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Blackboard upgrade under way

July 5, 2010

The upgrade of our live system to Blackboard 9 began on Wednesday and is progressing well, with a number of LIS staff having worked over the weekend. The system has been taken from version 8.0 to 9.0, then 9.1 and finally 9.1 Service Pack 1 (this is the very latest release). At each step a backup is taken, so that we can roll the system back if we encounter any problems.

The Oracle database software has also been upgraded to a more recent version. As I write, the system is being backed up once more, before we go in and apply the finishing touches. That includes upgrading various building blocks to 9.1-compatible versions: most importantly Turnitin, Campus Pack (blogs and wikis) and Questionmark. The latter was the cause of a certain amount of grief last week, just before the upgrade, when we couldn’t initially get Blackboard to communicate properly with the latest version of Questionmark. That has been resolved – it’s working fine on our test system now – so I’m not expecting any major problems when we apply the same settings to our live site. Staff should be aware though that, not only will Blackboard look and behave differently after the upgrade, some of the third party software which you access through Blackboard- particularly Campus Pack and Questionmark – will also look and behave differently. This is unavoidable: we had to upgrade the third party software, because the old versions simply wouldn’t work with Blackboard 9.1

I hope to be sending out a message to all staff within 24 hours inviting them to log on to the upgraded Blackboard site, and check that their courses are working OK.

When we went from Blackboard 6 to 8, we experienced a lot of problems with course content. On that occasion we had moved all the content from one server to another. This time we’ve not been migrating to new hardware, so those problems should not arise. Certainly, our test upgrades have gone very smoothly in terms of course content, and checking by LIS staff on the live site suggests that no problems have arisen.

However, it is really important that academics do carry out a check of their upgraded courses – we want to know that course content has been upgraded successfully before declaring the upgrade complete, and opening up Blackboard to students once more.

You will find the information you need to get familiar with Blackboard’s new features on the Blackboard 9 upgrade tab at http://opendoor.tvu.ac.uk

There’s a summary guide (PDF) taking you through What’s_New_in_Blackboard_9.1

while Blackboard’s On Demand help site provides a range of printed user guides and short video tutorials.

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