Instructional Technology News – August 3

It’s here. After more than one full year of preparation, the CIT is moving Blackboard Learn to the cloud! We’ve been buzzing about this upgrade since April, and we appreciate your patience as we perform the upgrade to make UA’s instance of Blackboard Learn a more flexible, scalable and resilient platform.

Blackboard Learn unavailable Aug 5-13

In case you missed it, Blackboard Learn will be unavailable Aug. 5-13 for a database migration and upgrade. With the upgrade comes an enhanced look known as Ultra Base Navigation. Ultra provides a new way to navigate course content that will save you time and help you stay on top of what’s important. Visit our website to see a preview of Ultra, along with answers to frequently asked questions.

While Blackboard is down, I encourage you to partake in an instructional technology workshop. Meet your new favorite tool: Flipgrid, or refresh your Zoom skills. We hope to see you in a workshop next week.

Our team will be offering a new workshop – Meet Blackboard Ultra Base Navigation, to introduce the new features that come with Ultra. Make plans to attend!

We’ll be in touch next week as we wrap up the migration to the cloud. As always, reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We’re here to help.

Instructional Technology News – July 23

Final grades due, more information about the Blackboard Learn SaaS upgrade, and hello Flipgrid/goodbye VoiceThread. Subscribe to our news updates and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Final Grades due August 3

Did you know you can import your final grades from Blackboard Learn with just a few clicks? Learn how on our website: Importing Grades Into myBama from Blackboard. Grades for all Summer classes must be submitted via myBama no later than 11:59pm on Tuesday, August 3. For additional information on non-attendance grading as well as other grading policies, definitions, and terminology, please visit the University Registrar’s Grade Reporting page. Speaking of “final,” if you administer exams via Blackboard Learn, you might share this resource with your students: Testing Tips for Students

Blackboard Learn unavailable August 5-13

Blackboard Learn and certain tools accessed through Blackboard Learn (Panopto, Collaborate, and Turnitin) will be unavailable from Aug. 5 until Aug. 13 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. The move also allows us to deploy Blackboard Ultra Base navigation, which 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 students and instructors. There are, however, some new ways to navigate the Blackboard Learn environment that benefit all users.

We’ve posted more information about the upgrade, answers to frequently asked questions, and guides and tutorials on the CIT website: Blackboard Learn SaaS upgrade information – and a new way to navigate Blackboard Learn

We think these resources 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)

Flipgrid to replace VoiceThread

UA is transitioning from VoiceThread to Flipgrid as our video discussion and collaboration tool. Flipgrid offers a modern, fun and accessible video discussion option for UA instructors and students, ideal for engaging students asynchronously. Learn more on our website, and start using Flipgrid today: Flipgrid to Replace VoiceThread

VoiceThread will be removed during the August 5-13 Blackboard Learn upgrade. 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. Step-by-step instructions on how to export VoiceThread content are available on our website:  How to Export VoiceThread Content

We’re here to help! Contact the Center for Instructional Technology for help with instructional technology needs, questions and concerns.

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.

Instructional Technology News – July 12

A quick introduction, Blackboard course content cleanup, Panopto recorder update, Blackboard Learn unavailable Aug. 5-13, and hello Flipgrid/goodbye VoiceThread.

New CIT Assistant Director Melissa Green

Thanks to Meagan Bennett for last week’s introduction and for shepherding our Instructional Technology News over the past year. I’m Melissa Green, and I’m thrilled to serve as the new Assistant Director of the Center for Instructional Technology. This role focuses on instructional technology education and outreach for our campus. Along with technology accessibility and thoughtful integration of technology in teaching and learning, building community is a passion of mine, and I look forward to growing this community together. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our news updates and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Blackboard cleanup begins THIS THURSDAY, July 15

Beginning July 15, the Center for Instructional Technology will remove old course content from the Blackboard Learn system. This is in accordance with UA’s LMS Course Retention Policy, which states that materials more than two years old will be removed from the system. Students and instructors should save any materials they wish to keep.  Visit the CIT website for more information on how to back up Blackboard content: How to Back Up Blackboard Content as an Instructor

Panopto recorder update required after July 15

Panopto for Windows and Panopto for Mac users: A July 15 Panopto update will require you to update your software. Step-by-step guidance and instructions for upgrading are available on Panopto’s website:

Blackboard Learn unavailable August 5-13

Blackboard Learn and certain tools accessed through Blackboard Learn (Panopto, Collaborate, and Turnitin) will be unavailable from Aug. 5 until Aug. 13 for a database migration and upgrade. This move will help provide a more stable, scalable, secure, and updated Blackboard Learn experience for UA users.

More information is available on the CIT website, and our CIT team will be sending additional communications to all Blackboard instructors.  We began communicating about this upgrade and downtime in April, but as always, we appreciate your assistance sharing this information! We know there is never a good time to bring down a critical system like Blackboard Learn, but we are looking forward to this migration and the capabilities it will offer.

Flipgrid to replace VoiceThread

UA is transitioning from VoiceThread to Flipgrid as our video discussion and collaboration tool. Flipgrid offers a modern, fun and accessible video discussion option for UA instructors and students, ideal for engaging students asynchronously. Learn more on our website, and start using Flipgrid today: Flipgrid to Replace VoiceThread

VoiceThread will be removed during the August 5-13 Blackboard Learn upgrade. 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. Step-by-step instructions on how to export VoiceThread content are available on our website:  How to Export VoiceThread Content

We’re here to help! Contact the Center for Instructional Technology for help with instructional technology needs, questions and concerns.

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.

Instructional Technology News – June 10

Blackboard cleanup to begin July 15.

Beginning July 15, the Center for Instructional Technology will remove old course content from the Blackboard Learn system. This is in accordance with UA’s LMS Course Retention Policy, which states that materials more than two years old will be removed from the system. Students and instructors should save any materials they wish to keep.  Visit the CIT website for more information on how to back up Blackboard content.

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 to the cloud allows for flexibility, scalability, resilience and innovation. With this move, Blackboard will get a new look – Ultra Base navigation.

If you’ve used Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, you’ve already experienced a taste of the Ultra look. The Ultra base navigation offers a modern, intuitive and personalized look characterized by simple workflows and an accessible fully responsive design. For more information, visit our website. As we approach the SaaS migration in August, we will post additional tutorials, guides and information.

Flipgrid to replace VoiceThread.

UA is transitioning from VoiceThread to Flipgrid as our video discussion and collaboration tool. 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. Learn more on our website, and start using Flipgrid today!

Have questions?