Ohio University’s Office of Information Technology is currently working on two projects, one of which will upgrade integrations in Blackboard and the other is a request for proposal to see what other learning management systems may meet the university’s needs.
As the university’s COVID-19 policies continue to wane and course structures change, the necessity of OU’s technology systems has also evolved.
“Before COVID, I remember accessing Blackboard every so often when I needed something to reference or to look at a rubric,” Sam Winkler, a senior majoring in engineering technology and management, wrote in an email. “Now I use it multiple times a day to find assignments, take quizzes, provide feedback to other students, watch lectures I have missed, and find resources.”
OIT has also recognized the increased use of technology within OU’s academic settings.
“From a teaching and learning tech standpoint we have seen significant increase in technology uses (Blackboard doubled, Panopto had several hundred percent increase in use, Teams for classes was introduced for example),” Eszti Major-Rohrer, manager of Enterprise Learning Systems and Academic Technology Services, wrote in an email.
Jeffrey Wolfe, director of OIT’s End User Support, said the increase in Blackboard usage by students and faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed OIT to receive more feedback from those who used it.
“The impact to OIT became an opportunity to work even closer with all users on how to integrate technology into the learning experience,” Wolfe said in an email.
Current updates taking place within Blackboard are to its existing integrations, which are other learning platforms that can be accessed through Blackboard, such as McGraw Hill, Pearson, Panopto and TopHat, Michelle Donaldson, Learning Systems Analyst III, said.
The routine updates will be made following the close of the Fall 2022 semester and will include the retiring of platforms such as Cirrus by Paradigm, Evolve, Hypothesis and Ximera, according to OIT’s website.
The second project OIT is working on is a request for proposal, or RFP, to explore learning management systems, including the upgraded version of Blackboard and systems from other companies. The RFP is currently in the evaluation period.
“We have been using Blackboard for 20-plus years at this point and we are estimating that very soon Blackboard will announce that they no longer support the current look and feel that we have,” Major-Rohrer said.
With more students and faculty utilizing OU’s technology systems due to COVID-19 and the fast-paced evolution of learning and technology systems, OIT has recognized that it is time to evaluate whether the university’s LMS is meeting the needs of its students and faculty, Major-Rohrer said.
Major-Rohrer said she believes Blackboard is going to urge its users to use its newest version, which is why OIT is running an evaluation process now. This will enable time for conversations with those using the platforms and to review what is available, Major-Rohrer said.
“The change, in regard to outcomes of this RFP, either we stay with Blackboard but move to a new version of Blackboard so that will just look and feel more modern and more intuitive,” said Major-Rohrer. “Or, if the committee decides that that’s what they recommend, we might move to a new LMS, entirely a new system.”
The three companies that responded to OIT’s RFP will present their platforms during public demonstrations on Jan. 9 to Jan. 11 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. each day over Microsoft Teams, which students are invited to join through links that will be published to OIT’s updates. Following the presentations, students will be asked to fill out a survey so they can provide feedback.
“Each day there will be a different vendor, and during that 9 to 10 a.m. timeframe … they’ll do (their presentations) and it will also be recorded,” Donaldson said.
Major-Rohrer said students would most likely not see a change gradually happening until Fall 2023; however, the intention is that Blackboard Ultra, which is the most updated version of Blackboard, will be in use or a new LMS will be by 2026.