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Blackboard Learn 9.1 Service Pack 11 (SP11)

Record From Webcam (Video Everywhere)

First released in November 2012 as a standalone building block, this capability has been bundled in Service Pack 11. The capability of Record from Webcam (Video Everywhere) is part of the Content Editor Building Block. Once installed and activated, a new icon called Record from Webcam is added to the content editor that controls your webcam. When activated, users can record video and upload it directly to their personal YouTube accounts as a private video. The feature provides the ability for faculty and students to record a video on the fly using a webcam and have it seamlessly embedded in course materials, interactions, and feedback through the content editor. In addition, the feature allows users to reuse previously recorded videos by choosing from one’s own library of videos.

WCAG 2.0 WAI-AA Conformance (Accessibility)

Blackboard is fully committed to ensuring that our platform contains no barriers for users with disabilities and is both usable and accessible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or situation. Blackboard has been issued a conformance statement by Deque Systems that states Blackboard Learn 9.1 Service Pack 11 is in conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Priority AA. This is a global standard.

Security Fixes

Service Pack 11 contains security fixes described below.

  • The "Global Safe HTML Filter Security Control" was previously called the "Global Cross-site Scripting Security Control": This is a pre-existing filter in the system and has been renamed to prepare for other security improvements. Security vulnerabilities are resolved in this release when the "Global Safe HTML Filter" is properly configured and set to the strictest setting. As a reminder, Blackboard recommends customers ensure the "Global Safe HTML Filter" Security Control is enabled and set to the appropriate settings. These controls are properly configured by default in this Service Pack and designed to neutralize user-controllable input before it is placed in output used by the application.
  • Safe HTML Filter for the Content Editor Building Block: Users can enter HTML in Blackboard Learn wherever the content editor appears, including blogs, journals, wikis, and the discussion board. To make HTML entered by users safer, this building block shifts filtering from the previous "Global Safe HTML Filter" to the open-source security library from the Open Web Application Security Project's AntiSamy API. This new API ensures "user-supplied HTML/CSS is in compliance within an application's rules." System administrators can tailor the HTML tags and attributes allowed on their Blackboard Learn instance based on their organization's risk tolerance level. Blackboard Learn ships with a secure-default HTML policy file.

Mobile Browser Support for Mashups

Changes in how mashups are processed allow them to now play on mobile devices using a web browser. Media-rich learning can happen anywhere students can access Blackboard Learn.

Test Enhancements

Tests in Blackboard Learn have been updated in Service Pack 12, making specific improvements to how tests are designed and deployed. These enhancements will help meet specific scenarios that frequently come up from Instructors who use tests in low- and high-stakes situations. Specifically, tests are being updated to provide more granular feedback control, group and user deployment exceptions, Test “Begin” page user experience enhancements, an improved user interface of the Test Canvas and Create/Edit pages, and improved handling of late submissions.

Retention Center

First released in March 2013 as a standalone building block, the Retention Center has been bundled in Service Pack 12. The Retention Center provides an easy-to-use data visualization and preconfigured rules for identifying at-risk students in a course. Because it requires no set up on the part of the instructor or administrator, it automatically calls out students who may need the instructor’s attention, making it easy for instructors to quickly catch and respond to risk factors, while there is time to help the at-risk students succeed in the course. The preconfigured rules are easy to change so that each instructor can tailor them to suit his/her teaching methodologies.


First released as a standalone building block in January 2013, the updated Discussions tool has been bundled in Service Pack 12. Discussions have been updated in two primary ways. The Thread Detail page has been thoroughly redesigned while maintaining all of its current functionality. There is also new functionality to support specific pedagogical needs for the use of discussions—a way for instructors to require students to “post first” to a forum before they can see other students’ posts.


First released as a standalone building block in December of 2012 and then updated in March 2013, the Calendar tool has been bundled in Service Pack 12. Blackboard Learn’s Calendar has been updated and enhanced, making a dramatic improvement to the modernity of the Calendar, especially regarding design and usability. This new version allows personalization and customization. Users can select views (month, week, day) and color-code the events to differentiate courses and personal items. Items with due dates automatically appear on the new Blackboard Learn Calendar. If an Instructor changes a due date, the Calendar gets updated as well. On the flip side, moving a Calendar item (by clicking on the item or drag and drop) simultaneously changes a due date. These calendar items can also be exported via an iCal feed to Outlook, Google or other 3rd party calendars. In addition, the Calendar now supports recurring events. Instructors and students can optionally make events repeat by selecting the “repeat” checkbox. When this is selected, additional options appear that allow the user to create multiple events based on a repeating pattern.

Inline Assignment Grading

First released as a standalone building block in March 2013, the inline assignment grading feature has been bundled in Service Pack 12. The inline assignment grading feature allows instructors to (1) view a document submitted through the assignment tool inside the web browser (converting the document) (2) annotate it (3) grade it inline using a rubric, and (4) provide rich feedback to students. Supported document types that can be converted are Word (.doc, .docx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx), Excel (.xls,.xlsx), and PDF (.pdf). The technology powering the viewing capability and the annotation features is Crocodoc.

