Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP5 Notes

So at the end of last week the Palomar Blackboard system went though an upgrade process to the most currently released version of the Blackboard Learn software.  (For version number hounds, we were at 9.1 Service Pack 3, and are now at 9.1 Service Pack 5.)  Most folks would respond to that with a rousing cry of “so what?!”  Here is what Palomar faculty should be aware of regarding this new version of Blackboard:

Network Folder iconFile size limits: For years I’ve been warning faculty about a limit in Blackboard, where course archives and imports over 250 Mb in size would simply not import into a new course.  This was a real problem for some instructors, as their disciplines required the use of large file types (Graphic Communications, I’m looking at you), and of course there have always been the occasional need for larger files that are kept in a secured location where offloading onto some web space was not a practical solution.  Finally those days are over!  Although there is still a maximum file size limitation, that limit has been raised to 2.5 Gb.  So, should you be an instructor whose course export file is over that size… see me after class, and we can work on getting your file sizes shrunk down.

Changes in supported web browsers:  A constant problem, web browser versions keep marching on, while the Blackboard system versions advance at a much slower pace.  With Service Pack 5, the Blackboard support techs now list Safari 5, Internet Explorer 9, and Firefox 4 as being supported in some capacity.  Although IE 9 and FF 4 are not listed as certified or compatible, at least we will be able to take browser-specific issues we encounter to the support folks and not be ignored totally.  In partial answer to some of the questions posed through this spring’s Blackboard Faculty Satisfaction Survey on why we do upgrades – upgrading the system is the only real way we have to gain support from the company for users who upgrade to new browsers.  For those that wonder is the version and type of browser really makes that much of a difference – yes, yes it does.  Or, at least, if anything goes wrong at all, the browser version matters.

There are some miscellaneous and sundry improvements in the system performance, security, and administrative functionality, but nothing that ought to matter a great deal for faculty.  However, with our upgrade to Service Pack 5, we are also introducing two new expanded functions to our Blackboard system.  Say hello to the McGraw-Hill Connect service, and a pilot program of the NBC Learn service!

McGraw-Hill & Blackboard logosMcGraw-Hill Connect allows for integration of course material maintained by that publisher which may be used seamlessly with our Blackboard environment.  For details on that service, contact a McGraw-Hill publisher rep, or examine their online explanation of the service.

NBC Learn puts a whole spectrum of content from the archives at NBC at your fingertips for use within your Blackboard courses.  The methods of applying this material are fairly straightforward, and Blackboard provides a “how-to” video demonstration on using the NBC Learn content in a course site.  At the moment we are evaluating the usefulness of the NBC Learn content, so please take a few moments to examine their offerings and let us know if you find it worth-while.  We have until Halloween to decide if we want to license this content, so help us decide it it is a trick or a treat!

We will, of course, have more news coming about both the McGraw-Hill Connect and NBC Learn pilot programs.  But as those tools, and the new changes to Blackboard, are all currently in effect, it seemed wise to get something out to inform faculty as soon as possible.