eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

Connect with Larger Blackboard “Community”

Blackboard Community Logo

Have you heard about Blackboard Community? Blackboard Community is a community of instructors, instructional designers, admins, Blackboard staff, and educational leaders who interact in one place so that everyone involved can benefit. Becoming a member of allows instructors and others to:

  • Connect with Blackboard instructors, instructional designers, Bb administrators, & educational leaders around the world
  • Make suggestions and vote on product enhancements that matter to you
  • Contribute to a Teaching & Learning forum that allows you to ask questions, share ideas and be a part of the Blackboard Community
  • Have conversations that matter over topics that mean something to you
  • Learn from industry experts as well as colleagues in the field
  • Make your own mark in the Teaching & Learning community

This resource is for anyone that uses Blackboard, not just online instructors. I would encourage you to join this growing community and take part in the cognitive surplus of ideas, resources, and conversations around eLearning. Visit to join today!

BbWorld18 Session Post: Become a Bb Jedi: Move Students with Only Your Mind and UDL

Thomas J. Tobin
University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Star Wards universe is an accessible universe…a good metaphor for Universal Design for Learning.

Making an accommodation for one person is not universal design. Let us not talk first or only about people with disabilities when we want to address barriers.

Reframe the conversation. Unlearn what you have learned. Talk in a value neutral way about the benefits of an inclusive design.

What one strategy could he adopt to supplement-or even replace-her face-to-face message?

Texting, Short Video, Reminders, Online conferencing -> has to do with expanding learners options.

learner engagement representing info action choices.

Give time estimates it would take to read something.

Universal Design for Learning is “plus one” thinking. If there is one way for students to interact with an assignment, make 1 more way.

ULD = access (no matter why)

“We want a situation that is goof for everybody…part of it is thinking about what has to happen at the level of design that makes accommodation less necessary.” –Sam Johnson, CAST

5 Strategies for UDL

    Start with text…start with a script have some notes, you can provide it later when you create other media out of it.
    Make alternatives. (HTML version, pdf version etc..)
    Let ’em do it their way where you’d can – design assignments where students can choose how they respond (written, video, audio etc). Do it in a directed fashion
    Go step by step
    Set content free (accessible 24 hours a day) and from formatting. Put examples in video format rather than resident software…

Ask about the question they get all the time, problem on tests and quizzes and where did they want you to say it a different way. Train faculty, IT, everyone that supports faculty members.

BbWorld Session Post: Blackboard Learn Roadmap

Recent Ultra Enhancements and Some that are coming soon.

Mobile Experience – Login page shows branding.

Institution Pages show up via mobile (they are the new tabs and Modules)

Customizing labels for aka substituting “subjects” to “courses”.

Personalization: The Blackboard Stream:

  • Notifications, push, email, sms (set via mobile app)
  • Courses page: Courses are organized by timeline, but they can be searched and filtered and then you can favorite the filter so that it shows up first the next time.
  • Modules display newness indicators that refer to new activity
  • Nudges via messaging that even show individual student visualizations (analytics)
  • Context – providing pop ups with more info about assignment activity
  • Connectedness (group assignment) shows info, group members, indicators for communication with teammates. Collaborate presence shows up even before you jump in the room.
  • File submission – from cloud
  • Assessments – new question types
  • Accessibility –
  • Grade assignments anonymously to reduce bias. Building tests is easier
  • Turnitin is now available for ultra via the Content Market.
  • Recording audio/video is embedded right back into the feedback workflow.
  • Mobile Strategy:
    • Blackboard App
      Blackboard Instructor App
      Responsive Web

    Responsive web

    • Accessed via web browsing
    • No app needed
    • Grater breadth of functionality
  • Native app
    • Preferred by end users
      Faster performance
      Works with most smartphone tools
      More interactive user interface
      Available to use offline

    Responsive Design

    • Improvements for wikis (coming soon)
    • Content Add and Edit Workflows
    • Improvements for Rubric Viewing
  • Assignment Grading for B.B. Instructor
    • Review assignment submissions and attachments
      Provide comments and inline annotations
      Grade with rubrics
      Publish grades to students

