2018 Blackboard Upgrade Frequently Asked Questions

In May 2018, NIU's instance of Blackboard will be updated to the latest version and will be moved from local servers to Blackboard's cloud-hosted service. This page will answer your questions regarding the upgrade. If you have a question that is not addressed below, you can submit it using the Ask a Question form.

Questions and Answers

Why is Blackboard moving to the cloud?

For as long as NIU has used Blackboard, we have been self-hosted. While DoIT has done an exceptional job developing a robust infrastructure to do so, there are a number of reasons for us to reconsider this approach. Overall, cloud hosting has become the standard in learning management systems, and DoIT has been trying to adopt cloud hosting whenever possible. It provides significant cost savings to the university in purchasing and maintaining equipment, is more reliable, and offers unique benefits like dynamically increasing server capacity based on usage to avoid performance issues. Blackboard is also able to update our software with no outages or downtime and to provide new features quicker.

What will happen to completed courses, such as course materials, student work, or grade records?

All existing Blackboard records and data are being migrated to the cloud servers, so the change will be seamless. All existing courses, course materials, student submissions, and grade records will be available on the cloud servers.

Will there be an outage for the upgrade?

There will be an outage for the upgrade to occur, but this should be the last outage ever needed for a Blackboard upgrade, for as long as we are cloud hosted. Future upgrades will occur seamlessly in the background, with no downtime needed.

The upgrade and migration will require two 12-hour outages on May 18 at 11 PM to May 19 at 11 AM and on May 28 at 12 PM to 11:59 PM. In between the two outages, there will be a migration phase when the system will be in read-only mode (intersession courses will remain live during the read-only phase). Learn more about the timeline and required outages.

When will the upgrade occur?

The upgrade process will begin on May 18 and conclude on May 29. This window was selected because it is after grades have been submitted for the spring semester, but before the summer term begins. Review the timeline and outages for more information.

What will happen for courses that are in progress during the upgrade?

Courses that are in progress during the upgrade will be fully supported. These courses will be unavailable during the two 12-hour outages on May 18 at 11 PM to May 19 at 11 AM and on May 28 at 12 PM to 11:59 PM. Between the outages, intersession courses will be live, while other courses are in read-only mode. Faculty and students can participate fully in these courses by uploading files, submitting assignments, grading, and more. These changes will be automatically migrated during the second outage.

If I am teaching a summer course, can I request it now, or do I need to wait until after the upgrade?

All courses in Blackboard prior to the upgrade will be migrated fully, so there is no need to wait to request your courses. You will not be able to access Blackboard during the upgrade to develop summer or fall courses (unless the course is being taught during the upgrade), but you can begin working on them prior to the upgrade.

Can I request a new Blackboard course through the Blackboard Faculty Tools (BFT) during the read-only phase of the migration?

Requesting a new Blackboard course during the read-only phase will be possible, however, it is not recommended. Any changes made to the course during this time will not be carried over after the migration. For this reason, it may be best to wait to request and work on your non-intersession courses until after the upgrade is complete.

You may request and develop an intersession course scheduled to occur during the read-only phase. As previously communicated, you may interact with your intersession courses normally during this time.

How can I learn more about the changes?

Check out the new features or attend the What's New in Blackboard? workshop on June 11 or August 14. Both sessions are from 12-1 CT and will be held online.

Why can't I use the New Box View to add annotations on student assignments during the migration?

In order to keep intersession courses live during the migration, the Division of IT is using a semi-manual process to archive and restore intersession courses during the final outage of the migration on May 28. Without this process, intersession courses could not use Blackboard during the migration, which is obviously unacceptable. Unfortunately, this process breaks the connection between the courses and Box. The student submission files are preserved, but the annotations are lost.

While we recommend that you avoid using the annotation tools for any intersession course until the upgrade is complete, you can take full advantage of the sidebar grading tools, including entering grades, using rubrics, adding attachments, and adding comments in the Feedback to Learner text box.

Learn More

Quick guides, and tutorials developed by Blackboard are also available in addition to workshops from the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

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Last Updated: 5/16/2018