Category: Announcements

Blackboard Learn SaaS upgrade information – and a new way to navigate Blackboard Learn

Blackboard is moving to the cloud!

August 5 – 13, Blackboard Learn will be unavailable while UA’s instance of Blackboard Learn moves from being hosted in Blackboard’s data centers to being hosted in the cloud, also known as software as a service (SaaS). Moving UA’s Blackboard Learn instance to SaaS allows for flexibility, scalability, resilience and innovation. Moving to SaaS also allows us to deploy Blackboard Ultra Base navigation, a new way to navigate and access your Blackboard Learn course content that will save you time and help you stay on top of what’s most important. Although the look is new, the course features and workflows remain the same. You can learn more about the move on the CIT website: Blackboard Learn SaaS.

Here is some additional information about the move to Blackboard Learn SaaS and Blackboard Ultra Base navigation.

Why is Blackboard Learn SaaS being integrated so close to the start of the semester? Was an earlier time not doable for CIT?

The Blackboard Learn upgrade is occurring August 5 – 13. Because courses are offered throughout the summer, there are very few time windows that allow for system downtime, maintenance and upgrades.

If you take a look at the Academic Calendar, you’ll see that spring 2021 courses ended May 4 with the final grade entry deadline at 11:59pm. Also, the Interim session began on May 3. There was no available time in the month of May where students and instructors were not using the Blackboard Learn system for active courses. Courses run through the summer, then the final grade entry for summer courses is August 3 at 11:59pm.

We certainly understand that there is no good time to bring down a critical system like Blackboard Learn, and we only plan for such downtime when the system is not in use for active courses.

Our teams will begin the upgrade on August 5 and work as efficiently as possible to bring the system back up by August 13 at the latest. The good news is that with this move to SaaS, the Blackboard Learn system will feature less long-term downtimes for maintenance and upgrades thanks to it being hosted in the cloud.

It looks like Blackboard will have a new UI with the update. Will this require professors/admin/users to be retrained with the new system?

Ultra navigation > click into a course
Ultra Base Navigation—navigation outside of courses

Moving to Blackboard SaaS allows for our team to implement Blackboard’s Ultra Base Navigation. This offers a modern look that is more accessible and fully responsive. If you’ve used Blackboard Collaborate or the Blackboard Learn mobile app before, you’ve seen the Ultra look. Although the look is new, the course features and workflows remain the same, so there is little learning curve for instructors. There are, however, some new ways to navigate the Blackboard Learn environment that benefit both students and instructors.

Was UA involved in any of the new features? Is there anything being added that users have been asking for?

By surfacing information from all your courses in one place, Ultra provides a new way to navigate course content that will save you time and help you stay on top of what’s important. The personalized interface enables quick access to relevant information. It highlights what’s new, what’s due and offers insights into performance. Base Navigation works on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone, so your learning experience will be consistent across devices. The ability to access information across courses and a fully responsive, more accessible design are much-anticipated features that UA and other colleges and universities have been requesting for some time.

One of the new features is the ability to balance load. Were there ever any Blackboard outages last year due to overload?

We did not have load-related outages in the past year, largely because Blackboard doubled the number of servers allocated for UA’s use when we moved to remote operations in March 2020. The move to SaaS hosting means that the vendor can manage server resources more dynamically without additional ongoing cost to UA.

What kind of new tutorials and guides will be released? When should we expect them?

Guides and tutorials are already available on the CIT website. We think these are especially helpful for instructors and students:

Base Navigation for Instructors
Base Navigation Video for Instructors
Base Navigation Guide for Instructors (PDF)

Base Navigation for Students
Base Navigation Video for Students
Base Navigation Guide for Students (PDF)

As we approach the August upgrade, we’ll share additional information here and via our Blackboard Instructors and other mailing lists. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our news updates and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where we regularly share updates and resources.

Panopto Mandatory Recorder Update – July 15

Thursday, July 15 Panopto will require Panopto for Windows and Mac to be upgraded. When prompted, please update your software. Step-by-step guidance and instructions for upgrading on both Mac and PC are available on Panopto’s website.