    MH Q2 2018 CU Update – September Target

    Grading and feedback

    • Review student submissions and file attachments
    • Provide comments on the overall submission or highlight & annotate inline, adding voice to text dictation for inline commentary.
    • Grade using various grading types including rubrics
    • Publish grades back to students in just a few taps
  • Working on Enhanced assignment grading
    • Offline grading capabilities
      Audio and video feedback
      Integrating with apple files
      Improving partner integrations (due dates from other assessment providers for example)

    Blackboard Learn Original

    Platform Feature – Inline grading 9.1 Q4 2018 + CUs. In Early August CU Update will allow students to download assignments with annotations.

    Attendance Tracking – automatically flow through from collaborate (coming in 2018) students will be marked as present if they join the session

    Course roles enhancements – Facilitator Role and Quality Reviewer Course Roles 9.1 Q4 2018 or SaaS Q3 2018

    Delegated Grading – improvements TAs that live outside of the course

    Blackboard Data – learning tool adoption and use all the data across tools in a single framework. Completely free for core functionality

    Tool Integration: LTI Advantage

    Activity Events: Caliper 1.1

    SCORM: xAPI events to Learning Record Store

    performance: Completed Course: Learn won’t show notifications for course when it is finished.

    Feature Roadmap Ultra experience

    Learn ultra has three components:

    • Ultra Base Nan
    • Original Course View
    • Ultra Course View
  • Flexibility to change at your own pace
  • Turn on the Ultra Base Nav and choose:
    • All original courses
      Dual course mode
      All ultra courses

    Ultra Roadmap

    Ultra Experience Question Bank Support now available and more in Q3 2018

    coming soon importing whole banks and random blocks

    Anonymous grading for single and double-blind marking scenarios

    Self and Peer Assessment Q4 2018 – groups and group activity

    Assessment Un-submitted work counts as a zero Q3 2018

    SafeAssign for Discussions Q1 2019 Ultimately for all written student work (essay question)

    Video Recording for flipped classrooms – using collaborate recordings as course materials. Q1 2019+

    Ally in Ultra Courses Q4 2018

    Institution Page Available now, More in 2018

    Custom Locale Support Available 3400.9 More in 2019 – customizable

    SCORM Support Q3 2018

    Group Discussion Insights and Discussion Analysis – Understand contribution or lack of same in students in a discussion to understand how to help student or give a grade. (Also applies to group). Shows top down view of what’s happening in a discussion

    Additional Embedded analytics in discussions Q3 2018+


    Learn Integrations Overview

    Moving Integrations to SaaS and Ultra

    Scott Hurley, Mark O’Neil and Lynn Zingraf – Blackboard

    What is your Migration Strategy

    • Define long term goals
    • Prioritize integrations
    • Know your platform options
    • Know your API options
    • Seize the Opportunity
  • Define your Longterm Goals
  • What are your long terms goals? Defining your goals in context of what you know today and where you think you are headed has substantial impact on your migration path in both the short and long term.
    • Transition to SaaS
      Move to Ultra
      Adopt REST for ease of development/delivery?

    Prioritize Your Integrations

    • One reason you may be sitting here is that you already have an investment in using integrations to customize your faculty’s and student’s teaching & learning experience.
    • A key consideration for your migration path is the importance of each of your integrations and the feasibility of delivering them on the currently available architecture.
    • Knowing the importance of each integration, your options for delivery of that integration, and available APIs each help you to prioritize and schedule migration of your integrations as a project
  • 1 Learn, 2 Experiences (Original, Ultra), 3 Deployments (Self-hosted, Managed Hosted, SaaS)
  • Know your API Options
  • Bb offers a range of options for integrations – what you use depends on what your trying to accomplish.
  • Building Blocks => LTI / LTI+REST
  • Rest APIs <- ->
  • Partner Cloud
  • Seize the Opportunity
    • Redesign the user experience
      – no longer bound by Blackboard JSP constraints
      – Meet change in goals
      Use your untapped resources
      – REST and API language agnostic!
      – You no longer need Java Expertise
      Expand availability to non-Blackboard resources
      – REST and API integrations run external to your LEARN server
      – Make them available to additional portals and services

    Seize the opportunity to NOT migrate and integration.


