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As our LMS becomes more cloud based, we are dependent on external services.  Blackboard Collaborate, Saas, Ally, SafeAssign, behind Blackboard, or Connect are some examples.  You can check their status at: Blackboard Services Status ( both Americas and Global tags). However, what if you prefer an email, phone call or a text message when the service changes status?


This can be done with IFTTT triggered by the RSS sources on


Here are the steps to setup email notification on a change of SafeAssign:


1. Setup IFTTT account

2. Determine URL to the specific RSS feed of the service.  For SafeAssign navigate to and click on Global tab.  From here an orange RSS icon contains the URL.  The URL is:

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.05.53 AM.png


3. Create a new applet on IFTTT that uses THIS as RSS trigger and THAT as email (options: SMS, phone, etc).  This steps may require that you first setup your email.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.07.08 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.07.22 AM.png

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 10.07.47 AM.png


The end result should be that when status is added to the SafeAssign listing, your IFTTT recipe is triggered and you get an email.  For a more advanced approach see this IFTTT action that generates a phone call:

Blackboard Button - IoT and IFTTT with Amazon Comprehend - YouTube


Let us know in the comments how you are using IFTTT already or if this recipe may work for you!

(this post is a continuation update from my prior post in May 2018)


8/13 edit: added release information for Cumulative Updates!


Now that we're on the other side of BbWorld and getting closer to back-to-school period for many institutions it is a good time for an update on progress with New Box View!


Download with Annotations

As I discussed in my May update, we continue working to build the capability to download student submissions with instructor annotations embedded within the documents.  We've been coding for several months and we're very close to completion!  In fact, here's a quick demo video of the functionality in action:



Direct link to video hosted on Collaborate, with download in mp4 format available from the "hamburger" menu in the top left corner: Bb Collaborate


This new feature is being implemented with a combination of Learn-side changes and a new microservice: on the Learn side, when annotations are present within the document being rendered by New Box View a new button will be present for all users to download the document with annotations; on the microservice side, the new microservice will work in tandem with the existing microservice and help build the new PDF with original content plus annotations and provide it to Learn for download by the user.


This functionality will be made available through a Cumulative Update to the versions of Learn listed below:



We are finalizing the timeframes for each of these releases over the coming days.  As I have specific dates for availability, I will add them to the information above.  Stay tuned!


Some additional details that will be noted in release notes or documentation, but I thought would be relevant to provide ahead of time:


For the initial release, we are focusing on the ability to download text-based documents only.  While New Box View allows users to annotate on both text-based documents and images, the ability to download images with annotations applied is a significantly more challenging problem than applying annotations to documents in PDF format.  We will continue to investigate supporting downloading annotated images as well as new file types that will support annotations in the future (e.g. Excel-based files).


All downloaded documents with annotations will be in PDF format, regardless of original file format.  The time it takes to create the PDF version of the document will depend primarily on the size of the original file, with larger files inherently taking more time.  Because of this, there may be a small delay between the time users click the "download with annotations" button and when the file is made available for download within the browser.  We do not expect a significant delay; however New Box View allows for file sizes up to five gigabyte and converting a file that large to PDF may take several seconds.


There is a known issue with Chrome's built-in PDF viewer which may cause problems when viewing the PDF documents created with this functionality.  Therefore, we recommend viewing PDFs using a native PDF viewer like Adobe Acrobat.


Annotations on Excel-based Files

Unfortunately, Box has been delayed in making this feature available due to technical limitations on their side and the previous timeline I had stated will not be accomplishable.  We are continuing to receive updates from Box on the situation, and I expect to be able to provide a new timeline in my next update.


As always, thank you for your continued patience and we look forward to providing another update with more release information shortly!

The Collaborate Ultra July Release (18.7) was pushed to production environments yesterday (July 25, 2018). This release includes new features that span across several of our unifying product themes: learner engagement and education insight. The new additions provide a more engaging experience for students, save instructors time, and improve the accessibility and inclusivity of educational content.


