Last week, Joshua Kim of Inside Higher Ed, posted some thought provoking questions in his blog evaluating Service Pack 8
, the latest release of Blackboard Learn. After commenting that the new UI of SP8 looks “clean and modern”, he raised the following question:
“How big a deal would an upgrade be?”
Realizing that some of our clients may be asking the same question, I felt compelled to respond. The short answer is that the new look and feel offered with SP8 would not negatively impact an upgrade decision for 2 reasons:
Flexibility and Choice
- Flexibility and Choice
- Early Client Validation
Change management has been a core focus for us in recent years, and SP8 is no exception. In addition to having the choice to introduce new features and a modernized UI when they’re ready, through our Service Pack model, our clients also have the flexibility to choose which features and UI theme to deploy with SP8.
In other words, when it comes to introducing the new UI of SP8, our clients have options:
- Upgrade and apply “Blackboard Learn 2012” theme system wide – the new, modern look of SP8 is a new System Theme titled “Blackboard Learn 2012.” Of course we recommend that all our clients apply the new theme introduced in SP8 as early feedback has validated that it will vastly improve the experience for all users, without compromising familiarity.
- Upgrade and apply earlier Blackboard theme or custom theme – earlier themes that our clients have used will still be available in SP8. Although we recommend that clients apply the new 2012 theme, we recognize that they may choose to introduce new features in SP8 before introducing a design update. They still have the flexibility to do so. All in the spirit of providing clients choice when it comes to how and when they introduce new changes to their system. And when clients are ready to introduce the new 2012 Theme or new features, we offer short videos to help faculty get familiar, like this one: http://bit.ly/xC9Ch5
Early Client Validation
- Similarly, our clients can choose which tools to make available, providing them the autonomy to introduce new features and change at their desired pace.
It’s worth sharing some early client feedback on the new Blackboard Learn 2012 Theme in SP8 that reinforces our goal of improving the experience without introducing significant change.
“The visual UI changes in the SP8 2012 Theme are nicely done to minimize shock to the user, but are still a big improvement. Our faculty testing the new theme have found it to be more modern and elegant, while not disrupting their familiarity with the locations of tools and features.”
- Chris Palmarini, Butte Community College
“The new UI is cleaner and works better. Troubleshooting is easier because of better iconography and I believe it will be easier to train people with the new SP8 design which is important.”
- Brad Boeke, Southern Methodist University (Client Impact Report)
“This service pack puts the power in the users’ hands with advanced personalization features and a well-researched educational framework to support various e-learning strategies.”
- Dolf Jordaan, University of Pretoria
Nearly 600 clients influenced the development and design of SP8, providing us ample opportunity to gather input early on and make changes along the way. To get a better sense of the level at which our clients drive the direction of our product, I encourage you to check out our Client Impact Report on Slideshare: http://slidesha.re/zZ8Gkj
In that same blog, Joshua Kim made the following observation, “I think Blackboard’s competitors, and many educators, are at risk of underestimating Blackboard in the next couple of years.”
I wholeheartedly agree. Blackboard Learn has introduced a whole new playing field with a modern and inviting new UI, dozens of channels for client influence and impact, the flexibility to choose when and how to introduce change, and features and workflows that save time and improve insight.