Blackboard to get makeover

Out with the old and in with the new. Effective during the January term, Academic Technology will be updating Blackboard. Blackboard 8 will be replaced with the newly vamped Blackboard 9.1 with new features such as customized homepage settings, notifications and better organization.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Erardi

The functions of the newer version have become more streamlined, giving faculty the ability to submit assignments with one click instead of the two or three extra steps they needed before. Students can personalize and set their notifications that they receive on Blackboard and through email.

“That would be extremely helpful,” sophomore Kellsie Phillips said. “My email goes right to my phone, so I am always up-to-date, and now I’ll know when I have to write papers.”

With the notification abilities, students can sign up to receive emails or dashboard notifications on Blackboard for such things as upcoming tests, assignments, if a grade was posted and if an assignment is overdue.

“Everyone has the notification dashboard which lists the courses you are in,” said Lauren Erardi, Director of Academic Technology. “A lot of this is based on how your instructor uses it so if they put a due date for an assignment or a test, as a student you can sign up and say well let me know when that is getting close. If grades are posted you can get notified, assuming your instructor uses the grade center.”

The current Blackboard went down for a while and still does, but other than that there was nothing really wrong with it, Phillips said.

“We were getting a lot of feedback from faculty and staff about issues with Blackboard 8,” said Christina Wilson, an Instructional Technologist at Quinnipiac University. “So we took those complaints, and designed this version to keep learning in mind.”

A new tool, Galaxy, provides faculty with a centralized place to store content, said Erardi. Galaxy lets faculty upload one document for all the sections that they are teaching. If they have to update that document, they change the document once and it would dynamically update everywhere the document is posted throughout their courses.

There are a lot of changes to the Blackboard in order to help the faculty with posting information for their courses. Blackboard 9.1 lets faculty embed YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations and Flickr photos right into Blackboard.

“A lot of the easiness of it is geared toward faculty, but from the student perspective just because things are easier for faculty to do, hopefully they will use more of the tools so that the students will benefit,” Erardi said. “So hopefully faculty will take advantage of that and then the students will get a lot more multimedia and more dynamic content in their courses to make it more interesting.”

Academic Technology will be installing Blackboard 9.1 the night of December 20 but it will not be available to use right away.

“Grades are due to the Registrar’s office on December 19 so the upgrade should not impact students receiving their grades,” Erardi said. “If there are faculty who need to submit their grades late, they can download students’ assignments and their Grade Center from Blackboard prior to the upgrade date.”

Students shouldn’t have a problem accessing their grades because it is done through WebAdvisor, which is a different system, Erardi said.

Academic Technology has held workshops to start teaching the faculty how to use Blackboard 9.1. So far, 150 faculty members have attended these sessions. Student training sessions will start this week and some will be held in the spring semester.