Posts by: Robert Farmer

Blackboard’s July upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 8th July. The July upgrade includes the ability for staff to copy question banks into Ultra courses, and to prohibit backtracking in Ultra tests. Also included are improvements to the way that uploaded documents render inline in Ultra courses, and to the quality of the rendering of mathematical formulas created in the maths editor in Original and Ultra courses.

Copy question banks into Ultra courses

Currently, staff can copy a test from an Original or Ultra course into an Ultra course, but cannot copy a question bank. After the July upgrade, question banks will be available to copy into Ultra courses.

You can find out more about copying content into your Ultra course at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Course_Content/Reuse_Content/Ultra_Copy_Content#select

Prohibit backtracking in Ultra tests

In the April upgrade, Blackboard added the ability to display Ultra test questions one question at time. The July upgrade adds the option to prohibit backtracking, so that when questions are displayed one at time students cannot go back to a previous question and change their answer.

By default, Ultra tests will display all questions at once, but, following the July upgrade, if ‘Display one question at a time’ is selected when setting up the test, ‘Prohibit backtracking’ will also be available to staff as an option.

You can find out more about setting up and using tests in Ultra courses at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Tests_Pools_Surveys/Create_Tests_and_Surveys

Improvements to inline rendering in Ultra courses

In the June upgrade, Blackboard added inline rendering for files uploaded into Ultra documents, meaning that instead of students having to download the attached files in order to view them, staff can set the attached file to display inline (i.e., directly in the browser) so that students can view the file without having to download it.

In the July upgrade, inline rendering will be extended to all supported file types regardless of where they are added into an Ultra course.

Inline rendering is supported for the following file types:

  • Adobe Acrobat Documents (PDF)
  • Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX)
  • Microsoft Excel (XLS, XLSX)
  • OpenOffice Documents (ODS, ODT, ODP)
  • Image files (JPEG/JPG, GIF, PNG)

Please note that staff should continue to upload video and audio files into NILE courses via Kaltura. For information about how to use Kaltura to upload a video or audio file into NILE, please see: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-guides/kaltura

When uploading an attachment that can be displayed inline, staff will be given the following options:

  • View and download
  • View only
  • Download only

Files which have already been uploaded into Ultra courses do not need to be re-uploaded in order to take advantage of inline rendering – all files inside Ultra courses which can be rendered inline will be. Where files that can be rendered inline already exist in Ultra courses, they will be given a default setting of ‘View and download’.

Quality and accessibility improvements for mathematical formulas in both Original and Ultra courses.

The maths editor in Original and Ultra courses currently renders formulas in PNG format. Following the July upgrade, formulas will render as SVG images, meaning that the image will be remain sharp even if it is zoomed into.

Equations and formulas can be added into Original and Ultra courses wherever the Rich Text Editor is available.

• Launching the maths editor in an Ultra course
• Using the maths editor in an Ultra course
• Using the maths editor in an Original course

‘LTI item’ renamed ‘Content Market’

Following the July upgrade, ‘LTI item’ will be renamed ‘Content Market’ in the Rich Text Editor in Ultra couses.

• Prior to the July upgrade
• After the July upgrade

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in the June upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

Blackboard’s June upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 3rd June. The June upgrade includes the ability for staff to set PDF, Microsoft Office and OpenOffice files to render inline in Ultra documents. This means that students can view these documents directly in the browser without having to download them. Additionally, from 3rd June onward, staff can allow groups to have multiple submission attempts when using Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses.

Attachments render inline in Ultra documents

Image files in Ultra documents can already be set to display inline (i.e., directly in the browser), but from 3rd June onward, when uploading a PDF, Microsoft Office or OpenOffice file into an Ultra document, instead of students having to download the attached file in order to view it, staff can set the attachment to display inline so that students can view the file without having to download it.

Inline rendering is supported for the following file types:

  • Adobe Acrobat Documents (PDF)
  • Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX)
  • Microsoft Excel (XLS, XLSX)
  • OpenOffice Documents (ODS, ODT, ODP)

When uploading an attachment that can be displayed inline, staff will be given the following options:

  • View and download
  • View only
  • Download only
Staff view of options when uploading a file supported by inline rendering
Student view of .docx file rendered inline in an Ultra document

Files that are not compatible with inline rendering can still be uploaded, but students will need to download these in order to view them.

