A Multi-Institutional Deployment of Blackboard Learn

A Multi-Institutional Deployment
of Blackboard Learn
Kevin Corcoran
Interim Executive Director
Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium
Obligatory Slide:
Who Are We & What We Do
CTDLC: Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium
CT State Agency providing eLearning Services to K-20
for past 12 years
Hosting, Remote Management, Consulting, Integration,
Block Development, Instructional Design, Help Desk
Experience supporting Angel, Blackboard, CE, Vista
and Moodle as well as integrating Banner, Datatel, and
Jenzabar to Bb
Developed the collaborative online tutoring program
called eTutoring.org that serves over 100 institutions
The Problem – Part 1
Online Learning’s Infancy
circa 1998-99
• institutions just exploring
online learning
• lack of resources (staff and
funding) to support pilot
• lack of best practices and
The Solution – Sort of
• Institutions pool monies together
to support a collaborative pilot
(Bb licensing)
• CTDLC provides infrastructure &
• Participating institutions develop
processes and policies in unison
• Naming Conventions, Manually
administered (.csv), Collective
decision on settings
The Problem – Part 2
Online Expansion circa 2004
• Institutions running full
course catalogs
• Mistaken enrollments
• Branding issues
• Want of increased control
• Manual administration too
The Next Gen Solution
DSKs, Domains, Collections, & Brands
• Data Source Keys (DSK) allowed for the tying of all
institutional records together through Snapshot
• Domains allow for the grouping of Collections and
Administrators for a particular institution.
• Collections are tied to Domains and allow courses,
users, tabs, and modules to be segmented for individual
institution control
• Brands allow institutions to create a color scheme/brand
bound to a specific host name (FQDN)
Data Source Keys - Integration
• Data Source Keys
– Allows for multiple data collections
– Associates Snapshot processes to a data collection
– Differentiates automated processes from GUI/System
• DSM Tool
– Command line tool for creating keys
– Provides some global data collection functions
– Uses machine name and domain name
Integration Concept – Pre SP6
Data Extracts
Data Transfer
Data Processing
Integration Methods
• Snapshot Flat File (Being obsolesced)
– Multiple file method
– Each file serves a function
– Provides flexibility
• IMS Enterprise XML
– Single XML file
– Combined user, course, enrollment management
– Based on IMS standards
• Real Time Data Exchange
– Event based data exchange
– LIS for Banner – SP6
• Creates the
container for
users, courses
and enrollments
• Allows for
Domain Administrators
• Designate existing
users with specific
admin functions
within the
collections &
• Binds custom theme,
color palette, site
banner to a URL/host
• Does not touch login
For More Details:
Kevin Lowey
U of Saskatchewan
Branding Session
Hierarchies – SP6
• SP6 introduced Hierarchies in Bb
– Similar to Vista structure
Courtesy of Bb Admin Manual
Hierarchies & Domains
• “The primary difference between Hierarchies
and Domains is the way the permissions are
assigned. Hierarchies provide permissions
based on the location, whereas Domains
provide permissions based on criteria.”
Courtesy of Bb Admin Manual
Community/Portal System License
Secondary Institution Roles
– All institutional users will be
assigned an institution role,
generally Faculty, Staff, or
– Secondary roles provide
distinction between
institutions’ Faculty, Staff and
Student roles
– These roles allow for custom
content to be delivered
Custom Tabs, Modules, &
– Customized content areas
(tabs, modules, channels) can
be restricted to specific
secondary roles)
– Administration can be
assigned through
Course Templates
• Single institutional course shell
– Branded
– Customized course settings, tools, and menus
– Institution-specific info & links embedded
• Avoids System-wide setting conflicts
– Regarding course settings and tools
• Deployed via Integration
Remaining Challenges
• Course/User ID collisions
– Same SIS vendor
– SP6 offer scripting work-around
• 3rd Party tools
– No segregation of tools by DSK
• Customized/Branded Login
– No ability to present custom login
based on host name
– Can re-direct to portal page
• System-wide settings
– One change impacts all
• We experienced many of these
same issues with BbVista
Creating the Learning Community
• What makes an institution a good
– Willingness to partner
– Willingness to sacrifice
– Openness to work-arounds
– Accepting of SIS integration
– Recognizing boundaries
– Small to Mid size helps too
Hosting Concerns
• Storage – need benchmarks on previous
• Concurrent Usage – benchmark on users and
• Overall Usage patterns (stress on system)
– Controlling exports and archives
– Controlling reporting
– Educating about file size & type (large file/video
• On-boarding process needed
– Introduction to learning community
Participating Institutions must understand shared sacrifice
– some control must be given up for collaborative cost
System Settings – Configuration for the common good –
no special requests unless all members agree
Building Blocks – Free blocks if for the common good;
paid blocks if the vendor allows others not be license
holders or as the ability to restrict by DSK or course ID
Reporting – scheduled, non-peak hours if data can be
isolated to the institution
Upgrades – Common good or system-wide issues
Maintenance Window – Good luck finding common
downtime for maintenance or upgrades!
R&D - Multiple Installations?
• Bb 9.1 may offer the opportunity to install
multiple sites on the same infrastructure
– Installer allows selection of site root and database
prefix (previously hard-coded)
– Will installer run 2nd time if existing site detected?
– Multiple IPs may allow for multiple Bb Learn sites if
installer allows & doesn’t overwrite (IIS)
– We are testing this with our SP6 development
Questions & Contact Info
Any Questions?
Any Brain Lock-up?
Kevin Corcoran
[email protected]
Please provide feedback for this session by emailing
[email protected]
The title of this session is:
A Multi-Institutional Deployment of Blackboard Learn

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