eLearning Frenzy

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



How to Create Richer Experiences Using Group Work

7/22 at 10am
Research has shown students can benefit from group work in several ways. But not everyone is a fan. In this session, the panel describe effective tools and techniques to enhance the group work experience. The session will outline the chief problems associated with group work along with ways to address them. Faculty and students will also be on hand to discuss how they’ve successfully implemented group work and how it’s evolved over the years.

  • Benefits of Group Work
  • Problems associated with Group Work
  • Potential Solutions
  • Results (instructor perspective)
  • Results (student perspective)

Benefits of Group Work

  • Plays to Human Nature (being social significantly enhances learning)
  • Improved Peer Relationships (once you get past forming/storming)
  • Increases in Engagement (active learning)
  • Sense of independence
  • self-directed learning
  • learn to operate in relationships
  • Collaborative exchange
  • Enhance Problem solving
  • Peer Learning

Problems Associated with Group Work

Why students hate it:

  • Various student skill levels
  • Dealing with dominant/passive personalities
  • self-selecting group issues
  • grading discrepancies and issues
  • unclear purpose
  • undefined student roles
  • unclear instructor expectations
  • Vagueness of accountability and fairness
  • Difficulty with meeting and communication
  • Difficulty using various technologies
  • Difficulty pacing project work
  • Difference in opinion of final product

Potential Solutions

Start of Group work/project

  • Purpose and instructions (importance of group work in real life included)
  • individual contract (have students agree to certain terms – using bb quiz) Students don’t agree it doesn’t open up project.
  • Timing of implementation
    • back half of semester
    • mimic earlier assignment (make it familiar for students)
    • accurate group distribution

During Group work/project

  • Group Contract with Defined Roles
  • Mandated live sessions
  • Documentation of Communication
  • Instructor Presence (feedback along the way is essential)

Grading the Group Work Project

  • Grading based on 60/40 split
    • instructor: grade project 60%
    • Students grade peers 40%
  • Grades adjust from review of documentation
  • Role dependent grade adjustments

Results – Instructor Perspective

  • Started with high anxiety of project
  • High growth and interaction
    • live sessions crucial
  • questions were content focused
  • One one student not involved
  • Projects were very strong
  • Student feedback surprisingly positive

Results – Student Perspective

  • Contract with spelled out exactly ( no one could say I didn’t know)
  • Groups were assigned
  • Knew instructor was paying attention and that did make a difference (recordings of live meetings)
  • Grading yourselves made a difference
  • roles made division of work excellent

What we learned

  • Implement on back half of course
  • Mimic earlier assignment for familiarity
  • Individual/group Contracts
  • Mandate Communication
  • Force student voice in participation

BbWorld20 Session blog – Blackboard Learn Roadmap Session

7/22 6:45am

Updates on Learn and Mobile Apps

1 Blackboard, 2 Experiences, 3 Hosting Methods
330 Clients currently on Ultra

Everyone a teacher, everyone a learner
Enabling leaners and educators to engage in Highly collaborative learning.

Update for content editor for original courses

  • Mobile optimized
  • fully responsive
  • copy and pasting has been improved (original formatting or simplified html) Images also copied and pasted
  • MS HTML is removed!
  • Pasting link from youtube/video automatically embeds video
  • Add button
  • pop-up windows now are overlay bubbles (mobile friendly)
  • ability to enter and format computer code (computer science)
  • accessibility checker
  • available later this year

Updated in-line grading Bb Annotate

  • Marking text (select text and choose markup)
  • removing annotations easy
  • adding own text to document
  • built-in search tool
  • draw with tools or use freehand
  • Add image
  • Side-panel shows preview and quick navigation
  • adding comment where you want
  • Learn SaaS – reusable comment bank

Collaborate Whiteboard – coming soon

  • additional drawing tools
  • new shapes and brushes
  • multiple pages
  • sharing whiteboards to breakout room
  • Exporting annotations

Automated Feedback for Ultra

  • correct and incorrect responses
  • coming soon

Peer Assessment for Learn Ultra

  • coming soon
  • shows in stream for faculty and students
  • instructor sees 360 degree view of peer evaluation process when assessing

Connected and Open

  • deepen LTI implementation
  • growing set of REST APIs
  • become industry standard
  • Premium Ultra APIs – surface apps and tools when an where needed in Bb interface
    • allows integrated tool to communicate security with application
    • app engages with user when and where they need to
    • Eesysoft (context-based help and assistance)
    • Blue by Explorance – course evaluation software (prompting students to evaluate when needed)
    • Qwickly – Attendance pro (self-checking attendance request) Students see checkin option on course main page, no need to go somewhere special to do this.

