Blackboard Vista to upgrade software by Spring 2012

Britni Williams

Kent State will be updating its method of online class delivery and incorporating tools that will let students take online classes in real time.

Blackboard Vista is now being updated to Blackboard 9.0 and will include Wimba, a program that will allow instructors to teach their online lectures live and also record audio and video so students can play back the lectures at a later time.

“It’s a part of our distance-learning push,” Provost Robert Frank said. “It’s also part of our effort to provide more tools to instructors to teach in different ways.”

Deborah Huntsman, executive director of the office of continuing and distance education, said the university has been considering Wimba for about a year and a half.

Huntsman said faculty who offer online classes would be able to give live video and audio lectures online, as well as record them for their students to watch later.

Huntsman said the university intends to launch training programs for faculty in the fall.

“We’re in process of actually developing a complete, a very robust set of online training programs for faculty who wish to teach online,” Huntsman said.

She said all faculty members will be able to use Blackboard 9.0 by Spring 2012. The transition to Blackboard 9.0 is the university’s first goal before they focus on the integration of Wimba.

Huntsman said the university started a small pilot program for Blackboard 9.0 this semester. The pilot will be expanded over the summer and again in the fall.

“By Spring 2012, the plan is to allow any faculty who want to make that migration to do so,” Huntsman said. “We’re essentially supporting both systems for about two years so that we have a reasonable timeframe for our faculty to get the training they need to make that transition.”

The integration of Wimba will piggyback on the transition to Blackboard 9.0.

Huntsman said Blackboard is the foundation that everything else grows out of.

Lindsey Schultz, sophomore psychology major, said she would take more online courses if they were broadcast live.

Schultz believes the switch to Blackboard 9.0 is a good step forward and doesn’t think the transition will be hard.

“I think it’ll be fine as long as it’s similar so people will understand it,” Schultz said.

Frank said he believes the new technology will be beneficial.

“We’ve got some early adopters who’ve went out and said ‘I want this, and I’m going to use this myself,’” Frank said. “Those people have done a great job with it.”

Huntsman said the transition and integration of Blackboard 9.0 and Wimba would make teaching online easier for faculty.

“The faculty have tools that are built into Blackboard,” Huntsman said. “That should help them to be even more productive in the use of their time so that they’re spending less time having to work through the challenges of using the software and more time to be able to interact with the students via chats and now in a synchronous (real-time) way.”

Huntsman said the look of the Blackboard 9.0 will be different than Blackboard Vista.

“I think it looks more sophisticated,” Huntsman said. “It is more intuitive and designed more logically, but because it’s new and because it’s a change, it may not feel that way immediately to the faculty or the students who would be using it for the first time.”

Contact Britni Williams at [email protected].