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April 27, 2010

Major Blackboard Upgrade Scheduled in Late May

CORRECTION: The update will begin approximately 7 am on Thursday, May 27, not on May 26 as stated below.

DoIT is planning to upgrade the UMBC Blackboard 8.0 system to Blackboard Learn 9.1 at the end of May, over Memorial Day weekend, after the completion of Spring 2010 courses and grading. The change in the interface from 8.0 to 9.1 is substantial and we are encouraging all Blackboard users to be proactive in educating themselves about the new system. The rationale for this upgrade is detailed below, along with some information on how this might impact the campus community.

When will the upgrade take place?

The upgrade process is slated to begin approximately 7 pm on Wednesday, May 26th and will take several days to complete. All Blackboard courses and communities will be unavailable during this time. At the end of this process all prior courses will still exist (complete with their content), but will just appear in the new Bb Learn 9.1 format.

Why upgrade Blackboard now?

The decision to upgrade Blackboard prior to the start of Summer Session was made for several reasons. There are limited windows of opportunity during the year for DoIT to perform a major upgrade like this. Our current version of Blackboard is old, and does not work well with the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox. These known browser incompatibility issues have continued to be a problem this semester for both students and faculty alike, and there is no end in sight. Based on information gleaned from other institutions who have already gone through this process, DoIT felt that it was important to have Bb Learn 9.1 in place throughout the summer. This will allow more time for the campus to acclimate to the interface changes, and for DoIT to provide training opportunities for faculty and staff.

What type of testing has been done to date at UMBC?

In anticipation of this upgrade, Karin Readel has piloted the use of Bb Learn 9.1 with 200 SCI 100 students this spring. No major problems have been reported, and the browser-related issues have ceased. DoIT is actively consulting with Presidium (the 24/7 Blackboard Support Service) to monitor any known support issues that they have addressed with other institutions who have implemented this upgrade. DoIT is also in the process of documenting (with help sheets and screen captures) the major interface changes to assist faculty in getting their courses ready for summer and fall. Details on additional “just in time” training resources, and drop-in Bb help sessions will be posted as they become available.

Is there anything that you need to do?

All existing course content will be migrated to Bb Learn 9.1 during the upgrade. As a precaution DoIT recommends that all faculty download a copy of their grade center from their Spring 2010 courses prior to May 26th. Summer faculty have already been enrolled in a Bb Learn 9.1 Sandbox course so that they can test out the new system prior to June. If you are teaching in the summer and you do not have access to the Sandbox course, please submit a request to be added to it. All other faculty will have access to Bb Learn 9.1 starting in June, allowing plenty of time to investigate all of the new features.

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