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Riverside, San Diego College Districts Migrate to Blackboard Learn

Two southern California community college districts will be moving to newer versions of Blackboard software from older versions for their learning management work. Both the San Diego Community College District and Riverside Community College District will be upgrading from Blackboard's WebCT Vista to version 9.1 of Blackboard Learn.

According to a publicly available implementation plan, San Diego CC has signed a managed hosting service license agreement with Blackboard and will be running the new version of the application in a pilot phase during 2011. That pilot program will encompass 10 faculty members running one course apiece in the new system. The college expects to complete all course migrations to Blackboard Learn by spring 2012 and retire Vista by fall 2012.

The evaluation at San Diego CC included surveying all faculty members who were teaching online classes to compile a list of "must-have" features and a wish list. From that, a committee of faculty members narrowed a short list of seven finalists through a decision matrix process. According to Blackboard, its latest release ranked first in four out of five criteria in that matrix, including experience and reliability of the vendor; tools and features needed by the faculty; efficient migration from the existing system; and support services, including accessibility/ADA compliance, training materials, and tracking and administrator tools.

"With use of our course management system increasing by about 20 percent each year, this step is a critical one for ensuring the long-term success of our online and distributed learning program, and Blackboard Learn 9.1 is well worth the cost when all the evaluative criteria are taken into account," said Andrea Henne, the college district's dean of online and distributed learning, who led the search effort. "I'm optimistic about our choice and the opportunity for faculty and students to take advantage of the user-friendly interface, new mobile learning capabilities, and Web 2.0 tools and features."

At Riverside, faculty members teaching online, hybrid, or Web-enhanced courses were invited to participate in a review process. The company said the faculty's selection of Blackboard Learn was driven by its improved features, instructor familiarity, and their confidence in the product. Faculty were asked to evaluate the software based solely on the merits of the product and not price, although Blackboard's offer also turned out to be the lowest cost option of the group.

"Our faculty led this evaluation effort from start to finish, and they made the decision to go with Blackboard because the changes in Release 9 and Release 9.1 in particular were exactly the direction they wanted to go," said Sylvia Thomas, Riverside's associate vice chancellor of educational services. "We're very pleased with the results of our search and that it was an open, inclusive, and transparent process."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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