff be able to use it?

The software converts test questions written in Microsoft Word into Blackboard test questions. Respondus allows staff to quickly and easily create large sets of questions, to build exams or question pools in Blackboard. It works with a range of question types, including multiple choice, multiple answer, matching, jumbled sentence and fill in the blanks questions. Respondus can also be used to download exams from Blackboard with or without answers.

3) How might it benefit students?

Respondus makes it easy to create large sets of questions in Blackboard, which means that as well as building summative assessments, staff can more easily create practice tests for their students to use in revision. It also has the option to add feedback for correct and incorrect answers to each question, making it easier for staff to provide detailed feedback on exams – this is particularly useful for large group teaching, because the amount of time needed to add the feedback is the same whether you are setting an exam for 20 or 200 students.

4) How might it benefit staff?

Respondus can help save time when setting up Blackboard tests, and streamlines the process of deploying a test with required settings. The ability to download Blackboard tests to Word means that you can edit existing test questions in Word and easily reimport them to Blackboard. Once you have set up a series of test questions they can easily be edited and reused in future years.

The software can also be used to create a paper version of a test without answers, which is a helpful backup if any students have problems logging in when you are running an online test or exam. In addition some Schools use Respondus to download Blackboard tests so that they can easily be made available to their external examiners.

5) What will the workshops do?

The workshop starts by introducing Blackboard tests and question pools. You will then learn how to create exam questions in Microsoft Word using Respondus format, and will practice importing the questions into Respondus, and uploading them to Blackboard to create a test or question pool. The workshop will also cover using test settings to control availability, question display, and releasing scores and feedback to students. Finally you’ll practice downloading tests from Blackboard to create a copy in Word.

6) Who might/should be interested?

Any member of academic or administrative support staff who is responsible for creating Blackboard tests/exams, and would like to learn how Respondus can help. The workshops are suitable for anyone who has general experience of Blackboard.

Book a workshop on using Respondus to create Blackboard tests.

Creating a Turnitin assignment

To create a Turnitin assignment in Blackboard 9.1:

1. Go to the Module or Organisation and then the content area where you want to add the assignment (eg documents or Assignments) by clicking the appropriate link in the course menu
2. Ensure Edit Mode is ‘ON’
3. Click or hover over the ‘Assessments’ menu near the top of the screen
4. Choose Turnitin Assignment

5. Enter a title, a start date (first date students can submit) and an end date (last time for submissions). Ensure the Post date (the date any feedback is released to students) is after the end date
6. Click More Options if you want to set features such as anonymous marking, allowing students to see the Turnitin reports etc
7. Click Submit to create the submission point

Click the title of this post for a full guide in pdf format.…ctor_Manual.pdf

Instructor Video: Creating an Assignment from Turnitin on Vimeo.

Student instructions for submitting work

The exact instructions will vary depending on School practice. Below is an outline of the process of submitting work as a student through Turnitin via Blackboard:

  1. Log into Blackboard and go to the module
  2. Your lecturer should tell you where to find the submission point within the module (eg assessments)
  3. Click ‘View/Complete’
  4. Enter the assignment title.  Note: Your school may have specified a naming convention, for example to include your exam number or the marker’s initials
  5. Browse for your document and click upload
  6. The next screen will show you a preview of the paper submitted. If it is the correct paper click Submit. Otherwise click return to upload page and browse again to find the correct paper
    NOTE: This screen shows only the text not any formatting (such as bold or underscore) or any additions (such as footnotes or images). However, these are preserved in the document shown to the lecturer when they mark the assignment
  7. Click Submit to complete the process
  8. You will see on screen confirmation that you have submitted your assignment and you will also receive the confirmation by email to your student email account. Please note the Assignment ID number. You will need this if there are any problems with the submission.Your submission is not complete until you have this number

You can check what you submitted by returning to View/Complete

See also video guide