Summer 2019

The Summer 2019 Blackboard Learn upgrade will be in June 2019. Our current Learn Q4 2017 version of Blackboard will be upgraded two versions to the Q4 2018 release. Here are the release notes for these versions:

Summary of New Features:

Spell Check The spell check tool has been turned on by default in all courses. Instructors can still disable it in courses using the Control Panel > Customization > Tool Availability menu if they wish.
Updated Manage Users Tool The "Manage Users" tool lets instructors add additional teaching assistants, graders, etc. to courses. The old tool at Control Panel > Course Tools > Manage Users has moved to Control Panel > Users and Groups > Manage Users. This includes bug fixes, a simplified user interface, and new features. (more information)
Retention Center The Retention Center tool used to identify at-risk students has been turned on by default in all courses. Previously it was available but instructors had to use the "Tool Availability" menu to turn it on. (more information)
Mobile Apps The Blackboard Instructor app has been upgraded in this version to support grading of assignments from mobile devices like tablets.
Mobile Compatible Tests The Blackboard mobile apps have improved to the point that we no longer require the special "Mobile Compatible Tests" option. It has been removed and all the Mobile Compatible tests have been changed to ordinary Blackboard tests. For guidelines on how to develop tests that work well on mobile devices please see this link.
Updated Theme A new Learn 2016 Theme is available which is certified for use by mobile device web browsers.  It also lets course builders modify the course menu colours.
Clear Multiple Choice Selection Multiple choice questions on tests now have an option to clear any previously selected answer, giving students the ability to leave an answer blank.
Additional Attempts in Anonymous Grading Instructors who enabled anonymous grading of assignments can now grant additional attempts to students if desired. The older system wouldn't let us change these settings when anonymous grading was enabled.
Accessibility Improvements Several improvements have been made for people using assistive devices like screen readers. For example, "Skip Links" have been updated to work more consistently across tool areas in the system to improve Blackboard Learn Accessibility.
Enhancement to Reconcile Grades Instructors who use delegated grading can also specify which individuals can "reconcile" these grades. So now you can have your teaching assistants both grade the assignments and reconcile those grades.
Textbook Integrations ICT continues to do Technology Assessments so we can enable Blackboard integration with textbook homework systems. Please see our current list of approved systems. 

Features Not Currently Supported:

MSIE 11 Support Ends Q4 2018 no longer supports Microsoft Internet Explorer 11. Microsoft ended development for MSIE 11 in January 2016 so it cannot do some of the things requried by newer Blackboard features. We recommend using a different web browser.
Lock icon We have removed the "Lock Icon" displayed to instructors in courses. This tool was supposed to provide an easy way to quickly change course availability for students. However this has not worked reliably so we turned it off. Instructors can still manage course availability by going to Control Panel > Configuration > Properties and changing the settings there. We will make this tool available again once Blackboard fixes the tool.
Cloud Storage People can currently upload files from their computers. This new Cloud Storage feature also supports uploading files from cloud services like Google Drive. This service is not yet available in Canada. This service is currently undergoing Technology Assessment so that we will be ready when it does become available in Canada.
Audio/Video Assignment Feedback
Graders can use a "recording" button to add video and audio recordings as part of the feedback to students. These recordings are stored off-campus so this feature is currently undergoing Technology Assessment.
Attendance Tool Instructors can now track attendance in courses. This option is not yet available in Canada. The attendance data is stored off-campus so the tool is currently undergoing Technology Assessment so that we will be ready when it does become available in Canada.

Summer 2018


The Summer 2018 upgrade is the evening of June 27, 2018 when Learn Q4 2017 replaces the older Learn Q4 2016 version. Below are the release notes for the Q2 and Q4 2017 releases.

  1. Release notes for Q4 2017
  2. Release notes for Q2 2017
  3. Learn 9.1 List of Fixed Maintenance Items

Features not available at the U of S that are mentioned in the release notes:

  • Learn 2016 theme
    This theme improves accessibility and use with mobile devices.  We have not yet customized it for the U of S and are still using the older theme. However we may pilot this new theme with volunteers over the next year.

  • Grade Center Cleanup
    You can now select multiple columns in the grade center and select the "Delete" button to remove them all at once. The danger is that this can easily wipe out submitted student assignments when the assignment column is removed, with no ability to recover them. So we opted not to enable this feature.

