Upgrading duo

On the evening of Friday the 29th of June, CIS staff will perform the annual upgrade of duo. Upgrading duo allows us to keep the system secure and up to date with the latest web browsers, as well as allowing us to apply a series of patches and introduce new features.

For fans of version numbers, we will be upgrading duo from Blackboard Learn 2017 Q2 cumulative update 5 (Release 3200.0.5-rel.6+3dd6b56) to Blackboard Learn 2018 Q2 cumulative update 1 (Release 3400.0.1-rel.90+b74efee).

This introduces a number of bug fixes, a couple of new features and one much requested improvement – full width display.

Full Width Display

As part of it’s adoption of responsive web design (sensible resizing and reformatting of content so that pages work well on laptops, desktops, tablets and mobiles) in 2016 Blackboard chose to implement a maximum screen width of 1300 pixels. If you displayed duo on a screen bigger than that, then grey bars were shown on either side. This is a common feature of many websites – you’ll see this behaviour on many WordPress blogs, the University website, etc. It makes the maths for calculating where things should go simpler, but it can make the text harder to read than it should. This was particularly apparent if you tried to display duo using one of the new high resolution projectors in a teaching room, or on a big monitor on your desk. It also makes tasks such as grading harder because much of your screen is effectively unused.

duo renders with grey bars at the left and right of the screen
The opening page as it appears pre-upgrade. Note the grey bars at the left and right.

The good news is that Blackboard have now done away with this and after this upgrade duo will resize to fit any screen size. Some extra intelligence has been applied to the display of the grade centre – if you are using a very wide screen, rather than just displaying the same number of columns, but making them really wide, duo will actually show more columns, which should mean less scrolling around.

The same page post upgrade – now duo is using the full screen

Course Availability

Every year we create new courses on duo for staff to use in the new academic year. If the module has been taught before, then the duo course is a copy of the old one. Staff need some time over the summer to update any content, alter the dates of deadlines, etc. and so these courses are automatically set as unavailable. This really means unavailable to students – staff can access them so they are able to make the required changes. Before they can be released to students, staff need to remember to change the course settings. Blackboard have added a handy padlock icon to show staff the status of the course and alter it with a single click:

This course is unavailable to students – red padlock icon displayed
This course is available to students – unlocked padlock icon displayed

Note the padlock is only shown on standard course module pages, (the one with What’s New, Tasks, etc. on it) so if you have changed the landing page of your duo course to point to the announcements tool or a standard content page then you won’t see it. Ah well, Blackboard giveth and they taketh away …

New Attendance Tool

For many years, Blackboard users have been asking for an Attendance tool. Well there is one now. It uses a special attendance column in the Grade Centre and allows you to mark a student’s attendance at a given event (e.g. a tutorial). This updates their percentage attendance score. Blackboard have plans to integrate this with webinar tools such as Blackboard Collaborate and other third party tools which could automatically update this same score.

Once you get your head round it, it works quite well, It is explained nicely in this video (if you can stomach the jangly background music).
Note the video refers to both versions of Blackboard – at Durham we are using “classic” Learn, not Ultra.

As ever, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with any member of the Learning Technologies Team.

Background Image by Milivoj Kuhar