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Configuring the Outcomes Environment

Core Configuration Concepts

Every institution conducts assessment in different ways, but collecting institutional data is common to all assessment projects. Outcomes assessment data includes mission and vision statements, courses, person records, improvement projects, and much more.

All outcomes assessment data is collected using forms that are completely configurable, which allows institutions to create their own unique environment for capturing and reporting on data based on their needs and requirements.

Forms can be configured to mimic existing paper or online forms and processes that an institution already employs, building on known conventions to make them more intuitive for new users. New forms can be created based on institutional conventions and processes, and by adding new fields and attributes, new dimensions for analysis and assessment can be achieved. The order of the fields can be changed and specific directions can be added to the form to assist users. Existing forms can be modified and forms that are no longer needed can be removed.

On the Administrator Panel, the outcomes assessment administrator or the template administrator configures forms.

Things to Consider

Designing and deploying forms that are user friendly and provide useful data requires strategic planning and the involvement of all stakeholders. Collecting the wrong information will lead to frustration and setbacks during an accreditation or program review or any other system reporting. To collect the right data, the right forms need to be designed and made available. This requires an examination of the processes that are in place at an institution and any external products involved if importing data into Blackboard Learn. Blackboard Consulting can assist with strategy, planning, customization, and integration with other systems. Blackboard Consulting can be contacted at

Forms can be created to reflect any institution’s organization and unique processes. This is achieved by mirroring its individual hierarchical structure, and designing forms that replicate existing processes for collecting the types of data important to the institution and its various schools, colleges, and departments. This type of configuration permits reporting on the data that has been collected and linked together.

Blackboard Learn includes a set of standard form templates that can be configured or copied and modified to create new forms. To be successful, it is important to understand how to modify the templates for forms and the effects of those modifications on data and pages. One such important consideration is deciding how people in the system are represented. If a person in the system needs to correlate with any other data in the system, that person record needs to be affiliated with a unit, program, course section, or educational experience section. When affiliations are created between person records and other entities, reporting data can be gathered. If a person needs to be listed in a view, such as a 360º report, that person can be created as an enumerated entity.

For example, the College of Arts and Sciences has a revolving department chair position that changes every year. The dean would like to assess whether student achievement is linked to the individual people who fill this position. To measure this, each department chair is entered as a person record and is affiliated with the unit or sub-unit that represents the department they are chairing. The template for unit affiliations for administrators contains an enumerated attribute for position and title so that when a person becomes the department chair, it can be affiliated with the department they are chairing. Over time data is collected about the chairs of each department and can be analyzed against other data in the system. The university is not gathering any data about the deans of the various colleges but would like to have each of their names appear on the outcomes assessment views of improvement projects initiated by each of them. To achieve this, an enumerated attribute is created that contains the deans’ names in a drop-down list and added to the improvement project template.

About the Template Builder

Administrators configure forms using the template builder, which is accessible on the Administrator Panel. The template builder consists of three parts:

  • Attributes: Attributes define the type of data that is collected in the fields on the forms. A set of default attributes are available that can be modified. New attributes can also be created.
  • Templates: Default templates are available that reflect the likely use of forms. They can be copied and modified to fit any institution. A set of core templates is also available that contain only the permanent fields necessary for the form. The core templates can be used as a starting point for building forms from scratch.
  • Terms: A term is a label and date range used to define an institution’s semesters, trimesters, and so on.

Templates for forms have configurable elements that consist of:

  • Page Instructions: Directions for how to fill out the form and form information.
  • Instructions: Information that may be inserted in any place on the form.
  • Step headers: Titles for labeling different sections within a form.
  • Fields: Input areas for data.
  • Field labels: The name of the input areas for data.
  • Related Data: Attributes of another entity type in read-only format.
  • Help Text: Information about the data that appears in the field or directions for inputting data in a field. This text appears below a field.