Making things happen: behind the scenes (part 2)

In our last post we focused on the Learning Services team and their roles in the technical development and staff training for Blackboard 9.1. This time, we thought we’d introduce the colleagues who work with our Learning Technologists, David Callaghan and Adrian Cain: Kevin English (Assistant Registrar, Data Management & User Support Team, Academic Registry), Kevin Molyneux (Senior Business Systems Officer, IT Services) and Victor Iriarte (Complex Hosting Manager, Blackboard).

This cross-University/Blackboard group have been working over the past few months to ensure that integration between existing University systems and Blackboard 9.1 has enabled the automatic creation of course areas and student enrolments in Blackboard. The collaboration has resulted in a robust integration and provided timely and consistent availability of courses and student enrolments into Blackboard. It wouldn’t have happened without the excellent teamwork from all involved.

Our offer of a high-quality group photo to accompany this post was gently refused so we have included an image of the 9.1 ‘concept’ highlighting the integration aspect instead. The aim is to illustrate that without effective systems integration, none of the other benefits of Blackboard 9.1 can be realised.

The final post in the ‘Behind the Scenes’ series will introduce you to faculty colleagues who have key roles in the roll out of Blackboard 9.1 to staff and students …

Journey to 9.1 … the first milestone and a big Thank You

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 …