Tag Archives: Blackboard

End of an era of Blackboard at Palomar

I’ve had a long history with Blackboard’s course management software at Palomar College. My second act when given the responsibility for Palomar’s Blackboard system was to upgrade from Courseinfo version 2 to 3, back in the twentieth century. (My first act was to organize things so that some students did not have five separate accounts on the system when enrolled in only three courses, in case you were wondering.) Each iteration of systems has increased in complexity, and until the most recent system with its virtual servers I’ve literally put my fingerprints on every server. (Seriously, when working with the physical servers, my skin oils, sweat, even on a couple occasions blood, ended up on the casing. Plus a database server tried to take my fingernail one day. Good times.) But all that ends tonight.

Palomar is not leaving Blackboard for an alternate system, of course. In fact many faculty have recently completed moving into our new Managed Hosting environment, and I expect the higher levels of service from a specialized hosting environment and 24×7 support staff are going to make the future bright. But I’m no longer the one who will rip into the guts of a server, or dig through server settings looking for just the right switch to make the problems go away… well, at least not for a Blackboard system, at least.

Augmenting classes with online content has come a very long way from that first CMS running on a Dell workstation in our storage closet. There was a time when I could memorize the five-digit class numbers of every online class, and when I knew – if not the faces, then at least by name – all the faculty using our Blackboard system. Now more than half of Palomar classes have online components, and (at least when I’m announcing an upgrade window) I keep hearing how Blackboard is “mission critical” for faculty.

I guess I’m just feeling nostalgia for a time that couldn’t have been as simple as I recall. A time of feeling happy that my single monitor was 15 inches on the diagonal, and looking forward to getting that 56 K modem so my Internet speeds would get better. But sitting here watching the last vestiges of my locally-hosted Blackboard system delete, it seems all rose-colored.

I’m almost to the end of my last checklist for decommissioning the old system, and I see I actually did make the very last line:

  • Morn passing of an era.


Road to Bb Managed Hosting – Part 1

Last month, February 11, 2014, the Palomar Governing Board approved our moving the Palomar Blackboard environment from a self-hosted model (which we had been doing since 1998) to the Blackboard Managed Hosting service. The contract was actually signed on February 28, 2014, and I’m now awaiting the delivery of our new off-site-hosted system. The contract specified 7-10 days to deliver after initial contact, so I ought to “get the keys” to the new system some time this week.

Naturally there will be a whole host of changes made to the “back end” technical aspects of how our Bb environment is controlled, but from the user’s point of view things should be relatively unchanged. The same tools will be available, although in the new environment I actually expect most tools, such as the ones that integrate with publisher systems, should work more quickly and reliably. Of course there will be detailed documents on exactly how to move old content into the new courses on the new system; educating on how to move in will be a major support effort, both in the next few months as well as again in August.

Although official documentation will be available once all the details are hammered out, I wanted to briefly document the many steps in this momentous process. At this stage I’m optimistic, and for anyone who knows me and the depths of my pessimism that’s actually a significant point.