Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Notes on Blackboard Upgrade Conference Call - 10/30/2007

Red - Greater interest to Faculty
Blue - My additional comments

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 - 4:23 pm by
David Carter-Tod
Virginia Community College System

Attended: Blue Ridge, Danville, Germanna, John Tyler, New River, Northern, Patrick Henry, Piedmont, Rappahannock, Tidewater, Southside, Thomas Nelson, Virginia Western, Wytheville, System Office.

Did not attend: Central, Dabney, Eastern Shore, J. Sargeant Reynolds, Lord Fairfax, Mountain Empire, Paul D. Camp, Southwest, Virginia Highlands

The call started by reviewing the Welcome to Blackboard 7 document, going over dates and issues. Blackboard administrators are strongly encouraged to review this document if they have not already.

Question: After Nov 1, after getting courses created using for example, a course creation file, do categories need to be done?
Answer: Yes, but it’s really easy to do. Availability is easy to do in the interface the same way.

Question: How can Dec 20 be both Go Live and a Blackout day?
Answer: It appears that there has been some kind of miscommunication. There will be no blackout period.

Question: Whoa! That’s a whole lotta tabs!?
Answer: You’re right. We will try to reduce them. We can investigate the feasibility of combining tabs at the college level, e.g. College Connect and Teach, but we are not sure how this might be done yet. We are open to ideas and would want to work through AS & R on this issue.

Question: What is the timing of course archives and statistics for fall 2007?
All Fall 2007 courses that are brought to Blackboard 7 will also be archived on the server where Blackboard administrators can get to them. Going forward, courses active after December 20 will be archived in the Spring 2008 section, regardless of the term identifier.

**If you find you will have make-ups for the FA07 term you will need to let me (Ruth Smith) know.

Question: When will content system files get moved?
Current plan is to move content system files later at the December Go Live, so that files on (bb6) do not get out of synch with files on (bb7). If a faculty member needs to create files on the content system or move them, they can simply access both systems via WebDAV and copy content from one to the other (via their desktop).

When we do move content system content, please check permissions. It is unlikely that we will be able to reproduce permissions on Blackboard 7 precisely.

Question: When will “other” courses get migrated, e.g. organizations, .devl, .wrks, .tmpl?
Answer: If any of these courses can be moved before Go Live that would be preferable. Otherwise these will take a back seat to the migration of Fall 2007 courses. Colleges should communicate to if they would like these courses migrated earlier than Go Live.

Question: Who places modules on college tabs?
Answer: Blackboard administrators may do this themselves.

Question: What exactly are the end user requirements and recommendations, e.g. with regard to Vista, XP, IE, CPU, RAM, etc.?
We will get the official Blackboard documentation on this. On review, this is on page 24 and 25 of the “Blackboard_Academic_Suite_New_Features_for_Release_7.3.pdf” document posted on VCCS Discuss (

Question: After Dec 20, will system administrators have access to BB6?
Answer: Good question. We think so. There are some ongoing discussions about this internally about the most appropriate kind of access to provide after Dec 20, but yes, we think so.

Question: Can there be an FAQ tab for students?
Answer: We will work with AS & R on something like this. Perhaps on the Help tab?

Question: How will batch loading of courses work?
Answer: Same as ever. Joshua Seigler at PVCC wrote a nice guide to how to do this -

Question: Can we get a copy of the Administrator Manual?
Answer: We will post it to Discuss

Question: Can we get sample (dummy accounts) students – for instructors to use to evaluate their courses?
Answer: Please file an IssueTrak ticket requesting any manual accounts you need.

**I've already taken care of this you will use the same login: TNstudent and pw: (call for pw) as we did in Bb 6.

Note: Messaging is turned off in Blackboard 7.

What is the Podcasting capability in Blackboard 7
Wimba Voice Tools at Go Live. Other building blocks, e.g. iTunesU may also enable this. Other building blocks are under active consideration, e.g. Classtop and Learning Objects.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Blackboard Upgrade Conference Call - 10/2/2007

Red - Greater interest to Faculty
Blue - My additional comments

Attended: Central (could not speak), Danville, Germanna, John Tyler, Lord Fairfax, New River, Northern, Patrick Henry, Rappahannock, Southwest, Thomas Nelson, Virginia Highlands, System Office.

Did not attend: Blue Ridge, Dabney, Eastern Shore, J. Sargeant Reynolds, Mountain Empire, Paul D. Camp, Piedmont, Southside, Tidewater, Virginia Western, Wytheville

Question: Is it too late to get some Spring and Summer courses archived / restored ?
No. Please send us a list.

All of our Spring and Summer Courses are being exported. If you needed a specific course archived / restored you must call me ASAP.

Question: What about organizations?
Organizations will be archived/restored after Dec 20

Question: What is the status of Is it like production bb7?
Answer: It's not our official Test instance, and needs to be brought more in line with final production settings.

Question: Will students have the content system? What about messages?
Answer: Will check with AS & R on messages, but no content system for students.