Recording Post-Captioning

For situations where there is no live captioner, but you still want to add captions after the fact, you can now upload captioning post-recording. This new feature provides you with an additional tool for creating educational content in accessible formats. In the future, we’re also planning to support automated speech-to-text so captions can be created programmatically or automatically.

The Metric Report

The new Metric report is designed to provide a detailed overview of your Collaborate Ultra usage. Information includes the frequency and scale of your institutional usage so you can make informed decisions about the service. The Metric report will be available as a CSV download and can be requested by your Collaborate administrator by creating a case on Behind the Blackboard. 


Fast Mic

We have removed the delay when you first turn on your mic, improving the experience for all participants.


For more details on the updates, please see the Collaborate Ultra release notes.


Timer Update

The timer capability is still in beta and not available in the Collaborate July update. We will keep you informed of a new release date and you can follow the support bulletin for additional updates.

Over the past several weeks we have conducted our quarterly Collaborate Roadmap webinars to ensure that you are up to date on what’s new and what’s coming for Blackboard Collaborate. If you were unable to attend one of the live webinars, we have compiled the top takeaways below. You can also check out the full recording here.


If you are attending BbWorld 2018, you can attend the Collaborate Roadmap session LIVE on Wednesday, July 18th at 4:40PM!


What’s (Almost) New – Countdown Timer

Collaborate's July release will include one of our most requested features, the Countdown Timer. This means that you will soon be able to (late July!) set a timer at the beginning of the session to give participants a visible indication of how much time is remaining before the Instructor starts. Instructors will also be able to use the Countdown Timer in breakout groups - you might want to break up the class into several breakout rooms, have them work on an activity for a fixed amount of time, and then bring them back into the main room. With the new Countdown Timer, you’ll be able to do that.


What’s (Almost) New – Recording Post-Captioning

For situations where there is no live captioner, but the Instructor still wants to add captions after the fact, we will allow you to associate a caption file to the recording – you can use any captioning service you choose, get the caption files, and upload/associate them to your Collaborate Ultra recordings. We’re referring to this as recording post-captioning and it will be available in late July.


What’s New – Download Session Attendance Report

We recently added the ability to export the existing Session Attendance report to calculate key metrics, reducing administrative overhead for Instructors and providing invaluable educational insight.  This highly requested feature will allow you to import the Session Attendance report into a tool like Microsoft Excel and calculate key metrics such as total # of sessions, total duration of all sessions, average session duration, and largest session by # of attendees.


Roadmap – Netstats: Network Quality Indicator

Netstats, which will be released in the coming months, will provide attendees with insight into the network conditions of other participants in the room. The strength of a participant’s network connection, if their connection is excellent or poor, and their upload & download bandwidth will all be available upon quick glance in the session. Instructors can use this information to easily identify if a participant is having a unique network connectivity issue, without disrupting the rest of the group.


RoadmapPause & Resume Recordings

We're adding the ability for Instructors to pause and resume the recording of a session, providing greater control over what gets recorded, and what doesn’t.  For example, if an Instructor is teaching and recording a two hour session and decides to take a 10 minute break, they can pause the recording for those 10 minutes and then resume the recording after the break.


Roadmap – AWS Infrastructure Migration

We're also moving our infrastructure into AWS to leverage the scalability and reliability of Amazon Web Services. This will allow us to improve our session scalability and capacity and expand into additional International regions.



All timelines related to the Collaborate Roadmap are subject to change without notice.

Digital communication in a course, and in a professional team, can be tricky.  Email can quickly overwhelm a group with repeated message, irrelevant reply-all, and a significant overhead in busy-work.  Native Blackboard Learn discussion forums can also make it difficult to share files, snippets of code, and breaking out into private discussions. In the last few years, Slack has been conquering the field of professional team communication. It has also been used in online courses.  A few more examples: political science course, digital history. There are many reasons why Slack is being adopted, but I will list the top 7 reasons.


