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VITAL and GradeMark 2017 summer upgrade - complete

The 2017 summer upgrade for VITAL and GradeMark has now taken place successfully. There has been a major upgrade to the design of GradeMark (see below for a summary).


2017 Upgrade - What's new?

1. GradeMark redesign- Introducing Feedback Studio

The biggest change you will see is the new design for GradeMark, which also gets a new name, Feedback Studio. None of the current grading and feedback functionality will be changed or lost. There will only be small additions to the system, for example very simple formatting for text comments is introduced. Full guidance on the new design is available at the VITAL help for staff module here.


To have an introductory look at the new design, visit this interactive demo page. If you have used the GradeMark iPad app then you will already be familiar with this new design.


This video demonstrates the differences between the current GradeMark and the new design of Feedback Studio.



2. VITAL new features

This summer release sees some small but significant improvements to the main Blackboard system, many of which are relevant to electronic submission and grading.

A. Drag and drop file uploads. The Create Item tool now lets you drag and drop a file or multiple files to upload them to a content area. You'll also be able to upload file attachments in this way to the Web Link tool and the Assignment tool. Students will be able to drag and drop to the Blackboard Assignment tool when submitting their file(s). Where you see this dotted line box you will be able to drag and drop a file or files for upload. 


B. Easier to email non-submitters for Blackboard Assignments. A new option for Blackboard Assignments, Tests and Self and Peer Assessments, with one click you can send a system-generated, generic reminder text to students who have not submitted, rather than selecting individual students to contact. Particularly useful for anonymised assignments where you cannot select students individually in the Grade Centre to email.



C. Needs Grading area improvement. If you use this feature, and have assignments which allow multiple submission attempts by your students, you will now only be shown the work you have specified (e.g. last attempt). This is a big improvement again for anonymised assignments to avoid marking multiple, similar submissions from one student.


D. Course Activity reports by groups. New in the Course Reports usage statistics area of the module, the report Course Activity Overview (which summarises all activity across the module for students) includes a filter which lets you select a report for a group or groups rather than all students.


E. Submit button is now always visible. Instead of chasing up and down the screen to find the button it will always be available at the bottom of your current view of the page when editing.


F. The VITAL default menu template now includes the Reading Lists @ Liverpool link automatically. If you do not use this tool you can hide it from your menu.  


G. The Chat Room and Virtual Classroom tools have now been removed from VITAL as they are no longer supported by Blackboard and will not work in some browsers.


How the upgrade is tested

There is a formal testing plan for every VITAL upgrade with which anyone can get involved. However, VITAL is a large and complex system and it is not possible to test everything. If there is a particular part of VITAL important for your teaching and which you would like to help test in the new version this summer then please contact the eLearning Unit or CSD Service Desk to discuss this further. 


Finally, don’t forget the VITAL Baseline when planning your modules for next academic year.

Also remember the Course Copy process for copying content over from one year to the next.


Previous upgrades. In case you missed it...

For a round-up of previous upgrades and what was in them please see these items:

  • VITAL Summer Upgrade 2013: introduced the Retention Centre for monitoring key student activity in a module. Also Item Analysis for tests you have run, new test settings which allow individual and groups to be given extra time/attempts etc.
  • VITAL Summer Upgrade 2014: introducing the new Inline Grading tool for electronically marking Blackboard Assignments. Also included the new Qwickly tool for sending announcements to multiple modules and a Test Log for monitoring what students do in tests.
  • VITAL Summer Upgrade 2015: no new features in summer but there was an extra upgrade in December 2014 which introduced a Student Preview feature, for testing how your module works from a student point of view, as well as some new workflows for managing assignments.
  • VITAL Summer Upgrade 2016: The main new feature here was the introduction of student receipts for assignments submitted to the Blackboard Assignment tool.