A New Online Learning Environment for UBC
Online learning spaces are seen as an integral part of UBC's course experiences. We use the online environment for everything from extending the reach of our campus classrooms to serving as fully featured digital classrooms in distance education courses. The backbone of our digital classroom environment for many years has been WebCT, the learning management system (LMS) software that was originally developed here in the mid-1990's. This software has reached the end of its lifecycle and UBC is in the process of transitioning to a new LMS product - Blackboard Learn. This new system will be the main classroom environment for UBC's digital learning ecosystem, and will serve as an integrated and collaborative online learning space into the future.
Did someone say naming contest?
Yes, if you have an idea of how to translate that last sentence into a catchy new name then you are in luck! A naming contest is being launched to name the new LMS and you could win a $50 gift certificate for the UBC bookstore. You can submit your suggestions via http://pilot.lms.ubc.ca/name-ubcs-new-lms between January 25 and February 10. Ten names will be selected and reviewed by a focus group of students and faculty to narrow the selections to three. The LMS Steering Committee will then select the winning name. Remember your name should somehow convey the notion of learning ecosystem, learning community and/or links to content "beyond the classroom". Be creative and provocative! The winning entry will be announced at the end of February.
What is the plan to move courses over to the new system?
The first step in transitioning courses to the new system is the pilot phase which was launched earlier this month. The pilot consists of migrating 46 courses from across both UBC campuses. This represents 40 faculty members, ~4000 students and a number of teaching assistants along with faculty support staff, the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology and UBC Information Technology. In addition to getting a firsthand look at the new features of the system, the pilot group is using an online community site called 'Pilot Central' which provides access to just-in-time resources, online workshop, information exchange capabilities and an effective way to share lessons learned.
After the pilot courses have been migrated the remainder of courses will be migrated to the new environment over the next two academic years. The decommissioning of WebCT Vista is targeted for summer 2014.
What can faculty and students look forward to in the new classroom environment?
The new Blackboard system provides an exciting new environment for both faculty and students. Some of the key features are:
- Tag, manage, reuse, share and edit digital content in the course environment
- Easily link to external content that can expand the classroom learning experience
- Take advantage of mash-up capabilities with popular online tools such as Flickr and YouTube
- Easily customize the user interface using drag and drop capabilities
- Utilize new notification dashboards and customised alerts to keep both students and instructors informed of progress on assigned tasks and potential at-risk academic situations.
- Set up "needs grading" alerts and take advantage of customizable views into the new Grade Centre
- Use a richer array of tools in group areas to support stronger collaborative learning experiences.
How will faculty be supported to be successful with this change?
Transition planning has been a major focus for the LMS project team. The goal of the project team has been to ensure a user-focused approach, which will accommodate the differences in faculty contexts and minimize workload implications for instructors. In order to do this, the project team has worked closely with the faculties to facilitate the planning of their migrations. Professional development programs are being created and resources dedicated to support faculty, students and Instructional Support Staff to successfully use the new system.
What is the timeline for the overall project?
How can I find out more about this project?
For more information on the transition from WebCT Vista to Blackboard Learn, please visit the project website.
To contact the UBC ITSC Help Desk for technical inquiries on Blackboard Learn, please visit this webpage.