What’s New with Brightspace in April 2021

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Brightspace Platform April 2021/20.21.4 Preview Release Notes

The following preview release notes are for clients installing Brightspace Learning Environment 20.21.4 (April 2021).

Brightspace Learning Environment

Accommodations – Improvements in Classlist, Quizzes, User Purge, and User Progress | New

This feature builds on the Accommodations – Quiz accommodations | New feature that was released in the February 2021/20.21.2 release.
The following improvements have been made in the Classlist, Quizzes, User Purge and User Progress tools:
Improvements in Classlist for Instructors:

  • An icon now appears next to the learner’s name in the Classlist to indicate that the learner has an accommodation.
  • Instructors can filter the Classlist by Accommodations.
  • If there are no accommodations granted to a learner, the View accommodations menu option from the learner context menu in the Classlist does not appear. If the instructor role has the Add/Edit Accommodations permission, the Add accommodations menu option appears instead.
  • Instructors can also Print or Email a list of users with accommodations by adding the filter to those pages.

Improvements in Classlist for learners:

  • An icon appears next to learners’ names to indicate they have an accommodation. To view accommodation details, learners can click View my accommodations.
  • When commencing a quiz, the accommodation icon appears next to a learner’s quiz time to indicate that their accommodation has been applied. If a learner’s time accommodation has been overridden by a quiz-specific special access, this icon does not appear.

Improvements in Quizzes for instructors:

  • Instructors can now grant learners special access in terms of quiz time multipliers (for example, 1.5x quiz time) or +minutes (for example, an additional 30 minutes). Refer to the Quizzes – Improvements to Special Access functionality | Updated release note for more information.
  • Quiz-specific special access can overwrite an accommodation for any user on a quiz-by-quiz basis. When you overwrite an accommodation and then click Save, a warning describing the impact of overwriting the accommodation appears. Previously, this warning appeared at the top of the Quiz special access screen. Now, it appears on clicking Save.

Improvements in User Purge and User Progress:

  • User purge now includes user accommodations.
  • The accommodations icon now appears in the User Progress tool alongside the Quiz domain if they have a quiz accommodation in that course
Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight impact to instructors due to improvements made in the Classlist, Quizzes, and User Progress tools. Availability: These features are available to all clients.

To enable: From Organization Tools, turn on Accommodations.

Ensure that the View Other’s Accommodations and the Add/Edit Accommodations permissions are turned on at the course offering level under the Accommodations tool for the instructor role.

Instructors also require the Has Access to the Classlist permission to access the Add/Edit/View Accommodations workflow.

To ensure a cohesive experience when editing special access, D2L also recommends that users who can add special access in a quiz be given permission to, at least, View Other’s Accommodations.

Slight impact to learners due to the accommodations icon appearing when they are in the Classlist and in the quiz start page next to the quiz time. N/A

Assignments – Action menu for group assignments in New Assignment Evaluation Experience | New

The New Assignment Evaluation Experience now includes a drop-down menu from the group name. This menu contains links to:

  • Email the group (opens in a new window)
  • See all group members
  • Instant message the group (opens in a new window)
Impact of Change Technical Details
Moderate impact to instructors due to the workflow change and the ability to view and communicate with group members from Assignments. Availability: This feature is available to all clients using the New Assignment Evaluation Experience.

To enable: This functionality is automatically enabled for New Assignment Evaluation Experience users.

Assignments – Anonymous marking in the New Assignment Evaluation Experience | New

This feature makes anonymous marking fully supported in the New Assignment Evaluation Experience. When using Anonymous marking, the Anonymous User number appears in place of the username, just as it appeared in the legacy Assignments experience. In addition, the following features of anonymous marking remain the same:

  • No profile card appears for anonymous users
  • Usernames become visible once any learner’s evaluation is published
  • Group names are always visible even when using anonymous marking
  • Rubrics do not include the user’s name

Anonymous marking uses Publish All instead of the Publish button. If no feedback for anonymous users has yet been published, the Publish button is disabled and a message appears to direct users to the Publish All button. If any user feedback has been published, all Publish buttons become automatically enabled.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Moderate impact to instructors due to new Anonymous marking workflows. Availability: This feature is available to all clients using the New Assignment Evaluation Experience.

To enable: This functionality is automatically enabled for New Assignment Evaluation Experience users.

