Semester Rollover Re-Revisited (or, Slaying Mammoths)

I’m a Blackboard administrator.  So some of what follows may not make much sense if you don’t know a little bit about Blackboard or a little bit about teaching online.  This post is a rough draft of an idea that I’m piloting in the coming months, so the execution may change, but the core ideas should remain the same.

First, some backstory….

Each semester, I am responsible for making sure new course shells are created in Blackboard and that these course shells are populated with the appropriate materials.  I’ve gotten the SIS Integration piece of the puzzle down to a science.  I wrote a program called MOBbBEUS (MercerOnline Blackboard Back End Utility System), which, among other things, takes the data from the SIS, converts it into a Blackb0ard-ready format, then uploads the resultant data into Blackboard.  It’s gone through several iterations and is now at a place where I can comfortably say that it’s pretty much capable of handling any scenario at our institution.

As of July 1, 2016, all of our face-to-face courses will have Blackboard shells as well.  This is a big move for our institution, and one that has involved a lot of work for my team.  We’ve been building up to this for years, and in a few short months, we’ll be diving, head-first, into the LMS-for-all waters.  We moved from ANGEL to Blackboard about 18 months ago, and now we’re bringing all of our faculty and students onto Blackboard.  It’s a mammoth task.

Tackling the Mammoth

But let’s go back to the first sentence of the second paragraph of this post…. “Each semester, I am responsible for making sure new course shells are created in Blackboard and that these course shells are populated with the appropriate materials.”  How do I know what content I’m supposed to use to populate all those course shells?  Simple… I survey the faculty. Once courses have been assigned for each semester, I send a survey to all faculty members who use Blackboard and ask them to let me know what they’d like to have in their new shells, then we follow their directions and populate the courses.

But beginning in July, ALL of our courses (about 1,000 sections per semester) will have Blackboard shells, all of which will need to be populated.  How do we manage this?  This got me to thinking.  And this is what I’m planning to do.  We’ll see how it all works out…

I have decided to streamline the process a little further.  In the new process, we download the files from the SIS and run them through MOBbBEUS, as usual.  But now, MOBbBEUS will do something more.

  • When files are downloaded from the SIS, MOBbBEUS adds all courses to a “Course Status” table in the semester database.  When an instructor is assigned to a course, this is reflected in the data we get from the SIS.  MOBbBEUS will take this assignment and generate an an e-mail to the instructor.  The e-mail will contain a link to the course population request form (an Excel form) which the instructor must complete.
  • Once the instructor submits the form, two things happen:
    • The course is flagged in the Course Status table of the semester database as “ready for population” and MOBbBEUS sends an e-mail to our team containing a list of courses which need to be set up and the complete instructions on how to populate the course.
  • If the instructor does not submit the form within 3 days, MOBbBEUS will send out a reminder e-mail, and will continue to do this every 3 days until the instructor has responded.
  • Once we have populated the courses as requested, we contact the instructor to let them know the process is complete and life goes on.

At least, that’s how it will happen in theory……

It’s gonna be very interesting to see if I can make this all fly…..

oh, and it has to be coded, tested, QC’ed, and in production by sometime in late April.  It’s February 11 right now.

Well, I certainly do love a good challenge……



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