  1. Slack discussions happen in one place and can be divided into Channels for specific topics. Users can be assigned to as many (or as few) channels as needed. A balance is kept between clarity and complexity. The discussion maintains transparency and users can effectively identify relevant messages.
  2. Slack integrates with important systems like GitHub, Trello, and many others. Full list is available at
  3. All content can be searched through one search control.
  4. Files can be easily shared.
  5. Code snippets render well and are easy to share (very important in computer classes).
  6. Team discussions can be quickly switched to private discussions.
  7. Slack is fun on any device.


Learn about Slack on


You can now place a link to your Slack workspace in Blackboard Learn as well as invite your class through this REST API integration.  In addition, you'll know which students in your class have already joined Slack and who needs a reminder.


System administrator instructions:


REST Application ID:   cc908933-00d0-4143-87be-47aee29ed984 

LTI domain:


The icon:


Minimum Bb version: 3000.1.0

Ultra Courses & Original in Saas with REST API/LTI apps

More: Did someone try to integrate Slack as forum in Blackboard ?


Ultra course:


Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 12.28.24 PM.png


Original course:

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 12.29.22 PM.png


Instructor Control Panel:

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 5.07.24 PM.png


Slack analytics in a Winter 2018 course:

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 11.01.50 PM.png

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 11.01.20 PM.png


For computer courses sample code snippet formatting in Slack:




What can you integrate in Slack?



more about Slack

For the better part of 12 months, the Blackboard SafeAssign Team had been designing the infrastructure and implementation plan for moving the SafeAssign service out of the Blackboard Managed Hosting facilities and into the cloud-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure.  The benefits of an AWS-based deployment include increased flexibility in hardware allocation, the ability to be more responsive to changing submission volume, and the potential for more rapid innovation across the SafeAssign technology stack.


On April 3rd, 2018 the SafeAssign migration to AWS was completed (link to BtBb announcement) and all new user submissions and requests would be processed in the SafeAssign environment deployed within AWS going forward.  The timing of this transition was important as many schools were starting to enter an end-of-year "Finals" period in which we typically observe a greater amount of student assessment (and by extension SafeAssign usage) than other periods of the academic and calendar year.


We typically track two metrics as representative of the client experience with respect to performance:

  • Paper Load represents the number of documents in the queue waiting to be processed
  • Paper Turnaround Time represents the average amount of time a user waits to receive a SafeAssign Originality Report back from the service


These two metrics are highly correlated and help us to understand the performance of the service at any given time.  In previous years and while hosted within Blackboard Managed Hosting facilities, SafeAssign often struggled to maintain acceptable performance for all clients during the critical Finals period:

SafeAssign Paper Load Apr to June 2017.png

Paper Load April 1 to June 1, 2017


SafeAssign Paper Turnaround Time Apr to June 2017.png

Paper Turnaround Time April 1 to June 1, 2017


As you can see from the graphs above, during the 2017 Spring Finals period SafeAssign struggled to keep paper turnaround times under 12 hours for a period of almost three weeks and paper turnaround times reached almost 45 hours average at their peak; this means that some students and instructors were waiting nearly two days to get Originality Reports and results from SafeAssign, which is clearly not the experience we want to provide for our clients.


We are pleased to report that after the move to AWS, the SafeAssign service performed significantly better during this high-volume Finals period than in previous years.  Here are the graphs of the same Paper Load and Paper Turnaround Time metrics from the 2018 Spring Finals period:


SafeAssign Paper Load Apr to June 2018.png

Paper Load April 1 to June 1, 2018


SafeAssign Paper Turnaround Time Apr to June 2018.png

Paper Turnaround Time April 1 to June 1, 2018


Comparing the graphs from 2017 to 2018, the improved performance of the service is clear: while there were still small spikes of load, the average paper turnaround time was just over nine minutes!  This represents a significant positive change in user experience and perception of the performance of the service.  We received no reports of delays from clients during this period, and we're proud to announce this information to all users of the SafeAssign service!