    B.B. adopted REST as our forward architecture for providing APIs to integrate with Blackboard products

    Rest API Progress

    IMS Standards Support


    LTI provides a secure connection between a learning tool and a platform like Blackboard learn. It is http-based and provides a context on launch.

    LTI Differences

    How does Blackboard Support this in Original?

    LTI 1.3 (not supported yet)

    • Based on 1.1
    • Improved Security model
    • Separates the security model from the rest of the spec, allowing IMS to more easily keep the security model up to date
    • Designed specifically to align with the services of LTI Advantage
    • Includes improved documentation and around implementing and migration
  • LTI Advantage
    • Package of extensions that work with LTI
      All bout the usability of the standard
      Creates a dream work for new features
      Enables deeper integration with any tool

    Deep linking – Names and Roles – Assignments and Grades

    Q4 2017 Deep linking Q2 2018 Names and roles – assignments and grades are in development

    IMS Caliper

    Global standard that provides for learning data collection

    • Gather data from across systems
    • Define a common language for labeling learning data
    • Standard way of measure data
    • Leverage data
    • Make it useful
  • Support of Developer Community
    • – look for Bb development community – documentation on REST APIs etc..
      Open innovation initiative
      Hands on and onsite training

    BbWorld Devcon Session Post – Building Learning Tools for Blackboard Using the Tsugi Application Environment

    Dr. Charles Severance
    University of Michigan
    School of Information

    Tsugi Building Learning Applications

    Tsugi (Japanese for “next”) provides a way to develop and host “learning tools” in an Application Store. Tsugi tools can be seamlessly integrated into existing Learning Management Systems and Google Classroom. As part of its core architecture, Tsugi implements standards like IMS learning Interoperability, IMS Content ITem and Google Classroom.

    TsugiCloud – A Free App Store for Open Source Tools from the Apereo Foundation. Teachers and LMS Administrators can quickly and easily install the tools from TsugiCloud into their LMS or Google Classroom. Software Developers can participate in the development of new these tools through the Apereo project.

    …provides a free, scalable

    The learning ecosystem of future

    • We need a way to build learning tools quickly w/out waiting for LMS upgrade
    • IMS learning tools Interoperability (LTI) provides a way to integrate learning tools
    • The LTI family of standards is getting more robust (and complex) all the time
    • We need to move from building LMS tools to building better teaching tools
    • We need to enable LTI tool development at a campus or even a course level
  • Why Use Tsugi?
    • 100% open source project part of the Apereo foundation
      Increases learning tool developer productivity
      Supports IMS LTI Standards
      Provides a scalable privacy-aware tool hosting environment
      A community of tool builders and shares


    • Campus IT
      – Respond to local faculty needs
      – support both on campus and MOOC applications
      – Consistent development/training for learning apps
      – Scalable hosting environment
    • Campus Developers
      – Write once integrate everywhere
      – Standards support made easy
      – Common UI/UX features
      – Simple development in ornament
    • Instructional Designers
      – Quickly design &Y create unique tools based on faculty needs
      – Tools can be quite simple: Project checklist, weekly reflection, YouTube analytics
  • Free AppStore –
  • Exercise: Blackboard Learn
  • Why develop with Tsugi?
    It multiplies your capabilities.
    • LTI 1.0 1.1 2.0, caliper, common cartridge LTI advantage
      You did not use email as logical key in the user table. Correct length!
      Session Mgmt/extension/expiry
      Support offline grading – peer grading applications
      Coping with unreliable tools consumers – grade resent
      Build Thin Cartridges from LTI Links
      Handling settings on URL, custom parameters, etc.
      Support cross-LMS setting dialogs
      Make use of messages to resize frames

    Getting Started with Tsugi

    Developer Training –

    Developer Environment is also the AppStore environment

    As a test harness that allows you write code quickly and build application quickly.

