Growing Pains for Blackboard

Cloud-based learning management system slowly improving with more features – and a few hiccups along the way

The Blackboard system used at UND is cloud-based, is scalable and requires less maintenance and downtime. It also allows faculty at different universities within the North Daktota University System to collaborate, and students taking classes from multiple institutions to access all their courses in one system. Photo by Shawna Schill.

The Blackboard system used at UND is cloud-based, is scalable and requires less maintenance and downtime. It also allows faculty at different universities within the North Daktota University System to collaborate, and students taking classes from multiple institutions to access all their courses in one system. Photo by Shawna Schill.

UND’s Blackboard learning management system transitioned to a shared model managed by the North Dakota University System over the summer.

The system, which will soon include all colleges and universities in the North Dakota University System (NDUS), has several advantages, said Madhavi Marasinghe, UND Chief Information Officer.

“The shared Blackboard system is cloud-based, is scalable, and requires less maintenance and downtime,” she said. It also allows faculty at different universities within NDUS to collaborate, and students taking classes from multiple institutions to access all their courses in one system.

Transition to the new Blackboard at UND, which took place this fall, has not been without a few hiccups as some students and faculty have experienced delays and shared frustrations about the slowness of the system. According to Lori Swinney (above right), director of Instructional Design & Digital Learning Support at the Teaching Transformation & Development Academy, this is a NDUS system-wide issue not isolated to UND. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Transition to the new Blackboard at UND, which took place this fall, has not been without a few hiccups as some students and faculty have experienced delays and shared frustrations about the slowness of the system. According to Lori Swinney (above right), director of Instructional Design & Digital Learning Support at the Teaching Transformation & Development Academy, this is a NDUS system-wide issue not isolated to UND. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Transition to the new Blackboard, which took place this fall, has not been without a few hiccups. Some students and faculty have experienced delays and shared frustrations about the slowness of the system.

“This has been a System-wide issue, not just at UND,” said Lori Swinney, director of Instructional Design & Digital Learning Support at the Teaching Transformation & Development Academy (TTaDA).

Madhavi Marasinghe

UND Chief Information Officer Madhavi Marasinghe

“We recognize that this is frustrating for faculty and students,” said Swinney. “We’re working with NDUS to resolve the problem, and they have been very responsive.” During the first few weeks into the fall semester, the number of servers supporting the system doubled, twice. We now have 12 servers with increased capacity to better serve users.

“The cloud-based Blackboard system has expanded functionality and the ability to integrate with many other applications,” said Swinney. “It can link to resources for live class sessions using Collaborate Ultra for web conferencing, YouTube videos, portfolios, textbook modules and open education resources. You can go to one place and everything is there for your classes.”

“There are always challenges when moving to new technology,” said Marasinghe. “And we are working together to solve those challenges.”

“NDUS is responding quickly to resolve tickets that are sent in and our staff are getting back to students, faculty and staff with work-arounds in the meantime,” said Swinney.

Marasinghe and Swinney appreciate the patience on the part of both faculty and students and suggest that users continue to send in support tickets, which will help diagnose the problem and raise awareness of performance issues.

“We want to ensure a good experience for faculty and students,” said Marasinghe. “We have a good partnership with NDUS and other institutions. Working together with the vendor, we expect the system to stabilize soon.”