As we progress through 2018, we will continue to make performance improvements to SafeAssign that should continue to reduce these metrics over time.  In addition to this, we're working on a new responsive and accessible Originality Report user interface that will be enabled by the AWS infrastructure.  We'll be providing more details about this new interface at BbWorld 2018 this year, so look for more information coming soon!


We would like to thank our students, teachers, and administrators for continuing to rely on SafeAssign for originality and plagiarism reporting, and we look forward to continuing to improve the service in the months to come.

The Intelligent Learning Platform (ILP) block provides Ellucian (formerly Datatel) clients with the ability to set midterm and final grades for a course, send retention alerts, and view the last date of attendance for a student in the course. The midterm and final grades can also be published directly to the Datatel system.


We are currently beginning the implementation process here at Alvin Community College.  As I could locate little information about the specifics I thought that I would share the step-by-step process as we work though the entire implementation process. 

I find that initially there are more questions than answers, but I am excited to add these excellent options for faculty use in Blackboard especially.


I will be sharing from the perspective of the BB Administrator.  We are on BB SAAS and use Ellucian/Colleague, so my information will come form this unique role.  Even though I am not a programmer or DB administrator I will do my best to share information that is pertinent to these roles but ask that you forgive my use of "layman's terms" to express my ideas.


If interested please follow this blog as i share the good, the bad, and the ugly of ILP implementation. 


Information From Blackboard




Over the past several weeks we have conducted our quarterly Collaborate Roadmap webinars to ensure that you are up-to-date on what’s new and what’s coming for Blackboard Collaborate. If you were unable to attend one of the live webinars, we have compiled the top five takeaways below. You can also check out the full recording here.


1.) Blackboard Teaching & Learning Vision

We kicked off the Collaborate Roadmap webinar by sharing the Blackboard Teaching & Learning Vision and how it relates to our Product Roadmaps. At Blackboard, we’re committed to building a better model for educational technology – a model focused on addressing the core challenges faced by education institutions across the globe.  Solving those challenges is at the core of everything we do.  It helps us prioritize our resources and drives our product roadmap.


To achieve this laser focus on solving your most critical challenges, we’re evolving away from building products separately, and integrating them more meaningfully into the Learning Management System.  We are shifting our focus to the development of a comprehensive, digital learning environment focused on helping you solve your core challenges. You have told us that enabling face-to-face interactions, at scale, for online programs is essential for student success. Collaborate is a core component of our digital learning environment strategy.


As we share our vision for the future, we will do so through the lens of our unifying product themes that enable us to focus on your holistic experience:

  • We believe empowering excellence in teaching and learning is at the foundation of everything you do. We call this Academic Effectiveness.
  • We believe inspiring a love for learning is at the core of our shared mission.  We refer to this as Learner Engagement.
  • And, we must empower your continuous improvement by providing an accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process. To us, this is Education Insight.


2.) What’s New - Phone-Only Access

Collaborate Ultra’s February release featured phone-only access. This means that you can now join a session by phone without first logging into your browser. Internet connectively shouldn’t hamper a learner’s engagement and we are thrilled to bring phone-only functionality to Collaborate Ultra.  Instructors can easily copy the phone number and pin from the session panel and distribute it to their students.


3.) What’s New – Rename Recordings

Instructors can now edit recording names in the Ultra Scheduler UI. Previously, recordings were named by default with the session name which made it challenging to search for a specific recording. The ability to rename your recordings makes it easy for learners to quickly locate the right recording and avoid any barriers to learning.


