We compared the Blackboard Academic Suite 8’s new and shiney GradeCenter with what changes these would make in the Vista users’ experience, a necessary task because Vista/CE 8 still has the old GradeBook, but the NG 9’s GradeCenter will be based on the GradeCenter now living in Blackboard Academic Suite version 8.
This is what I learned:
- There are 2 Add a Column buttons, one for non-calculated Grade Columns and one for the kinds of columns an Instructor would add if they were adding an external assignment grade or if they take attendance and so forth.
- The Add A Calculated column takes the place of Vista’s kludgey Calculated Expression column. After seeing this, I breathed a sigh of relief. It is soooo simple, and yet powerful too, including the ability to add a running total so that students can see their standing in the class.
- PowerLink technology, including the one used by SunGard’s Grade Adapter, will be replaced in the NG 9 product. New API’s and new webservices based on the Bb Academic Suite “BuildingBlock” technology is the replacement. Since SunGard has never built a grade adapter BuildingBlock for the Bb Academic Suite product, we realize they’ll be building from scratch.
- Blackboard SunGard conversations are still in progress relative to their partnership on this new product and its new integration.
- As a User Community, if we want to influence the user experience for a grade exchange integration, communicating with Blackboard (Warren and JoAnna are a good start) about its importance and about what requirements we have for various features is a must.
Features important to Notre Dame:
- Immediate feedback from Banner concerning whether grades were accepted. The current screen refresh method is less than ideal.
- A user interface with a minimum of clicks and a maximum of information.
- Language which is understood by Instructors (the new Language Pack Editor hopefully would allow us to customize whether Banner is called “SIS” or “Banner” or something else.
- Ease of upload/download of grades in the spreadsheet in a variety of formats without the need for the Instructor to choose their spreadsheet app’s “Save As” function.