Blackboard 9.1 is now out of the box!

With the systems integration (described in the last blog post) now complete, the Blackboard 9.1 project has achieved a further two milestones and finally moved out into open view.

All three faculties are now running a small number of 9.1 pilots and ‘touch wood’, are progressing well. We’ve deliberately kept to a small number of early pilots so that we can be effective in supporting them and at the same time learning about what is new or different while learning  ‘on-the-job’.

It almost goes without saying that for Blackboard 9.1 to be successful in supporting student learning it is essential that course teams regard their virtual environments as integral to the student experience. To this end, each faculty’s Senior Solstice Fellow is working closely with Learning Services Learning Technology Development Division (LTD) to organise faculty training plans. An extensive 9.1 awareness, support and training programme tailored to each faculty is now in place and being advertised in the faculties. Key to the programme are the hands-on workshops where  participating teams construct their courses in 9.1 through a range of supported activities . Feedback from workshop participants has so far been very encouraging and if you would like more information on the workshop content, timetable, or how to book, please contact ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk

The LTD team continue to work closely with colleagues in Academic Registry and the faculties as we begin to review the course and module lifecycle in Blackboard – we are calling this activity a ‘people systems integration’. The reason for this review is that following the successful data systems integration between the Student Information Database (SID) and Blackboard, SID has become Blackboard’s ‘parent’ system.  All Blackboard courses and student enrolments are now a direct reflection of master records in SID. This will impact on LTD and Faculties as they will no longer have the ability to create courses in Blackboard or add students directly to those courses. The various teams involved in the different stages of the module lifecycle will be collaborating in the aforementioned “people systems integration” to identify and implement changes to existing processes.

Finally, it needs to go on record (again) that none of the major changes we are making could be achieved by any team working in isolation. The success of Edge Hill’s move to 9.1 to date is a direct result of the multi-professional team approach that has emerged between and within faculties and departments.

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 …