    Https;// – Iframe Tool

    Summer Project: TBlocks

    • Tsugi PHP Tools in post-GDPR world
    • TBlock model
      – each tool is a container
      – no direct access to the db
      – Interacts with core Tsugi using a. Local API backed by a REST web services
      – Launch data – course/ user / link / result
      – Uses link /result scoped JSOn
      – accesses a link scoped scoped key /value store
      – Can support more than php easily (I.e. python / django / node)

    Big Idea – Building a Simple Tool – Look at Tsugi – Try it and give feedback. Mature enough to run a local App Store or use the cloud App Store.

    BbWorld Devcon Session Post: Easing Migration Tension with an Effective SaaS Testing Plan

    Access Blackboard Org for PDF handouts referred to in this post:

    ID: easing
    password: bbworld18


    • Explore your needs
    • Pertinent Gannon project mgmt steps
      – Project desc and scope
      – Business Obj.
      – Measure of Success
      – Stakeholders
    • Testing Plan
      – Mapping Key processes
      – Creating testing list and plan
      – Choosing a team
    • Coordinating Events
    • Pre and Post-testing
    • Questions
  • (Thursday afternoon – full workshop session @ BbWorld)
  • Gannon Project MGMT Approach
    • Choosing a Team
      – See the Gannon Charter (found in Blackboard Org – access credentials at start of post)
      Project Description
      – Scope
      Business Objectives
      Measures of Success


    • Define ‘key stakeholders’ who need to be aware of project (those doing the work and those affected by the work)
    • Notify and verify role
    • ID Replacements to represent key areas of university where needed
  • Examples: faculty, student, Instructional Designers, support desk, accessibility rep, LMS admin, IT
  • Implement a kickoff meeting with stakeholders (include gimmes, snacks, food)
  • Testing: Multi-phased (Planning to test)
  • Phase 1
    • Map Key Processes (single sign-on, flat file uploads from sis)
      Ask: What external entities will be affected?

    Phase 2

      Create testing list and plan
      – Review list and plan to ensure completeness

    Phase 3

    • Team Identification Process (Testing team)
      – ID Team members
      – Notify and verify
      – roles for testing
      – their responsibilities
  • Coordinating Events
    • Coordinate events for limited disruption
      Follow SaaS Testing plan (document in organization – link above)
      – Serves as communication plan

    Pre and Post Testing

    • Test your TEST instance
      – production will be identical
    • Keep a record of any changes

    BbWorld18 Devcon Session Post: Collaborate Ultra: WebRTC and our MCU

    What is WebRTC?

    WebRTC is an open source project that provides browsers and mobile applications with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple APIs. The WebRTC components have been optimized to best serve this purpose

    • Web Real-time Communication
    • Interoperation across vendors
    • Standards managed by W3C and IETF
    • Open-Source Mobile
  • Why use WebRTC
    • Gets audio/video to/from a and b fast
      Critical mass across browsers and devices
      – no need to reinvent the wheel
      – lower friction due to “no plugin” installation
      – User control over permissions
      Easy to work with
      – Leverage HTML5/Javascript
      – Lots of APIs (getUserMedia,RTCPeerConnection, RTCDataChannel, getStats)
      Click a link: connected!
      A lot of hype but perhaps not overhyped

    Collaboration WebRTC Adoption

    • Collab’s choice of WebRTC was not so straightforward
    • in 2014
      – Poor browser support (chrome early Firefox)
      – Codec wars in effect
    • Collaborate’s choice: Use WebRTC to deliver browser-based conferencing
      – What about Collaboration original
      – Only Chrome was mature enough at the time to meet market expectations
      – Multiple HQ videos with good sync
      – Desktop Sharing
      – Other browsers use flash required (one video no desktop sharing)
      – We’ve been adding additional browsers as they mature Firefox in 2016, Safari 11 and Edge are on the way)
      – Flash end of life: 2020
  • Browser Implementations
    • Codec Wars
      SDP vs ORTC
      Browser Compliance
      Browser Permissions

