Release 115 October 2020 notes

These release notes apply to the itslearning and Fronter 19 platforms.

What's new

With more organizations using Microsoft 365, we want to make sure these tasks can just as easily be done in itslearning. This release has several improvements for O365 users - from security and set up, to tools used in a course.

Up-to-date Office editor with Office for the web

Switch from Office Online Server (hosted by itslearning) to Office Web (hosted by Microsoft). 

This will ensure that you always have the latest online Office editor, like Word for the web, in itslearning. 

Uploaded files are still hosted in itslearning as before. 

Some of the features that will become available:

  • Word Online: You will now be able to track changes and use Immersive Reader.
  • PowerPoint Online: More than 25 additional slide transitions. You can now insert icons and online media.
  • Excel Online: You now have the option to quickly remove duplicate values and to style cells based on their values

screenshot track changes in word in R115

Clearer overview of available integrations

The 'Office 365 / OneDrive' tab and the 'Office Online' tab has been merged, so all Microsoft related integrations are available on one page.

There're a few new features and settings have been renamed for better clarity.

Settings on the page are grouped in 3 sections:

  • File upload
  • Office for the web
  • Microsoft 365 for Education

screenshot cloud service

screenshot cloud service for MS 365 for education

Office for the web: use your organization's add-ons

Previously the system administrator could enable Office Online in itslearning, which allowed users to view and edit Office documents with Office Online Server. In addition, enabling this setting automatically added the options Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the add page of a course.

We're now extending the options around Office for the web.

If your organization has its own Microsoft 365 tenant, your school's itslearning system administrator can choose to use the Office editors of this tenant instead of the ones offered by itslearning.

The main benefit is that you can use any Office add-on that the organization has acquired, such as the Wikipedia add-on (see image below).

screenshot wikipedia add on

When you choose to use Office for the web from your own tenant, users do need to log on with a Microsoft account from your tenant when editing files from itslearning, if they aren't already logged into the browser. For viewing a file in itslearning it is not needed to log on. 

screenshot no need to sign in to view microsoft documents

In addition, system administrators can now choose to remove the Office apps (e.g. Word) from the Add page of a course, for example if they want document creation to happen in Microsoft 365.

Replacing Office files

Some Office files cannot be edited online, such as those that contain a macro or are password protected. To update these files in itslearning, it is now possible to replace a file with a new upload. This allows for all 'relationships' of this file, for example with a plan, to be kept.

Note: You can only replace a file with a similar type of file. For example, you cannot replace a PowerPoint file with a Word file.

Rich text editor improvements

Increased security, stability and accessibility in the rich text editor.

Easier to position and resize images added in the text editor :-

  • Use the drag icon (top left of image) to move the image. A horizontal line will appear to indicate where the image will be placed when dropped.
  • Resize the image using the black square below the image.
  • It is possible to add a caption to images, making content more accessible e.g. for screen readers.

Auto-formatting on the computer makes it faster and easier to create content. This includes:

  • Pasting a URL followed by clicking the space bar will automatically turn the URL into a link.
  • Quickly start bullet or number lists.
  • Easily enter special characters.

screenshot pasting a url

Here are some examples:

  • Quotation marks are now slightly different. Previously: "Blended learning, the new normal", now: “Blended learning, the new normal”.
  • You can start bullet lists with these special characters: * / + / -, followed by clicking the space bar.
  • You can start bullet lists using numbers, letters or roman numerals followed by a dot and clicking the space bar. For example 1. / a. / I.
  • Add a horizontal line by clicking — or ___ followed by clicking the space bar.

You can undo an autocorrect with the Undo action. This action can be found in the toolbar, but you can also use the keyboard shortcut (e.g. CTRL-Z). Note: This is not enabled for mobiles or tablets.

It is no longer possible to paste via the toolbar on computers, such as Windows or MacOS devices. Instead, the user is prompted to use the keyboard shortcut. This process will be streamlined more in the upcoming releases.

We are also removing the option to paste images directly via the paste dialogue. This is because the image was stored in a way (Base 64) which could cause users to experience slowness when using the platform. 