  • Blackboard Ally, Outcomes Assessment, Blackboard Predict, Blackboard Collaborate
    These are additional cost items which the U of S has not licensed.
Supported Browsers

Blackboard now has a “Browser Checker

Drag and Drop File Uploads

This feature has been expanded to also be available in the content collection, content editor file attachments, blank page content type, blogs, journals and portfolios.

Submission Receipts

This feature has been enhanced to automatically email assignment submission receipts to students so they have it for their records. Students can also now see all their submission receipts on their "My Grades" page.

Equation Editor

The equation editor now includes the ablity to include chemical symbols in equations. This is done by clicking on the new "Alpha/Omega" tab in the equation editor.

Standardized Grade Display

Grade display has been standardized throughout the system to show grades to five decimal points, not rounded.

Improved Accessibility

Additional ARIA landmarks have been added to pages to better assist people using screen readers with Blackboard Learn. 

Mobile Devices

Enhancements have been made to improve use with mobile web browsers.

Discussion Board

The discussion board now has a "Replies to Me" filter which shows only new replies to messages you posted.

Course Availability

Instructors now see a new "padlock" icon beside the "Edit Mode" button. Selecting this lets instructors quickly make the course available or unavailable to students. It is the same as the old method of changing the course availability settings in the course properties.


Enhancements have been made to IMS-LTI integrations and the REST API for integrating third-party tools with Blackboard. For example problems launching LTI tools from Safari have been resolved.


The SCORM engine has been updated to a newer version

Rubric Grading

When grading with rubrics, saved feedback is now preserved when changing from the "in-line" to "full-screen" view.

Summer 2017


The U of S Blackboard upgrade this year is to Q4 2016 from Q4 2015 (new features in the Q2 2016 and Q4 2016 versions of Blackboard).

  1. Release notes for Q4 2016
  2. Release notes for Q2 2016 

Features Not Available at the U of S that are in the release notes:

  • Learn 2016 theme
  • New icon set
  • Dropbox Education Integration
  • Record from Webcam
Supported Browsers

Blackboard now has a “Browser Checker

Drag and Drop Files

In some places where the “Browse My Computer” buttons reside, you now can drag and drop files. (see the release notes for details)

Submission Receipts

Submitted assignments by students results in a submission receipt code which they can copy and save to prove they submitted their assignment.  


Instructors can now send reminders from the Grade Center to students and group members who have missing course work. This also works for assignments that are anonymous or where delegated grading is used.

Needs Grading is optimized

When multiple attempts are enabled, the needs grading only shows the attempts which contribute to the grade. For example, if the assignment is set to only grade  the first attempt, then "Needs Grading" will only show the first attempt.

Self and Peer Assessments improved

People who did not submit assignments are excluded from the evaluation process. 

Course Activity Reports

Improved to better support a large number of enrollments.

Accessibility improvements

Grading journals now works with a screen reader


The “from” email address will show the sender’s email address again, instead of the “” email address.


Various core security improvements

Virtual Classroom and Chat

The “Virtual Classroom” and “Chat” will be turned off. Browsers have stopped supporting Java applets, which makes these tools unusable.

Summer 2016

Release Notes


Accessibility enhancements for blind users (See the above release notes in the "Accessibility Updates" section)

Bug Fixes

Various - see Release Notes

Discussion Threads

Users can navigate from thread to thread without having to return to the main Discussions page.

Escaping Special Characters

If a user uploads a file to Blackboard Learn and the filename contains special characters (such as / \ : ? * " < > | ), the system now replaces the special character with an underscore ( _ ).

Supported Browsers

Learn 9.1 now supports the Microsoft Edge browser. Some new browser releases no longer support NPAPI plugins. Without these plugins, some Learn features may not render correctly.  

Summer 2015

Assessments Significant Figures

The "Calculated Formula" questions now let instructors specify either the number of decimals or number of significant figures for the correct answers. 


ePortfolio Improvements

The Blackboard ePortfolio system has been improved...

  • Creating portfolios has been simplified
  • Instructors can now create portfolio assignments, including a portfolio template to use for those assignments. 
  • Students can now use material from courses, such as completed assignments, as portfolio artefacts

Documentation for instructors

Documentation for students

Creating Portfolios in Blackboard - Duration: (8:39)

Grading Improvements for Assignments

Anonymous Grading:

The identity of the student who submitted the assignment can be hidden from the markers to eliminate possible bias.