You can find out more about inline file rendering in Ultra documents here: https://youtu.be/e6o0xrePzyU

Multiple submissions are allowed for group submissions in Ultra courses

From 3rd June onward, staff will be able to allow groups to have multiple submission attempts when using a Blackboard assignment. Previously, group submissions were restricted to one submission attempt only, but following the June upgrade staff will be able to specify a maximum number of group submission attempts between 1 and 10, or unlimited.

You can find out more about setting up and deploying tests in Ultra courses here: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Tests_Pools_Surveys/Create_Tests_and_Surveys

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in the June upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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Blackboard’s May upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 6th May. The May upgrade includes improvements to Ultra tests for students, improvements to Ultra journals, the addition of an ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ function for Bb Annotate (the tool used to make notes and feedback on students’ assignments submitted via a Blackboard assignment submission point), and an Ultra course session time-out warning.

Improvements to UItra tests for students

The May upgrade includes improvements to Ultra tests for students, bringing in a test question filter, a test submission warning where students attempt to submit without answering all questions, and the ability to show and hide the timer on timed tests.

• Test question filter

The question filter supports common test taking strategies. For example, students may complete questions they know first and leave harder ones to complete later in the test. The filter enables students to quickly return to skipped questions. Students may also use the filter to find essay questions.

• Submit test warning

If a student submits a test with unanswered questions, a warning will alert the student. The alert shows the number of unanswered questions. The student may choose to submit the test or keep working. If the student chooses to keep working, the unanswered questions filter auto applies.

• Control timer visibility

In response to student feedback, students may now choose to hide the timer in timed tests. This may help to reduce pressure and anxiety during assessments. Once hidden, the timer may be easily made visible again.

Timer is visible
Timer is hidden

Improvements to Ultra journals

To better support staff and students who use Ultra journals, the May upgrade will include the following improvements:

  • students may make unlimited journal entries;
  • students and staff have improved navigation with pagination on the entries page;
  • students and staff can decide the number of items that appear per page;
  • staff have a count of graded journals and students filtered for grading.

Improved navigation with pagination
Select the number of items that appear per page
Visible count of graded journals and students filtered for grading

‘Undo’ and ‘redo’ capability in Bb Annotate in Original and Ultra courses

Following the May upgrade, staff using Blackboard assignments in both Original and Ultra courses will find that the Bb Annotate tool (the tool using for writing notes and feedback on students’ submissions) includes an ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ option.

Ultra course session time-out warning

When a person does not do anything in NILE for over three hours their session ends (i.e., they are automatically logged out of NILE). They must then login again to continue to use NILE. Every time a user saves a page or selects a button their NILE session refreshes and stays active for three more hours. However, there can be times when a person is actually working but is considered by the system not to be doing anything. This happens because the browser is not sending data to NILE and can occur, for example, when a person is writing a long discussion board or journal post, or developing a complex rubric.

Following the May upgrade, staff and students who are working in an Ultra course and whose session is ending soon will receive a warning. This warning will appear at least six minutes before the session times out. If the warning is closed before the session ends, the session will be extended for three more hours, allowing staff and students plenty of time to complete their work and save it before their session ends again.

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in the May upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist.

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Blackboard’s April upgrade (officially known as ‘Learn SaaS 3900.37.0 Feature Production Release’) was originally scheduled for 7th April 2022, but has been delayed and is currently tentatively scheduled for 21st April. Please note that the release date refers to the evening on which the release will be applied, so a 21st April date means that the upgrade will be available to users first thing on 22nd April. You can find out more about when the April upgrade will be available here: https://status.blackboard.com/incidents/0940tk6n2993.

The April upgrade includes:

  • Significant improvements to Ultra tests.
  • Improvements to the Ultra course copy tool, allowing copying of content within an Ultra course.
  • Improvements to the Ultra content editor, allowing use of code snippets.
  • The ability to verify students’ Blackboard assignment receipts in the Ultra gradebook.

The rest of this blog post explains each of these improvements in more detail,

Improvements to Ultra tests

The April upgrade includes many significant improvements to Ultra tests.

• Display test questions to students one at a time

Currently, Ultra tests display all the test questions to students in one long list. Following the April upgrade, staff will have the choice to display test questions to students all at once, or one at a time.

• Disable auto-posting of grades when using 100% computer marked tests

Currently, when using Ultra tests which contain only computer marked questions (e.g., a 100% multiple choice test) the overall test score is immediately displayed to students on completion of the test. After the April upgrade, staff will be able to choose whether or not the tests marks are posted automatically.