    Codec Wars:

    • Audio agreed to: OPUS
      – High speed collision between technologies
      – Low bit rates for speech
      – High bit rates for music
      – Forward Error Correction
    • Video- not so much
      – VP8 from the Google Camp
      – H.264 from the Cisco/Apple/Microsoft
      – No significant performance difference, we don’t care!
      – Patents main blocker for H.264
      – Finally Solved by MPEG LA (via Cisco) giving it away.
  • SDP vs ORTC
    • How to describe the details for the media session?
      – Capabilities and connectivity between peers
      Session Description Protocol
      – Text-based and very complex for multi-channel
      – Existing browsers use SDP
      – Even here, two different versions: Unified Plan vs Plan B
      Object Real-Time Communications
      – Simpler and less proscriptive
      – Microsoft used ORTC and not SDP for Edge

    Browser Compliance

    • After years of in-fighting we have a standard: WebRTC 1.0
      – Working Group first created in May 2011
      – Originally expected to finish end of Feb 2013
      – Last call Started October 2016
      – First candidate Recommendation: November 2017
    • Browsers have different degrees of adherence to standards
    • Adapter.js Serves to normalize subtle browser differences
  • Browser Permissions
    • Microphone/camera access
      The camera light
      User fingerprinting
      Local IP address enumeration

    WebRTC Connections

    • We’ve exchanged SDP; now how do we connect to send/receive audio and video?
    • Simplest case almost never works – users are very rarely connected to directly to the internet
    • Need to handle a wide range of possible network configurations
    • Network Address Translations
    • IPv4 address limitations: running out of IP Addresses
    • Works fantastically well for normal web requests
    • Terrible for real-time media
    • User Datagram Protocal
      – fast, buy lossy “best effort”
    • Transmission Control Protocol
      – reliable, but slow “guaranteed”
    • For real-time media, time is king: prefer loss over delay
    • Transport Layer Security
      – Encrypted, secure, private
      – For UDP or TCP
  • Collaborate’s MCU – Core Technology
  • Peer to Peer – WebRTC is about connecting two endpoints with media. How do you create a conference?
  • Multipoint Conferencing Unit
  • Selective Forwarding Unit
    • Hybrid

    Bandwidth adaptation

    • Packet Loss: sequence Numbers
    • Latency: time stamp
    • How our MCU technology improves the experience
      – Differing bandwidth
      – Quantizing Modes
      – Three Bands
      – High bit rate (pass through)
      – Low bit rate
      – Ultra low bit rate

    Key Differentiators

    • prioritization
      – audio: by adapting quickly, we can ensure that video bandwidth does not interrupt audio traffic
      – video: high quality video for primary speaker and/or desktop sharing
    • Customization
      – Each viewer gets the best quality available to them,based on their bandwidth
    • Scale
      – Collaborate supports 500 users in a single session.
  • Future of WebRTC
    • Scalable Video Coding: VP9 vs H.265 -> VC1
      Data Channels
      – Chat/Subtitles
      – File transfers
      – Synchronization/Gaming
      An enabling technology: endless applications
      – AI agents: bots!
      – Internet of Things

    Future Adaptations for Collaborate and WebRTC

    • Prepare for Flash EOL (2020)
      – Safari 11 and Edge native support (on the roadmap)
      – Plugin for Safari 10 and IE11, and/or end support
    • Example feature Requests
      – Dedicated video channels (sign language, labs, presentations)
      – More Videos
      – Primary limitation is available bandwidth
      – Desktop Cursor Control
      – WebRTC desktop sharing is not VNC

    BbWorld18 Devcon Session Post: Integrating Learn with LTI and REST


    Note: most of this session is in the “coming soon category”

    What are we trying to solve?

