This document is designed to set policy and detail the procedures for using the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) at the University of Southampton. The area of VLEs and Managed Learning Environments (MLEs) are undergoing major changes not only at Southampton but across the Higher Educational sector. This will mean frequent revisions of this document and periodic updates as other systems interact with Blackboard. However, this document should also serve as a useful starting point for further changes. In addition to this document the iSolutions Service Catalogue also details Learning and Teaching services provided by iSolutions.
The Blackboard Learning System is a web based learning platform and should be used to enhance the student learning experience at the University of Southampton. Blackboard will be a part of a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) and will be integrated with other administration systems such as the Student Portal and Banner Student Record System, removing the need for duplication of administrative data by students and staff. Blackboard courses should be accessible by all who need access to that information for the period that they require it. Transition from cohort to cohort should be automated where possible leaving the academic free to concentrate on the pedagogic development of e-learning.
Students / Staff (Users)
- All registered staff / students, who have subscribed to iSolutions services, will have an account on Blackboard generated automatically from the information in the Banner Student Record System.
- The Blackboard logon will be the user’s iSolutions username and password.
- The account shall remain valid for the period that the user is signed up with the University.
- All users must comply with all rules and regulations of use of iSolutions services.
- There may be exceptional circumstances whereby external users require accounts on Blackboard, these requests should seek a Visitor account which will then be automatically transferred into Blackboard the following day.
- Only staff nominated for modules in the Banner Student Record System will automatically be given access to the corresponding Blackboard course.
- A Blackboard Instructor can nominate and grant access rights to include other staff members as Instructors on their Blackboard course only if it is unsuitable for them to be listed in Banner e.g. a generic account. Otherwise all staff should be listed in Banner and so be given automatic access rights to their Blackboard courses.
- Exceptionally staff can nominate students to be additional Instructors on a Blackboard course but the staff member must remain a course instructor and retain responsibility for the Blackboard course.
- Instructors should not need to enrol students onto their Blackboard course, this process should be automated through the Banner Student Record System where possible, and any errors or omissions should be fed back to Student Services / Admissions and Student Data Office to rectify at source. This does not apply to “Arbitrary” Courses.
- An instructor of a course should only be deleted / transferred by the Blackboard Administrator from or to a Blackboard course manually following a written request to iSolutions from a head / deputy head of school or more senior member of the University.
- Instructors are solely responsible for retaining copies of the gradebook, student work, and all student related data prior to the year end roll-over and the student cohort leaving the University.
Blackboard Units (Courses)
- Courses in Blackboard will be generated automatically from the units as stated in the Banner Student Record System. Programmes of Study are not featured in Blackboard.
- Students will be enrolled onto the above units automatically from the enrolment information in the Banner Student Record System.
- Arbitrary (Non Banner) courses outside the Banner Student Record System may be generated by request via an online form on the iSolutions web pages. Enrolment for these courses should be by self-enrolment, batch enrol, or performed manually. Under certain circumstances iSolutions may be able to automate enrolment onto Arbitrary courses.
- Changes of module details, student enrolments, and instructor assignation should be processed through the Banner Student Record System not manually in the Blackboard system.
- Course statistics will be retained for a period of 6 months on the main Blackboard server and then deleted.
- Instructors are responsible for the creation of course content and use of Blackboard features for pedagogic purposes.
- The maximum file upload size to Blackboard is 500 MB. Large audio and video files should be made available via the Streaming service.
End of year rollover of Courses
“Rollover” is a term used to describe the process of transferring course material from one course delivery to the next. That is, as one cohort completes their course on Blackboard, a new course is then created for the next cohort. Course material is then “rolled over” to the new course. This preserves the student-specific data on the old course (e.g. discussion posts, blog posts, grade centre data, which should then be archived by the instructor) and allows a fresh cohort to use a fresh course shell with the “rolled-over” content.
- It is the responsibility of the instructor to rollover their course materials.
The Blackboard Administrator shall publish information on:
- Planned system downtime in advance
- Future updates
- User information / user guides and FAQs
- Assistance on uploading files
- Blackboard training courses
- Blackboard Policy and Procedures
In addition the Blackboard Administrator shall co-ordinate / escalate fault reports through iSolutions and with Blackboard support.
- The Blackboard system will be maintained by iSolutions staff and Blackboard support.
- The system will require periodic downtime in order to apply security updates and patches to the Blackboard system. Notice will be given in advance of any downtime, which will be scheduled (where possible) during the agreed system “at risk” period.
- All patches, updates and hotfixes will be applied to the development server and tested before applying to the main system.
- The Blackboard system will be backed-up in accordance with iSolutions back-up procedures. Note that it is not possible to restore a single blackboard course only a full restore of the system may be performed.
- Requests for additional features / system enhancements from members of the University should be addressed to the Assistant Director (User Support & Teaching) in iSolutions.
- The development of the Virtual Learning Environment will be directed by appropriate governance group, currently the Technology Enhanced Living and Learning Board.