Web Wednesday: Blackboard use increases and enhancements are coming

Web Wednesday: Blackboard use increases and enhancements are coming

From Information Resources and Technologies

Rather than juggling a variety of different products, most universities using “learning management systems” (more than 80 percent of the four-year private and public universities surveyed by Kenneth Green, director of The Campus Computing Project) have chosen to focus on a single primary system for Web courses/learning management.

St. Thomas is no different; in 2002, UST selected Blackboard as its learning management system and since that time usage has continued to increase.

Fall of

Number of Blackboard sites with uploaded content

Concurrent people logged in at any one time















2, 800

In the spring of 2005 St. Thomas participated in the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) Study of Students and Information Technology. Invitations were sent out to 400 UST undergraduate students and of the 113 who responded, 82 percent have taken a course that uses Blackboard and 75 percent describe their overall experience as either positive or very positive.

What’s next? Changes coming for spring and summer 2007
2007 will bring new changes and enhancements to Blackboard as UST begins to implement the next generation of Blackboard tools.For select spring 2007 classes, an addition is being piloted, the Blackboard Content and ePortfolio system. The Blackboard Content System extends the Blackboard Learning Management system by providing a central repository for storing, managing, and reusing content across courses and organizations. The Content System also includes an ePortfolio tool for creating assessment and learning portfolios, as well as for presentation and personal portfolios. The ePortfolio System is being piloted by various classes within the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education.

In addition to improvements in the way you can manage content within Blackboard and in e-Portfolios, enhancements also will be made to the discussion board in summer 2007. This will expand its pedagogical value as a comprehensive and interactive teaching tool for fostering academic exchange and debate. New features include:

  • Receiving e-mail notification of new messages posted to the discussion board
  • Assigning a rating to messages and display overall rating that the message has received
  • Grading student participation and automatically update the gradebook
  • The ability to automatically enable a small group discussion board when creating groups

What this means to you

For Spring 2007 classes, only participants in the Content and ePortfolio pilot project will see significant changes to Blackboard; for the rest of the community, changes to Blackboard will be minimal. Significant improvements and changes to how Blackboard operates are slated for late spring or early summer the date has yet to be determined. Rest assured that any changes to Blackboard will be announced well in advance.

Blackboard Outage Dec. 26-29  

To begin preparing for these changes, a Blackboard outage has been scheduled. Blackboard (My UST) will be unavailable from 12 a.m. (midnight) on Tuesday, Dec. 26, and will return no later than the end of day on Friday, Dec. 29. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

This outage is in addition to the planned IRT Change Management outage on Sunday, Dec. 17.

Watch the Bulletin Today in the coming months for more news about these changes. If you have questions or would like to learn more, please contact your Academic Technology Consultant or the IRT Tech Desk at (651) 962-6230.


For information about the St. Thomas ECAR study.

Kenneth Green is director of The Campus Computing Project, an independent enterprise that studies higher education technology trends. For more information visit Campus Computing.