The Upgrade

Learn.UQ (Blackboard) was migrated to Blackboard Learn SaaS between 25 December - 02 January. The system was unavailable during that period. The upgrade enhanced the underlying infrastructure of the Learn.UQ (Blackboard) system to help it cope with unprecedented system loads created by COVID driven online teaching. There was also a Blackboard software upgrade to bring UQ up to the latest version of Blackboard Learn SaaS. Finally, the significant advantage of the new cloud 'SaaS' environment is that maintenance outages like this will not be required in future. SaaS updates will occur transparently between 9:00pm and 1:00am Thursday nights without disruption or the need for an outage. The upgrade work was requested by ITS/ITaLI and endorsed by both the Digital Learning Sub-Committee and Teaching and Learning Committee

The Blackboard version was upgraded from Blackboard Learn 9.1 2018 Q4 (Cumulative Update 6) to Blackboard Learn 9.1 SaaS.

Status

02 January: 5:20pm System made available one day early.

01 January: Testing complete. Resolving remaining issues.

28 December: Data copied and system upgraded. Three days of detailed testing commenced.

25 December: Blackboard taken offline and upgrade work commenced.

Key Feature Changes and Known Issues 

For the most part there were very few noticeable changes apart from a much more robust back end. Access to Blackboard is via the same web address learn.uq.edu.au. The data and courses and content are the same as before. Testing indicated there may be a very small number of impactful issues, listed in the table below, that the project team need to resolve moving forward. If you become aware of any issue please reach out to help@elearning.uq.edu.au 

Function

Issue for Teaching Staff and Students

Status

Text editor The Text editor in Blackboard SaaS has new features. Will advise staff 
OHS completion reports For Health and Safety (OHS) courses like lab safety, reports used by staff to check student completion are not currently working. Have solution. Expect to implement by end of first week of 2021

    Function

    For eLearning Support Staff

    Status

    Quick enrol Feature used by elearning support staff to view a course as a student to solve reported issues (e.g. elearning, AskUS). Moderately urgent to resolve. Contacting other universities for alternatives
    New support email Support teams need to start promoting the use of help@elearning.uq.edu.au instead of help@learn.edu.au as it has to be retired for technical reasons by mid 2021 Communicating.

    Communications

    The Learn.UQ (Blackboard) upgrade was communicated to staff and students through a variety of channels.

    • 22 April: The migration to Blackboard Learn SaaS was recommended to the Digital Learning Sub Committee.
    • 10 June: The migration to Blackboard Learn SaaS was endorsed by the Teaching & Learning Committee.
    • August: Contract negotiation began
    • September: Instruction to proceed with communications for a Xmas migration1 Sept 2020: 2 
    • 2 September: Announcement added to Blackboard Spotlight visible to all staff and students advising of the Xmas outage Dec 25 - 31. Announcement visible to staff and students on login every day until upgrade commences.
    • 22 September: Regular articles in the ITaLI Teaching and eLearning eNews as a reminder for all coordinators and associated professional staff.
    • 24 September: eLearning Operational Forum (ELOF) with faculty representatives notified.
    • 24 September: Blackboard 2020 Upgrade working page created 
    • 25 September: Personal advices on the upgrade for the SME ADA and UQ College CEO. Both units will have teaching periods impacted.
    • 9 October: Detailed release notes posted detailing expected functionality changes.
    • 19 October: Teaching and eLearning News reminder to full teaching community of the dates with link to details.
    • 16 November: Memo to school managers and SAAMs from Director of Student Admin asking them to you to make  academic colleagues aware - with finalised dates of 25-30th.
    • 24 November: Teaching and Elearning News inviting all staff to test the new Blackboard SaaS test environment and provide feedback by 11 December
    • 26 November: Elearning designer community and ELOF members asked to test the Blackboard SaaS test environment and provide feedback by 11 December
    • 26 November: Work window extended from 30 December to Sun 03 January
    • 10 December: Teaching and Elearning News last call for staff to test the new system
    • 21 December: Teaching and Elearning News advice that Learn.UQ (Blackboard) will upgrade to Blackboard Learn SaaS between 25 December 2020 and 3 January 2021 and that the system will be unavailable during this period.
    • 23 December: All UQ IT contacts reminder about project

    Testing opened to staff and developers

    A test environment was made available to staff for testing from 24 November to 11 December. Staff were  informed about this through Spotlight, Elearning Operational Forum and multiple issues of ITaLI Teaching and eLearning eNews. Staff using textbook publishing tools, unusual workflows or locally developed tools that are not centrally supported were asked to test these in the new environment to ensure they will work after the upgrade. Staff were able to request to have a copy of their current course copied to the  environment.

    Developers and support units were advised to anticipate changes by reading the release notes of the versions between the on prem version and the cloud (SaaS) version. These notes are not recommended reading for end users.