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.