Assignments – Brightspace Editor in the new Assignment Creation Experience | New

Review the Brightspace Editor – Replaces the HTML Editor | New release note to learn more about the features of Brightspace Editor.

The new Brightspace Editor replaces the previous HTML Editor as the default HTML Editor in the new Assignment Creation Experience.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Moderate impact to all users of Assignments. Availability: This feature is available to all clients using the New Assignment Creation Experience.

To enable: This functionality is automatically enabled for New Assignment Creation Experience users.

Instructors may opt into or out of the new assignment creation experience within a specific course at any time. If the new assignment creation experience is set as Off or On, instructors cannot control their use of the feature:

  • If Off, the feature is unavailable.
  • If On, the feature replaces the old screens in the workflow without the option to switch back.

Assignments – Brightspace Editor in the New Assignment Evaluation Experience | New

Review the Brightspace Editor – Replaces the HTML Editor | New release note to learn more about the features of Brightspace Editor.

The new Brightspace Editor replaces the previous HTML Editor as the default HTML Editor in the New Assignment Evaluation Experience.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Moderate impact to all users of Assignments. Availability: This feature is available to all clients using the New Assignment Evaluation Experience.

To enable: This functionality is automatically enabled for New Assignment Evaluation Experience users.

Assignments – Context menu on the Evaluation screen in the New Assignment Evaluation Experience | New

A new context menu appears in the side panel of the updated assignment evaluation screen. This menu links to the following:

  • Edit Activity (opens assignment page in new tab). This option appears for users who have the See and Manage Assignment Submission Folders permission.
  • Special Access Dates (opens the Edit Activity screen so users can update Special Access rules). This option requires the Set Special Access on Assignment Submission Folders permission.

Note: The context menu will not appear if the user does not have the required permissions to access these links.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight impact to instructors due to the workflow change in Assignments. N/A

Assignments – Single file submissions open directly in the New Assignment Evaluation Experience | New

In the New Assignment Evaluation Experience, when a learner has submitted only one file, the evaluator no longer has to click into the evaluation and then into the file. The file opens directly for the evaluator, saving a click during the evaluation process. Late submission information continues to display above the file, as it currently does.

This feature implements PIE item D5687.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight impact to instructors due to the workflow change. Availability: This feature is available to all clients using the New Assignment Evaluation Experience.

To enable: This functionality is automatically enabled for New Assignment Evaluation Experience users.

Brightspace Editor – Replaces the HTML Editor | New

This feature releases the new and improved Brightspace Editor.

In the April 2021/20.21.4 release, the Brightspace Editor does not replace the existing editor experience in the following tools:

  • Quiz Builder
  • Activity Feed

However, as of the April 2021/20.21.4 release, the new Brightspace Editor replaces the existing editor in the new Assignment Evaluation Experience and the new Assignment Creation Experience.

The new Brightspace Editor includes the following improvements to existing features:

  • Refreshed formatting options
  • The Lato font type
  • A refreshed color picker
  • A refreshed font size menu
  • A comprehensive and standard emoticon menu
  • A comprehensive and refreshed Symbols menu
  • An advanced source code editor
  • A refreshed Tables feature, including data sorting
  • A refreshed Accessibility Checker
  • An improved mobile editor view and experience
  • The Check AccessibilityHTML Source EditorPreview, and Toggle Full Screen functionalities have now been placed in the top bar

The Editor also includes the following new features:

  • Wordcount functionality that includes words, characters, and text selection.
  • Context menus while editing to enable quick access to text, link, and image editing options; including advanced image editing options (where image editing is currently available).
  • A new overflow menu with additional, infrequently used menu options.

The list below outlines what is not included in the Editor:

  • Spellcheck functionality. D2L recommends using your browser spellcheck functionality.
  • Cut/Paste functionality. D2L recommends using your browser hot keys/menus for this functionality.
Impact of Change Technical Details
Moderate impact to instructors and learners due to the ability to use the new Brightspace Editor across most tools in Brightspace Learning Environment. N/A

Classlist – Search filter when adding existing users | Updated

When enrolling users in a course, an administrator or instructor can now deselect the Include users already enrolled in org unit check box to set their search filter to filter out users already enrolled in the course.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight impact to administrators and instructors due to the new Enrollment search filter. Availability: This feature is available to all clients.

