By Catherine Mann, Instructional Designer

The 2018 Fall Blackboard upgrade was completed on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. This maintenance upgrade introduced some new features for faculty and students. A New look Blackboard now has a new look whose style matches more closely with Blackboard Ultra, the advanced version of Blackboard that could eventually replace our current version, Blackboard Learn. Locations of tool links and functionalities are basically the same, but it is possible that if you used a custom theme and buttons in your previous course that the look won’t copy correctly into the new course, because many themes, as well as buttons, have been eliminated. If your course theme did not translate well into the new look, then you should set the style back to default by going, in the Control Panel, to Customization > Teaching Style, then choose the Default theme.

Attendance tool

With the attendance tool, instructors can mark whether a student is present, late, absent, or excused for each class meeting. The attendance records for each student appear in a single column next to other grades. On the Attendance page, profile pictures appear so instructors can easily identify students. Instructors can use attendance as part of calculating grades just as they can for an assignment grade column. There is a short tutorial on the attendance tool on page 10 of this newsletter. Integrated cloud storage for all users Now in Blackboard faculty and students can attach files to content from cloud storage such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive using a browse button. To use this you will still need to set up an account with one of the cloud storage services and sign into it to retrieve the file that you plan to insert. Students can also now attach files from their own cloud services to assignments, blogs, discussions using the Browse Cloud Storage.

Without the comfort of being able to interact face to face with students in a classroom, it takes more time for participants in an online course to learn about each other. Faculty leading online courses have little sense of who the students are until they start submitting course work or unless they willingly disclose aspects of themselves. Online students typically have even less information on their classmates. Annual surveys administered by the Hostos Office of Educational Technology ask students to share information about themselves and shed light on who the college is educating online. In a Spring 2018 survey, 144 students who enrolled in an online course during the semester reported on their experience as online students. The majority of respondents:

  • identify as female (83%);
  • identity as Hispanic (61% )
  • are adults in the age range of 21 – 30 (54%)
  • speak more than one language (75%)
  • have children (52%)

Almost 44% are the first in their families to go to college. Twentynine percent did not have a prior online learning experience, which is a significant decrease from 42% in 2017.


The school’s online courses make it possible for more students to study and earn credits towards a degree while meeting other demands in their lives. Asynchronous courses that are largely self-paced offer students the flexibility of studying around busy schedules. The vast majority (94%) report participating in their courses from a home computer. Many of the survey responders chose to take online courses for these reasons:

  • 31.5 % cite work and family commitments as the main reason for choosing online instruction
  • 20% could not find a suitable traditional on-campus version of the course
  • 15% prefer the convenience and/or independence of being an online student.

Infographic representing student online learning profile


Most of the findings confirm that online instruction supports the school’s goals of serving a greater breadth of students and of meeting their needs. For a more detailed breakdown of the 2018 survey results, please see this infographic. Faculty who are interested in teaching online for the first time can contact the Office of Educational Technology to find about more about the Online Initiative training program.

Source: Hostos Community College, CUNY. “Online Course Assessment Survey: Student Version Spring 2018”. Survey. May 2018.


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Eugenio María de Hostos Community College
500 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York 10451