We are also streamlining this process in the upcoming releases. Until then, you can use the Image icon in the toolbar to add images.

Immersive reader is now available in itslearning

Anyone struggling to read and consume text will benefit from this addition, making textual content more accessible and giving the student options to personalize the reading experience.

The Microsoft Immersive Reader is now available in itslearning in three areas:

  • Announcements (both in Home and in Course overview)
  • Assignments (reading the assignment description)
  • Note

screenshot immersive reader

When the user clicks the Immersive Reader button, the text will be opened in a new view. The user can set preferred background color, font, text spacing and so on.

There is also an option to have the text read aloud, translation and a picture dictionary for difficult words.

Watch the video

Brand new ePortfolio

The new ePortfolio (ePortfolio 2.0) has a fresh look-and-feel and navigation, available for all users.

  • New card layout of your portfolios 
  • A new About me section (no longer it's own menu item) 
  • Each portfolios now has a new layout (with a banner), and navigation in the left hand menu
  • Portfolio items are now named Pages

Learn more about the new ePortfolio in this link.

screenshot eportfolio main page

Other Improvements

Quick Distribution of Assignments

Teachers often need to set separate work or exercises for students based on their abilities. Now they can easily assign an assignment to specific students and/or groups.

By default, the assignment will be given to all students. If the teacher has many students in their course, they can easily search for specific students and groups.

In the sidebar, teachers can see the number of participants assigned to this task. Students’ name will never be listed in the sidebar, but if you only have selected one group, the name of the group will show.

If the teacher selects multiple groups, the number of groups will be listed.

This is also available when adding tasks. 

File icons for most common files

Up until now we showed the same icon for all files. With this release, we will show specific icons for the most common file types so you know what to expect when you open a resource.

As a rule of thumb, we show the specific icon if the file can be previewed or played by (almost) all users. For example, a .wmv video file can only be played in Internet Explorer. This means that over 90% of teachers and students cannot play that file in itslearning. Therefore the generic File icon will be shown for these types of files. Note that ZIP-files will always have to be downloaded. They cannot be previewed.

In addition to uploading files from your computer or mobile device, it is possible to add files from a cloud storage service, such as Google Drive or OneDrive. When doing this, it can be possible to embed (or link) a file instead of uploading a copy to itslearning. If a file is embedded, the file viewer of the cloud service is used to display the content in itslearning. For the file icon this doesn't make any difference. For example, a PDF embedded from Google Drive will still show the PDF icon. 

Please note that it can take some time after the release before the icons of previously added files are updated.

Even more:

  • Follow-up tasks for Teachers: Teacher´s follow-up tasks are now sorted by latest update, so teachers will  see the most recently handed in task at the top of their list. A follow-up task will be removed 35 days after they were completed by students. When a task is removed due to inactivity, a text explaining this will appear. Teachers will also get a link to Resources, where they will find this older task.
  • LTI Deep linking: Support inserting an image: In addition to embedding content from 3rd parties via LTI Deep linking with url's shown in an iframe, it is now also possible to embed an image directly without the use of an iframe. The image is rendered as an image, and will not use an iframe.
  • Planner - Copying plans: To avoid any confusion, teachers will be informed about the difference in copying single versus multiple topics. When copying a single topic, the topic title will show. Otherwise, users will just be informed that selected topics are copied. Another change is that “Clear dates” will be checked by default.
  • End of Life - Picture with Description: To reduce clutter and complexity, the Picture with Description tool will be removed. Near identical content can now be created using the File or Folder tool. From this release, it will no longer be possible to create new Picture with Description elements in courses. Existing content can still be viewed and edited.
  • Open a Google Jam from itslearning: If a Google Jam has been added as a resource to a course, you can now open them in a new tab directly from itslearning.
  • Friendly Course Name added to Course Admin page: Administrators can now see the Friendly Course Name listed on the Course Admin page
  • Homepage link: The Homepage link under "Your Files" and "Your files: Webfiles" has been removed.

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