Introducing Blackboard 9

Next fall, with the start of the 2010-2011 academic year, UDM will be upgrading to the latest version of Blackboard. This update will bring with it significant changes to how you set up and maintain your online course sites.  In addition to providing some new course tools — such as journals and blogs — this upgrade streamlines course management, letting you access Blackboard’s features more quickly.

You will still be able to use archive files created in the current version of Blackboard after the update.

For a quick look at some of these changes, check out our quick look video:

To help you prepare for these changes, the Instructional Design Studio will be providing plenty of opportunities for you to try out the new Blackboard before the official switch-over date. In addition to an ongoing series of introductory videos to be posted on this blog, IDS will be offering Blackboard 9 workshops through the end of the term. This workshop series will begin with Introduction to Blackboard 9 sessions in the end of February. Faculty who attend our Blackboard 9 workshop will be provided with a Blackboard 9 login and development shell so they can experiment with new software on their own.


Beginning in mid-March, IDS will begin loading Summer Term accounts and courses into the Blackboard 9 preview environment as well as in our current Knowledge environment. As a result, if you’re interested and teaching this summer, you may test drive Blackboard 9 with students during the summer term.

In early July, IDS will begin loading courses and accounts for the Fall Term in Blackboard 9. Fall courses and accounts will not be loaded into the current Knowledge environment. July 12-23, IDS will offer a Blackboard 9 boot camp to help you get ready for fall. This intensive two-week program will consist of workshops in the morning and supervised hands-on sessions in the afternoon. The topics to be covered in the morning sessions will largely depend on faculty feedback. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, please let us know!

The official switch to Blackboard 9 will be August 25, 2010. At that time, the now-current Blackboard environment will be taken down, and the Blackboard 9 preview environment will be moved to Any course content created over the summer will be provided at the address, including both summer and fall courses.

If you have any questions or concerns about this process, or if you have any ideas about how we might make the transition smoother, please don’t hesitate to contact the Instructional Design Studio directly (by phone at 313-578-0580 or via the Ask IDS helpdesk), or post a comment on this blog.


Are your courses ready for flu season?

If you or a significant number of your students aren’t  able to attend classes, how will you communicate with your students? Here are some ideas to get you started developing a plan.

Establish an alternative means of communication

Consider posting information about changes to your course as announcements in Blackboard. Check the “Email this announcement” box to also send your message to your students as an email.
Consider posting a test announcement early in the term to verify that your students are able to receive your messages, either through Knowledge or via email.

Consider alternative activities

If you’re unable to hold class (or if class attendance drops drastically), it may help to plan some alternative class sessions. Some traditional class activities can be roughly emulated online.

Online discussion

Pose questions to your class based on current coursework or readings and use Blackboard’s discussion forums to facilitate student interaction. For large classes, consider breaking the class up into smaller discussion groups. A group leader can then provide you with a summary of the group’s discussion activity.

Collect written work online

Blackboard’s assignment tool makes it easy to collect written work online. If you’ve already planned to collect homework during a “downtime,” consider collecting homework online instead. You may also consider assigning short essays or reflections on readings or lectures in lieu of in-class discussion.

Online lectures

Did you know you can use the Wimba LiveClassroom tool to create lecture videos that your students can watch any time? Consider pre-recording lecture sessions your students can watch from home or download to their iPods. If you’d rather not use Wimba, you can use Audacity to record pure audio files, or download the free iSpring plug-in to turn a narrated PowerPoint into a web-friendly Flash file. IDS has 5 production laptops available for check out that include software for producing high quality, web-friendly multimedia lectures.

Find out more about any of these activities by attending one of our workshops.

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