4.) Roadmap – Focus on Inclusivity & Accessibility

Recording Post-Captioning

For situations where there is no live captioner, but the Instructor still wants to add captions after the fact, we will allow you to associate a caption file to the recording – you can use any captioning service you choose, get the caption files, and upload/associate them to your Collab Ultra recordings. We’re referring to this as recording post-captioning. Eventually, we’re also planning to support automated speech-to-text so captions can be created programmatically or automatically.  Automatic speech recognition isn’t as accurate as a live captioner, so we’ll provide a mechanism to edit the automatic caption file and clean up any errors.


Sign Language Interpreter

We’re planning to support an in-session layout for a sign language interpreter. This would allow deaf or hard of hearing participants to follow both the active speaker and the sign language interpreter.  This is also a great option for teaching sign language and interpretation.


5.) Roadmap – Focus on Academic Effectiveness

Countdown Timer

The Countdown Timer, which is slated to be released shortly, will allow you give participants a visible indication of how much time is remaining before the Instructor begins, allowing students to get prepared before the start of class. You will also be able to use the Countdown Timer in breakout rooms - as an Instructor, you might want to break up the class into several breakout rooms, have them work on an activity for a fixed amount of time, and then bring them back into the main room. 


AWS Migration

We're also moving our infrastructure into AWS to leverage the scalability and reliability of Amazon Web Services. This will allow us to improve our session scalability and capacity and expand into additional International regions.

Happy Thursday Everyone!

A few weeks ago, I ran a quick survey to get some data about Archiving and Removing courses. I got a wonderful response. Thank you all so much!! I love my fellow Admins.

I pulled the data after 82 participants for my presentation. Currently, we have 85 responses.  The survey is still active, so you can participate if you did not get a chance:


Several asked about sharing the results. Here they are from when I pulled them:


Survey of Blackboard Administrators N=82



Does your institution currently archive courses? N=80

  78.8% Yes

  13.8% No

  7.4% Other


If yes, when does your institution archive courses? N=69

  40.6% End of each semester (more than once a year)

  31.9% Once a year

  27.5% Other


Does your institution remove older courses from the system after archiving? N=76

  75% Yes

  15.8% No

  9.2% Other


If yes, when does you institution remove older courses? N=66

  30.3% End of each semester

  40.9% Once a year

  28.8% Other


How many academic years worth of courses do you currently keep active on your Blackboard system? N=79

  0% Current academic year only

  26.6% Current academic year + 1 previous year

  30.4% Current academic year + 2 previous years

  6.3% Current academic year + 3 previous years

  6.3% Current academic year + 4 previous years

  3.8% Current academic year + 5 previous years

  26.6% Other (examples: 2 semesters, Current academic year + 1 semester)


Does your faculty have direct or indirect access to the archive? N=73

  1.4% Direct Only – Faculty can access the storage location and download the archive files for restoring a course to access content, student work and grades

  83.6% Indirect Only – Faculty must request a course restore from the Blackboard Administrator to access content, student work and grades

  4.1% Both Direct and Indirect - Faculty can access the storage location to download the archive file for importing course content, but must request a course restore for access to student work and grades.

  10.9% Other


Do you see positive changes to your Blackboard System due to archiving/removing older courses? N=76

  42.1% Yes

  13.2% No

  30.3% Some

  14.4% Other (examples: not sure, have not implemented yet)




If you’d like a word doc with these results, with some of the open response answers, I have it posted here:


I hope you all have a great afternoon!

Thank you again.

Carolyn Ponce

Arkansas State University

My all-time favorite television show is the classic 90s American sitcom “Friends,” which revolves around six friends living in Manhattan supporting each other throughout various stages in their adult journey. The show had its final season over a decade ago, but one can’t forget about the stellar cast, the notable accolades, and of course the bewitching theme song by the band The Rembrandts, “I’ll Be There for You.”




