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Skidmore College Moves to Blackboard 9.1

Skidmore College has adopted the latest release of Blackboard's learning management system. The 2,700-student college, located in Saratoga Springs, NY, is moving to version 9.1 from Blackboard's previous version 8 release, which it deployed in summer 2008.

Skidmore selected the newest version of Blackboard, which was released in April 2010, after evaluating several competing platforms, including open source options. Students and faculty reportedly liked 9.1's improved user interface and new features, including drag and drop functionality, group tools, dashboards, and blogging. IT staff cited improved performance of the application as a determining factor.

"Blackboard is our most important, mission-critical application," said Instructional Technologist Kelly Dempsey-Little, who is managing the rollout. "Our experience with release 9.1 has been amazing--it's made my job much easier and people are really excited about using it."

During the summer of 2010 25 faculty members participated in an early-adopter program to "help kick the tires on this new release," IT reported to the campus community. This group was the first to be upgraded formally to the new platform. All other faculty and students will be using Blackboard 9.1 starting in spring 2011.

In January 2011, the college migrated its 400 courses to release 9.1. To aid in the transition, Skidmore took advantage of Blackboard video tutorials and training materials. It also participated in a new guided cohort program introduced by Blackboard with the launch of its latest release.

According to Blackboard, the cohort program was announced as a pilot in May 2010, about a month after the launch of Learn 9.1. Blackboard invited 100 organizations to participate in that first cohort pilot, including Skidmore. That program consists of 12 weekly virtual meetings that allow participants to interact with peers moving along a similar path. The free support offering also includes a course site for discussions, help from Blackboard, and other resources. Two other cohort programs have taken place since then. The next one begins in May 2011.

"The support we've received is outstanding," said Dempsey-Little.

The university will run both Blackboard platforms in parallel for a semester, each on its own hardware platform.

"Blackboard 9.1 has revolutionized the way I teach," said Skidmore Professor Catherine Golden. "It's an intuitive platform that's been very easy for my colleagues to learn and it's got so much to offer."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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