The move to Blackboard Learn 9.1 from the current version of BlackboardVista 8 is not an update. It is instead a transition from one course management system (CMS) to another. Despite the sharing of the Blackboard name, the systems are very different. The current Blackboard Vista 8 represents the end of the WebCT era: the last update of the acquired software package. When Blackboard announced the acquisition of WebCT back in 2005, the intent was to design an CMS that took the best features and technologies of both the Blackboard and WebCT platforms to create a more robust CMS. The new CMS, under the project name Blackboard NG (next generation), would eventually be released in 2010 as Blackboard Learn 9.1.
The fact that Learn is different from Vista changes the scope of the project from both the technological and academic perspectives. ITaP continues to aggressively find solutions to the technical aspects of the move. The IDC is committed to assisting instructors with the challenges and opportunities on the academic side of the transition. As mentioned, Blackboard Learn is a different CMS. It is not a simple upgrade of Vista. As a result, courses are not easily transferred. After thorough testing, the migration tool provided by Blackboard proved ineffective and inefficient. Fortunately, files stored within Vista can be moved to Learn efficiently. However, the content and structure of courses will need to be rebuilt in Learn. While this may be initially seen as a failure, it does provide opportunities that may otherwise have been overlooked.
To quote Winston Churchill, “An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” And there is opportunity in the Blackboard transition for the optimist (and others too). Even if a fast and efficient tool were available to recreate courses from Vista to Learn, the transition provides instructors with the opportunity to reexamine everything about their Blackboard courses. By taking an evaluative look at course materials, instructors and course designers can consider the tools and features unique to Blackboard Learn as they innovatively and creatively design instructional content. Tools such as wikis, journals, blogs, rubrics, and other improved or new features provide instructors the ability to reinvent instructional and supplemental material in Blackboard. It’s an opportunity worth seizing.
If you would like to explore the possibilities of Blackboard Learn as it relates to teaching and learning, contact the IDC team to schedule a consult.