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Release Notes for Achievements

Looking for more information about Achievements? Go to the Achievements overview page.

Achievements Building Block

  • Release date: May 31, 2013
  • Dependencies: Blackboard Learn SP 12 (Build: 9.1.120113.0) or later

The 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. Students are able to publish badges to the Mozilla Open Backpack, transporting evidence of their learning outside of Blackboard Learn. Instructors can easily see which students have reached learning milestones. To learn more about Open Badges and Mozilla Open Backpack, see

Functional areas

Achievements has four functional areas:

  • Achievements Description
  • Reward
  • Notification
  • Sharing

Criteria identified in the achievement description must be met before a reward is earned. Students are notified when a reward is earned and can then share it as they choose with the world.

Achievements description

The achievements description describes the achievement and identifies the criteria students must meet to receive a reward. There are three achievement types:

  • Course Completion – The Certificate reward is required; an additional Badge is optional.
  • Milestone –The reward can only be a Badge.
  • Custom –Badges, Certificates, or both are allowed.

The Achievements Building Block is built upon the content Adaptive Release technology of Blackboard Learn. Criteria supported by Adaptive Release are supported for the awarding of an Achievement. This currently includes the following:

  • Attempts on test, surveys or assignments
  • Grades on tests, surveys, assignments, graded discussion boards, graded wikis, graded blogs, graded journals
  • Manual Grade Center columns
  • Marked Reviewed statuses on course content
  • Group membership or specific users
  • Starting date for earning the Achievement


Each achievement must have at least one reward identified during set up. The reward is the item awarded upon meeting the required criteria. It is given in the form of Badges and Certificates.

Digital Badges are an online representation of a mastered skill or completed educational milestone. It is a digitally signed and verified badge that can’t be copied and used by a different learner. The issuer, the organization granting the badge, maintains ownership of the badge and can remove it from the recipient’s backpack if it is no longer valid due to expiry or revocation. The description and criteria for earning the badge are digitally encoded in the badge so others viewing the badge can see how it was earned. To learn more about Open Badges and Mozilla Open Backpack, see

For Badges, a library of existing badges is available along with the option to upload a custom badge. For Certificates, a small library of certificate formats is presented; there is no option for a customized certificate format in this release.


Students are notified immediately they have received an Achievement reward. This appears as an overlay notification at the top of the page they are currently viewing. It is possible the student will receive the reward when s/he is elsewhere in the course because an instructor graded an item or manually entered a grade. The overlay notification will appear wherever the student may be within the course.

If the student is issued the Achievement reward while not in that Blackboard course (they are offline or in a different course), the notification will appear upon next access of the course in which the Achievement reward was issued. They will also receive a new Update message in My Blackboard indicating that they have earned a new achievement in their course(s).

Within a course, the student can see all earned Achievements as well as those not yet earned. Instructors can look at each individual Achievement and easily see the total number and the names of students who have earned a reward or completed the course.


When allowed, students can publish their earned Badges to their Mozilla Open Badges Backpack. To learn more about Open Badges and Mozilla Open Backpack, see

For earned Certificates, students can view and print the Certificate which displays the issuing organization, the course title, their name, and the date earned.

How to install and activate the Building Block

You can use Software Updates to install the Achievements building block directly from the System Admin panel. Alternatively, you can visit Behind the Blackboard Downloads and find the Achievements building block to download and install manually.

Software Updates

Software Updates are located on the System Admin panel. When a new building block is available or has been updated, you are notified by a change in the icons. Simply select the Feature Building Blocks Available icon and locate the Achievements building block. Select Install. You will need to make the building block available once it has installed.

Image illustrating associated text

Behind the Blackboard Downloads

Download the Achievements building block from Behind the Blackboard Downloads home, located under Feature Building Blocks for Learn. Save the file on a local drive. Unzip the package to access the .war file.

  1. Navigate to the System Admin panel. Select Building Blocks.
  2. Select Installed Tools.
  3. Select Upload Building Blocks from the action bar.
  4. Browse for the Achievements building block .war file.
  5. Select Submit.
  6. You will get a success message when the building block is installed. Set the building block to Active and select Approve.