Documentation for Instructors

Documentation for Students

Delegated Grading:

We can now specify which students in the class a marker can grade. This is useful in large combined classes. For example, you could have a different marker assigned to students from different sections in a crosslisted course. Yoiu can also use this feature to assign multiple markers to each student. Once the grades are entered, the instructors then reconcile the grades. They review the marks and comments provided by each grader and then selects which grade to assign the student (Highest, Lowest, or average)

Documentation for Instructors 

Anonymous and Delegated Grading - Duration: (2:36)

Student Preview

When you are enrolled as an instructor in your own course, up by the "Edit Mode" button you will see this new icon:

Student Preview

When clicked, you are automatically switched into a student view. This works very similar to our existing "Add Test Student" tool in that it creates a real student account that can participate in tests, etc. However, it doesn't require that you log out or log in with a different web browser. While useful, this view isn’t perfect. Some things currently do not work in this view like Collaborate sessions and SCORM modules. For that reason we will continue to make the “Add Test Student” tool available (which does not have these limitations).

Documentation for Instructors

Student Preview- Duration: (2:24)

Online Learning Library Link

A tool that allows access to (online learning library of has now been incorporated into the Course Materials / Build Content options. Instructors may create a link that will automatically connect students to anyone of the Courses available on  

To use:

  1. Choose Build Content > Mashups > course
  2. Search for the course of your choice > Add
  3. Once the webpage loads, choose Share > Link
  4. Choose COPY LINK FOR SOMEONE WITHIN University of Saskatchewan
  5. Paste the link into your course.

NEW summer 2015 is the ability to link to a specific video within a specific course

Summer 2014


The new Achievements tool allows instructors and course designers to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both Badges and Certificates.

As students progress through the course, they may trigger certain "adaptive release" conditiions (like passing a test) that grant them the badge or certificate achievements. This is similar to how some games have "achievements" unlocked as the player progresses through levels. The instructor can also allow the Badges to be published to "Mozilla Backpack" for sharing with the world.

Certificates are automatically date stamped and can be printed and both certificates and badges can have expiry dates (for example only valid for one year).

Instructor: Find out more...

Assignment Grading Changes

Instructors have a consistent grading sidebar within assignments, blogs, discussions, journals, and wikis. This grading sidebar allows them to grade a submission, post, and entry without leaving the page. The view is the same for all gradable items.

The material to be graded is on the left side, while the right side contains the grading menu where the instructor may select an attempt, enter a grade, add comments and so on.

Date Management Tool

Date Management gives instructors the ability to have the system automatically change dates in a course from one location.  The tool displays everything in the course with start, end, or due dates on one page.

Dates for assignments, course content delivery, and so on may be adjusted on this one page. All the dates may be adjusted relative to a new start date, or explicitly modified for each individual item. Instructors will find this useful after rolling a course forward from one term (with the old dates) to a new term (course copy).

Instructors: Find out more...

Equation Editor

The equation editor is changed from the SP11 Java application to a newer javascript version. It also adds support for using LaTeX to create math equations in addition to its native MathML.

Exam (Test) Changes

Instructors can now define "Exam Exceptions" for different individuals and groups taking the same test. For example, instructors are now able to specify more time on an test for a particular student if required. 

Instructors can now set up multiple rules to control the feedback displayed after submission, after a specific date, after the due date, after the end date, after all the attempts are graded, etc.

The feedback can now show ALL the possible answers on multiple choice questions. 

The notices displayed at the start of a test may be modified to make the options clearer to students.

When creating an test, instructors may now insert questions in the desired location within the test.  

A new setting is available that controls whether students can submit the test after the "due date". If this control is sent to on,  students may submit the test and it is clearly marked in "Needs Grade" as "late".

Exported tests now retain all the test questions, incluidng questions that originate in question sets, random blocks, and so on.

There is now a "test log". In addition to recording student start and submit time of a test, instructors may now generate reports indicating exactly when students saved answers and how much time was spent, on each question.

Instructors can now limit test participation to specific IP addresses.  Unfortunately at the U of S most computers in computer labs are given dynamic IP addresses so we cannot use this to identify computers in specific computer labs. But this can be used to limit tests to only computers that are physically on campus (either on a wired network, the campus wireless network, or both). 

