Center for Information Technology Services

University of Maryland Baltimore
eLearning Steering Committee Meeting Notes
May 11, 2006
Prepared by: Chris Klimas

Attendees: Chris Klimas (SOP), Sarita Sanjoy (SOD), Lowell Wilson (CITS), Chris Phillips (CITS), Brook Botvin (CITS), Dan Hughes (CITS), Steve Brown (CITS), Matt Rietschel (SON), Jim Leoni (CITS), Lila Faulkner (Law), Shannon Tucker (SOP)

Blackboard/Banner Subcommittee Findings

The subcommittee has decided that the Snapshot tool is the best approach to synchronizing Banner and Blackboard. It is possible to use Snapshot to initially create course sites in Blackboard to match Banner listings -- the details of how this would work have yet to be determined -- and to add students manually. i.e. those taking a course or otherwise associated with it. The Snapshot tool promises data recovery options, though what this means is uncertain. Grade integration -- that is, being able to exchange grades from Blackboard into Banner -- is not part of this initial effort, nor is any kind of single sign-on.

There is an essential policy change that needs to happen at every school in order to make Snapshot work. In Banner, courses may be tagged with various categories -- the most common being Traditional, Blackboard, and Blackboard Partial. The Snapshot tool only looks at courses labeled as Blackboard or Blackboard Partial. Once students have been enrolled in a course, it is very difficult to change this category. This means that steps need to be taken early on in the scheduling of a semester to ensure that all courses that will have a Blackboard component will be tagged as such. Historically, schools have not been consistent on this.

If an instructor changes his mind about offering a Blackboard component in a course, this not hard to cope with, so it is better to err on the side of caution.

The committee agreed with the subcommittee's findings, and Jim Leoni will be bringing this before CITS. He will refer questions about it to the committee.

Blackboard Update Schedule

While acceptance testing of Blackboard 7.1 is ongoing (see below), actual dates for installing the update need to be decided. The main hurdles in deciding a date are schools like Dental or Physical Therapy, whose semester schedules are different from the rest of the campus'. Dental in particular is facing many issues with a course scheduling revamp in the works, with no certain resolution yet. School of Law anticipates staying on their own Blackboard server until at least next summer. The committee agreed to do the update between August 2 and 6. Shannon will be following up with PT to make sure that this will not cause problems for Physical Theraps (Jeff Hawk could not attend this meeting).

CITS has agreed to examine the possibilities of upgrading the development server. Currently it's very sluggish, which makes acceptance testing and early demos difficult.

Community System

Legal wrangling over the purchase of Community continues. It is hard to say when we will be able to get Community -- even whether we will have it for the fall is in question.

QuestionMark

CITS has noticed some problems with the new QuestionMark server -- namely, topics will disappear from the Authoring Manager although they still exist in the database. CITS is trying to work with QuestionMark to try to resolve these, though it's been slow going so far. A new service pack has been installed which may alleviate problems, though it's too early to say for sure. Accounts will be set up for the various schools shortly.

Blackboard 7.1 Testing

Individual schools are testing Blackboard 7.1 on development. The basic server functionality seems solid, though SOP reports they have encountered database errors. These have been passed on to Lowell for investigation. In terms of browser compatibility, IE 7 (whose release date has not yet been set, but public betas have been released) and Safari on the Mac have seen significant problems, especially relating to the Visual Text Box Editor. Unless these problems can be resolved, it makes sense to recommend that Mac users on campus should use Firefox to access Blackboard.

Blackboard Idea Exchange

Shannon presented application forms for the Blackboard Idea Exchange, a way for schools to offer feedback to Blackboard as they develop future versions. She can submit completed forms to Blackboard.

Next meeting: June 8, 2006