Blackboard is going away! Over the coming three semesters, OIT will be phasing out the use of Blackboard, our Course Management System of the past six years, in favor of a new system known here on campus as Glow.

As we evaluated the effectiveness of Blackboard, we found that there were reasons both for wanting to drop Blackboard, as well as for choosing to adopt Glow: Over the time that we’ve used Blackboard its licensing fees have grown exponentially and appear set to continue to rise.  At the same time, the Blackboard corporation recently released a major new version of Blackboard which would have required faculty and students to learn how to use a new system whether we made a switch or not.  Coupled with that, Glow itself provides faculty much greater flexibility to present information in ways that parallel the way they teach, and provides OIT programmers a more accessible environment to support customization and enhancement. In addition, the underlying technology is very popular with Williams’ peer institutions, providing an additional strong support community.

Screenshot of a course on Glow

Glow screenshot

The transition to Glow is scheduled to take three semesters, from Fall 2009 through Fall 2010, during which time Blackboard and Glow will both be accessible.

  • In Fall 2009, a dozen or so faculty have volunteered to be “alpha testers” of Glow. Blackboard will continue to operate, and most faculty and courses will still be hosted on Blackboard.
  • In Spring 2010, Glow will be in “open beta”: any faculty who would like to use Glow and get a jump on the new system will be welcome to.  Blackboard will continue to operate normally, and any faculty who choose can still host their courses on it.
  • In Fall 2010, Glow will be active.  All courses will be hosted on Glow.  No courses will be available on Blackboard, students will be unable to log in, and login by faculty will be by request only in order to retrieve past course information.
  • After Fall 2010, Blackboard will be turned off, but kept “on ice” for at least a year in order to ensure that no historical but still-needed course information is lost.

In terms of functionality, the new software will let users do everything they can currently do in Blackboard, however there are some differences in the way course materials can be presented.  Glow allows faculty to organize their material in a variety of different ways, including by week or by topic, and allows materials to be referenced in more than one location within their course.  For courses that have been taught in the past, materials can be exported from Blackboard and uploaded to Glow.  As a result of the difference in organizational structure, uploaded files will still need to be placed into the course manually.

Over the coming semester, OIT staff will offer introductory orientation sessions to the new system, and we invite you to participate.  You can find out more about Glow by contacting your ITech specialist or by using the online documentation where you’ll find a section on getting started with Glow, as well as a section on transitioning from Blackboard.

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