Blackboard To Undergo Significant Upgrade

Screen shot of Blackboard's new profile page

The new profile page... You choose how the campus sees you. Cultivate your image through the pictures and words you use.

Blackboard is scheduled to undergo a significant upgrade on the weekend of June 15 and 16. The Blackboard team believes this upgrade will significantly improve the user experience.

The upgrade window runs from 6 a.m. on June 15 until 6 a.m. on June 16. During this interval, all aspects of the Blackboard system will be unavailable. When the system comes back online, it will have been patched to Service Pack 11.

The new look for Blackboard will offer a simplified interface that allows for greater individual user customization. One major aspect of this new look involves the Global Navigation Menu. This menu offers a new navigational window to all notifications that a user might receive, from the classes, their classmate, or their community, if they so desire.

Screen shot of Blackboard's "My Grades" page

View your grades for each assignment, test, or activity in all of your courses. Sort the grades by date or course.

The new navigation offers targeted access to:

  • Courses and settings
  • Profile, Posts, and People
  • Updates
  • My Grades
  • My Calendar
  • My Blackboard

Additionally, the menu remembers the last five places a user has visited in Blackboard so that a quick return to previous work is facilitated.

The calendaring feature will be more user friendly, allowing easy drag-and-drop of events between calendars.

The new Blackboard puts focused emphasis on the creation and maintenance of user profiles. This is the first major step in consciously structuring Blackboard as a social learning environment, in which users can build greater rapport with classmates with whom they are studying. The idea is to tear down the walls that separate students from students and classes from classes. Blackboard offers customizable levels of privacy with this feature.

Screen shot of Blackboard's new cloud discussions page

Previews of the profiles are available when you place your mouse cursor over a user’s avatar. Click View Profile to view the full profile and interact with them.

The establishment of a Blackboard “Cloud” profile will soon help Blackboard users at different institutions to contact one another, rather than Blackboard only serving a single institution. This concept is called “Blackboard Social.”

Sandra Butler (Enterprise Applications) notes, “at this time, Emory is not establishing anyone’s cloud identity outside of Emory. Cross-institutional communication must still be reviewed by Emory’s Governance Committee.”

Nonetheless, if Blackboard Social is approved, users will be able to connect with users at other institutions, host online meetings, and follow and/or message those users. The upgrade is merely beginning the process of creating the profiles that will be necessary for this level of interaction.

Other new features include:

  • Retention Center – which gives faculty and advisers access to a student’s online Blackboard activity
  • Improved Discussion Boards – accessible in the new navigation structure
  • Enterprise Surveys – across the institution
  • Video Everywhere – uses YouTube accounts to record video notes
  • New Content Editor – vastly improves text handling capabilities, including pasting Word documents

There are training sessions offered through ECIT and online video resources to complement the introduction of the new product features. The Blackboard Team also has been doing departmental and school demos, which will continue throughout the summer and fall.

Besides Alan Cattier (Academic Technology Services) as sponsor and Sandra Butler as project manager, team members include: Leah Chuchran (Academic Technology Services), Mark Eisert (Integration), Chris Fearrington (Academic Technology Services), Kathy Hayes (Academic Technology Services), Julia Leon (Integration), Naiqi Li (Infrastructure), Wayne Morse (Academic Technology Services), Curt Tucker (Infrastructure), John Wang (Integration) and John Willingham (Academic Technology Services).

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