Blackboard online learning management system being phased in starting this fall

New system will take WUSTL faculty, students to ‘next level’

After testing and evaluating different learning management systems over the past two years, a committee of faculty, staff and administrators at Washington University in St. Louis has selected Blackboard Learn 9.1 to be the new online teaching and learning tool for the Danforth Campus.

The new learning management system is being phased in on campus beginning this fall.

For more than 10 years, WUSTL faculty and staff have been using Telesis, the course and community management system developed in-house and readily put into practice at the university at a time when other universities were just beginning to adopt such tools.

“Telesis showed our faculty and students how learning could be augmented electronically, and Blackboard takes our work to the next level,” says Shelley L. Milligan, EdD, associate provost, who led the committee reviewing the alternative systems.

“Blackboard will help ensure the excellence of our academic offerings by incorporating the latest technology into teaching and learning,” Milligan says.

The Olin Business School has been using Blackboard since 2004; the Brown School since fall 2009. Both will continue to do so. Their courses were updated to the newest version of Blackboard this fall.

The Blackboard system is being implemented this fall through a limited pilot program. This pilot phase includes a small group of faculty from Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts using the new system.

In spring 2012, the pilot will expand to include more faculty. Telesis will continue to be available throughout the pilot period and content from existing and previous Telesis courses are being moved into the Blackboard system.

The School of Law faculty and students will continue to use MyLaw, the course and content management system developed specifically for law schools.

In fall 2012, Blackboard will be available to all Danforth Campus faculty.

Among its capabilities, Blackboard allows faculty to create online assignments, exams, and multiple-choice or true-false quizzes that are graded automatically.

The Blackboard home page provides a number of ways for faculty to electronically disseminate course information and materials, including syllabi. Blackboard also allows faculty a streamlined process for collecting assignments, providing typed feedback and returning documents to students.

Faculty can set up and customize Blackboard’s Grade Center, which allows them to enter, calculate and track student grades.

In addition, students can log on to Blackboard to view their personal “report card,” which displays their current grades for each course in one single place.

Faculty can log on to their course pages to communicate with students via announcements or email. Blogs, discussion boards, journals and wikis can also be used to promote collaboration and communication between faculty and students.

Bryn L. Lutes, PhD, assistant director for teaching and technology in The Teaching Center, has been working with faculty — as well as staff in University Libraries and the Office of Information Services and Technology (IS&T) — to implement the Blackboard pilot.

Lutes says that staff in IS&T, led by project manager Steven Westlund, have been instrumental in integrating Blackboard with Student Information Systems, EGrades and other systems on campus.

Lutes has heard positive feedback from faculty who are part of the fall pilot, including that they consider Blackboard 9.1 to be user friendly, intuitive and easy to customize.

The pilot period is allowing The Teaching Center to determine what kind of support faculty and students will need based on the experiences of the pilot faculty.

Blackboard training

Some initial setup and training is necessary for instructors to get started in Blackboard.

The Teaching Center will feature Blackboard workshops and training sessions during the daylong ITeach symposium Jan. 12, 2012, in Seigle Hall. More details about the symposium will appear in the Record in December.

There will be additional opportunities to learn about Blackboard prior to the fall 2012 semester, when it will be available to all faculty on the Danforth Campus.

Faculty who are interested in participating in the spring 2012 pilot may contact Regina Frey, PhD, director of The Teaching Center and Professor of the Practice in chemistry in Arts & Sciences, at or (314) 935-7474.

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