Grading: Score Items of Multiple Attempts

Instructors may now define scored items that allow multiple attempts, and choose the grade (highest grade, lowest grade, first attempt, last attempt, average of all, and so on)

Instructor: Find out more...   

Groups Management Tool

Significant enhancements have been made to the Groups tool to simplify setting up and working with groups.

Instructors may now quickly see the tools that are turned on in all groups,  see all students (even those not assigned to groups), identify the groups to which they belong, and assign them to groups all on a single page. Avatars are now available to distinguish among users. The All Groups page may be used to sort columns, perform bulk actions for deleting groups, and create Grade Center smart views for one or more groups.

Group memberships may be  "Exported" and "Imported" from an Excel spreadsheet (CSV file).

Instructors: Find out more...

Goals and Alignments

This tool is available in order to define a set of institutional, college, or program goals, then tie items added to the course to specific goals .  Institutional and course reports may then be generated to display how well students are performing related to these goals or how well the course is covering the goals for a program.  Please contact Kevin Lowey (via the Service Desk) if you are interested in insitutional goals.

Goals may be applied to exam questions and thus track how well students are performing related to those exam questions and the stated program goals. New to this summer's release is the ability to also align goals to specific lines in an evaluation rubric. 

"Related goals" may now also be created. For example, if two different colleges have identified similar goals, these may be listed as "related" so they are counted as equivalent, for reporting purposes.

Navigation Enhancement

A new "quick links" button may be found at the top left of the page. When selected, it displays a table of contents for all the material on that page. Keyboard shortcuts are also available to access the quick links menu and the global navigation menu (of benefit to disabled students).

The course menu "Folder View" opens in a new window to ensure users have the room needed to see the expanded content. In earlier versions of Blackboard,  this was displayed in the same course menu space which often left the menus truncated.

Online Learning Library Link

A tool that allows access to (online learning library of has now been incorporated into the Course Materials / Build Content options. Instructors may create a link that will automatically connect students to anyone of the Courses available on  


We can easily license and release tools that appear only in individual colleges. Changing the course defaults to control which tools are on and off by default for courses in different colleges or departments is now available.

The "messages" tool (sort of an email system that only exists within Blackboard) is now connected to the notification system so students can be notified when new messages arrive in the course.

Summer 2013

Global Navigation Feature 

Always present in the upper right corner of Course Tools, the new navigation menu provides one-click access to your Courses, Organizations, Posts, and Calendar. Watch the video.

Select your name at the top right of the screen to

  • Quickly jump to other courses, check what’s changed in all your courses, access the calendar, change personal and privacy settings, and so on
  • Add a profile picture that  will be displayed beside things like discussion and blog posts  (Global Navigation (top right drop down beside your name) > Settings > Personal Information > Personalize My Settings)
  • Show the Blackboard calendar in your preferred calendar using iCal (Global Navigation  (top right drop down beside your name) > Calendar > Get External Calendar Link  - bottom of left column) Provides an ical link you can then subscribe to in Outlook, Calendar (on Mac) the iPad calendar, Google Calendar and so on.
Discussion Board  Enhanced and easier to use  -  video
Calendar  Enhanced calendar tool -  video
Retention Center Helps instructors detect at risk students quickly, will automatically be enabled for all courses. Comes with pre-defined at risk criteria, but also lets instructors define their own criteria. Check it out

To use: Global Navigation (top right drop down beside your name) > Retention Center. Turn on for one or all your courses. Provides a quick list of all “at risk” students in the course, why they are at risk, and measures you can do to help them.  Ability to turn off monitoring for courses that have finished. 

Item Analysis 

For instructors: Analyzes questions used in tests to identify good / bad questions and if students are having success with those questions. Watch how here.

Due Dates Automatically add calendar entries. Add assignments, tests, graded discussions  to the course and enter a due date. An entry for that item will automatically be added to the course calendar. Students can click on the due date in the calendar and jump straight to the activity. 
Network drive

Instructors: Set up a network to your course files  (Control Panel (left side) > Content Collection > Course id (top of list in content collection) > Set up Web Folder. Provides a link you can use to set up a WebDav connection to your course files area with instructions on how to set up your network drive on whatever operating system you are using. Bonus, you also have a separate content area for your own personal files separate from courses that you can also connect to with a network drive.