Guest Blog Post: The Virtual Campus of the University of Minho
Recognized nationally and internationally for the quality of its teaching, the University of Minho is also a major reference in terms of innovation and development of solutions for continuous improvement of the teaching-learning and research processes.
Currently, it has 19.632 students enrolled in about 243 courses, distributed by the poles of Braga and Guimarães in the different cycles of studies.
Since 2003 the university was concerned about implementing a learning management system to give a new dimension to the whole teaching process. In this context, the project “Virtual Campus of the University of Minho” emerged, whose main focus was the digitalization of some services and contents.
One of the main strengths of this project was the implementation of an e-Learning solution and, therefore, in 2006, the University used the Blackboard platform as a tool to complement face-to-face training.
The choice of platform was based on some essential requirements, as it had to be a reliable, safe, intuitive option and an asset to the whole community.
“Usability and scalability were key factors in the decision process, as well as the costs associated with maintaining the infrastructure. In addition, the development of UMinho-specific building blocks and the addition of external tools presented themselves as important factors in the choice. No less important was ensuring that the change to a new technology would be successful, which was guaranteed by the intuitive interface that enabled a more streamlined adoption of the tool.
For all these reasons, Blackboard was the most reliable platform to ensure that the change was fully accepted.”Filipe Rocha | Education Activities Support Service Unit
At the end of the 2006/07 school year, the platform was fully implemented and already had about 8,500 registered users, 230 teachers. It was used in 324 undergraduate curricular units, 32 graduate courses and 33 special projects.
Three years later, the number of users had almost doubled, including 773 professors. The platform was a resource used in 1308 undergraduate course units and 436 graduate course units. Until this time, the access and use of the platform were made by request of the teachers. However, from 2010, the registration of new users and activation of curricular units became completely automated.
Since that year, the Backboard use has gained increasing importance, becoming an essential and complementary support tool to face-to-face classes, serving as a support for the publication of content, as well as for collaboration and evaluation processes.
“Overall, the platform presents itself as a complete LMS, providing global tools for communication, collaboration, evaluation and publication. It should be noted that it currently provides, in addition to the BbLearn core, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and the Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor tools.”Filipe Rocha | Education Activities Support Service Unit
In 2020, the pandemic’s challenges required a massive transition of the entire face-to-face component to digital. For this reason, the University needed all the support so that this change could happen safely. More than 300 pieces of training and several support videos were made to support the whole process.
Despite the huge difficulty implicit in using Blackboard simultaneously by the whole academic community, it responded positively to all the demands, just as all the support and services required for the platform’s full performance were ensured.
“The introduction of this Learning Management System in the day to day of the university presents itself as a turning point in the entry of technologies into the curricular unit space.
In this sense, the distance learning project developed in UMinho came to make use of the existing infrastructure, as well as the existing know-how in the use of the LMS, materializing the transformation in the educational offer of the institution”.Filipe Rocha | Education Activities Support Service Unit
Currently, Blackboard is a crucial working tool in the University of Minho’s community. It has, over the years, met expectations and responded to all needs, making the transition process from face-to-face to digital less complex than expected. For these reasons, this will be the platform that the University will continue to use as support for all its activity.
“The experience in adopting Blackboard already has a 15-year history of success that, despite having had its setbacks, has been marked by the reliability of the solution implemented, and the facilitation of an entire culture of innovation.”Filipe Rocha | Education Activities Support Service Unit