As previously reported on this blog, we will be moving our Blackboard system to a cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) platform over the first weekend in August. We are now in a position to give further details.
The system will be unavailable
- from 20:00 BST on Friday 31 July
- for the whole of Saturday 1 and 2 August
- for some of Monday 3 August.
Blackboard, Turnitin and Collaborate will all be unavailable during these times.
We plan to have completed the migration, and all post-migration checks, as early as possible on Monday 3 August. However this is a major system upgrade, and it is impossible to predict accurately the total time required.
Blackboard should be considered “at risk” for the whole of Monday 3 August. Please do not schedule teaching sessions for the Monday; if you have assessment deadlines on that day they should be moved.
What changes will I see?
Moving to SaaS brings numerous long-term benefits – not least the fact that future upgrades will be completed without the need for downtime.
However, you’ll notice few changes in the short term: it will still be recognisably the same Blackboard, albeit with some new features and quite a number of bug fixes.
Logging in to Blackboard
The way you sign in to Blackboard is being brought in line with other University systems. You will now sign on in exactly the same way as you do to access Teams and other Microsoft 365 systems. In fact, if you are already signed into your University Microsoft account, you won’t need to re-enter your username and password to access Blackboard. As well as improving consistency between systems, this change means that Blackboard access will no longer be affected by on-campus network problems, as it sometimes has in the past.
Blackboard removed support for Drive in December, and it will not work with the new SaaS system. Very few people have been using Drive, so this is unlikely to cause any issues.
The third party SignUp List tool was written for a much earlier version of Blackboard and has not been updated by its developers. This will no longer work when we move to SaaS. Blackboard Self-Enrol Groups offer similar functionality and may well meet your needs. Please log a ticket via email@example.com if you need advice on this.
Marking Blackboard assignments
The existing New Box View used to mark Blackboard assignments has serious limitations, and a much improved tool has been developed: Blackboard Annotate. All Blackboard assignments will be migrated to the new interface in week beginning 10 August. As well as offering an enhanced range of marking and feedback tools, because we are on SaaS, you will be able to create a library of reusable comments, similar to QuickMarks in Turnitin.
This should prove a major improvement for colleagues in Maths, Economics and Sciences who need to mark handwritten work online. You’ll also be pleased to know that the system now accepts HEIC image files, and these can be marked on-screen in the same way as other images.
Not directly related to SaaS, but coming soon…
As part of Course Rollover, a new area was added to the menu for all 2020/21 modules in Blackboard labelled ‘Microsoft Stream’. Stream is the platform to use for all video content for the coming academic year. In the next few weeks, colleagues in DTS will be setting up Groups in Stream which correspond to each module in Blackboard. This will ensure that students on your course have the correct permissions to view videos you have published for them. A link to the relevant Stream content will be inserted into this area of your Blackboard course. We’ll circulate details of this once the new system is up and running.
As ever, if you have any queries, or experience issues when using Blackboard, please contact us:
- via the Self Service Portal (once logged in, search for ‘blackboard’)
- by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- via Ask a Question on the Blackboard help site for staff
A member of the TEL team will get back to you as soon as possible.