• Control over students’ ability to view their test submission, question feedback, question scores, and correct answers.

Currently, students can view their test submissions as soon as they have submitted them. The April release brings in the ability for staff to decide if and when a student can view their test submission. Staff can prevent students from ever being able to view their test submission, or can allow them to see their submission at a particular time, including immediately after submission, on the due date, on a particular date, or when all marks have been posted.

If a student is allowed to view their submission, staff can also choose when to display automated question feedback, individual question scores, and which answers in a computer-marked question were the correct answers.

You can find out more about how to use these settings here: Blackboard video – student feedback display controls.

• New Ultra test question type: calculated numeric question

The April release includes the ability to add a calculated numeric question type.

This new question type supports the following:

  • Students may enter a number as an answer. The number can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • Instructors may combine text and mathematical formulas in the question.
  • Instructors may define an answer range. The range value can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • The answer field validates only numeric digits.

You can find out more about using calculated numeric questions here: Blackboard video – calculated numeric question type.

• Download Ultra test results

The April release includes the ability for staff to be able to download Ultra test results.

When downloading results, the following options are available:

  • File type – Excel spreadsheet (.xls) or comma separated value (.csv); the default is .xls
  • Format results by student or by question and student; the default is by student
  • Download all attempts or only attempts included in the grade calculation. The instructor defines which attempts to include in the grade calculation in the ‘Grade attempts’ settings. The default is to download only attempts used for calculation.

You can find out more about downloading Ultra test results here: Blackboard video – download test results.

• More information about setting up and using Ultra tests

You can find out more about Ultra tests here:

Copy content within the same Ultra course

Currently, it is possible to copy content from one Ultra course to another, but staff are not able to copy content within the same Ultra course. The April release will include the ability to copy content within the same course.

You can find out more about the enhancements to the Ultra course copy process here: Blackboard video – copy content enhancements.

Content editor update – code snippets

The April upgrade will allow staff and students to author and share computer code in the content editor using a new code snippet tool.

The content editor identifies eleven programming syntaxes:

  • Python;
  • Java;
  • JavaScript;
  • Kotlin;
  • R;
  • PHP;
  • Go;
  • C;
  • Swift;
  • C#;
  • HTML.

You can find out more about code snippets here: Blackboard video – code snippets

Submission receipts for Blackboard assignments

Currently, while Blackboard assignments generate and send students a receipt for a submission, the receipts are easily edited and cannot be verified. Following the April upgrade, staff will be able to verify students’ submission receipts in the Ultra gradebook.

You can find out more about these enhancements here: Blackboard video – submission receipt enhancements.

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in the April upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist.

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The March upgrade, which will be available from Friday 4th March, includes some minor changes to way that learning modules in Ultra courses are set up and modified.

Learning Modules

When setting up learning modules after Friday 4th of March, the following panel will open up once a learning module has been selected for creation:

From this panel, the learning module can be named and a description can be added. The learning module availability can also be set (‘Visible to students’ or ‘Hidden from students’), or release conditions can be set allowing the learning module to be made available to all or only certain groups of students. Release conditions can also include the learning module being made visible after and/or until a particular date.

Additionally, learning modules can be set so that students have to navigate through the content in order and cannot skip ahead. To enable this, ‘Forced sequence’ should be chosen when setting up the learning module.

To update any of the learning module settings after it has been created, simply select the ellipsis menu on the right-hand side of the learning module and choose ‘Edit’.

Also, learning module descriptions are now visible immediately, and students no longer have to open the learning module to read the description:

You can find out more about how to use learning modules in Ultra courses at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Course_Content/Create_Content/Create_Containers_for_Content/Create_Learning_Modules

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the February upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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Sorry. The upgraded version of Blackboard scheduled to be available from the 4th of February has been delayed, and will now be available from the 11th of February.

February’s upgrade, which will be in place from the morning of Friday 4th February, adds additional functionality to Blackboard Ultra test settings, and brings in the option for granular copying of content from Original courses to Ultra courses. Also included in the February update is a bug fix which means that the date and time shown on submission receipts for Blackboard Ultra assignments will, from Friday 4th February onwards, be the date and time that the submission was made, not when it was started. Note that this bug did not affect Turnitin assignments – the submission receipt for Turntin assignments has always shown the correct date and time of submission.

