VITAL 2014 summer upgrade – new features and enhancements

VITAL’s summer upgrade sees new features for 2014-15 including an inline marking tool for work submitted to the Blackboard Assignment facility, much easier management of Group enrolments, and utilities like Qwickly for sending an announcement to multiple modules. There has also been an design overhaul for Campus Pack tools, which is detailed further below where you will also find a summary of all of the updates to Turnitin and GradeMark over the last year. This is a bit of a long blog post but is intended to be dipped in and out of to find what is most interesting and useful.

The new VITAL features include (more details below on each):

  1. Blackboard Assignments – a new inline marking tool lets you electronically mark student work with a simple set of commenting, highlighting and drawing tools, alongside the usual Rubric and feedback facilities.
  2. Group enrolments – easier management with batch enrolments and group membership overviews now available.
  3. Send announcements and emails to more than one module with the new Qwickly tool.
  4. New Test Log – review details of test start, submit and question saved times for students.
  5. Date management tool – useful following a course copy to adjust adaptive release date rules, due dates and availability dates from one place.
  1. New inline marking tool for Blackboard Assignments

The Blackboard Assignment tool now includes a facility for electronically marking and writing feedback for students directly on their submitted work.

The marking toolset is simpler than the Turnitin GradeMark set you may have used but the principle is the same, an image copy is made of the original submission and you add your comments to this copy, which include: text comments directly on the paper, MS Word-like margin comments, highlighted text, text strikethrough, free line drawing, criteria marking card, grade). Students can then view your comments and feedback from within VITAL.

The originally submitted file should be in one of the following formats: Word (doc, docx) PowerPoint (ppt, pptx) Excel (xls, xlsx) and  pdf. The marking tool is not available for other file types and in this case you are prompted to download files to open them for review.

Why is this useful?

Group assignments. Whilst Turnitin GradeMark is a more fully featured online marking and feedback facility it still does not easily work for group assignments where you want to distribute grades and feedback to all students in a group based on one, group-submitted document.

Simpler workflows. Blackboard Assignments are fully integrated with the Grade Centre and it is simple for students to find grades and access their feedback. This tool would suit assignments where you do not need to use Turnitin text-matching, and only want a few simple marking tools for feedback purposes.

Special note. It is important that students do not include any personal data in their assignments submitted to the Blackboard Assignment tool for electronic marking other than name, Student ID, university email address, as the marking tool is a third-party service and the copies of the assignments created for marking are not held on University of Liverpool servers. (Examples of personal data which should never be included in Blackboard assignments are:  gender, marital status, ethnicity, religion, country of nationality, health records/disability, address, date of birth, pin/password, payroll number, National Insurance number).

Where can I find out more?

  1. Groups management improvements

If you work with groups it is now easier to add and remove students from groups, see what groups a student is a member of, control what tools students see in their groups, and create Grade Centre Smart Views based on groups for marking. You can also upload by CSV file enrolments to groups. The video below gives an excellent overview of where to access all this functionality.

Why is this useful?

Administration of groups is much less of a chore, very useful for modules with large cohorts and complex group requirements.

Where can I find out more?

  1. Qwickly multi-module announcements and email tool

Accessed from the home page you can use the Qwickly facility, found on the homepage Tools menu, to send the same announcement or email to multiple modules in one go.

Why is this useful?

Saves time going into individual modules to create individual announcements when you have an announcement to send to more than one module.

Where can I find out more?

  1. Test log

A simple record accessible to module Instructors of when a student started an online VITAL test, when they saved a question and when they submitted the test.

Why is this useful?

You’ll be able to see whether and when a student started and submitted a test, and the timings of questions being saved, or the submit button (not) being clicked, could help determine where there were technical problems with taking the test. You can see whether students are spending a long/short time on particular questions.

Where can I find out more?

  1. Date Management

This lets you see and adjust dues dates for Blackboard assignments and tests, all Blackboard content Availability dates, and all Adaptive release dates. These can be set in a batch or individually.

Why is this useful?

Having all of this date information on one page will be a huge help when you come to copy course content over along with adaptive release rules. It could also be very useful if you need to adjust the timings of a module. Please note this will not pick up Turnitin assignment due dates; these will need to be adjusted individually.

Where can I find out more?

Campus Pack tools redesign

The Campus Pack suite of tools, including wikis, has been upgraded so that there is a pleasing new design for the environment, tidying away a lot of the visual ‘clutter’ into pop-up menus. Comments, contributor information and activity information are now all found at the bottom of each page. Significantly for wikis the pages menu has moved from the right-hand side to a button menu on the upper-left of the page. There is a new content editor which has many useful improvements including faster loading times, easier media embedding and support for copying and pasting from Word. Page hierarchies are easier to edit and it’s much simpler to delete unwanted pages.

Why is this useful?

There is now more space on the page for creating content and pages no longer scroll offscreen to the right.

Where can I find out more?

  1. Summary Video from eLearning Unit:
  2. Web page summary guide from Learning Objects:


Previous upgrades – recap

VITAL: If you want to revisit some of the new features from last year’s VITAL upgrade (item analysis for online tests, new global navigation menu, new-look discussion board, test set-up allows differentiation between students, ‘Retention Centre’ new module engagement tracking tool) you can read about them at this blog post:

Turnitin: June 2014 saw the addition of Excel to the list of file types that can be submitted for originality checking ( For details of all of the new features in Turnitin and GradeMark that have been added over the last year please read these blog posts also:

An update to Turnitin is currently scheduled for September 29th.


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