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Important upgrades to JU’s Blackboard to begin June 25

Blackboard, a course management system used campuswide at Jacksonville University that lets faculty post course materials, deliver tests and surveys, hold online discussions and facilitate many other course-related functions, will be undergoing some upgrades. Here’s a look at changes that are coming, according to Arturo Cole, JU Blackboard Administrator.

What is happening, and why?

JU is currently using Blackboard version 8. Blackboard announced it will stop supporting our current version of Blackboard in January 2013. You may be thinking, “So what?  Let’s just keep using this version.  I’m used to it.”  The danger will be that any problems we have with Blackboard 8 in the future would not be fixed.  The biggest issue everyone would notice is that every time a new browser comes out, Blackboard may have major features that would stop working.  Some browsers, like Firefox, have new versions every six weeks, so it wouldn’t take long before everyone would start noticing problems.

Therefore,  Jacksonville University will be upgrading Blackboard from version 8.0 to version 9.1 (now called Blackboard Learn) the week of June 25-July 1.

The Blackboard server upgrade is scheduled to start on Monday, June 25, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.  It should be complete on or before 11 p.m. Eastern Time the next day. In an effort to transition to version 9.1, our upgrade will have a downtime window of 27 hours.  During this time, we will not be able to login to Blackboard. We are still reserving the whole week in the event we need to extend this upgrade window once the upgrade has started. Please note: we do not anticipate the need for the extension, however we want to ensure a contingency plan is in place should any challenges arise.

The Blackboard 9.1 interface is different from that of Blackboard 8.0, although most of the tools and functionality should feel familiar to current Blackboard 8.0 users. Blackboard’s latest version provides enhanced workflows, a more effective user interface and an extended tool set of capabilities that will benefit instructors using Blackboard. It will no longer be necessary for instructors to access a separate control panel to make changes to their course; all options for uploading files, creating assignments and posting links will be available on the new course page.

What can/should I do before this happens?

If you are an instructor using Blackboard, since we will be migrating your current classes to the new platform, this would be a good time to clean them up.  Remove any old files that you don’t use anymore that are still taking up space in your class, including old links or unused files in your File Manager.

IMPORTANT: All of your material will be available to you after the upgrade.  We will move all classes for you from the old version to the new version during the migration process.  But it would be wise if you have a backup of your own course(s) for safekeeping (in case of an emergency). Be sure to create the backup of your course(s) by June 24. In the Control Panel of your course in BB there is the Export/Import Course option that allows you to make a backup of your course content and then import the content into your new course. Back up all data and store copies of the backup files on your local machine or drive.
For more help on this topic, go to the CTL website: http://www.ju.edu/ctl/Pages/Academic-Technology-Support.aspx

I am teaching in the second six-week or eight-week summer term. When will my course migrate?

As mentioned above, the Blackboard upgrade is scheduled to start on Monday. June 25, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and should be completed on or before 11 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, June 26. That’s when all of JU’s courses will be migrated to the new version of BB.

Summer 2012 Blackboard impact
12U2Z – 2nd 6-Weeks – June 25  to Aug 3:  No Bb during part of the first week.  Please create your course as you normally would in Bb 8, save it (export/import – just in case), it will be migrated for you and should be ready for your use by Wednesday 6/27*.
12U2W – 2nd 8-Weeks Accelerated – July 2   to  Aug. 26: Create your course in Bb 8 as you normally would, save it (export/import – just in case), it will be migrated for you and should be ready for fine-tuning by Wednesday 6/27*.
12U2X – 2nd 8-Weeks Online – July 2   to  Aug. 26: Create your course in Bb 8 as you normally would, save it (export/import – just in case), it will be migrated for you and should be ready for fine-tuning by Wednesday 6/27*.
 *We are reserving the whole week for this conversion in the event we need to extend this upgrade window once the upgrade has started. Please note: we do not anticipate the need for the extension, however we want to ensure a contingency plan is in place should any challenges arise.  Notification on any extension or interruptions to access will be quick and numerous.

Will all of the old features be available on the new system?

There will be some modifications to existing Blackboard functions as well as some new features not available in the current version in use.
Blackboard 9.1, also called Blackboard Learn, provides the features and tools available in version 8.0, plus significant enhancements to the user interface, new social learning tools and easier navigation throughout. The Blackboard 9.1 interface has been redesigned for an intuitive Web 2.0 look-and-feel.  In this new version instructors can drag-and-drop course content, turn edit mode ON (instructor view) or OFF (student view), and customize their course home page. The newly redesigned Assignment tool replaces the Digital Dropbox tool, providing a better submission workflow process.

