Blackboard 9.1 (SP8) – ‘A New Beginning’

Blackboard 9.1 SP8Sorry, the title is dramatic, it’s meant to sound a little like ‘Star Wars – A New Hope’, but doesn’t really get there. This isn’t a post about Blackboard as a VLE, nor is it about the trials and tribulations of the whole upgrade process for a heavily used Blackboard system.

This is about one of the best bit of this summers Blackboard upgrade at UoL – the new text editor! Yes, that clunky and often sworn at text editor has been removed and a new one put in it’s place – the ‘content’ editor (if you’ve sign up for it). The best bit is that it works. The next best bit is that it doesn’t take an age to do anything, nor does it eat your PCs processing power, it looks quite nice AND it works – did I say that already?

Blackboard 9.1 Text Editor

What is so good about it? Well;

  • Options for text and font formatting are more tightly controlled – it’s more difficult to change font and font size, therefore making your materials and content more likely to look the same across the whole course.
  • Cut-and-paste from Word documents strips out the unnecessary hidden code and leaves only the basic formatting (bold, italics, etc), again helping your content have a more unified appearance.
  • Option to have the content editor full-screen (finally!!)

Content Editor - Full screen

  • Edit CSS styles (if you like it that way) and have control over the design of your content.
  • Insert special characters.

Content Editor - Special Characters

  • Cut-and-paste tables from Excel or Word actually pastes the table in the editor, properly, and they’re easier to edit too (see below)!
  • Create and manage tables quickly and easily using the editor.

Blackboard 9.1 Table editor

  • Edit the image properties easily when you right-click the image when in edit mode.

Blackboard 9.1 Edit Image

  • Insert mash-up (see above) makes it easy to search and insert from YouTube, Flickr, and SlideShare. Once you’ve chosen the content to embed you’ll have the options on how it is presented as well as what attributes are displayed (Blackboard … more mash-up sources please!).

Blackboard 9.1 - Mash-up tool

  • The spell checker is far less clunky than in previous versions, and works in the editor instead of in a different pop-up box. Words are highlighted with a red underline and a left-mouse click on the words gives you the options to correct it.

Blackboard 9.1 Spell Check

  • Don’t miss this little gem – those three little lines in the bottom right of the editor indicate you can enlarge the box so you can see more of your content as you edit it! Yes, this is perhaps the best bit of the new editor, and a very important addition (finally I hear some say?)

Blackboard 9.1 - Expand
There are a fair few resources on the Blackboard Content Editor page, as well as a good list of keyboard shortcuts which can make your online editing life a whole lot easier.

The title of the post ‘A New Beginning’ may be over the top, but the new editor does make working in Blackboard a much nicer and enjoyable experience, it brings the process in line with other online systems I’m used it (WordPress, etc) and one I am very happy to be using.

  • John

    great review, thanks

    • Hi John – thanks .. do you know if you’re going to be using the new ‘content’ editor at all?

      All the best, David

  • Hi David,

    thanks for this great review. The content editor looks great, and we have lots of trouble with the text editor. I must see about signing up for the field trial. Wonder why it’s not included as standard?


    • Hi Sharon – not sure why it’s not a standard feature, perhaps it will be in SP9 or v9.2, who knows. I’ve looked around for some info on BB site and can find nothing on it other than the links in the post above.

      All the best, David

      • kmarino

        It will be standard in the SP10 release!

      • Stephanie

        Thanks for the great review David! We’re glad you like it! The new Content Editor is coming standard with SP10.

  • Ray Henderson

    David — appreciated your review much. My colleagues at Bb and I thought you did a good job of pointing out key improvements over our present editor, which we are anxious to retire!

    I see a bit of confusion in the comments about when it’s coming, or where to find it. I should clarify that your use was part of a field trial throughout 2012, as we wished to confirm it’s reliability widely in 2012 before releasing it. But as you’ve heard, the feedback is uniform and our testers are encouraging us to ship it soon. So I’m pleased to affirm for your readers that we’ve made the decision to ship it along with Learn 9.1 SP10. This is now just days away.

    Ray Henderson
    (President, Blackboard Academic Platforms)

    • Hi Ray.

      Thanks for the clarification on both availability and release timescales. I am enjoying the editor and hope everyone else can too.

      All the best, David