Announcing Our New Learning Technology Support Site

We would like to take the opportunity to share our new support site,, with you! We will be retiring our old site shortly.

We took the opportunity to update our documentation with our recent upgrade from Blackboard managed hosting to SaaS (software-as-a-service).

Our new site is fully searchable, and compatible with mobile devices, so you can access support wherever you go.


Posted in Upgrade | Leave a comment

Looking to the future at #Durbbu

On Monday 7th and Tuesday 8th January 2019 I attended the 19th Annual Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference. This event is organized by Malcolm Murray and his team of Learning Technologists at the Durham Centre for Academic Development (DCAD) each year. This year’s theme was “Fail, Fad or Future”.

The main conference was on 8th and 9th, but I missed the final day because of travel logistics. The pre-conference events took place on Monday 7th, and I’ll write about that in a separate post.

My goal in attending this year was to find out as much as possible about the experience of moving to SaaS (which we are planning to do at NUI Galway in June) and ultimately to Ultra – Blackboard’s Next Generation VLE.

Keynote: playful learning

The opening keynote was Rosie Jones, Director of Library Services and Open Learn at the Open University. The topic was Playful Learning. Rosie spoke about a number of projects she has been involved in, and also got us to play some games. Some of these involved drawing pigs! She linked playfulness within an organization to willingness to innovate, and argued that playing gives permission to fail.

She highlighted the recently published report on Innovating Pedagogy 2019 from the Open University, which includes a section on playful learning, and is available from

It’s all about the Base (Navigation)

During the rest of the day I attended a number of talks, focusing mainly on those describing a move to SaaS or Ultra. I got a lot of value, in particular, from the presentation about Northumbria’s move to SaaS with Ultra Base Navigation, given by Kristen McCartney-Bulmer, Lee Hall & Harriet Walshaw.

This was a very interesting and relevant session describing Northumbria’s intended move from Managed Hosted Blackboard Learn 9.1 (where we are at NUI Galway) all the way to Ultra. The original objectives included: move to SaaS, move all courses to Ultra, introduce new minimal standards for all courses, new data integrations, rollout of Ally across the university, development of a “transition” module for new students, along with a training and support for all staff

They carried out a detailed functional analysis of Ultra, including 3rd party building blocks. It was at this stage they realized that because of a lack of parity in functionality, and issues with LTI integrations, a full move to Ultra wasn’t possible. They decided to go with Plan B (see below) – the move to SaaS with Ultra Base Navigation and Original Course View. They felt that this was a good compromise and a more measured approach.

Move or Modernise –

Harriet Walshaw gave an overview and recommendations on What Worked for the project:

  • Had to be ambitious (in keeping with Strategy of the University)
  • Executive Support and Leadership
  • Going incremental
  • Communication and Engagement plan
  • Working with Students Union
  • Working with Blackboard
  • Understand (and clean up) your data

They now have a small number of courses in Ultra and are testing these.

What is the Ultra Base Navigation?

It is a modern, intuitive navigation menu that lives outside of courses. It includes links to new pages such as the Activity Stream, Calendar, Messages, etc. that provide quick access to the most critical information consolidated from all your courses. [Blackboard]

Ultra Experience for Learn

The final session of the day was a presentation from Richard Gibbons, Ashley Wright and Dom Gore, all from Blackboard, on the next generation Ultra experience on Blackboard. The focus is on Learner Engagement (the Amazon experience), Academic Effectiveness (make things as easy as possible for instructors, and Insights (analytics). Richard and Ashleyy gave a brief demo of some of the new workflows. They look very nice, but clearly the functionality isn’t there yet.

Note that Blackboard are making available a number of information/training opportunities for those moving to SaaS/Ultra over the coming months. These include:

Anyone can sign up.

Posted in Conference, Global Navigation, Ultra, Upgrade | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Teaching with Technology: Workshops for Semester 2 are available for sign-up

Our semester 2 workshop schedule is available and all workshops are available for booking. For the coming semester, we are moving all lab-based workshops to multimedia lab AM119 in the Arts Millennium building, and they take place on Friday mornings. The venue is brighter and the machines are more dependable. We also hope that Fridays will suit people better.

So, what’s coming up? Well we start by offering our Introduction to Blackboard, in the week before teaching begins, for any staff who are new or need a refresher.

