The week leading up to the end of the last semester saw us achieve a big milestone in the move from our current version of Blackboard to the latest version (Blackboard Learn 9.1). Colleagues from each Faculty, IT Services, Academic Registry, Learning Services and Teaching and Learning Development came together to work with Blackboard Consulting to map out how key University systems would integrate with Blackboard. I didn’t get a chance at the end of the week to express my thanks to everyone who was involved, so Thank You All!

The whole week stands as an exemplar of the multi-professional team in action. At the end of the process, consensus was reached that demonstrated a good balance between wants and needs and that consideration of the student experience was our constant benchmark.

Why is achieving effective systems integration a milestone? Underpinning Blackboard as a vehicle for teaching and learning is a database of student, staff, programme and module information that draws source data from the student information database (SID). Getting the right students into the right Blackboard modules at the right time has never been a simple or automatic process. There are of necessity more course and module records in SID than are taught face to face or online – considerable mediation and manual processes are required to ensure that courses and modules in Blackboard match the taught curriculum. Simplifying and automating the creation of Blackboard courses and the enrolment of students into said courses will significantly speed up and improve the process of developing courses in Blackboard. This can only be A Good Thing!

Having now achieved consensus on integration, the next key milestones are (i) the managed roll-out of Blackboard 9.1 to a handful of courses in January, (ii) the implementation of a comprehensive staff training and 9.1 development programme and (iii) the introduction of a separate repository for teaching and learning content. More on each of these to follow …