Here is a list of some of the new/enhanced tools and features that you can expect to see in Blackboard Learn:

•  Content Area (enhanced) – The content areas have changed considerably (more aesthetically than functionally). The content building menus are reorganized and rearranged. There are also new content types including: blank pages, assign textbook, and mashups.
•  Mashups (new) – Mashups allow Instructors to add content to a Course that is from an external Web site. The new Mashup integrations with popular services such as YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare allow Instructors and Students to discover, select, and embed content from those services without ever leaving the Blackboard Learn interface. This content is used in a variety of ways within a Course: a standalone piece of Course Content, part of a test question, a topic on a Discussion Board, or as part of an assignment. The content displayed in a course will still reside on the external Web site.
• Learning Modules (enhanced) – Learning Modules have gotten a bit of a face lift. They now have a hierarchical folder structure that allows students to see their progress within the Module.
• Grade Center (enhanced) – The Grade Center is now a top level section on the control panel. In addition, smart views (filtered grade views) are featured more prominently in the Grade Center area. Other features include: Anonymous grading, question by question grading of exams, blogs and journals linked to the Grade Center, and grading rubrics.
• File Management (enhanced) – One of the most significant changes is the addition of a Course Files area. Similar to the “File Manager” tool in Blackboard 8, Blackboard 9.1 provides a file area where you can store any files you wish to use in your course.
• Assignments (enhanced) – Allows instructor to deploy assignments to individuals or groups and grade individually or as a group. Students will have the ability to submit multiple attempts for assignments if the instructor has enabled that feature.
• Journals (new) – Allows students to document on-going course learning and experiences in a public (course only) or private area. Instructors can comment on each student’s journal; however their peers only have read access.   Instructors can create Group Journals for students to collaboratively work and reflect among group peers.
•  Blogs (new) – Instructors can create Individual, Course or Group Blogs for their students. Students can share their learning experiences and receive comments/feedback from both instructors and students. This area is considered a common area by either a student or a set of students for public (course only) comments.
•  Wikis (new) – Blackboard 9.1 allows you to create a Wiki, a collaborative tool most widely used in higher education for student-to-student collaboration.
•  Notification dashboards (new) – Instructors and students can be notified via email when content becomes available, when assignments are due or submitted and when items need grading or have been graded.
•  Groups (enhanced) – Instructors can now create multiple groups at once, providing default settings and descriptions for each group. Students can be automatically enrolled by the instructor, manually enrolled at a later date, or can sign-up for a group themselves. Instructors can allow students to create their own self-enrollment group, although the instructor has the ability to modify or restrict each group.

Watch an interactive presentation of the general overview of this upgrade:

Over the last month, the Center for Teaching and Learning has offered seven Intro to Blackboard 9.1 workshops on the Johnson Training Lab. Serving a total of 68 faculty and staff members. Since the interest and need is still out there,  they have put up the content and activities of the Introduction to Blackboard 9.1 Environment workshop as a self-paced tutorial option for all faculty who either prefers this method of training or has difficulty attending face-to-face workshops.

This is a hands-on self-paced tutorial that will provide you with instruction on how to use the basics of Blackboard 9.1. You will learn how to navigate, create new buttons for new content areas, add your textbook information, create announcements, and see some of the new features within the new version to which Jacksonville University will be upgrading to.

This is a great chance for JU Faculty to see and experience how the new version of Blackboard looks and feels like! Click the link to access the material: http://www.ju.edu/ctl/Documents/Bb91Intro.pdf

The CTL also have scheduled two more traditional workshops on the following dates:

Introduction to Blackboard 9.1 (Blackboard Learn)
When: Wednesday, June 6 <- NEW! OPEN
When: Thursday, June 14 <- NEW! OPEN

Time: 10:30am – noon
Where: Johnson Training Lab

Please RSVP for planning purposes to kjackso, cturner1 or acole1. They’ll give you access to training material to help ease your transition.

The CTL will be offering more Blackboard 9.1 demo sessions and workshops over the summer and fall semester, including some on more advance Blackboard topics.

Watch for CTL emails and other communications updating you on what is happening with Blackboard and when. 

For more information, Arturo Cole is at  acole1@ju.edu, (904) 256-7972