VLE summer upgrade: What’s new with the VLE?

VLE upgradeThe University’s centrally supported virtual learning environment Yorkshare was upgraded over the summer 2014 (15th-16th July) to the latest release of Blackboard software (v9.1 SP16).  The new version of the software comes with a series of enhancements which are aimed at improving the user experience for instructors.  Here is a brief summary of some of the new features.

Inline gradingThe VLE now has a consistent user interface to support the grading of all student activity recorded in blogs, wikis and discussion forums, which you can do within the browser, without leaving the page from which you are viewing the student work. The right-hand grading panel which has been part of the in-line grading interface for assignment submission for some time is now present in all tools which have been set up as gradable.  This feature will enhance the online marking experience for formative assessments.

Student previewThe upgrade also brings with it a new student preview feature, which enables you to switch views from within your module site so that you see your course materials exactly as a student would do so. This removes the need for you to log in and out of the VLE with a different student account in order to achieve the same result.

Group managementEnhancements have also been to group management tools, enabling you to choose and manage membership for group sets with an improved workflow. You can now easily see which students are located in which groups and can import and export groups and group memberships, as well as sort columns, perform bulk actions for deleting groups, and create Grade Centre smart views for one or more groups on the All Groups page within your module site.

Award of partial credit for answers in calculated formula questionsBlackboard’s assessment engine has also been enhanced to support the award of partial credit for answers to calculated formula questions.

Anonymous and delegated gradingInstructors can hide students’ names from submitted assignments for anonymous marking. Instructors can allocate assessments to specific users for marking. Multiple provisional marks for an assessed piece of work can be reconciled by a moderator, with specific permissions to oversee and set an agreed mark.

New date release management toolBlackboard have introduced a long overdue feature which enables you to modify date release times for all content items within your module site in one go, if you want to do this in a bulk action, rather than by modifying one item at a time.


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. Students can see which rewards they’ve earned and what is required of them to receive additional rewards, providing insight into learning progression toward defined competencies.

If you have any queries about these new features, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the E-Learning Development Team at vle-support@york.ac.uk. If you are new to using the institutional VLE or want to get to grip with its more advanced functionality then we will be running scheduled training for all staff. Do get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

We remain committed to working with Blackboard to improve the usability of our VLE system. If you have any comments or suggestions on how the software can be further improved, please contact us. We would also welcome any comments on how we managed the upgrade process over this summer – particularly on the effectiveness of our communication strategy in letting you know what was going on .

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