App Catalog

Bb Data Strategy

Ultra View of Activity as related to grades (marks)

Bb data reporting – available as part of learn SaaS – in one place learn about Collaborate and Learn usage.

Bb Achieve – add-on solution for learner engagement and interaction

  • Content engagement (filter down to department lvl)
  • Performance Dashboards

Access and Equity

  • Ally availability for mobile app.
  • Ally as a service
    • Course content
    • Ally for websites
    • Ally as a service REST API

Personalized Learning Experience

  • Blackboard Assist (Learn SaaS) – helps students where and when they need it with assistance from Bb, institution, and partners. Comes with curated partners (can be turned off)
  • Bb Chatbot (Learn SaaS) Uses Bb Help site originally (no additional charge) future more premium paid version with more options
  • Student List View of Gradebook in Ultra
  • Learning Module Progress indicators (Ultra course View)
  • Offline Content (Bb App) – being able to download course content on mobile device (available now)
  • Messages – Bb and Bb Instructor App (push notifications)
  • Bb Watch OS app for students (view grades, due dates, announcements)

BbWorld20 Session Blog – Blackboard Ally Roadmap

7/21 @ 10:45am

Recent Updates & Roadmap

Ally has had 36 product release in just under a year.

Also announcing 5 new major feature additions today/very soon.

Recent additions Reporting

  • usage tab in institutional reporting (student usage) break down alternative format usage, downloads, courses, distribution. instructors, how many fixes, how often feedback was opened..over time.
  • Data is all available in BbData
  • LTI tab – Feature Flags (to release new functionality when we want) eg. translated version alternative format.
  • Dedicated integration with eesysoft (enable flag to capture ally data for eesysoft)

Recent Additions for Instructors

  • improved integration for ultra experience courses
  • feedback flows:
    • PDF’s without title
  • course accessibility report (gives instructor summary at course level)

Recent Additions for Student Facing

  • New alternative formats (BeeLine reader, Translated Version)
  • Alternative formats have become more prominent in UI
  • Beeline Reader – Technology developed for speed reading purposes works with with Dyslexia and ADHD students (uses color gradient to guide eye through text)

Announcements – New for Ally!

  1. Reporting at Departmental Level launching in next few weeks (based on institutional hierarchy) Adds an additional directory tab to institutional report. Can be configured to be available to departmental administrators. (requires latest version of learn SaaS)
  2. Ally launched in Arabic even for Alternative Formats
  3. Ally Alternative Formats soon to be available for content created within the LMS (Original and Ultra)
  4. WYSIWYG Feedback – coming in future
    – provide instructor feedback for WYSIWYG content
    – Feedback directly embedded in content editor
    – live score while editign
    – highlights within the editor
  5. Future (Expand accessibility checklist
    -support for excel
    – text spacing, line spacing
  6. Support for Audio/Video content (future)
    – add support for additional types for video/audio sources
    – tools for instructor to provide captioning
    – integrated with 3rd party
  7. improved audio alternative formats (future)
    – for documents over 100k characters
    – Option to highlight text with audio alternative format
  8. Crowdource Remediation (forward looking)
    – duplicative manual remediation across insitutions
    – ally can facilitate re-use remediation by suggesting improvements elsewhere

Ally for Websites
– check content for issues
– reporting
– alternative format

Define domain/subdomains you want to track over time.

  • Checking for broken links (get a list)
  • Report for each domain or overall report
  • Launch feedback component from report

BbWorld20 Session Blog – Blackboard Collaborate Roadmap: Supporting Online Learning now and into the Future

7/21 10:00am

“Lightyears of progress in weeks.”

Impact of COVID-19 on our roadmap

  • Accelerate some features/shift priorities
  • Performance
  • Server capacity
  • Security

Forward Looking-statement (disclaimer that things may change) Roadmap is plan but may change in future.