How to make the Building Block available

Once installed, you must make Achievements available in existing courses.

  1. From the System Admin page, select Tools from the Tools and Utilities panel.
  2. Locate Achievements in the list of tools and select Always On for Achievements to turn the tool on for all courses. Select Default On to allow instructors to turn Achievements on or off in their courses from the Control Panel under Customization Tool Availability.

How to configure the Building Block

After installation and making the Building Block available, the administrator should determine the tool availability settings. From the System Admin page, select Tools from the Tools and Utilities panel. Locate Achievements.


By default, the ability for students to publish earned Badges to their Mozilla Backpack is NOT enabled. For institutions that wish to enable Mozilla Backpack publishing, the tool must be configured with information necessary for Badge issuance. Institutions that do not wish to enable Mozilla Backpack publishing should still configure the tool so that the issuing organization name can be displayed on Certificate rewards.

  • Issuing Organization: This field pertains to the name of the institution/organization issuing the Badge or Certificate. The value will appear in Mozilla Badges as well as on Certificates.
  • Issuer: If set to “Organization”, the issuer name will be set by the administrator and cannot be changed in courses. If set to “Course”, the issuer name will default to the course name, but instructors creating the Achievement can set the issuer name to the text of their choice. The latter setting is appropriate for consortia or multi-institutional scenarios where multiple organizations are sharing the same Blackboard environment. Many institutions will prefer a consistent Issuing Name to be applied to all rewards and will choose “Organization.”

    In this release, Certificates will always display the organization name as specified by the administrator. The issuer name cannot be overridden.

  • Verification Code: This field is used by Mozilla as a unique identifier for validating Badges. Blackboard Learn will generate one automatically so no action is required. However, the administrator may choose to use a hash of their choice.
  • Issuer Name: If the issuer choice is set to “Organization” the entered value will always be embedded into Mozilla badges as the Issuer Name; instructors won’t be able to override this value.
  • Issuer URL: The specified URL is used by Mozilla to make badge validity requests to the Blackboard Learn server. It should be set to the publicly addressable URL of the server.

Firewall considerations

When enabling badge publishing to Mozilla Open Backpack, administrators should confirm that there are no firewall restrictions that would prevent the Mozilla Open Backpack server from accessing the URL specified in this configuration.

Important notes

  • Blackboard Learn is a badge issuer to the Mozilla Backpack from the Mozilla Open Badge Initiative.
  • The Achievements tool is built upon the content Adaptive Release technology of Blackboard Learn.
  • When enabling badge publishing to Mozilla Open Backpack, administrators should confirm that there are no firewall restrictions that would prevent the Mozilla Open Backpack server from accessing the URL specified in this configuration.

Known issues

  • At this time it is not possible to review earned Achievements across courses.
  • At this time, setting an end date or a deadline by which the learner must meet criteria to earn the reward is not supported.


Building Block permissions

Java Type Name Actions Why is this permission necessary? user.* get

Retrieve user information to display on screen

java.lang.reflect.ReflectPermission suppressAccessChecks  

Necessary for Spring libraries to function

java.lang.RuntimePermission  accessDeclaredMembers

Necessary for Spring libraries to function BB_HOME/logs/- read, write

Necessary for logging to function ${java.home} read

Necessary for Spring libraries to function BB_CONTENT/- write

Necessary for uploading custom badge images to the course folder.

Considerations for use on shared computers

Mozilla Backpack authentication is handled through Mozilla Persona. As such, when a user’s Backpack session either expires or terminates due to explicit logout, the user’s Mozilla Persona account may still remain logged in.

Because of this, Blackboard recommends that End Users using Achievements on shared computers explicitly log out from Mozilla Persona directly and ensure cookies are removed from the browser to help ensure any access provisioned through Mozilla Persona are protected.

This is a known issue with Mozilla and is tracked via Mozilla Open Badges Issue 511 and 855 and internally by Blackboard via LRN-67662.