To enable: This feature is automatically enabled for users with access to the Classlist tool.
Ensure that the Has Access to the Classlist permission is turned on for the administrator and instructor roles.
Note: The Include users already enrolled in org unit check box is selected by default.

Content – URL topics now Open as External Resource by default | Updated

Previously, when a user created a new URL Content type, the Open as External Resource option was not selected by default. In some cases, this caused a Cross-Origin resource sharing (CORS) error to appear when viewing the content topics. Now, the URL Content type, such as a Google Team Drive Public link, has the Open as External Resource check box selected by default. Users can choose to deliberately remove the Open as External Resource option if necessary. If it is deselected, users are advised that D2L recommends opening links in a new window to prevent issues viewing the resource before saving.

When viewing a content topic that is a URL, the button to open the resource in a new window always appears so that if the content cannot load in an embedded frame, a user can choose to open the content in a new window.

Note: This applies to the classic Content experience only.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight impact to instructors due to the new default setting during URL topic content creation and prompt when the default is deselected. Availability: This feature is available to clients using the classic Content experience with Google Docs integration.

To enable: This feature is automatically enabled for classic Content experience users.

Slight impact to learners due to additional options to open in a new window always appearing for content topic URLs. N/A

Grades – Mastery View calculation improvements | Updated

Mastery View was originally released for the Grades tool in December 2020/20.20.12. To increase the value of the Mastery View of the Grades tool in Brightspace Learning Environment, there have been improvements to the calculation functionality:

  • When you switch to a calculation method, but do not save the new method, you can return to the original calculation method, and restore the original values of the Choose Activities to use in the calculation field. If you switch to a new calculation method and save the new method, if you return to the original calculation method, the Choose Activities to use in the Calculation field uses the default values.
  • When evidence is deleted in Portfolio, the Mastery View determines whether to use the evidence in the learner’s overall achievement calculations according to the following criteria:
    • If the evidence is soft-deleted (meaning it was deleted by a learner or instructor but can be restored by an instructor from the Instructor View), then the evidence is included in the achievement calculations.
    • If the evidence is hard-deleted (meaning it was permanently deleted and cannot be restored), then the evidence is not included in the achievement calculations.
Impact of Change Technical Details
Moderate disruption to instructors who can now use the Mastery view. Availability: This feature is available to all clients using Learning Outcomes.

To enable: The Mastery view is available when you add outcomes to your courses. If the Mastery view is not available, verify that there are learning outcomes in your course offering.
Ensure that you have Grades enabled at the org level and the course offering level. There are no new or additional configuration variables required; however, you must continue to have the Learning Outcomes configuration variables set up for the Learning Outcomes tool to function correctly and provide content to display in the Mastery view.

Language Management – End-of-life of the Hijiri calendar | Removed

As of the April 2021 release, the Hijiri calendar for Arabic locales is no longer available as a locale setting or user preference. The decision to end-of-life the Hijiri calendar is due to low usage and lack of support in Brightspace’s current date-time components.

For administrators, the Hijiri calendar is no longer available when configuring Arabic locales from the Locale Management tool.

For all users with an Arabic locale, the Hijiri calendar automatically converts to the standard Gregorian calendar.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight impact to users that currently use an Arabic locale with the Hijiri calendar. Availability: N/A

To enable: Before updating to the April 2021 release, D2L recommends notifying users affected by this change, and then migrating those users to a new Arabic locale that does not use the Hijiri calendar.

Administrators can then delete the old Arabic locale using the Hijiri calendar. When deleting the locale, the delete tool prompts for a replacement locale, which is the new Arabic locale that does not use the Hijiri calendar. Deleting the old locale ensures that learners do not select a custom locale called “Arabic: Hijri” without the Hijri calendar.

Quizzes – Improvements to Special Access functionality | Updated

This feature is in line with the improvements made to the Quizzes tool as listed in the Accommodations – Improvements in Classlist, Quizzes, User Purge, and User Progress | New feature.

Instructors can now grant learners special access in terms of quiz time multipliers (for example, 1.5x quiz time) or +minutes (for example, an additional 30 minutes). For example, if an instructor has a 30-minute quiz and using the Special Access page, grants three learners 1.5x the quiz time, their updated quiz time of 45 minutes displays. Instructors no longer have to manually calculate the updated quiz time.

