Blackboard Upgrade

"Enhancing student engagement and instructor efficiency"

Current System:

  • Current Production Version: 9.1 SP12
  • History:
    9.1 SP12 (upgraded from 9.1 SP9) - August, 2013
    9.1 SP9 (upgraded from 9.1 SP6) - August, 2012
    9.1 SP6 (upgraded from 9.1 SP3) - August, 2011
    9.1 SP3 (upgraded from version 8.0) - August, 2010
    8.0 (upgraded from 7.1) - August, 2008

Upgrade Rationale:

  1. Improve core teaching & learning tools and to accelerate innovation to advance teaching and learning.
  2. Bb 9.1 SP12 solves several issues reported by students and faculty.
  3. Bb 9.1 SP12 includes multiple new tools and improved tools which increase accessibility for all users.
  4. The DLIT Department Action Plan provides goals for extending and enhancing the Blackboard platform.

Upgrade History:

GRCC first installed Blackboard CourseInfo 4 back in 1999. The college then upgraded to Blackboard 5 Level 1 in April 2001. As our usage grew over the 2001 to 2003 time period, we realized that we needed a mission critical enterprise installation. In January 2003, we installed the Blackboard 6 Learning System and Community Portal System. Moving forward, we upgraded to Blackboard 6.2 in the Fall of 2004, and Blackboard 7.1 in August of 2006. Finally, GRCC moved to Blackboard 8 in the Fall of 2008.

Blackboard 9.1 SP3 was implemented in the Fall 2010 and SP6 was set to production in August 2011. In the Fall of 2012, Blackboard SP9 was installed in production.  Looking forward to Fall 2013, the college is working to implement SP11/12.

The upgrade is important in order to take advantage of the many resolved issues and new feature sets described in more detail below.

Continuous quality improvement requires ongoing and frequent software upgrades, patches, hardware improvements, and overall monitoring of the system.

Why Upgrade?

Simply put, upgrades are part of every software program, and are intended to provide new functionality based on instructor and student feedback. Also of significant importance is that upgrades offer solutions to current issues and problems with the software. The question is not "should we upgrade", but more accurately, "when is our next upgrade".

The Blackboard environment is an enterprise system with high priority here at GRCC. There are many important factors and reasons that upgrading is important. Upgrades provide the opportunity to enhance, improve, address issues, and solve problems that currently exist with one of the key teaching and learning systems we have on campus.

In addition, the Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies department's 5 year plan includes an action item to enhance, extend, and continuously improve the Blackboard environment at GRCC. Moreover, the College's Distance Learning College Action Project (including it's definition as an AQIP project) involves enhancing and improving the Blackboard system to increase our online presence to 25% of enrollment.

What is Blackboard 9.1 SP12?

Blackboard 9.1 SP12 is the latest release of the Blackboard Academic Suite and part of a multi-year, multi-release rollout. This release was driven by the feedback of thousands of clients through their participation in our Blackboard Community Programs. The enhanced Blackboard Learn delivers exciting innovations as well as deep improvements to core capabilities, resulting in a simpler teaching and learning experience that engages learners and makes everyone's life easier. 

  1. Builds on the student engagement tools in earlier releases,
  2. Improves the performance of the software,
  3. Enhances the entire user interface to make it easier to use,more intuitive, and extends drag and drop simplicity along with context sensitive menus.
  4. Brings new features for faculty and student to improve teaching and learning.

As Blackboard continuously improves the system, the following features are part of SP12:

  • Expanded Accessibility - New accessibility improvements include the ability to skip links, ARIA Markup, Forms Markup, My Blackboard, My Grades, and enhancements in the accessibility of tests.
  • Enhanced Item Analysis - Provides additional statistics on test performance and individual test questins.
  • Pattern Matching Fill-in-the-Blank - Fill in the blank questions can be automatically scored using a pattern matching feature.
  • Enterprise Surveys and Course Evaluations - A new feature will be available to deploy institutional surveys into courses.
  • New Discussion board with increased accessibility for screen readers.
  • Expanded Social Learning Tools for students to better communicate (not currently available at GRCC).
  • New Calendar will allow for iCal support and drag-n-drop functinality.
  • Video Everywhere tool enables personlized and just in time feedback for students.
  • Inline assignment grading features (allow instructors to be able to grade and markup files in Blackboard without the use of any special plugins).
  • New retention center features to better monitor student performance.

Fixes include the following:

  • LRN-60801 - Uncontrollable activity accumulator growth is resolved in SP11.
  • Course Copy now correctly copies only files linked in the course instead of the entire course files directory resolving issues with course quotas, wasted disk space, and redundent course copy files.
  • Correct html code to render bulleted lists correctly.
  • A fix to Blind Copy messages sent from the Grade Center so that email is now sent correctly.
  • Assignment file download tool now properly contains all files from users with multiple attempts.
  • When a math equation is inserted into the VTBE, the equation can now be properly edited.
  • Improvements in loading time of Content System parent folders.
  • Grading discussion boards reduces scrolling with score form field properly displayed at the top of the screen.
  • Extra spaces in announcements emails are now removed.

What does this upgrade mean for Faculty?

Faculty will benefit from the easy-to-use intuitive interface, enhanced workflows, and an extended tool set of capabilities to improve their teaching with Blackboard.

What does this upgrade mean for Students?

Other than adjusting to small cosmetic changes, students should be able to seamlessly move from version 9.1 SP12 without any significant additional training.