There are some exciting changes coming to Blackboard for 2018/19 academic year such as:
- Course Creation and Automated Template Application
- System Home Page Redesign and Responsive Theme
- Summer Upgrade
Course Creation and Automated Template Application
The Blackboard course creation route has remained largely unchanged for a number of years. Although it has worked well, it is fairly inefficient and is not robust enough to support future developments and tighter integration with SITS.
Currently, apart from student enrolments, there is a lack of two-way communication between SITS and Blackboard for our module deliveries. All modules created in SITS (via a MAV) and completed with the correct data are automatically created in Blackboard however if the course should subsequently be removed from SITS then this is not reflected on Blackboard which has caused issues of incorrect sites being used.
Students no longer associated with the MAV are not automatically removed from the Blackboard site.
To begin working on a site a tutor needs to select a course from within Blackboard (this relies on the module site creation process above), redesign or apply the correct template and, if required, copy any existing materials across from the previous instance of the course manually.
The new system will:
- Improve and increase updates in both frequency and capability of enrolments and course creation
- Simplify the route to consistent Blackboard sites
- Reduce the risk of incorrect Blackboard site selection
- Limit the number of sites created to only the ones which are actually required
- Establish the foundation for an enhanced dynamic link between SITS and Blackboard
- Create more accurate SITS records
Once in place, Blackboard sites will only be created when the lead tutor is assigned to the MAV within SITS, this is critical as Blackboard sites will not be created without this data. Once the data has been entered on the MAV in SITS the Module Blackboard sites will be available to a tutor within a few hours. Requests for “non-module” Blackboard sites will be via a form request.
The identified tutor will automatically be attached to the newly created site and will find it listed under “My Courses”, or within the “Pending” category if the tutor has enabled “Terms”.
On selection of the site you will be taken through the two-step process of attaching a template and optionally, copying selected content from a previous instance. The basic site is now ready to add/update content and attach other tutors as required.
If you plan to deliver a course where a number of modules are taught together then the system can help you create a combined site by prompting you to identify the modules (MAVs) to be included.
Only students who are on the MAV will appear on the Blackboard site.
The new system will be in place for all 2018/19 courses.
System Home Page Redesign and Responsive Theme
System analysis, sector trends and our experience tells us that students are increasingly accessing learning materials via alternative devices year on year. Whilst analytical data from Blackboard confirms the traditional desktop is still top of the list for access, a significant proportion of logins are from mobile and tablet devices and has been increasing for a number of years.
With our current system, display response to this wide variety of devices is difficult to predict but we are aware it can sometime cause issues, unpredictable behaviour and, on the whole, results in an inconsistent user experience.
To help mitigate this frustrating user experience, we are developing a new interface using a Responsive Web Design approach.
Responsive Web Design will make the site mobile-friendly and improve the way it looks on devices with both large and small screens as it automatically scales, reorders and prioritises content and elements to match the screen size on which it is viewed. It also keeps images from being larger than the screen width and prevents users on mobile devices from needing to do extra work to read content.
The Blackboard App is constantly being updated, and the responsive theme will work in conjunction with the App to provide a much more seamless experience when using a mobile device.
As part of this project theme functionality, the Homepage and other “non-course” areas will be reviewed to provide a much more engaging experience.
The annual system update will take place during summer. The date has yet to be arranged, but it is likely to be at a similar time to previous years – around the end of July / early August. Please be aware that Blackboard will be unavailable for up to 24 hours during the upgrade.
Regular and timely upgrades are necessary to ensure we have;
- Full system support for each academic year
- Access to the latest features and updates
- Support for current client software – operating systems, browsers, etc.
- Up-to-date security and performance settings
We will publish further information regarding dates and any new features of interest as soon as they become available.
Details and descriptions are subject to change, and more information will be circulated as necessary and as it becomes available.