When I set out to write a blog to highlight the many customer programs we have here, that one incessant line that reverberates throughout the theme song, “I’ll be there for you” immediately came to my mind. The solid support system established by the characters on the show parallels the considerable support system (or partnership rather) that we’ve established to support our clients along their path to the Ultra experience of Blackboard Learn. Come with me on this journey as I highlight the 3 customer programs we have in place to support our clients. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the ways we are positioned “to be there for you” on your journey to the Ultra experience.


1. Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience Cohorts


We get it. Change is hard and can be downright scary at times. But moving to the Ultra experience doesn’t have to be an isolated journey. We’re here for you! Each quarter, we offer a cohort program that provides you with valuable information and best practices along your path to the Ultra experience to ensure your success. Our cohort consists of 8 weekly, 1-hour, virtual meetings using Blackboard Collaborate (of course!), providing direct access to our product experts, and your peers moving along a similar path.We’ve designed this program to be open and informal to encourage interaction among the group and to ensure participants are leaving each week with the information and answers needed as they consider and/or plan a transition to the new
interface. Interested in joining the next session? Reach out to us by emailing to receive more information.


2. Ultra Partnership Program


A partnership, much like a friendship, thrives when both parties communicate openly, trust and value each other, and are committed to one another’s success. We realize the journey to turning on the Ultra experience is not an overnight process and takes thoughtful planning and consideration from both sides. We launched the Ultra Partnership Program (UPP) that offers select customers the opportunity to partner closely with us as they prepare for the future production of the Ultra experience. The 6-month partnership allows customers to:

  • Communicate directly with a team of Blackboard experts who will support in the successful planning and execution of live
  • Deliver valuable feedback that is front and center in terms of how the Product Management Team builds and prioritizes the Learn Ultra roadmap,
  • And gain hands-on experience using Learn Ultra in production on a larger scale


Our number one goal of this partnership is for participants to confidently walk away with defined next steps in planning for production in the Ultra experience.


3. Learn Ultra User Group


So far, I’ve told you about two programs that are designed to 1.) help deepen your understanding of the Ultra experience and 2.) allow you to gain hands-on experience using Learn Ultra in production on a larger scale. But what if you’ve already turned on the Ultra experience or are in the process of transitioning – now what? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!


I’m excited to announce a new (and free!) Community Program - The Learn Ultra User Group. This program was launched as an added layer of support for our clients who are currently using Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience. We know the questions don’t cease once the Ultra experience has been enabled at your institution, so we’re here to partner, listen, and support you along the way. Members of this user-group will be made aware of impending releases for the Ultra experience, get direct access to our Learn Product Management Team, and have the opportunity to network and learn from peers on the same path. If you’ve turned on the Ultra experience or are in the process of flipping the switch, we invite you to join us!


We’re committed to your success


Regardless of where you are on your path to the Ultra experience, rest assured we have tools, resources, and programs in place to support you. We’re committed to your success and want to be your partner in change. Not quite ready to join a program? We recommend registering for Educator Preview to test drive the latest and greatest within Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience.


Wherever you are on your journey to the Ultra experience remember, if you find yourself “stuck in second gear”– we’re here for you.


For additional information, you can contact us via email at



Change management.


Even just writing that term makes me cringe. It’s vague and nebulous; simultaneously threatening and dull. Yet, it’s something that every professional in every profession must face—including, and especially, those who sit at the vortex of education and technology.


So let’s talk teaching and learning, specifically. And even more specifically, about how to get everyone at your institution excited about—and actually using—a new technology. For many, this responsibility may not necessarily be listed on your official job description. And yet, you’re thrust into the role of cheerleader/trainer/marketer. Trust me, you’re not alone.

