Blackboard Learn Migration

By Jane Himmel, Associate Director, CLEAR*

The University of North Texas began its transition to a new learning management system platform, Blackboard Learn 9.1, in the fall of 2011. This move represents the first major LMS platform change since 2003 when the campus moved from WebCT Campus Edition to WebCT Vista. All UNT campuses have used the most recent version of Blackboard (formerly WebCT) Vista 8 since 2007.

The UNT System’s Distributed Learning Support (DLS) unit and UNT’s Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign (CLEAR) are coordinating the move to Learn 9.1 (http://learn.unt.edu). During the spring, 2011, DLS installed hardware, configured, and tested the system while CLEAR developed training. Over the summer CLEAR prepared a small group of faculty to pilot courses on the new platform during the Fall 2012 semester.

It is anticipated that approximately 2,500 course sites currently on Blackboard Vista will need to be migrated to Blackboard Learn 9.1. Using a phased transition approach, the units will support both Vista and Learn simultaneously until the end of Fall 2012 when Vista will no longer be a production system.

While the move to Learn 9.1 is necessary because Blackboard, Inc. will soon end support of Blackboard Vista, the move is also desired due to technological advances that have occurred since Vista was designed, which make it somewhat obsolete. Instructors and students are sure to be pleased with the new tools available to them in Learn 9.1, which were designed with an eye to improving both educator efficiency and student collaboration. Additionally, Blackboard Learn 9.1 has been awarded with Nonvisual Accessibility Gold Certification by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), making it the first and only learning management system to achieve certification.

Top 10 Reasons You Will Love Blackboard Learn 9.1!  

Full Grade Center

  1. BB Mobile availability - access course content virtually anywhere!

  2. TurnItIn - assignments can be copied to new sections so you don't have to recreate them every semester

  3. GradeCenter - calculated columns are easier to create and edit without long cumbersome formulas

  4. Smart Views - allow you to quickly find data matched on a customized set of criteria

  5. Early Warning System - helps recognize when there is a performance problem based on a test score, calculated column, missed due dates, or course access.

  6. Course entry page - can be changed to different content areas or a course tool

  7. Built in Wiki - tool for group sharing and collaborating

  8. Performance dashboard - provides user information about progress and activity in the course

  9. Course tasks - organize projects or activities for users 

  10. Media - audio, video, YouTube, and flash is easily embedded into course content pages

Those providing support to end users on Blackboard Learn 9.1 will be also pleased that there are fewer and less stringent requirements for Java, OS, and browser versions than for Blackboard Vista. (A complete list of supported browsers and operating systems for the latest release can be found here: http://bit.ly/upENgL.) 

Migration Schedule

The plan to move to Blackboard 9.1 was first announced to current Blackboard Vista faculty users early in the fall semester. Instructors were invited to request migration for spring, summer, or fall 2012. The deadline to migrate a course to be delivered in spring 2012 has passed, but instructors planning to teach on Learn in summer or fall are encouraged to request a migration soon. All courses must be migrated by the spring 2013 semester. Vista cannot be used for course delivery after fall 2012.

To request the migration of a Vista course, please fill out the migration request form.

Semester on Learn

Request Deadline

Summer 2012

April 14, 2012

Fall 2012

August 1, 2012

Spring 2013*

November 27, 2012

Training 

Learn More about Blackboard

Although the new system offers features and tools that users will like, it does represent a significant change in terms of its interface, navigation, and functionality. Users, particularly instructors and course designers, will face a learning curve. It is strongly recommended that faculty moving to Blackboard Learn start early and take advantage of the many workshop opportunities offered by CLEAR when planning their move to Blackboard Learn 9.1. During the spring semester CLEAR expanded its training offerings from conducting only face-to-face workshops to delivering facilitated online training courses assististing faculty with mastering Blackboard Learn. Also, Blackboard’s On Demand Learning Center (http://ondemand.blackboard.com) provides short, self-paced videos for instructors who wish to learn more about a particular tool.  Additionally, instructors may be interested in exploring highlights of some of the top features and workflows of Blackboard Learn at Blackboard’s Feature Showcase. Finally, click on the box below and check out the UNT Blackboard Learn Boot Camp starting May 25:

Blackboard Learn Bootcamp

“Pardon Our Construction”

Because both Blackboard Vista and Blackboard Learn will be used for delivering courses over the next seven months, it is vital that the transition be as transparent as possible for students. Based on fall 2011 data, 36,730 students were enrolled in classes that used Blackboard Vista for online, blended, or web-enhanced courses. Course sections will continue to be created in Blackboard Vista through the migration project. Students enrolled in courses that are delivered in Blackboard Learn will find a link on their Vista course site that opens their section in Learn. A Blackboard-developed tutorial on the new platform as well as help from the On-Demand Learning Center will help students learn how to submit assignments and use the various tools in Learn 9.1.

Basic information and the timeline for the Learn 9.1 migration can be found on the Bb Learn Upgrade tab at http://ecampus.unt.edu. For questions about UNT’s move to Blackboard Learn 9.1, please email the CLEAR Faculty Helpdesk at clearhelp@unt.edu.

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*This is a slightly edited version of an article that appeared in the December, 2011 issue of Benchmarks Online -- Ed.