Blackboard Ultra test settings

From the 4th of February onwards, staff will be able to select two new options when setting up tests in Ultra courses:

  1. Prohibit late submissions
  2. Prohibit new attempts after due date

Selecting prohibit late submissions enforces a hard deadline and prevents students from making a late submission. In-progress and saved attempts will auto-submit at the due date, and students will receive a submission receipt via email. Specified accommodations are still respected.

Selecting prohibit new attempts after due date prevents students from beginning a new attempt after the due date.

Note that selecting ‘prohibit late submissions’ auto-enables ‘prohibit new attempts after due date.’ However, staff can enable the ‘prohibit new attempts after due date’ option on its own.

If an instructor enables the due date and/or time limit, students will see these details, as they will appear in the Details & Information section for the assessment.

Please note the current limitations with these new settings. ‘Prohibit late submissions’ does not work in combination with Peer review, Group submissions, or Offline submissions. And the ‘prohibit new attempts after due date’ setting enabled on its own does not work with Peer review, or with Offline submissions.

You can find out more about setting up tests in Ultra courses at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Tests_Pools_Surveys/Create_Tests_and_Surveys

Granular copy content from Original to Ultra courses

Staff making use of the copy content function in Ultra courses will now find that content from their Original courses is available to copy into their Ultra courses. More importantly, and more usefully, the upgraded Ultra copy content tool allows staff to select individual elements of their Original courses, including content items, folders, and tests, to copy into their Ultra courses.

However, please be aware that content copied from Original courses into Ultra courses is transformed (or Ultra-ified) in the process, and incompatible elements are stripped out of the copy. This means that any content copied into an Ultra course from an Original course needs to be manually checked over before it is made available to students. In the case of tests, in particular, incompatible questions will be removed during the Original-to-Ultra conversion process.

More information about the Ultra copy content tool is available from: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Course_Content/Reuse_Content/Ultra_Copy_Content

Blackboard Ultra assignment receipts

Students submitting Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses will have found that the submission date and time on the receipt was the date and time that the submission was started. From the 4th of February the date and time shown on the receipt will be the date and time of actual submission.

You can find out more about setting up and using Blackboard Ultra assignments at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Assignments/Create_and_Edit_Assignments

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the February upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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The way that Turnitin is integrated into NILE is changing. This will affect all staff who use Turnitin in Original courses. The way that Turnitin is integrated into Ultra courses is not changing.

It is essential that all staff who use Turnitin in Original courses understand what is changing, and when, as the current way of setting up Turnitin assignments in Original courses will change on 7 February 2022. These changes will also affect students, as the assignment submission process is changing too.

Please note that the Turnitin tool using for marking and feedback, known as Turnitin Feedback Studio, remains unaltered. What is changing is the way that Turntin assignment submission points are set up and accessed, and the way that students submit their assignments.

Turnitin Feedback Studio
Turnitin Feedback Studio

February 2022

From Monday 7 February, 2022 (the beginning of semester 2) it will no longer be possible to set up a Turnitin assignment in an Original course in NILE using the current method of going to Assessments, and selecting Turnitin Assignment. This way of setting up a Turnitin assignment uses an integration into NILE called Turnitin Basic, and Turnitin have recently announced the end of life for this integration, which is why we are moving away from it.

Setting up Turnitin Basic assignment in an Original course
Setting up Turnitin Basic assignment in an Original course

From the 7th of February onwards, the only way of setting up a Turnitin assignment in an Original course in NILE will be by going to Build Content, and selecting Turnitin. This way of setting up a Turnitin assignment uses an integration into NILE called Turnitin LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability), and is the only integration that Turnitin are continuing to offer and support. Turnitin LTI is the same integration used in Ultra courses, and is already available in Original courses.

Setting up Turnitin LTI assignment in an Original course
Setting up Turnitin LTI assignment in an Original course

Staff who have already set up assignment submission points using the Turnitin Basic integration will need to delete these submission points if the assignment due date is after 30 April, 2022, and set up Turnitin LTI submission points instead.

On the 7th of February, the Learning Technology Team will be updating the Workflow 1: Turnitin Guide for Original Courses for staff, and the Assignment Submission Guide for Original Courses for students, to reflect these changes.

May 2022

Any Turnitin submission points set up using Turnitin Basic with a submission date on or after 1 May, 2022, should not be used, as there is a danger that the integration into NILE will lose critical functionality before all marking and internal moderation has taken place. Instead, such submission points should be deleted prior to students submitting any work and replaced with Turnitin LTI assignment submission points.

