The current Blackboard system is on its way out at Ferris as the university looks to replace it with a newer program.
A team of 34 Ferris faculty members is currently in the process of examining new programs to replace Blackboard, which Ferris has used since 2010. Those programs include Instructure Canvas, D2L Brightspace and the newest version of Blackboard, Blackboard Ultra.
Ferris English professor Zac Wendler describes himself as one of the “unfortunate few” who has been using Blackboard since he was in high school and now uses it as a professor. He said he’s been on both sides of Blackboard for around 20 years. One issue he has had is Blackboard deleting files his students have submitted. He said those issues have made him resistant to online teaching.
“That program has been the bane of my existence my entire educational life,” Wendler said. “Having something that is solid, reliable and for god’s sake simple would really make me reconsider my reluctance to teach online. I don’t want to have to go through 20 menus to bring one file from my last class to this one and that’s just about what I have to do. It’s a real pain.”
Demonstrations of the programs, which students are welcome to attend, began in early November with Brightspace. Demonstrations of Brightspace and Blackboard Ultra will also take place before a decision is made.
“We’ve been preparing for being forced to upgrade. We have our infrastructure in place. Last summer we moved to SASS (screening assessment and sup- port services) so we’re hosted in the cloud,” Ferris Instructional Technology Coordinator Jackie Hughes said. “We got that implemented about a year and a half ago because we knew Blackboard Ultra needed that to run on but it does not make good business sense to upgrade without reviewing other technology.”
After the systems are demonstrated, FLITE, the office for Retention and Student Success – and every university college will each receive two votes which they can use to vote for two of the three systems. From there, a system will be chosen and a one year transition period will take place between July 2019 and July 2020, when the university’s Blackboard contract expires.
Many students are excited to get rid of Blackboard, a program they feel is heavily flawed.
“I do practically everything from my phone, and the Blackboard app is trash. It looks pretty and makes the web interface look like shit, but it gets nothing else right,” Ferris informational security and intelligence sophomore Deven Martin said. “If they can bring in a system where the mobile app works and I can actually do stuff from there, they’ll have my vote.