Author: Jan Thomson, TELT

We are pleased to announce that Blackboard, the University’s Virtual Learning Environment is moving to a managed hosting (SaaS) deployment method over the summer.  This will take place between the 11th to the 15th July 2019

Please be aware that this will involve an estimated 2-3 hour downtime on the morning of Thursday 11th July 2019 (expected time 6 am – 9 am BST) when Blackboard, Turnitin and the Student Portal will be unavailable.  

Following the short downtime on the 11th July 2019, we are pleased to advise that a “read only” version of Blackboard will be re-instated.  This will be in place until the 15th July to allow students access to revision content. 

Monday 15th July is our scheduled Go-Live date.  Please be aware that there is likely to be some intermittent service during the transition from our “read only” on-premise Blackboard delivery to our new live cloud hosted SaaS delivery, to allow for the change-over in authentication. We anticipate this process will take place in the late afternoon of the 15th.

Benefits of managed hosting (SaaS) include:

  • A reliable, scalable and robust infrastructure
  • Improved performance, giving a better user experience.
  • Zero or minimal downtime including scheduled maintenance and annual upgrades
  • Ability to deliver continuous updates including new features or enhancements
  • Quicker resolution of any technical issues, bug fixes, etc.
  • Access to facilitate new integrations

FAQs

Why are we making this change?

Blackboard has recently experienced considerable instability, which has greatly impacted on both the student and staff experience, particularly during one of our main assessment periods. This change will provide the VLE with a scalable, reliable and modern cloud-based infrastructure solution.

What is SaaS deployment for Blackboard Learn

SaaS (Service as a Software) deployment is Blackboard Learn, but delivered on a modern cloud infrastructure, enabling us to deliver continuous updates and improvements without any downtime to our live environment.

Will all my courses be transferred across?

Yes. Your modules, programmes and any organisation or none Banner spaces will be transferred across to the new hosted service.

Will my modules and programmes look the same?

Yes. The course structure and content of all your spaces will still be there.

What does ‘read-only’ view mean?

The “read-only” service will show a copy of Blackboard as of the 11th July 2019. Any changes made on the “read only” system (11th-14th) will not appear when the managed hosted delivery goes live on the 15th July 2019.

Will I be able to do any marking or add content during the “read only” time?

No. If you need to mark any work during this period, you should take steps to download submitted work. Any changes that you make on Blackboard during this time will not be transferred to the new hosted Blackboard environment.

Blackboard annual upgrade

The Blackboard annual upgrade will take place during the summer, with a view to being implemented before the 16th September 2019.  This should not involve any Blackboard, Turnitin or Student Portal downtime.

The upgrade will introduce some new features, which will be outlined in more detail in the Summer 2019 issue of the Blackboard Bulletin, but two new exciting enhancements will include:

Blackboard’s responsive (mobile compatible) design

blackboard responsive design

The new updated theme will deliver a contemporary, streamlined feel and significantly increase the responsiveness of the interface across a range of mobile devices whilst also improving overall accessibility.

For more information, check our ‘Blackboard Responsive design‘ blog post.

Blackboard Ally for accessible content

Image of Ally logoAlly is a new feature that automatically converts course resources into a variety of formats, from HTML and e-book for reading on mobile devices, to Electronic Braille for the visually impaired, and audio for learning on the go. Students will use Ally to automatically generate these alternative formats for downloading.

Ally will be available from August 2019.  Check our ‘Accessible content is better content‘ blog post to find out more.


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