Panopto Scheduled Maintenance – June 26

On Saturday, June 26, the Panopto Cloud will be updated with the latest features and improvements. These updates will require downtime. We expect up to 4 hours of downtime starting at 8pm Central.

Flipgrid to Replace VoiceThread

Flipgrid is available to UA students, faculty and staff. Flipgrid offers a modern, fun and accessible video discussion option for UA instructors and students, ideal for engaging students asynchronously.

By using Flipgrid, instructors can increase feelings of social connections and community among students while providing students with the opportunity to develop their voices. All UA students, faculty and staff have access to Flipgrid through UA’s Microsoft license agreement.

Flipgrid can be embedded in a Blackboard Learn course or viewed from a browser or the Flipgrid app, which is available on mobile devices. Instructors can create welcome videos with the tool, and students can use it for presentations. Instructors can create Flipgrid assignments and allow students to…

  • Verbalize their thinking process
  • Create and deliver short how-to videos
  • Create or participate in a digital video scavenger hunt
  • Verbalize goals or reflect
  • Provide digital or oral reading responses
  • Collaborate on projects
  • Provide feedback through peer reviews
  • Summarize and highlight student work or discussions
  • Plus, so much more!

Get started with Flipgrid at flipgrid.com. Click the Educator Sign up button and choose to login with a Microsoft O365 account. Enter your myBamausername@ua.edu email address, or Crimson email address, and password to sign in. More information and guides for using Flipgrid is available on the CIT website.

UA is transitioning to Flipgrid as our video discussion and collaboration tool. Effective for the Fall 2021 semester, VoiceThread will no longer be available to UA students, faculty and staff. If you previously used VoiceThread for recorded lectures, you can export that content and upload into Panopto, then share it as a link in Flipgrid. We have step-by-step instructions on how to export VoiceThread content on our website.

Blackboard Learn SaaS

Blackboard Learn is moving to the cloud August 5 – 13.

In August, UA’s instance of Blackboard Learn will move from being hosted in Blackboard’s data centers to being hosted in the cloud, a hosting strategy otherwise known as software as a service (SaaS). Moving to SaaS allows for flexibility, scalability, resilience and innovation.

  • Flexibility – system updates without downtime
  • Scalability – ability to balance based on load and demand
  • Resilience – comprehensive monitoring to ensure quality and consistency
  • Innovation – small, frequent updates with new features and enhancements

System Downtime

The move to SaaS will require a few days of system downtime. Blackboard Learn will be unavailable beginning August 5 and will resume service by 5pm August 13. Our teams will be working diligently during this time window to perform the upgrade as quickly as possible to resume service.

Base navigation

Ultra Base Navigation

Moving UA’s Blackboard Learn instance to SaaS allows us to deploy Blackboard Ultra Base navigation. If you’ve used Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, you’ve already experienced what Ultra looks like. Ultra offers a modern, intuitive and personalized look characterized by simple workflows and an accessible, fully responsive design.

Ultra provides a new way to navigate course content that will save you time and help you stay on top of what’s important. The personalized interface enables quick access to relevant information. It highlights what’s new, what’s due and offers valuable insights into performance.

As we approach the SaaS migration in August, we will post additional tutorials, guides and information. Several awesome new features are coming your way, and we’re excited to share them with you.

Internet Explorer no longer supported by Panopto

Effective June 26 Internet Explorer 11 will no longer be supported by Panopto. This means that Panopto will no longer fix any issues that users experience while using Panopto on IE11. Users on IE11 will see a message requiring that they upgrade to Microsoft Edge, or another modern browser, in order to continue to use Panopto features. This is necessary as it allows Panopto to continue to innovate on newer browser technology and prevents our users from having a severely degraded experience. Visit Panopto’s website for more information.

April 2021 Zoom Updates

Zoom regularly updates its software with security enhancements and new features! In the latest release, Zoom offers enhanced screen annotation for Zoom meetings, whiteboard auto-shapes on Zoom’s mobile application, and more emoji options for meeting reactions.

Another fun new feature: Immersive View. Be “together” with your class or colleagues, from a distance. Individuals can enable this feature by visiting http://zoom.us, then My account, Settings, In Meeting (Advanced).

Update and enjoy!

Have questions?