Cloud and Social

First released as a standalone building block in December 2012 and then updated in February 2013, the Cloud Profile and Social Profile and Tools Building Blocks have been bundled in Service Pack 12. Features include full Profiles, Messages, and Spaces. In addition, Blackboard Learn’s social platform introduced an important new feature that is key to ensuring Blackboard Learn as a lifelong learning network.

Profiles, Messages and Spaces require the Community Engagement license.

  • Spaces: The Spaces tool allows users to create communication and collaboration group spaces--for study groups, group projects, interest groups, clubs, or other learning purposes. Each Space contains a wall where the members of that Space can post and communicate with each other. These wall posts are then aggregated in each member’s Posts tool, so they can always stay up to date on the conversations going on. A user can edit posts to a Space Wall (or Profile Wall), as well as display his/her Spaces on his/ her Profile. Managers of Spaces can see pending invitations and rescind pending invitations.
  • Messages: The Messages tool provides users the ability to quickly and easily communicate with other users at their institution or at other institutions in the global learning network. They can send one-to-one and one-to-many messages that are similar to messages they can send and receive through today’s social platforms. From the Messages tool, users can compose, read, reply, and delete messages. They can also send a message to someone from their Profile and the conversation will appear in that user’s Messages tool. Note: This new feature is separate from the Messages tool found in the Course and Organization environment.
  • Lifelong Profiles: The Lifelong Profiles capability allows users to merge Profiles to support use of a single Blackboard Profile with multiple Blackboard Learn user accounts. This capability means that an individual user can maintain a single Profile in the Blackboard Social Cloud and use that Profile with multiple Blackboard Learn accounts. More importantly, it will also support users “taking their profile with them” as they change schools and progress through their academic career. A user who graduates from a university using Blackboard Learn and goes on to graduate school at a university using Blackboard Learn can maintain his/her same Blackboard Profile, the relationships that have been built, and their participation in Spaces, and so on.

SIS Data Integration Framework Enhancements

The SIS Data Integration Framework introduced in Service Pack 6 provides institutions with an out-of-the-box means of integrating their Student Information System (SIS) with Blackboard Learn. Service Pack 12 provides enhancements to the Framework itself and to the Snapshot Flat File to better support and meet clients’ current use cases and integration experience, making it easier for them to move from their previous non-Framework integrations to using those provided by the SIS Framework. Additionally, as with any Service Pack release, a number of client- escalated bugs have been resolved, and stability improvements have been made in the SIS Framework in Service Pack 12.

Capturing Security Events

Service Pack 12 introduces the first stage in enabling the logging of high-level security events for auditing purposes. Events impacting security have been assigned security specific event codes. These event codes have been standardized within Blackboard Learn. These events codes have been introduced in predefined areas of application activity so that validity may be demonstrated. For this release the authentication log will continue to be used to capture login attempts. For full security analysis, it is necessary to download both the security log and the authentication log.

Secure User Password Storage

Password management has been improved by allowing secure storage of user passwords at the point of installation and ‘lazy’ update on user login. By default passwords are now generated and stored using the Federal Information Processing Standard approved SHA512 salted hashing algorithm. User passwords are seamlessly migrated to the new SHA512 scheme on successful authentication. Password hashing and related configuration changes are treated as security events and captured to the security logs.

Content Editor – WIRIS Update

WIRIS provides the math formula editing capabilities of the Content Editor introduced in Service Pack 10. In Service Pack 10 the WIRIS plugin came in the form of a Java Applet – this meant that math editing was not available to all platforms as Java virtual machine capabilities were required on the target platform. Service Pack 12 brings a new WIRIS editor that is based on JavaScript. This removes dependency on Java, and as a result, it enables full math-editing capabilities on platforms that cannot run Java in browsers e.g.: iOS. This extends the functionality of the WIRIS Math Editor to all platforms capable of running a JavaScript enabled browser. Additionally, the move from the non- accessible applet-based editor to a JavaScript-based editor improves accessibility.

Quick Links

The Quick Links tool allows a user to quickly locate any heading or section within any page in the Blackboard Learn application and jump directly to it. As of the general availability of Service Pack 12, this type of navigation efficiency for keyboard-only users is not available in any other application anywhere in the industry. The Quick Links tool will help significantly improve the navigation experience for sighted keyboard-only users. This tool can be quickly accessed on any page using a link at the very top of the page or a keyboard shortcut (Control+Alt+L) to invoke it at any time. It will aggregate a list of all of the landmarks and headings on a page and allow a user to select one and jump directly to that location within the page. It will also collect and highlight any keyboard shortcuts that exist for the current page or tool providing another method for quickly completing key tasks within the application.

Tool Deployment Options

The administrative pages for managing the availability of tools in Blackboard Learn have been updated in Service Pack 12. This includes the system-wide Tools page and the specific Course Settings page for default tool availability in courses. For institutions with the Community Engagement licenses, it also includes the specific Organization Settings page for default Tool availability in Organizations, and the Tools management page within an Institutional Hierarchy node. The changes are the same on all these pages.