    • Integrate ISV(independent software vendor) tools with original and ULTRA Learn
    • Access to content
      – Publisher Text books
      – Open educational resources
    • Use of specialized “tools” not built by Blackboard:
      – Assignment
      – Test
      – Grading
      – Video Creation
      – Course Evaluation
      – Games
    • Better Security!!
  • Content Market (built into learn experience)
    • Publishers, LTI tools.
      Links bring up ISV UI
      Getting 3rd party content into LEARN seamlessly

    Your Experience

    • Tool Developer
    • Learn Administrator/Instructor/User
    • Ultra Experience
    • Building Blocks
    • LTI
    • REST API
  • LTI Advantage – four new specifications that work together
  • New Security Model based on existing standards
    • OAuth 2.0
      OpenID Connect (OIDC)
      JWT (JSON Web Tokens)
      Library support for most languages (see
      Better security (harder to crack)
      Asymmetric keys (not sharing keys between tool and LMS)
      New terminology to better match OAuth 2 terminology:
      – Tool (tool provider) – Client in OAuth 2.0
      – Platform (tool consumer or LMS) – Resource Server
      – Users
      – Grades

    New Security Model & Contract

    NEw Deployment ID for Tools

    LTI Resource Link (Formerly known as Basic LTI Launch)

    JWT and OpenID Connect Fields

    LTI 1.3 Core in a Nutshell

    LTI Deep Linking 2.0 (Formerly Content-Item Message

    LTI Deep Linking Request (from Platform)

    Assignment and Grades Service 2.0

    • Post a score from tool
    • Get result from platform
      -result does not necessarily equal score
    • Create line items (grade book columns) by the tool in the platform’s grade book
      – may or may not be associated with a resource
    • Requires OAuth 2.0 security model (bearer token, scopes)
  • Developer Portal –
    • Rich set of RESTFUL APIs
      Well documented
      Use in conjunction with LTI
      – get information about a course
      – Gradebook schemas
      – Attempts for a user
      – Group Information
      – ETC.

    BbWorld18 Devcon Session Blog: Introduction to Attendance

    • Overview of attendance functionality
    • Feature/service architecture
    • Integration architecture
    • Impact and future guidelines
  • Attendance shows up in a roster view with students on left and tabular content on right with the Day, if they were present, late, absent and excused columns.
  • A grade can be calculated for it and it is added to grade book.
  • Principles for New Solution
    • Foundation for future integrations into product portfolio
      Separate application and data store, singer source of truth
      API First
      Take advantage of latest tech

    Service Architecture

    • Multi-tenant service, data serrated by unique user I’d
    • Application tier developed in java
    • Dropwizard library for API/controllers
    • JDBI for data access
    • Flyway for database scheme management
    • Deployed as docker containers on Kubernets
    • Postgres 9.6 for database
  • Integration Architecture
  • Security Architecture
  • Why did we choose this architecture?
    Building Functionality as a separate service has advantages.
    • Separate application & database adds no load to learn
      Natively built on REST API, easy to integrate into other products
      Standalone, small service can choose the most appropriate technologies for a given function
      Separate service can be tested and deployed in isolation.

    Integration Architecture

    • Standalone SaaS easily integrated across portfolio
    • integrate 3rd party services through developer portal (future)
    • API first (REST) enables complete access to service functionality through APIs
  • Blueprint for future work
    • Building services as separate has advantages can can be applied to broad set of problems
      Important architectural pattern that will help apply on larger scale over time
      Leads to tighter integration and more consistent functionality across product suite
      Services can be gradually rolled out and integrated Bb applications
      Scalability of entire eco-system will improve over monolithic application: more stable, more consistent and predictable performance
      Used in other areas besides attendance, box integration, cloud storage integration, Ultra institution pages.

    General Impact

    • Service based architecture is mostly transparent to end users, but affects developers and integrators.
    • Not all data I contained in LEARN anymore
    • Not all functionality is available via Java API anymore
    • Data will be aggregated into data lake
    • Functionality is exposed through REST APIs
    • Use REST APIs to future prof customizations and extensions.

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