This summer the Blackboard service will be upgraded.
The work will involve
- an upgrade to the Blackboard application
- upgrades to supporting back end technologies
- a significant increase to the Blackboard service’s storage capacity
We have once again negotiated within iSolutions for the upgrade work to take place over a weekend in order to minimise disruption to the University. The following Monday is reserved as a contingency day.
Following a consultation between iSolutions, Associate Deans for Education from each faculty and Faculty Academic Registrars, it has been agreed to carry out the work over the following period:
Saturday 1 July 2017
Sunday 2 July 2017
Monday 3 July 2017 (contingency day)
During the upgrade Blackboard will be unavailable.
Although this period is the least disruptive to the University overall, we realise that some groups and individuals may still be affected.
Important materials on Blackboard can be downloaded before the system becomes unavailable during the upgrade window.
Read below to find out how to download any materials you will need to use whilst Blackboard is unavailable.
Reducing the impact on you
If you were planning on using Blackboard during the upgrade weekend there are a number of steps you can take to mitigate the impact.
If you will need to refer to online materials in your Blackboard course during the upgrade weekend, you can follow these guides and download those materials in advance to your computer, laptop, or mobile device.
If your course utilises recorded lectures and sessions you can download those recordings in advance of the weekend upgrade. You can then watch these recordings on your computer, tv, or mobile device.
If your Blackboard course contains YouTube videos that you wish to watch during the upgrade weekend you can use websites such as http://en.savefrom.net/ to download the video in advance to your computer or mobile device. This is a third party service. There are numerous similar services that can be found via a Google search.
If you will expect you will need to view data from your course’s Blackboard Grade Centre you can download it to an excel file. This allows you to view the data whilst Blackboard is unavailable.
If, during the upgrade weekend, you will need to refer to student submissions to Turnitin, you may download the files in advance for offline viewing.
If, during the upgrade weekend, you will need to refer to Turnitin GradeMark summaries, you may download the files in advance for offline viewing.
If you believe you will need to refer to submissions using the Blackboard Assignment Feature you may download them in advance for offline viewing on your computer or mobile device.
New Turnitin GradeMark Interface
During the upgrade window, we will also be moving to a new interface for Turnitin’s GradeMark feature. You can read more about this updated interface here.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is necessary to upgrade Blackboard for several reasons:
- To maintain support from the application provider.
- To benefit from new features and enhancements.
- To provide additional storage capacity.
- To provide security fixes and enhancements.
- To resolve known issues and bugs.
- To provide updates to back end technology, such as a new version of Java.
The upgrade entails large changes to Blackboard application code and database tables. These changes cannot be made whilst the application is running.
We negotiate the downtime in January. At this point we don’t know how much time the upgrade will take. We will know that figure by May 2017. We feel it is better to under promise and over deliver than the other way around. If we find that less time is required we will update our communications.
A contingency day is reserved in the event of upgrade failure or unforseen problems. We hope not to use it but we feel it is better to set your expectations now, rather than to provide an unwelcome extra system unavailability.
We have a core upgrade team of
- two Blackboard application administrators
- a Linux system administrator
- an Oracle database administrator
- a Java web applications expert
The three systems roles above each have a back up. In the event of illness we have someone who will be able to step in to ensure the upgrade proceeds without delay.
During the upgrade weekend how will I find out that the upgrade is complete and I can use Blackboard again?
During the upgrade weekend we will be posting updates to our twitter feed @uos_mle
When service is restored the first place where this will be publicised is the above twitter account.
Early testing shows main changes will be
- Simpler interface where the Submit button is always shown – no longer will you need to scroll to the bottom to find it.
- Blackboard Assignment Feature on-screen receipt codes after assignment submission.
- Drag and drop files, instead of clicking on Browse and finding them on your computer (although that will still be possible).
- Instructors can send reminders via email easily to students letting them know that they have work due.
- Many background updates which will provide greater stability and bug fixes.