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Report on Blackboard - Learning Management System by prf21065


									Report on Blackboard – Learning Management System                             Page 1 of 3

Sept 14, 2007

Report to SCC Campus Information Technology Committee
By Melissa Green, Instructional Development Coordinator

Shared Governance role in LMS selection
♦ A district-wide evaluation of learning management options was initiated by ETC in
   2000-01 and faculty selected Blackboard because of the “ease of use” for students
   and faculty. (So easy to use, why attend the four-day training?) We began using
   Blackboard in 2001 as part of the California Virtual Campus with a limit of 25
   courses per campus.
♦ Campus IT reports to Academic and Classified Senates and Management Council.
   Campus IT representatives also participate on the Educational Technology
   Committee, ETC, a shared governance committee comprised of representation from
   all Los Rios colleges.

The Blackboard Academic System (Bb) is used by all colleges in Los Rios for online,
hybrid and web-enhanced classes.
Fall 2007 – first 8 weeks data

                                       Online          Other
                   Course sections     108             316
                   Enrollments         4124            10606

Required Updates
Every software publisher continues to improve their product and add features over time.
So we can expect that all software will be updated regularly. It is not just the LMS
software that changes, it is also our own computer operating systems and the Office Suite
used. When we started using Bb, the version was 5.5 when Bb was written in PERL.
Desktop operating systems were Windows NT and Macintosh OS 9. At Los Rios, are
now using Bb version 7.1. written in Java. Our computers will be upgraded to Windows
Vista, Office 2007, Macintosh OS X 10.5 and Office 2008. Bb has not officially
"blessed" Microsoft Vista or Internet Explorer 7 as compatible with version 7.1. The
current release of Bb is up to version 7.3. Soon corporate support for Bb 7.1 will expire
and we will be forced to update.

In Los Rios we test the next Bb update before applying it to our production server. Our
testing process reviews features but cannot test the update under user load. Los Rios
policy recommends that we do not adopt a new release of Blackboard software until other
colleges have discovered the bugs and Bb has published hot fixes. Sometimes testing of a
release or hot fix is fast tracked because Bb Corporate promises the hot fix solves
problems identified with our current production version.
Report on Blackboard – Learning Management System                                 Page 2 of 3

Sample Problems
Problems with Bb do not occur in all courses or for all users. Often this is because of the
range of features used independently in each course. Some problems are caused by users
trying to post large files or inappropriate file types for an online environment. Sometimes
the users do not understand the feature and are twisting a feature in unintended ways. We
try to balance these issues in training during the SCC Online Institutes and SCC has
started a Blog to report issues to faculty.

However, there are other problems that are caused by networks, server hardware and
vendor software. As the district office IT contractor identifies problems to corporate Bb,
where vendor support points to weaknesses in our networks and server hardware. Over
the last three years DO-IT has systematically improved our networks and hardware but
we still experience problems. DO-IT has isolated the remaining source of Bb problems as
too many users and poorly written Java code. Over three years we have not been able to
keep course statistics and tracked data for more than a week and we are struggling with
the assessment modules of Bb especially during midterms and finals.

Within the Bb software, too many records are colliding in the database when many users
are taking tests. Other problems arise when courses are recycled for a new semester, but
some orphan data remains. The batch process to archive courses had glitches last spring.
At the end of spring 2007, we attempted a massive cleanup of orphan data but the process
recommended by Bb did not work. As summer 2007 courses began, Bb had a
catastrophic failure and content in some courses was lost. System backups can restore
complete file systems but not individual courses or components of courses.

When classes began for fall 2007, Bill Karns (Vice Chancellor for Education and
Technology) asked that web-enhanced classes not use surveys or tests within Bb taking
away one essential feedback option and justification for using Bb in the first place. It is
critical that students and faculty can rely on the learning management system for course
content and grades.

Evaluating Bb and Reviewing Options for Learning Management Options
ETC members agreed that a review of Bb is long overdue and a survey of students and
faculty was released last spring. It is time to evaluate our LMS options to identify the best
fit for the Los Rios colleges. The process will include interested faculty who are invested
in the LMS choice and can see beyond simple self interest. Participation will require
action over a short timeframe in October and November 2007.

I am drafting a survey for all Bb users to identify critical LMS features and to prepare
alternative scenarios for course content, including non-LMS options: Manila
(membership), wserver (password protected directories), Adobe Acrobat (password
protected files), and CD-ROM / DVD media.
Report on Blackboard – Learning Management System                                 Page 3 of 3

Recommendations proposed for IT action
Integrate Bb Request & Status with our Online Grading System
Students are not served by the current process for faculty to request Bb course shells or to
link rosters to Bb courses. This recommendation is not tied to bb and should be fast
tracked for programming for summer 2008.

Identify Hybrid, Online and Web Enhanced courses in Peoplesoft along with orientation
time, day and location
Students are not served by the lack of information about courses using our LMS.
Currently courses are not identified by mode of delivery in Peoplesoft when assigned by
deans. This information is required to adequately plan for services, prepare the printed
and online schedules.. Orientation information is stored in a “notes” field that is not
searchable. Orientation information is usually out-of-date and other decentralized
approaches to informing students of these important meetings are chaotic.

Media Server
Faculty are responding to various learning styles of students and are adding video and
audio content in the LMS. It is best if these large files are hosted on a media server with
links from the LMS. Media Server implementation is in progress.

Help Desk
All student and faculty help requests should go through the 24/7 Help Desk and not
directly to Melissa or Jory.

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