Inside the new Blackboard transition at Cleveland State

By Kelsey Allen

Cleveland State’s Blackboard system made some major updates in December, stirring some mixed responses from the university community.

Blackboard now automatically scales for the screen of the device the student is using, simplifying navigation for mobile users. Overall, this update maintained the same functionality as previous updates, meaning the interactive parts of the site stayed the same.

In this update, course navigation remained the same, but the “My Institution” tabs were removed. Accessing the courses is now much simpler because of the persistent sidebar for system navigation.

According to Cleveland State’s Center for eLearning webpage, the Spring 2018 update moved the university closer towards the final system update for which the official date has yet to be announced. It will be known as Blackboard Ultra, implementing Ultra Navigation.

Within the Course Messages, students can now hover over the message to access the delete action. When composing a message, they can now start typing the recipient’s name and wait for it to pop up. This replaces the previous complicated messaging process.

“I like the new navigation system,” Kaysha Tucker, a freshman nursing major, said. “I like how the messages are organized by courses as well.”

However, not all of the changes will make Blackboard easier to use. Students are now unable to hide courses, meaning there is no choice but to view links to student’s past and future courses on the courses tab. Students can also no longer receive new grade alerts through email or text messages.

The navigation system is unable to be customized, meaning students have to open Blackboard on a pre-determined screen every time — which for Cleveland State means the Activity Stream.

“It doesn’t seem as user-friendly,” Abby Petrey, a third-year music therapy major, said. “I don’t like that it opens on the Activity Stream, and I feel like I don’t see my announcements that pop up.”

While there’s a lot of negative sentiment around the new Blackboard updates, Palak Patel, a sophomore management and labor relations major, is torn.

“I feel it’s complicated to use,” Patel said. “But it looks pretty sophisticated, the previous one looked more old-school.”

Many are left wondering why Cleveland State made the change to Blackboard Ultra at all. In fact, this change was through Blackboard on a national scale.

According to the Blackboard company website, every institution who uses their service saw the same alterations. Blackboard Ultra will move the platform from Managed Hosting to Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS. In addition to being cheaper, SaaS means that Blackboard as a whole is now cloud-based, and updates can be applied with zero downtime.

Previously, Blackboard was taken offline for  at least 12 hours in order to reboot the system.

With these updates, Blackboard promises a minimum server uptime of 99.9 percent.

Instructors will now be able to view their class list alongside the profile cards that students can customize themselves. That does not mean that instructors are happy with the updates.

“They added a lot of new elements and did not give us tutorials on any of it — if they did, I did not know about it,” Kim Carey, from the history department, said.

Students and professors are finding bugs in the program as well. For example, is the error message that pops up when students try connecting their OneDrive account to Blackboard.

“I tried to log on just now, I was clicking all these links and all I got were blank pages,” Carey said. “I think they should have made sure the bugs were gone before they released it.”


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