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Blackboard 9.1: A Better User Experience

Blackboard is significantly different and improved with the new upgrade.

On May 21, 2012, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) will introduce the significantly-improved Blackboard version 9.1. Among the many improvements is a vastly superior interface for adding external Internet content and enhancements to the now well-established Gradebook.

This upgrade allows Emory's instance of Blackboard to be robustly supported in current versions of web browsers, as well as being better designed to accept content from other websites, like YouTube, Flickr, and SlideShare. Imagine teaching a class on "Contemporary History of the Middle East" and including last year's videos from Cairo, or introducing students to slideshows from around the world that document, from the perspective of a citizen, a nation's response to their AIDS crisis. These types of content, previously difficult to integrate, are now easily added to a Blackboard course.

As has been the case in the past, Emory's Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT) is the home for introducing Blackboard upgrades. Already ECIT is offering workshops on "Blackboard 9.1-What's New," and will continue to do so through and beyond May 21. Please check ECIT's calendar at for the latest schedule of workshops and their availability.

In commenting on the upgrade, Director of Faculty Services, José Rodriguez (Academic Technology Services) observed, "What I love about this upgrade is how the interface keeps getting simpler to use, and things like embedding a link for a YouTube video require much fewer steps." Other features that José identified as being welcome developments include:

To better support the Blackboard upgrade, OIT is also pursuing a comprehensive review of documentation and support resources for the product, including a focus on how to best respond to faculty requests. This "service makeover" is aimed at improving the overall experience of using Blackboard, from asking a question about new features to troubleshooting a stubborn problem that won't go away.

When asked about the "service makeover," Blackboard administrator Leah Chuchran (Academic Technology Services) commented, "When this upgrade is complete, the entire Blackboard community should be doubly rewarded. We will have an upgraded environment, but we will also have new and improved processes and documentation, to better align with our environment. We really hope it's a 'win-win' upgrade."

The work to complete this overall effort requires the coordination of many different parties, both internal and external to OIT. The project is also occurring in a narrower time frame than ever before based on the opening of Maymester and the multiple course schedules the University maintains in the various schools. "The effort is complexity in pursuit of simplicity," says Blackboard strategist Sandra Butler (Academic Technology Services). "The team is aspiring to deploy improvements in every facet of the product, where the final result is ultimately a better end-user experience."

A "Blackboard 9.1-What's New" pdf should soon be available on the Blackboard website as well as a "Top 10 things You Should Know about Bb 9.1." Should anyone have questions about the upgrade, please contact our Blackboard administrators by sending email to

Whatʼs New in Blackboard 9.1 sessions:

More information and project updates:

- Alan Cattier, Director, Academic Technology Services