Re/Play developments summer 2021

This summer, for security reasons, there will be an important change to the way Re/Play videos are embedded in Blackboard. If you wish to embed any new video content in Blackboard, please use the Mash-up Tool.

The DEO will also be working with IT Services over the summer to improve Re/Play for the coming academic year. The improvements will include:

– New manual recording app – we are updating the manual recording functionality in our equipped rooms (replacing the old Ad Hoc app), this will allow for full use of in- room camera equipment.
– Enabling live streaming – to support a move to hybrid teaching, we will be enabling a service for live streaming from our equipped rooms.
– Replacement of the Desktop Recorder – the current recorder is no longer supported, so we will be deploying the new recorder, ‘Mosaic’.
– An improved user interface for browsing and selecting recordings – videos will be displayed in Blackboard as screenshot tiles rather than in a list.

Further details and user guides will follow soon. If you have any questions, please email digital-education@bristol.ac.uk.

Blackboard developments summer 2021

This summer, our Blackboard system will be developed in two significant ways: the software will be upgraded to the latest version, and the whole system will be migrated onto cloud servers. Blackboard will be performing this work, supported by IT Services and the Digital Education Office, between 9 pm on Friday 30 July and 9 am on Tuesday 3 August. Our Blackboard system will therefore be unavailable during this time, and we apologise for any inconvenience this will cause. The developments will bring several benefits, which are outlined below.

Software upgrade

The software upgrade will bring many incremental improvements and bug fixes, along with big changes to the Content Editor – the ‘text box’ tool that you see whenever you are creating or editing an item in Blackboard. These enhancements include better copy-and-paste from external sources, improved accessibility, easy text wrapping, and the ability to display computer code snippets.

Additionally, a new feature in Bb Annotate, the Content Library, will allow individual markers to have a bank of reusable comments for marking assignments in any of their Blackboard courses.

Cloud migration

The cloud migration will move our Blackboard system from its current location on Blackboard’s servers in Amsterdam onto a ‘cloud’ infrastructure. This will allow our system to automatically scale to meet demand and will also enable us to receive bug fixes and upgrades more quickly. Finally, it will eliminate the need for any scheduled downtime in the future, as upgrades and fixes can be performed without taking our system down.

For further information, please see our project page for Blackboard developments or email digital-education@bristol.ac.uk.

Teams for teaching – current plans and how to get involved

Microsoft Teams will be part of our core set of supported digital education tools in 21/22. The DEO is working with IT Services to scope and implement a simple way for Teams to be used in programmes and units with minimal administrative overheads. We are working closely with users and stakeholders to shape the service. 

The project has enjoyed an enthusiastic engagement with existing and potential users of Teams for teaching. Many thanks to all those who have contributed. Through surveys, interviews, and a well-attended focus group, we are refining use cases for: 

  • Synchronous teaching through Teams meetings   
  • Engagement, discussion and community-building at a class or group level 
  • Staff- and student-led teaching and groupwork. 

Student membership of unit and programme Teams will be synchronised with SITS data – if students join or leave a course, that will be reflected in the membership. The space will be linked to the relevant Blackboard unit. Programme spaces will be available on request. 

Group activity can be achieved by creating public or private channels within a unit or programme Team. Staff and students can continue to create their own Teams for other groupings but will need to maintain membership manually.  

For more information, or to get involved, look at the Teams for teaching project webpage or contact digital-education@bristol.ac.uk. 

Scheduled Maintenance – Blackboard Collaborate Ultra 8th July

Blackboard Collaborate has advised us that there will be scheduled maintenance taking place on Thursday, July 8th, between midnight and 4 am. During this time, users will experience intermittent availability. The purpose of the maintenance is to update Collaborate to version 21.12.

During the maintenance, you can check Blackboard’s service status page.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused. If you have any questions, please email digital-education@bristol.ac.uk.

Please check the IT service status page to see how the University’s systems and services are working and for planned maintenance information.

Teams for Teaching in 21/22

Microsoft Teams will be part of our core set of supported digital education tools in 21/22. Teams provides tools to better support collaboration and student group work, for sharing resources, running synchronous online teaching and for hybrid teachingTeams can also enable active learning activities which encourage student engagement with highly blended and online learning – and so address an issue reported by our students in the 2019 Pulse Survey and 2020 Jisc Student Digital Experience Survey.

The DEO are working with IT Services to scope and implement a simple way for Teams to be used in programmes and units with minimal administrative overheads. As part of the project a suite of support and guidance materials, including case studies and exemplars will be developed.

The project aims to deliver Teams for Teaching by the end of August. The DEO are currently collating requirements through a survey, interviews and focus groups. For more information or to get involved please contact digital-education@bristol.ac.uk.

Blackboard upgrade 2021 downtime, Friday 30 July – Tuesday 3 August

Blackboard, supported by IT Services and the Digital Education Office, will be completing essential service maintenance and development on our Blackboard system between 9 pm on Friday 30 July and 9 am on Tuesday 3 August. Blackboard will therefore be unavailable during this time. We apologise for any inconvenience this will cause.

This essential work will upgrade the core Blackboard software and move it to a new, more robust system that will automatically scale to meet future demands and eliminate the need for any future scheduled downtime. More information can be found on our project page for Blackboard developments.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email digital-education@bristol.ac.uk.

Blackboard update

The Blackboard service disruption on May 24 had a major impact on many staff and students at the university. This post outlines some of the ongoing activity in response to that incident.

Blackboard has a range of ways to continuously monitor our system. Since the incident, they have been providing us with twice-daily performance updates. These have shown that our Blackboard system has been performing extremely well, with very high responsiveness and no notable issues. This matches with our ongoing monitoring, and indicates that the additional capacity we added to our Blackboard system before the assessment period began has been effective. An investigation by Blackboard has identified the root cause of the incident as a flaw in the underlying database, which has been reported to the database supplier, Oracle. Blackboard and the Digital Education Office have put measures in place to ensure that the issue cannot recur, and Blackboard’s monitoring reports have shown that these have been successful.

All scheduled exams since last Monday morning have run successfully. The DEO is collating data on exam activity daily to check that exams are being completed and is working closely with IT Services and the Exams Office to provide timely and consistent support to students.

Once again, please accept our apologies for the distress that this incident caused.

Questionmark scheduled maintenance 19 June 09:00-15:00

Dear colleagues,

Questionmark Scheduled Maintenance: 19 June 2021 09:00-15:00

The purpose of the maintenance is to deploy system updates to ensure the ongoing reliability, security and up time of the platform.

During this time all users may experience service disruptions. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

If you have any questions, please email digital-education@bristol.ac.uk