Blackboard Learn

Blackboard Learn, the course management system used at Winston-Salem State University continues to be an important platform for facilitating teaching and learning at WSSU. We are currently utilizing Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP14.

The following is a quick overview of the improved tools that are found in SP14 upgrade:

Accessibility Improvements

  • Improvement of the interactive tools (discussion boards, wikis, blogs and journals) for anyone needing assuasive technology.
  • Increased focus on color contrast throughout the application ensuring that contrast ratios meet or exceed the 4:5:1 contrast ratio requirements of WCAG 2.0 Priority AA.
  • Updated keyboard navigation with in our contextual menus and list action menus to ensure they follow commonly understood keyboard patterns.
  • Controlled focus when completing tasks within the screen reader view of the Grade Center, ensuring the user is returned to the proper cell in the main Grade Center table.
  • Improvements to the screen reader interaction with a 'fill in multiple blanks' question when building and taking a test.


The calendar tool has been redesigned and modeled after Google’s calendar. The new calendar tool can be accessed from My Blackboard (global menu in the upper right corner), the Tools link on the My Learning tab and within the course.

  • Users can select views (month, week, and day) and color-code the events to differentiate courses and personal items.
  • Items with due dates automatically appear on the new Blackboard Learn calendar.
  • Users can also create recurring events by selecting the “repeat” checkbox.

Content Editor Math Formulas

  • A new JavaScript-based WIRIS Math Equation Editor.
  • This extends the functionality of the WIRIS math editor to all platforms capable of running a JavaScript enabled browser and improves accessibility.
  • Supports the editing and display of LaTeX formulas (high-quality type setting system for the production of technical and scientific documentation).

Discussion Boards

Discussion Boards have been updated in two primary ways: the “Thread Detail” page has been thoroughly redesigned while maintaining all of its current functionality. We have also added new functionality to support specific pedagogical needs for the use of discussions. Selected highlights include:

  • All Posts on One Page and Instructor Highlighting - all of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page. Posts now also contain the users’ course role and forum role.
  • Inline Replies - when replying to a post, the content editor used to write a response appears on the same page, in the context of the discussion.
  • Post First Discussions – This setting allows instructors to require students to post to a discussion before seeing other students’ posts.

Grade Center

  • Define “Score Attempts Using” setting from Test and Assignment Options pages. Allows the instructor to set which attempt will be used to calculate the grade on a test or assignment set for multiple attempts from the test and assignment options pages.
  • Test Total Points Adjustment: Instructors can again set (override) the total points possible on a test grade column independently of the test itself.
  • Grade Schema Mapping: Instructors can now make the uppermost value in a Grading Schema as large as desired. This means that the instructor can make the percentage 150%, 200%, or any other percentage larger than 100%.

Group Management

  • Easily see which students are in which groups
  • Easily see and modify group memberships
  • Import and export groups and group memberships
  • Sort columns, perform bulk actions for deleting groups, and create Grade Center smart views for one or more groups

Inline Grading

  • Instructors will now be able to view student-submitted files “inline,” i.e. in the web browser, without requiring any plug-ins, applets, or additional applications.
  • Inline Assignment feature sidebar provides assignment details, previous attempts, the grade, rubrics, grading notes and grader feedback.
  • Blogs, Journals, Discussions and Wikis: The collaborative communication tools have a consistent sidebar for grading on the post/entry page for each user.


The process of creating or editing a Test within Blackboard is simpler.

  • A test question can be added in the middle of the test exactly where you want it to go.
  • The Test Exceptions feature permits faculty to choice one or more groups or users to set the exceptions to the delivery settings, such as number of attempts, timer, auto submit, availability dates, and force completion.
  • Test feedback can be set up as events, to allow students to automatically view the correct feedback.

For a complete list of Blackboard 9.1 features, please visit the Blackboard Learn website.