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In these movies, we're going to take a quick look at what's new and what's different in Blackboard 9.1 service packs 8 and 9, or as we in the Blackboard community refer to them SP8 and SP9. These movies are intended for instructors who already know a little bit about Blackboard. If you're completely new to Blackboard, if you've never used it before, my recommendation is for you to watch these movies and then hop on over to the Blackboard 9.x Essential Training for Instructors movies at lynda.com to fill in the gaps, but for those of you, who have used Blackboard before, let's take a look at SP8 and SP9.
The first thing you're going to notice that some institutions is that nothing has really changed. You've got the same colors, the same tabs, same modules; there is no apparent difference. However, if your institution has chosen to use Blackboard's new BB Learn 2012 theme, everything is going to look different, but not really. Service Pack 8 and 9's new look and feel looks a little jarring at first, but trust me when I say that this is still the same Blackboard you've used before, just with a softer background and more neutral colors.
In fact, let's take a quick look at what hasn't changed. When you log into Blackboard at the top of each page is still a series of tabs and sub tabs. The tabs are just now a little less obvious and they may actually be in a different location on the screen. The logo in the top left-hand corner still takes you back to the My Institution tab, my places, home, help and Logout they're still there. They're moved farther over to the right, and now only show as icons. You can still get into your courses the same way, you just click on the name of your course.
So what has changed? Well, in my mind, there are three huge cosmetic changes in SP8 and SP9's graphical user interface, and a handful of smaller ones. The first huge change is the most obvious, there is a new color scheme using Web 2.0 Colors, but only if your institution has adopted it. By the way if you have Internet Explorer 7 or 8 you really do need to update your web browser right now. I've got Internet Explorer 9 here. Why do you need updated Internet Explorer version 9 or later? Blackboard's new look and feel uses something called cascading style sheets or CSS, and simply put, CSS just plain works better in IE 9 and later.
Let me get into a course here and I want to show you the second major cosmetic change. Remember those infamous downward facing chevrons that were scattered throughout earlier versions of Blackboard? I've got an old version here and these are the buttons I'm talking about. Let me get back into the new version here. Where did all those downward facing chevrons go? Well, they're still there. They are just hidden. If you hold your mouse over an item or a button the downward facing chevron reappears. This new hide it until you need it design philosophy is embedded throughout the entire new theme of Service Pack 8 and 9.
So action links, drag and drop, minimized downward facing chevron; they're all hidden until you hold your mouse over them and this is a potentially confusing change. Just remember, if your campus is using the new look and feel in Service Pack 8 or 9, you need to hold your mouse over something first before you'll see any tools or options to modify that thing. The third major cosmetic change is potentially frustrating especially for your students. Remember, how you used to be able to hide your course menu by clicking on that greater than or less then sign button? In fact, I'll do it over here in an older version of Blackboard, so I just hid the course menu. There it's back.
Well, in Service Pack 8 and 9 you can still hide your course menu, but the new hide it until you need it design philosophy means that the button doesn't show up until you hold your mouse over it. So I'm going to hold my mouse over, there it goes, and there's no button now saying get it back. I may see a colored bar in the left-hand side of the page, and if I hold my mouse over the button then appears, but it's actually going to be pretty easy for you and your students to accidentally hide your course menu and then not understand what's going on.
In Service Pack 8, if you hide the course menu like I've done here, it stays hidden forever until you manually unhide it and that's not good. Fortunately, Service Pack 9 fixes that. The menu only stays collapsed for the duration of your user session and on a per course basis, so if you close your browser, log back in the menu is going to magically reappear or you can just click on Show Course Menu. The hidden course menu problems that you and your students had in earlier versions of Blackboard can still potentially pop up in Service Pack 8 and Service Pack 9.
Remember that a great way to diagnose hidden course menu problems with your students is to manually create a hyperlink on your course menu to some important resource like lynda.com or your institution's code of ethics. When your students tell you that they cannot access your course or that they can only open new materials, they are never going to say I can't see my course menu, just ask, do you see a link to whatever that resource is? If they don't, you automatically know the problem and how to fix it. Those are the three major cosmetic changes. There's a new look and feel action links, drag and drop, minimized downward facing chevrons; they're all hidden until you mouse over them and Hide Course Menu no longer has a button until you hold your mouse over it.
What else has changed? Really, cosmetically Service Pack 8 and 9 are just less cluttered. The Tools module has common system tools, it always has, although the icons are now gone and there's a little more space in between each tool. In other words, this is just Blackboard with a different look and feel, a little bit cleaner, a little more professional or at least little more like iGoogle, but it's different and it may take a while for you to get used to that. In the following movies in this chapter, we're going to take a quick look at some of the new tools, features, and fixes you can find in Service Pack 8 and 9.
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