Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SU to Upgrade Blackboard to Service Pack 8

You may have heard that the Blackboard team is preparing for a big upgrade between the spring and summer semesters. The upgrade, or ‘Service Pack 8’ as it’s called, is fairly extensive. In fact, many of us argued with Blackboard that this upgrade should have had its own version number, rather than just being called a ‘service pack’ application. The important thing to note here is that no one should panic. The Blackboard functions to which you are accustomed, for the most part, will still be there, and will essentially work the same for you.

There are numerous enhancements to features already in Bb with this upgrade, but the most noticeable feature will be its aesthetics. This new service pack will come with a new and different look. It will also allow for further individual course customization in the form of ‘themes’ or basically, color schemes. We will cover more information about the new enhancements soon. Meanwhile, there are some things that you must know about the upgrade.

This upgrade is going to take place on May 18th beginning at 9:30 pm. Blackboard must be down, and no one must be trying to access the server during the upgrade process. If you are on Blackboard prior to that time, please be sure to log off. A notice will appear on the Blackboard login page when the upgrade is completed and everyone is able to log on once again. In the meantime, it is very important that everyone NOT log into Blackboard.

It is the hope and intent of the Blackboard team to make as little impact on course delivery as possible. Please share this information with your students so that we can complete the upgrade in a timely and efficient manner, and without the interruption of individuals logging into the server.


IMPORTANT NOTES

Course Templates: Course templates have been modified already, and aside from some minor possible aesthetic changes, the course templates and courses created using them should not be affected.

Course Merges: The old ‘course merge’ tool that we have used to date is no longer valid. Blackboard has a new course merge tool in this service pack, and because the programming is a bit different, course merges must wait until after the upgrade. You may go ahead and request your course merges using the form at https://sites.google.com/a/su.edu/blackboard/forms. As soon as the upgrade is tested and complete, the requests for course merges will be processed. MEANWHILE, if you wish to go ahead and work on your course prior to merging, you may do so in one of the courses you plan to merge with another, being careful to EXPORT that course prior to May 18th. That export file, a .zip format file, may then be IMPORTED again into your newly-merged course after its creation. Another possible workaround is going to Coursesites.com, a Blackboard site where you can set up an account and create as many as six courses of your own. You could create a course there, loading all your materials, etc. and export from there for import into your newly-merged courses later. CourseSites is actually already working with SP8, and so will look very similar to the new environment we will have once our upgrade is done. (I will caution you, however, you should wait until after the upgrade to connect your real course or courses to iTunes U, rather than making those connections from CourseSites or the original courses in Blackboard.)

As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with questions, suggestions, and/or concerns!

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