Blackboard 2018 updates
As we have been reporting, there are a number of changes happening to Blackboard over the summer.
One of these changes is a new, responsive theme. Responsive themes are optimised to work on different devices, scaling-down to accommodate smaller screen sizes. Access to Blackboard via portable devices, such as smartphones, is growing rapidly, and the new theme helps support this growth, whilst providing an improved experience for all users.
To accommodate the responsive design, Blackboard no longer supports individual “Course Themes” (some examples below). Any courses that have a Course Theme applied will find that it has been reverted to the system-default design following the responsive theme application. This only applies to course design, course content is not affected.
You will still be able to personalise your course using a banner on the entry page and colour on the menu. However, consider accessibility issues, and make sure there is sufficient contrast between the text and background colours.
The process for creating, claiming and getting started with your Blackboard sites will change for 2018/9 academic year. Our January and March iLead posts will provide further information on the project, however, if these articles don’t cover your question please contact email@example.com.
In summary, the success of the automated process relies on the data in SITS, and a Blackboard site will be created using MAV data in the normal way but now also relies on:
- a MAV ‘flagged’ as needing a Blackboard site and
- the ‘Lead Tutor’. This individual will automatically be added as an Instructor to the site which will subsequently appear in a “Pending” section of their Blackboard My Courses list.
In view of this, we are asking you to review and update a spreadsheet to ensure your Blackboard site will be created and available to you. We understand that future changes to the lead tutors are inevitable and are working on a solution to manage this.
The spreadsheet shows all the MAV’s set up for 2018/9 within each subject group and only the columns highlighted in yellow need to be completed. We request that you check:
- the module title, subject group and department. These are taken from the Module Record (MOD), if this data is incorrect please contact firstname.lastname@example.org providing the correct details.
- ‘Is the Blackboard Site Needed?’ has been defaulted to YES, please change to NO if you do not need a Blackboard site.
- ‘Tutor Name’. This has been pre-populated by data currently on SITS, please amend and complete as necessary. Changes to the spreadsheet are tracked by colour changing cells.
- To complete the data collection please add in your initials in the first column to indicate the MAV has been checked.
Access to the Spreadsheet
On Campus is via the ‘Z’ Drive and can be found using this file path: Z:\SAAS – Shared Documents\Data Collection\SDMU\Blackboard Tutor Collection
Off Campus you will need to use the ‘Off campus Z drive access or the Remote Desktop both of which can be found under Systems on the StaffHub:
Can’t find your modules? The individual spreadsheets are built using the Subject Group data on the MAV, if this is incorrect then you are likely to find your modules on one of the other spreadsheets within your department folder.
If you notice the data isn’t quite right ie. the Period isn’t right or the module is on the wrong spreadsheet please make a note in the Comments column for correction at the end of this process.
Course information has been provided for information only and is not a definitive list. The information was sourced from 2017/8 MAVs that have students attached. Variants have not been split-out; there will be one title covering part time/full time, placement/sandwich etc.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation with this process, please note the spreadsheet is available from now until 18th May.
To find out more on any of the above please contact either the central email@example.com email or directly to your supporting learning technologist.
The project streams documented in our iLead Blackboard Development post are progressing well and to plan. The following information is still very much in draft form, but should give a flavour of how it might look. Please note that the images below are mock-up screenshots and are subject to change.
The process for creating, claiming and getting started with your Blackboard sites will change for 2018/9 academic year. The introduction of enhanced automation will create a much faster process, with you in control.
For a new Blackboard site to be created the lead tutor needs to be added to the associated module (MAV) on SITS. A data collection exercise, managed by Data Management, will take place between 16th April and 18th May when you will be asked if a Blackboard site is required for a MAV, and to identify the Module Lead for each module delivery. This data will be imported into SITS and, via an automated process on a yet to be specified date, a Blackboard site is created and will appear in a “Pending” section of the identified individual’s Blackboard courses list. We are also working on a solution to manage future changes to this data.
Once your site is on Blackboard, you will be able to run a set-up programme that will walk you through the initial steps of template application and copying existing content from a previous iteration of the module.
We look forward to working with you and your team to create a Blackboard template for your programme, which will help ensure consistency between modules, and adherence to the Blackboard Protocols. Please contact AQD to find out more.
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.