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U Cincinnati Builds 'Canopy' with Upgraded Blackboard

The university is looking to gain increased reliability, improved tools for online interaction and more collaboration capabilities with the new system, which it has dubbed "Canopy." (U Cincinnati's' mascot is the bearcat, and, as the Blackboard upgrade site explained, bearcats "thrive under the thick tree cover of the forest canopy.")

Among the features that stand out for users:

  • Improved browser support;
  • A global navigation menu;
  • A content editor with a "video everywhere" capability;
  • Inline assignment grading;
  • An automatic re-grade feature to identify and fix bad test questions; and
  • Simpler course copy issues for faculty users.

The College of Nursing stepped up as the first major test pilot in a phased approach that began this spring and will continue through the summer.

The school has been holding town hall meetings and training sessions to introduce the campus community to the features set of the new LMS. Training modules will also be placed within the application to make them available to users as they're needed.

On a frequently asked questions page, the upgrade team suggested that students would be drawn to multiple aspects of the new edition: "The new interface is more user-friendly with a modern look with support across modern browsers," the site stated. "The video capability is also a great feature for students. Students will also be able to create a Profile, just like Facebook. This will allow students to create 'learning spaces,' or study groups through a portal."

Faculty, upgrade team said, could feel the greatest impact on efficiency with inline grading and streamlined grading assignments. Inline grading allows the instructor to view student-submitted files inside the Web browser without the need for an additional plug-in; the same feature includes annotation tools to let the teacher provide feedback directly on the inline view of the document.

By the start of fall semester 2014, the new edition of Blackboard is expected be fully implemented across the university.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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