Blackboard, LearnLink, Insight, and Pharos: Summer Upgrade Plans

May 2, 2010

If anyone is wondering if University Technology Services (UTS) is going to have a busy summer, one need look no further than the Blackboard, LearnLink, Insight, and Pharos upgrades now scheduled for the next six weeks. These technologies are essential learning tools for many of Emory’s students, and these significant upgrades will expand the utility of the tools available to Emory’s teaching faculty and the user experience available to Emory's staff.

Blackboard Release 9 logoIn the case of Blackboard, preparation for the Blackboard 9.0 upgrade has been in process for over ten months. Project managed by Trisha Wilson and coordinated between ATS, Enterprise Applications, Infrastructure, and Integration, this project defines what it means to be a matrixed organization. With thousands of courses being accessed daily by thousands of users, the project has been a challenge to comprehensively assure the customer experience come May 14th, the day the new environment is supposed to go live.

The steps have been painstaking, though, to gauge the impact of the upgrade. A prototype environment has been operational and nearly a dozen classes have already been offered in the upgraded version as the team works to tailor the new online experience. The major change to Blackboard lies in the customizability of the user experience. Where before instructors, students, and staff had limited capabilities to change Blackboard’s look and feel, the application now offers a much more Web 2.0 experience where desktops can be extensively customized using drag-n-drop capabilities. To take a spin in the new environment or to learn more about the upcoming upgrade, visit the Blackboard project site at:

Image of iPhone with LearnLink appNot to be overshadowed, LearnLink, the online communication tool used primarily by Emory’s undergraduates, is adding an important new capability called the “community” space. Where conferences and collaboration were previously restricted to LearnLink users at Emory, the new application offers a rich collaboration suite where small groups can maintain their own blog, wiki, and document store on the world wide web. The “community” offers the ability to reach beyond Emory and invite anyone to join in, when appropriate. The new “community” space will also be available from a new iPhone and Blackberry client, similar to the one currently available that allows users access to their LearnLink mailbox.

Many of you probably haven't heard of Insight, the third application on the upgrade schedule, as it is an application that few outside of Emory College have used. However, it is now Emory’s online digital gallery and contains nearly 115,000 high-resolution copies of images that reside in the Art History Slide Library. Where before access to this collection involved a clunky proprietary client and a kludgy interface, Insight has been revamped for the web and truly offers a much better experience, for researcher and student alike. UTS is looking forward to working with Emory’s Libraries to add more community content to Insight, broadening the scope of available images.

Insight & LUNA logoFinally, Emory's Print Management software, Pharos, has been upgraded to accommodate Windows 7 and 64 bit clients, as well as offering better support for multifunction devices like the BizHub. Since its introduction in 2008, Pharos has been instrumental in controlling print costs and allowing UTS to inform the community on an ongoing basis of its paper consumption. One lab, supporting the humanities, has seen nearly an 80% drop in pages printed since the application was introduced. The Pharos upgrade is an effort being coordinated between UTS and Emory's constituent school-users.

Pharos corporate logoThe public availability of these upgraded applications is scheduled to begin on May 14th and introductions to these upgraded applications will be available through Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT). Specifically, if any staff members would like to arrange an orientation to the new Blackboard client and its enhanced capabilities, please make your request to, and ATS will be glad to oblige with some custom training. So as dreams come up of the quiet of our upcoming summer, remember, if there is any quiet, it is surely hiding the active and exemplary work of so many people making these upgrades happen in the tiny windows that we actually have to work around.

- Alan Cattier, Director Academic Technologies