With January 31st being the deadline for return of final marks for visiting students, and also the deadline for provisional semester 1 results, we’re running a workshop on Managing the Blackboard Grade Centre on 18th January. Then, for anybody who would like to use the Qwickly tool to monitor attendance we have a Qwickly Attendance Recording in Blackboard workshop on 25th January to help you get set up the way that suits you best.

Workshops will continue throughout February and March, alternating with the popular DigiChamps series. Find a full list, along with other CELT events, on our website.

Do you have a need for a workshop that’s not on our list? We’d be happy to take your suggestions for new workshop themes. Contact us directly or comment below.

We also provide bespoke workshops to disciplinary groups, on request and scheduled at a time that suits you. So please get in touch with us if you’d like to organise something for your group.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blackboard Upgrade & Known Issues

The Blackboard environment at NUI Galway was upgraded at the weekend to version Q2 2018. This doesn’t bring a lot of new features, but does fix a couple of problems and (unfortunately) introduces some new ones. Despite thorough testing by the team, a few slipped past without us noticing.

First, the good news. Instructors accessing Blackboard on Safari 11.1 can now upload documents to courses. This affected a small number of users, but now they can use their browser of choice.

Second, for any user (staff or student) accessing Blackboard using a widescreen, Blackboard will now fill the screen for you. In particular, when you are working in the Grade Centre, there will be a lot less scrolling across columns.

One bug that you may notice, in particular if you are using a lot of continuous assessment, is that the Points Possible for an assignment are showing to 5 decimal places.

Points Possible

This has been identified by Blackboard Help as a Known Issue, which should be fixed in the next release.

The good news is that when a student views the assignment, the Points Possible appears with just 2 decimal places, which is a lot tidier.

Points Possible Student

We’ll document any other issues we find on this blog.

Posted in Assessment and Grading, Known Issue, Upgrade | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Blackboard Rollover 2018

The annual Blackboard rollover will take place during the week beginning 23rd July. New Blackboard courses for the academic year 2018/19 will be available by the end of that week.

An empty Blackboard course will be created for each module code and course instance code that exists on the Akari module manager. You will then be able to create or copy content as necessary for the start of the new academic year.

If you do not have access to a course, and think you should, please consult our guidelines on how to access a Blackboard course as instructor.

Copying content

Before you copy any content from previous years’ courses, please take a look at our guide to copying content. In particular, we strongly recommend that you copy only content and not assessments. DO NOT copy grade centre settings, since these can cause problems with online grade entry.

Access to 1415 courses

All staff and students currently have access to 4 years’ worth of courses on Blackboard. As part of the rollover, all 1415 courses will be cleared from Blackboard.

Posted in Rollover | Leave a comment

Announcing the 6th Annual Blackboard Festival #BbFest18

Please note some sessions are now full. We appreciate your interest. Please check our website regularly for upcoming Teaching with Technology sessions. 

Copy of Copy of Féile Blackboard 2018Blackboard Festival 2018 (1)

Taking place from Thursday 23rd to Tuesday 28th August, is our 6th annual Blackboard Festival. #BbFest18 aims to cater to a variety of needs – from the beginner to the more advanced user. Our timetable includes everything from navigating around Blackboard from the first time, to the creation or multimedia teaching materials and theory and practice of learning design. See our timetable below for further details. More information about the Turning Technologies session is available here.

So that we can anticipate numbers, please sign up for any sessions you would like to attend using the online registration form. Numbers in some sessions may be limited.

Festival 2018



Posted in Event, Staff Training | 1 Comment

You do not have permission…

Are you having problems when you try to enrol a student/teaching assistant/instructor on your Blackboard course? Do you see a message saying you don’t have permission to add the user, even though you are following our guide?

no permission

We get tickets about this regularly, from experienced Blackboard users, as well as newbies. So I thought it was time to share a small tip. It’s not about what to do – because we’ve already documented that in our guide. It’s about what NOT to do.

When you get to the Find Users to Enrol screen, and you enter the person’s ID in the text box (and select the role for the user), DO NOT CLICK THE BROWSE BUTTON.

find users

Just go ahead and click Submit, and it will all work fine for you.

The Browse button should only be used if you don’t know the person’s ID, in which case you can search by name (not advised) or by email address. But we recommend that you use the ID.

Posted in Manage Users | Tagged | 1 Comment