Who we are as solution

  • Made for teaching and learning
  • Trustworthy
  • empowering engagement
  • Inclusive
  • Responsive
  • Easy to adopt
  • Measurable

EOS of Collaborate original

  • Tech stack made it inevitable
  • collaborate ultra is mature and well adopted
  • more scalable
  • most asked for features: add in ultra roadmap
  • Some original features cant’ make it

Made for teaching and learning

  • Roles, asymmetry and engineered collaboration
  • feeling safe and included
  • part of an ecosystem
  • part of a pedagogic path, not just an event
  • variety of instructors, needs, creativity, teaching methods

First half of 2020

  • Large sessions in scheduler (instructors more autonomous) (allow 250+
  • Poll results download available
  • sharing camera as content
    • document cam
    • mobile cam
    • show experiment/practice

2nd half of 2020 in chronological order

  • Profanity filter 8/6/2020
  • Recording reminder
  • Timer: test and plan
  • 1000 attendees in session


  • stability and robustness – #1 priority
  • Security and privacy as educators
  • Safety and privacy by design

First half of 2020

  • telephony capacity increase
  • scalability improvements
  • Secure by design features deactivating guess access/ recording access from only inside if wanted
  • Review of scalability of 3rd party

2nd half of 2020

  • improved monitoring – to proactive intervention
  • Security compliance adopting industry standards (OWASP)
  • Bulk invitation (early August) from scheduler
  • Recordings bulk management (visibility of your storage use, bulk delete for admins, consider retention policies
  • Waiting Room!!! (end of 2020) Apply to guests only first.

Empowering engagement

  • Teaching is not “meeting:
  • engagement is everything and needs to be engineered by prof
  • empower isntructor

New Whiteboard 8/6

  • Whiteboard and file annotation crucial for pedagogy, collaboration, engagement, complete exercise
  • Formatting (Pencil thickness, fonts, font size shapes with color fill and more
  • usability: copy and reuse elements, paste text, wrapping, eraser, confirmation for clear all
  • Annotation persistence: between slides (laod a blank doc to have multiple white board pages) Between tools (go from files to whiteboard to app sharing and get back to your previous annotations.
  • Breakout groups interaction for file annotations

for 2020 and beyond Whiteboard

  • pointer
  • multiple whiteboard pages
  • who made which annotations
  • sharing breakout whiteboard into main room

Engagement – 2nd half of 2020

  • Chat mentions
  • Video Gallery (highest priority) balance between interaction and focus enhancing the number of video feeds that can be seen at once (more faces) students with lower bandwidth don’t get penalized…let students choose

Balance Engagement and Focus (2021)

2nd half of 2020

  • Video Gallery (just video grid only when speaking not sharing content – yet) you can zoom and pagination.
  • Add templates and gallery when sharing
  • Pinning Videos

Leveraging for pedagogical uses 2021

Looking towards 2021

  • Recording pause and resume
  • more options for sharing recordings
  • More whiteboard/chat improvements


  • LMS (Learn) (calendar, groups as breakout groups, course content)
  • Live captioning (finding right parnter)
  • partnership with 3-play media

Session Preparation

  • groups, polls, etc

Secure and Inclusive engagement and collaboraiton

  • chat moderation
  • students can’t delete others annotations

Data powered

  • integrate with bb data
  • engagement score during session
  • engagement coaching via data
  • gallery view powered by predict

BbWorld20 Sesion Blog: Ways to Empower Faculty to Create a More Inclusive Environment

7/21/2020: 9:15am

Goal for Digital Accessibility and Inclusive Education TAMUCC

Create a more inclusive digital academic environment

  • Culture of Awareness and support
  • Positive and open mindset

Strategy for Success


  • finding stakeholders and partnerships
    • Departments (disability service office, HR, faculty excellence, and others)
    • Governance (support from administration, faculty senate, committees, SGA)

Discovering strategy and vision

  • learning the lessons (technically ready, but buy-in and culture wasn’t there)
  • moving forward (training, support, accessibility website)
  • building awareness
    • Digital accessibility day (content remediation)
    • one-on-ones with IDs/Trainers
    • Accessibility simulation lab

Making Strides by Empowering Faculty

Engagement, professional development and embracing the current situation.

  • Community of Practice
    Talking about UDL, accessibility standards and introducing Bb Ally.
  • Leveraging Quality Assurance
  • Effective Communication
  • Supporting the Transition

Ally turned on for all courses – Communication around Ally went out via Dept newsletter, faculty advocate and other communication resources, Bb Org, Certification etc…

Worked Students into communications – alternate formats (from department, training resources and instructors)

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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