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First steps taken in the Blackboard implementation process

AU has purchased a basic e-learning system, Blackboard. Now it’s time to start using the system in earnest and tailoring it to users’ requirements.

In the autumn of 2014,a large group of teaching staff and students at Arts, Health and Science and Technology started using the Blackboard system.

This means that the first steps have been taken in an extremely large, complex project that involves both the administrative and academic organisations.

A challenge for the entire university

In general, the first phase of the project has been successful - so much so, in fact, that the international Blackboard team is considering using AU as a case study, because AU the system has been implemented so quickly and efficiently (starting 1 September 2013 and up until now). No other university has managed to achieve so much in such a short period of time.

“At AU, the roll-out process has proceeded smoothly and calmly, while we’ve also managed to keep up the pace thanks to the efforts of a lot of hard-working people,” explains Pro-Rector Berit Eika, who has experienced the process as positive despite its complexity.

Fleshing out the skeleton

The first phase of the roll-out of Blackboard has focused on establishing a basic solution that works, even though that means that it has been necessary to postpone certain features. Testing all the aspects of the system in the first phase of the project was given high priority, including functionality, integration of data, system development, operation and support:

“We’ve built the skeleton - complete with fingers, toes and everything else. Now we just need to flesh out that skeleton,” explains programme manager Per Guldbæk Larsen.

The ‘flesh’ that’s missing is additional functionality and experience in using the system. Blackboard in itself is only part of the solution, and the rest - and by far the most - will be the result of the development and educational use (as described in AU's educational IT strategy from 9 March 2011):

“The possibilities the system gives us will provide us with major potential for improvements for many years to come - and this development must be driven by users’ needs,” emphasises Larsen.

A learning experience for the organisation

The parties involve agree that the project has been a major learning experience, and that the lessons learned can be transferred to future major AU projects involving different units and divisions. For example, strong management support has been an important factor in getting the involved parties to cooperate smoothly across organisational divides.

Janne Saltoft, who is project manager for the implementation of Blackboard at Health, believes that there is a great deal of useful experience to be gained from the project:

"We‘ve gotten really good at working across organisational boundaries, which will be useful when we do other major education-related projects, such as digital exam."

Implementation of Blackboard at AU

The number of users in the new Blackboard installation will be doubled many times over in a short period of time. Today, about 7,500 employees and students use the system, and they will be joined by the rest of AR, HE and ST in the spring of 2015. In late 2015, BSS will also make the switch to the same installation (BSS are currently using their own version of the system).

The project phase and the major tasks will be completed by the end of 2015 and, the project will transition  to a phase of more established system management and support,during which the functionality of Blackboard can gradually expanded.

In the long term, Blackboard will a system for all teaching staff and students and some administrative staff members at AU - in all, more than 40,000 people will be regularly logging on to the system.

Find more information about Blackboard here:

What is Blackboard?

Blackboard is a joint AU-system for learning activities and course material. The system will be a platform for interactions between  teachers and students outside the classroom context - and can also facilitate cooperation between the students.

In the long term Blackboard will replace previous systems at AU such as AULA, CampusNet, CourseAdmin and FirstClass.

Blackboard is currently used by more than 9,300 educational institutions in more than 60 countries. It is therefore the most widespread learning management system in the world.