Question: How will domains be configured?
Answer: One primary College Administrator will have access to data system-wide. Backups and other support functions will only have access to data within their college domain. This new College Administrator function will be restricted using privileges for access to elements that were previously restricted by documented procedures (e.g. Building Blocks management).

Question: Can colleges keep more than the current four semesters of data.
No. Old courses represent a drag on the performance of current courses.

Question: Will the various administrator utilities continue to work?
Answer: We cannot definitively answer this at this time. Joshua Siegler at PVCC rewrote some for Blackboard 6. Perhaps if you are nice to him? We urge administrators to review the Blackboard 7 interface since some things may now be possible in the GUI that were not previously possible, e.g. the GUI has a method for making multiple courses available or unavailable.

Question: What about TMPL, DEVL and WRKS courses?
Good point. We will include these in our post-Dec 20 migration.

Question: What about other kinds of courses, e.g. NVCC has some hybrid repositories which are still coded as NS99
Answer: ITS will attempt to facilitate all kinds of migrations. Typically all colleges need to do is to provide a list of course IDs. These custom migrations will take a lower priority unless there are good reasons why not.

Question: Will there be a web site for the Blackboard migration, aside from posts to VCCS Discuss? It would be useful to have something staff could be pointed to.
Answer: We will continue to post to VCCS Discuss and talk to Client Services about a web presence. Helpnet is currently in transition and we hope to create a significant Blackboard presence on a newly designed Helpnet site. We do not have a date for this however.

Question: We have previously had issues with accent marks in foreign languages during migrations - can we review and make sure there are no issues in 7?
Answer: We will test, but Bb7 is explicitly designed for multiple languages so we are hopeful that there will be no issues.

Question: Will colleges need to insert instructors into exported courses.
Answer: No. ITS will take care of this.

Question: What about course cartridges and building blocks from publishers?
Answer: Building blocks will generally be deferred until after the beginning of the Spring semester. An advantage in Blackboard 7 is the ability to install building blocks but have them off by default in courses. This appears to be a good solution for publisher building blocks.

Question: How will the content system migration be done?
Answer: Best advice at this point is to wait to copy content over until after student Go Live. ITS will facilitate this. Faculty and staff can add brand new content prior to that as long as use they use folder names unique to the Blackboard 7 system (i.e. so that they don’t get overwritten in any migration process). Note that we may face similar issues with Wimba content.

Question: What about the day of the switchover?
On the day of the switchover, will simply point to the new system, not the old one (which will still be available at Fall 2007 courses will not be immediately available on the new system, but will be migrated over as quickly as possible, starting with those courses that have incompletes. A guesstimate is that the migration of courses with incompletes might take half a day. ITS will make a good faith effort to identify those courses in SIS and correlate them to courses in Blackboard, but given that there are not always a one-to-one match between the systems, colleges are encouraged to identify such courses themselves and send the information to ITS. After incompletes, Fall 2007 courses will be migrated college by college.

Question: Can Blackboard administrators get access prior to faculty and staff seeing it?
Answer: ITS has fairly widely publicized the November 1 Go Live for Faculty and Staff. This date is probably not negotiable, but Blackboard administrators have discretion at their own college in terms of how they publicize the availability of the new system.

Question: Blackboard Community/Portal system: who will move tabs and modules, and will they continue to work the same way?
Answer: General idea (barring better ones) is to reproduce the same structure and procedures as in version 6. However, tab and module administration can be delegated to some extent in the domain context. There is no ideal solution to moving modules from 6 to 7. Current plan is to leave this in the hands of college staff to do during the November/December time frame.

Question: What about portal pages that rely on the content system (e.g. for images)
Answer: Should not be a problem. Just reproduce on Blackboard 7. Copying Content System content is fairly straightforward. Simply drag and drop the webdav folder to desktop and from desktop to the new system. Then check permissions.

Question: Is the menu ordering problem when copying courses fixed?

Question: Will all the mime types be on Blackboard 7?

Question: What is the compatibility with Vista and IE7?
This is part of the reason we chose 7.3, which claims to resolve most if not all such issues.

Question: Does CD / offline content work?
This has been inherently problematic ever since browsers like IE and Firefox become more security conscious. Not entirely sure, but wouldn’t raise expectations.

Question: Manual accounts for adjuncts and students?
Answer: For adjuncts in defined training purposes, this is allowed with appropriate tracking and documentation, using e.g. LFCCTrain01 as an account name. However, such accounts should not be used long term, and the correct way to get into Blackboard is via SIS. Students should never have manual accounts and should be driven by SIS data.

Question: Does iframe content work okay?
Answer: Yes, it should. We are still planning on implementing SSL and this might impact references to external sites. Please test.

Question: Can a college administrator change their role in a course?
Answer: Because the new College Administrator role is not a System Administrator, they will not have access to the Quick Enroll feature in the standard course menu. However, the interface for accessing and enrolling users into courses on the System Admin control panel has been streamlined so that enrollment and the role assignment can be done on the same screen.

Question: Given that many people will be on the road to the October 9 training, will it still go ahead?
Answer: Yes, and we will try and record next week's call. It may well be a short call.