If you are not sure whether your Turnitin submission points were set up using Turnitin Basic or Turnitin LTI, please check the ‘Submit your work’ area of your NILE course. As the two submission points look very different, it is very straightforward to tell which is which.

A Turnitin Basic submission point in an Original course
A Turnitin Basic submission point in an Original course
A Turnitin LTI submission point in an Original course
A Turnitin LTI submission point in an Original course

September 2022

From 1 September, 2022, all assignments submitted via a Turnitin Basic assignment submission point will become permanently read-only. This means that while it will still be possible for staff and students to access the papers via NILE, and to see the marks and feedback for these papers, it will no longer be possible to change the marks or the feedback on these papers. Papers will be accessible in read-only form until the end of August 2023, after which time all papers submitted via Turnitin Basic assignment submission points will become permanently unavailable via NILE.

August 2023

31 August, 2023, is the final date on which assignments submitted via a Turnitin Basic submission point can be accessed. From 1 September 2023 neither staff nor students will be able to access any submissions made via Turnitin Basic. From this point onwards, students wishing to obtain copies of their papers submitted via Turnitin Basic will need to contact Turnitin directly.

Key differences between Turnitin Basic and Turnitin LTI

While Turnitin Basic and Turnitin LTI are functionally almost identical, the following two features which have been available in Turnitin Basic are not available in Turnitin LTI:

  • Email non-submitters;
  • Automatic hiding of the Grade Centre column in the NILE courses.

In addition, students who submit an assessment to a Turnitin LTI submission point will no longer receive an emailed submission receipt. Instead, they will see a message which confirms successful submission, along with a prompt to download their submission receipt.

LearnTech Turnitin guides

Turnitin assignments for Original courses (new Turnitin LTI type):
https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/sage/turnitin_anonymous

Turnitin assignments for Original courses (old Turnitin Basic type):
https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/sage/turnitin_old

More information

If you require additional help or information about these changes, please contact your learning technologist: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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2022 dates for all of the following Learning Technology Team training workshops are now available:

  • An Introduction to Blackboard Ultra: Getting started with Ultra
  • Using Turnitin Assignments in Blackboard Ultra
  • Setting up Assignments and Marking in Blackboard Ultra
  • Discussions and Journals in Blackboard Ultra
  • Creating and Deploying Tests in Blackboard Ultra
  • Learning and Teaching in the Virtual Classroom with Blackboard Collaborate
  • Introduction to Padlet
  • Content Development
  • Recording and Editing Video
  • Xerte Training
  • Xerte Advanced Training

To view the times and dates for these training workshops, please see: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/scheduled-training

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December’s upgrade includes improvements to rubrics, accommodations, and groups in Ultra courses. Also included in the December upgrade is the ability to add a description to Ultra course banners. New features in the December upgrade will be available from Friday 3rd December.

Rubrics

Rubric types in Ultra courses have been extended to include both points and points range rubrics. The addition of qualitative rubrics is on Blackboard’s roadmap, although no date has yet been given for when these will be availalble.

Guidance on creating and using rubrics in Ultra courses is available from: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Grade/Rubrics

Accommodations

Currently, accommodations for time-limited assessments only include the options to give an individual student +50% or +100% more time, or unlimited time. Following December’s upgrade, any percentage can be selected.

More information about accommodations for time-limited assessments in Ultra courses can be found at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Interact/Roster#about-accommodations_OTP-2

Groups

A small and subtle change to groups in Ultra courses, but following the upgrade, staff will have the option to decide whether groups are visible to students or not. This will be useful for staff who like to set up marking groups in Turnitin, for example, to manage the marking of a large cohort amongst multiple markers. While it’s not a problem to do this already, such groups can be hidden from students following the upgrade.

More information on using groups in Ultra course is available at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Interact/Course_Groups/Create_Groups

Course banner description

Ultra course banners were introduced in the November upgrade. These course banners should always be used as a decorative element to the course, and they are treated as such for accessibility purposes, informing students using a screen reader that the image is decorative and does not need describing. However, December’s upgrade allows an image description to be added, and which, if used, will explain to students using a screen reader what the image contains.

More information about adding a course banner to your Ultra course can be found at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Getting_Started/Navigate_Inside_a_Course#customize-your-course_OTP-2

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the December upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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If you’ve ever had ideas about how Blackboard could be better, then now’s the chance to get involved with a new user experience research project run by Blackboard’s User Experience & Design Team.

You can find out more, and can sign up as a participant here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NQ6HVS2

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