A year and a half after Blackboard Inc. released Blackboard 9.1, the company’s most recent version of their long-standing education software, UAA has finally decided to make the switch. UAA prepare to be upgraded.
Blackboard (Bb) will be unavailable December 23 through January 8, 2011 due to the much-anticipated system upgrade from Blackboard 8.0 to version 9.1.
“I am looking forward to any new changes because currently Blackboard is glitching up the wazoo,” said engineering student Jake Green. “I have gone through multiple versions of Blackboard at multiple universities and I am looking forward to the¾hopefully good¾ changes that will take place.”
And according to UAA’s Information Technology Services (ITS), good changes are indeed on the horizon.
“Blackboard 9.1 does have a more straightforward interface,” said software engineer Raymond Marcil. “This does make Blackboard easier to use by students and faculty.”
With the adoption of the updated 9.1 comes the promise of a cleaner appearance, new features for social learning, a simplified user-friendly approach to navigating the software and smoother usage of the Bb mobile App. The Bb App will provide students with the ability to check grades, read handouts and look at assignments, through virtually any smart phone while on the go.
“Blackboard also hopes to show clients that the tools for social learning, like blogging, can enhance students’ experiences,” said Blackboard senior vice president for client success Craig Chanoff.
These changes come as a welcome modification to a system that many professors have struggled to maneuver.
Art professor Sloan Seiden has given up on Bb altogether as a means to aid in teaching her class citing “frustration” and an inability to successfully utilize the site. But Instructional designer for the UAA Faculty Technology Center (FTC) Lee Henrikson hopes to see this kind of frustration diminish with the upgrade and better faculty preparation.
“There are on-going workshops,” said Henrikson. “They are not required, but the FTC has a thorough communication plan to teach faculty about the upgrade.”
And as schools across the country have transitioned through the upgrading process, one of the main things reviewers have noted is just how different 8.0 and 9.1 are from each other.
“It will take some getting used to. But it is my hope that the more intuitive interface will encourage more professors to begin using Blackboard,” said Lee Henrikson.
Reviews for Blackboard 9.1 are quite mixed thus far. As seen on The Chronicle of Higher education’s website:
“I like release 9.1” –samplej.
“Here we go- yet ANOTHER upgrade. Why can’t they just leave it alone? Faculty are the real customers and if I had my say, I would cancel the contract we have with BB.” –chroniclebarnacle.
And with such contradictory opinions, it seems UAA will simply have to decide for itself.