Apr 222013
 Posted by on April 22, 2013

Blackboard Service Pack 11 is here! Prepare for Fall!

  • Beginning Friday, April 19, 2013 faculty and staff will have access to the “training server” with the upgraded version of Blackboard. This is Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 11.
  • The address is https://bblmstrn.hvcc.edu and the username and password are the same as what you are currently using to access our live production server. 
  • Use the “Blackboard Server Chart” below to see what you can do on the server and how it relates to our live environment now and in the fall of 2013.
  • Courses can be imported, edited and exported back to production in fall. Organizations are already on the training server and can be examined in the new version, but cannot be exported to production (as they are always live). Please contact Distance and Online Learning staff at dlhelp@hvcc.edu or 629-7070 for assistance.

Blackboard Server Chart — download/save this chart as a guide to what you can do on which server and how to prepare for our upgrades

What are the upgrade plans? Why are we doing this?

Blackboard upgrades of the past have happened every few years and as a Blackboard user at HVCC you have probably experienced several major Blackboard version upgrades. New features, functionality and fixes have made the adjustment worth the time and effort as you improved your course, deployed new activities and integrated with publisher content.

You have probably noticed, however, that the technologies of the web and your local computer are changing very rapidly. Browsers, security features, media plugins and other critical tools are updating faster and more often than ever before. Due to these rapidly changing computing and web environments and the need to maintain a secure environment, Blackboard has changed the way it will be upgrading its product, now and in the future.

In the past, faculty and students might see a major version change every few years, while in the background, ITS and DL staff were testing and applying small patches and technical changes not very noticeable to most end users. Now, major Blackboard changes will be more noticeable and more frequent as Blackboard has been making upgrades to the product in quarterly service packs. Every odd numbered service pack is mostly patches, but every even numbered service pack has features and functionality changes that will impact to some extent the look, feel and design considerations of courses.

At the moment, HVCC is on service pack 7, which puts us 4 service packs behind the current release. The longer we wait to move to a current version of Blackboard, the more incompatibilities with browsers, operating systems and other web and computing tools users are apt to experience. However, frequent upgrades have the potential to be disruptive to faculty and students if not planned carefully.

ITS and DL staff have been working on a change management plan to systematically upgrade Blackboard while providing faculty with extensive lead time on new versions. Using multiple servers and a careful distribution of resources, we have a plan that provides advance access to new versions so that:

  • faculty can see what their existing courses would look and act like in each new version by having access to a training server
  • new online and web enhanced faculty could train in the version they would use live
  • faculty would have the necessary time and support to make edits due to new features and functionality change
  • faculty do not have to move their courses for the upgrade – their courses will be there and upgraded automatically

We will be upgrading every August to a new version of Blackboard. ITS and DL will test new versions in late fall and early spring.  A “sandbox” will be available for faculty in the new version beginning at midterm of the spring semester, through the summer and several weeks into the fall semester. (This first spring cycle is starting a bit later and with preliminary configurations. We have a preliminary release of the training server now, as we continue testing and finalizing technical needs for plugins and migrations.)

Ultimately, the upgrade plan will be the same every year. Details will be provided in a chart on the HVCC Blackboard Portal and frequent communication will keep everyone informed. Below is a visual guide to what users can do and where they can do it.

Blackboard Server Chart – download/save this chart as a guide to what you can do on which server and how to prepare for our upgrades

Please be sure to contact the Distance and Online Learning staff at 629-7070 or dlhelp@hvcc.edu with any questions you may have about what you need or want to do with the training environment.