So you may have heard that with Blackboard Learn’s latest release, Service Pack 8, command-line Snapshot has been deprecated. It’s true, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. There are a couple things to note when we talk about command-line Snapshot’s deprecation:
First, all existing command-line Snapshot integrations will NOT be effected by a Service Pack 8 upgrade, and if you have an existing integration it WILL continue to work.
Second, Blackboard introduced in Service Pack 6 and further refined in Service Pack 8, the SIS Integration Framework. The framework was created to streamline the way Blackboard Learn interacts with student information systems. The framework gives system administrators a user interface to administrate their SIS integrations and will do the work of your existing command-line Snapshot integration, with some additional functionality.
As many of you are aware Service Pack 8 for Release 9.1 debuted a few weeks ago. Since December I have been working with about 100 clients who have been testing Service Pack 8. These clients have been working in the product, testing the upgrade and piloting it with their users so they have a very clear sense of what this Service Pack means in terms of how it will impact their users. Chris Bray, Blackboard Administrator from University of Arkansas-Fayetteville
, and I spent some time discussing Service Pack 8 last week.
Overall how do you feel about the upgrade process to SP8?
Chris Bray, University of Arkansas
We participated in the SP8 upgrade experience beta and have been running SP8 on a test server for a couple of months now. I upgraded my pre-production/test environment from SP7 HF1 to the GA version of SP8 on February 8th. The upgrade process went really well, and I’ve been making my own notes of what I’ve done after the upgrade that’s different than my usual upgrades. I have my notes and a number of other resources for myself and my team at http://bbadmin.uark.edu/sp8
. This page might be helpful for other clients investigating SP8 and planning their upgrade.
The only difference from other upgrades I see is tweaking some settings in order to use the new SP8 functionality. I scrapped my previous theme customizations in favor of the Bb Learn ‘2012 theme’, which is what we started calling the new SP8 theme on the beta. I’m still researching and working on some items but pretty excited about the possibilities with SP8.
For many towns and cities across the county, mass notification has become an indispensable tool during urgent situations. The ability to send a message out to a large number of people in a moment’s notice is especially useful in protecting citizens and ensuring the safety of local communities. Having received much success and positive feedback from residents as a result of timely notifications, emergency and city managers are also using mass notification tools to send out messages with relevant information and updates.
Where it was once believed that non-emergency messages detracted from the effectiveness of mass notification, a recent survey of citizens has found that more regular, routine communication has many positive benefits. In particular, the survey, as conducted by Galain Solutions in conjunction with Blackboard Connect, found that 86 percent of respondents said non-emergency alerts and notifications help them feel more connected to their local leaders and surrounding neighbors.
To help communities take advantage of mass notification in sending general outreach messages, we are hosting a free webinar on Thursday, March 8 at 2 p.m. ET
and join Lorin Bristow, editor of Emergency Management magazine’s Alert & Notifications blog and leading independent mass notification consultant; the Chief of Police from Palmer, MA, Robert Frydryk; and Peter Franzese, Public Affairs Manager from Concord, NC for an enlightening discussion that promises to include:
- Results from Galain Solution’s recent survey, Mass Notification: The Citizens’ Perspective – Understanding How Local Citizens View Mass Notification
- Ideas for Community Outreach including how Palmer, MA uses mass notification to supplement recovery after major weather events and to announce local events such as Town Council Meetings and road closures
- Best Practices for your messaging strategy – learn what Concord, NC does to ensure better targeted communications in order to avoid message fatigue
After the webinar, all attendees will receive a copy of Galain Solution’s White Paper containing their survey’s results as well as key conclusions that will surely inform community outreach communications strategy. Visit our website
to learn more about how Blackboard Connect™ can help you increasing your effectiveness for emergency notifications and community outreach.
Accessibility isn’t a new topic for most software companies or academic institutions, and it certainly isn’t new for Blackboard. The software and education industries have been talking about it for some time, but in many segments of the population it is still an emerging topic. Most organizations have only a small number of people who pay particular attention to the accessibility of the products they build and use. And the general population is sometimes unaware of the challenges facing users with disabilities and the technology we use every day. At Blackboard, we’ve joined the community to help change that. From being the first LMS to achieve certification from the National Federation of the Blind
to providing grants for research in accessibility for students
, we are part of the change, and we’re seeing the conversation grow rapidly.
Lately we’ve seen a significant increase in the number and types of conversations and activity happening around accessibility.
- Clients are asking for more detailed information about the accessibility of all Blackboard products and services.
- Assistive technology vendors are reaching out to us looking to help ensure their tools work well with Blackboard products and to jointly offer some information about how our tools work together.
- Colleagues and partners who are developing tools to extend Blackboard products are seeking to learn more about designing and testing for accessibility and activities that they need to be doing to help ensure positive experiences for users with disabilities.
- External training organizations are looking for information about Learning Management System accessibility and specifically about how to provide accessible education experiences for students and teachers alike.
So why now, what’s changing? My theory is that accessibility is moving into the forefront of the conversation, especially in education. As we continue to help bring awareness to the challenges faced by users with disabilities, not just with LMS tools but also with the content that is created and delivered within them, we’re seeing more people beginning to understand and ask questions. More people are getting engaged in ensuring delightful experiences with educational technology for users of all abilities and they want to know more about what that really means. I for one am very excited to see the increase in buzz around accessibility and the continued attention that we can help bring to this important topic.
If you want to know more about how Blackboard is designing accessible experiences and what you can do to ensure content within your courses is meeting expectations check out the two-part Accessible Blackboard Webinar
starting this March.
Check the Blackboard Website
regularly for resources and updated information about the accessibility of each release including details about what’s changed and what’s still challenging for users with disabilities.
In a few short days, the impact these mobile devices have had on the students at Nangwanda Secondary School has been profound. 97% of these students never touched a mobile phone before this week, but now their mechanical functioning of the phones increases exponentially every day. And they just love using these devices! They are highly engaged and you can see their minds transforming right before your eyes as they attempt to solve new problems in new ways.
The smartphones we are using have the Blackboard Mobile Learn
application installed along with content developed by Stanford University and the Seeds of Empowerment team. The mobile learning exercises developed by the research team allow us to measure the cognitive functioning and technological aptitude of the students.
Mobile technology in the classroom