December 18, 2023

When Pedagogy Meets Technology: AI-Generated Suggestions for Authentic Assessments in Blackboard Learn Ultra

Earlier this year, Blackboard® Learn Ultra became the first major LMS to extend generative AI capabilities to instructors to inspire course structure, test questions, and grading rubrics. The response from instructors across the world has been overwhelmingly positive, with suggestions from the AI Design Assistant informing more than 63,000 course creation tasks since launch in September and more than 95% of teachers saying they would recommend that their peers leverage this functionality.

“Using the AI Design Assistant, I created nearly a hundred quiz questions and multiple learning modules with pictures and descriptions, finishing the task in a fraction of the time I had budgeted. This efficiency is invaluable, especially for faculty engaged in extensive research responsibilities.”

Simona Narubin Durbin
Associate Director of Assessment and Education
University of Illinois Chicago
Read the full interview with Durbin.

The benefits that AI Design Assistant is delivering for instructors have also been recognized at the recent Campus Technology New Product of the Year Awards, where it was named the best “AI-based tool for lesson planning” available on the market.

When it comes to students leveraging AI, Anthology has decided not to make AI plagiarism detection available natively within Blackboard Learn. Our extensive research has shown that AI detection models are biased and unreliable, and thus inappropriate to use in such a high-stakes workflow. Instead, we believe that institutions are best advised to empower instructors to deliver authentic assessment tasks that are difficult for AI to respond to rather than entering into an arms race between anti-plagiarism software and ChatGPT. Our recent white paper, AI, Academic Integrity, and Authentic Assessment: An Ethical Path Forward for Education, provides more detail on our stance in this area.

With both of the above initiatives resonating with our global community, our next course of action was clear: expand the functionality of the AI Design Assistant to inspire instructors to create authentic assessment tasks. And that’s just what we’ve done: as of the December release, all Blackboard Learn Ultra clients can now generate authentic assessment prompts for discussions and journals as part of their standard license, with assignments to follow soon.

To ensure that the technology is informed by pedagogical best practices, these functionalities were developed in line with Bloom’s taxonomy. Initially devised in the mid-twentieth century and then revised in 2001, the taxonomy provides a hierarchy of cognitive levels for learning activities.

Blooms Taxonomy

The “remember” and “understand” levels have traditionally formed the basis of much of higher education assessment, particularly in online learning modalities. Yet in the era of generative AI, these tasks are easy to plagiarize and less aligned with the needs of employers. From “apply” and above, however, the focus moves to a more personalized response from the learner, which in turn corresponds with authentic assessments and workforce-ready skills.

When generating authentic assessment suggestions in the AI Design Assistant in Blackboard Learn Ultra, the instructor can choose the cognitive level from Bloom’s taxonomy that they’d like to test.

Alternatively, they can click “Inspire me!” and receive suggestions across the four relevant levels of the taxonomy. The AI Design Assistant will clearly mark the cognitive level associated with each suggestion.

Authentic assessment suggestions using the Inspire me button

In line with the “Humans in control” pillar in Anthology’s Trustworthy AI Approach, the instructor maintains full control to revise, edit, and ultimately accept or reject all suggestions from the AI Design Assistant. In the case of authentic assessments specifically, instructors can input keywords and instructions to steer the suggestions in a relevant direction for their course and then edit the proposed task to include extra parameters where required, ensuring that the efficiency of the AI Design Assistant doesn’t come at the expense of the teacher’s autonomy.

Want to try the AI Design Assistant and discover how easy it is to create engaging course structures, assessments, and rubrics? Access a FREE 30-day trial of Blackboard Learn Ultra today!

Request a Demo Sign Up for a Free Trial

Ben Burrett headshot

Ben Burrett

Senior Product Marketing Manager

Ben has more than a decade of marketing and advertising experience spanning Australia, Europe, North America, and Latin America. Based in Bogotá, Colombia, Ben is passionate about the role of technology in advancing education and works closely with Anthology’s product management team and subject matter experts to support the positioning and promotion of our Student Success services and Blackboard Learn.

Richard Gibbons Headshot

Richard Gibbons

Senior Product Manager

Richard works on the Blackboard Learn Ultra Product Management Team, specializing in communications, collaboration, and instructional design. His passion for learning technology comes from 17 years in UK further education, helping staff and students drive the best results with the use of technology.