Note: After extending the learners quiz time by way of quiz time multipliers or +minutes on the Special Access page, if an instructor updates the duration of the quiz, the learner’s quiz time on the Special Access page does not dynamically update at this time.

You can still continue to set extensions, as documented in the Create a quiz > Add restrictions to a quiz sub-topic.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight impact to instructors due to ability to grants users quiz time extensions by way of quiz time multipliers or +minutes. Availability: These features are available to all clients.

To enable: Ensure that the existing Add Special Access permission is turned on for the instructor role. Refer to the Quizzes permissions topic for more information.

To ensure a cohesive experience when editing special access, D2L also recommends that users who can add special access in a quiz be given permission to, at least, View Other’s Accommodations.

Quizzes – Secure and consistent editing experience | New

For a more secure and consistent editing experience in Brightspace, creating any of the following question types now automatically filters out JavaScript and non-standard HTML: Likert, Ordering, Matching, Fill in the Blanks, Short Answer, Multi-Short Answer, Arithmetic, and Significant Figures. For existing questions containing JavaScript and non-standard HTML, the questions continue to display as intended until an instructor edits and saves the questions, which removes the JavaScript and non-standard HTML. Previously, instructors could add JavaScript or non-standard HTML to question types in order to create dynamic content for quizzes.

Impact of Change Technical Details
Moderate impact to instructors due to any JavaScript or non-standard HTML in existing question types D2L recommends reviewing all question types containing JavaScript and non-standard HTML and modifying as needed, ensuring that the questions display as intended for learners. For example, to add code to a question type, use the HTML <code> tag.

Rubrics – Navigation Accessibility Improvements | Updated

This feature was originally released for the Rubrics tool in June 2020/20.20.6 and updated in July 2020/20.20.7 and March 2021/20.21.3. To increase the value of the rubric tool in Brightspace Learning Environment, there have been accessibility improvements to the rubric creation and evaluation workflows:

  • Screen readers now inform users of controls for adding feedback to criteria when reading the criteria group table. The table summary now includes the following text: This table lists criteria and criteria group names in the first column. The first-row lists level names and includes scores if the rubric uses a numeric scoring method. You can give feedback on each criterion by tabbing to the add feedback buttons in the table.
  • When a score field has the focus, the screen reader now informs the user if it is a criterion score or a total score based on the field label. It also indicates which criterion the score is associated with and what action the user can take. For example: 2/4, score of Criterion 1. Press Enter to override the criterion score.
  • Previously, the Total Score and Criterion Score fields did not clearly indicate whether the score is a manual override. The override information appeared in a tooltip that was not visible to assistive technology including screen readers; an asterisk was the only differentiator. Now, the screen reader can read the tooltip content when the Total Score or Criterion Score fields have the focus.
  • Previously, when the Total Score was a manual override, the Clear Override button appeared; however, when Criterion Score was a manual override, the Clear Override button only appeared if the focus was on the score. Now, Clear Override appears when either the Total Score or the Criterion Score is a manual override, regardless of where the focus is.
  • To improve usability with assistive technology, the Add Feedback button indicates to screen readers the criterion to which the feedback is associated. The Clear Feedback button also indicates the associated criterion.
  • When the keyboard focus moves to the default rubric group or new criteria group, the screen reader now tells users the number of rubric levels and criteria in the group.
  • Previously, users who used keyboard-only navigation and screen readers were not able to delete aligned outcomes. Now, when a user navigates to the Browse Standards button and focuses on an outcome tag, the screen reader reads the tag content and provides guidance that they can press Delete to remove the aligned outcome
  • Previously, the screen reader only read the content of the level name and points fields and indicated that it was a text field. There was no indication of the significance of the field. Now, when the level name text field has the focus, screen readers indicate that the field is for editing the name of a specific level. When the points text field has the focus, the screen reader indicates that the field is for editing the points of a specific level.
Impact of Change Technical Details
Slight disruption due to improved navigation for clients using assistive technology, including screen readers. Availability: This feature is available to all clients using assistive technology with the updated Rubrics experience.

To enable: This functionality is automatically available to updated Rubrics experience users. To turn on the updated Rubrics tool, ensure the d2l.Tools.Rubrics.CreateExperienceOptIn configuration variable is set to On or On (opt in).