I’ve asked the best in the industry—namely your colleagues and our in-house training experts —for real-life, actionable examples of how to effectively increase technology adoption on campus. Here’s what you/they had to say:


  1. Get the inside scoop on what people are thinking and feeling on your campus. Participate in faculty meetings, department meetings, etc., and listen. Note ideas, requirements, and concerns. Side bar conversations are often some of the most informative.
  2. Sympathize with your faculty. Acknowledge their fear and apprehension. When you talk about the changes, highlight the ways that the new technology will make their lives easier, and give specific examples.
  3. Build a professional development plan. Think about what you want to achieve. What are your goals for year 1, 3, 5? What is your timeline? Outline the steps you need to take to get you to your goal and share this with those involved so that everyone has a clear understanding of success.
  4. Stay connected with your campus. One announcement does not a change make. It’s a process that takes time, diligence, and sometimes, a little bit of creativity. Incorporate some of these best practices into your plan:
    • Write blogs on a variety of topics and invite guest bloggers from other departments
    • Offer drop-in labs whereby people can work alongside each other and ask for help when needed
    • Host office hours to build face-to-face relationships
    • Leverage provider-developed adoption toolkits (why reinvent the wheel?)
  5. Take it easy on yourself - it’s hard to get people to do something new. If you find yourself getting frustrated or ever disappointed with the results, remember it is hard to evoke change, but it is worth the effort.


In short, there are a lot of quick and easy ways to help “market” adoption at your institution that don’t require you to have a marketing degree. But whatever you do, don’t let “change management” get in the way of making things different.


What other tips do you have to share?


CSU Chico is in the process of developing some definitions and data models to support Learn 9.1.2 information....and would love to see/hear what others are doing. Our first focus is on system usage. Below we have humbly shared our assumptions, course activity definitions and tracked content in the hopes that others will collaborate to make it stronger.  All input and feedback is welcome. Please....poke holes in it, and or share what your doing.


Thank you in advance.


Usage Assumptions

Course assumptions

  • Courses are created via PeopleSoft/BBL integration. This analysis ignores courses that have no instructor or no students.
  • Common learning environments may contain multiple course units within the BBL database, but each CLE is treated as one course in this analysis.
  • In this analysis, courses are considered active if they contain user-created content items greater than those delivered in the default template (more than four items, or more than three types of items).


Faculty assumptions

  • All faculty on campus will have a BBL account. This analysis includes faculty in a term if they are enrolled in at least one course during that term.
  • In this analysis, faculty are considered active during a term if they are enrolled in at least one active course.
  • If multiple faculty are enrolled in a course that is active, this analysis will consider all of them active.


Student assumptions

  • All matriculated students will have a BBL account. This analysis includes students in a term if they are enrolled in at least one course during that term.
  • In this analysis, students are considered active during a term if they are enrolled in at least one active course.



Course Activity Definitions

Granular content

Number of content items


Does not count folders

+1 if grade center was used

Coarse content

Types of content items


Does not count folders

+1 if grade center was used

Ordinal granular

Rates content usage by count



0-4 items


5-9 items


10-24 items


25+ items

Ordinal coarse

Rates content usage by type



0-3 types


4 types


5 types


6+ types

Ordinal usage

Overall course usage


Takes higher of: ordinal granular, ordinal coarse

Course is active if ordinal usage is 2 or higher


In our case, “Low” usage would be any content added beyond what’s provided by our default course template. Future reporting efforts might set “Medium” and “High” usage based on statistical measures such as standard deviations of existing activity counts.


We haven’t discussed weighting certain interactive activity types, such as discussion boards, but that may be worth considering in the future.

Content that is tracked:

  • announcements
  • assessments
  • assignments
  • blogs
  • cengage
  • files (content type "file")
  • grade center (1 if used, 0 otherwise)
  • items (content type "item")
  • journals
  • kaltura
  • learning modules
  • lesson plans
  • lynda
  • mashup items
  • mcgraw connect
  • mcgraw-hill
  • module pages
  • nbc items
  • oer finder
  • pearson
  • podcasts
  • turnitin
  • voice boards
  • voice presentations
  • web links
  • wikis
  • wiley
  • wimba classrooms
  • discussion boards

Content that should be added to tracking

This report currently doesn’t track user activity, such as logging in to turn in assignments or check grades. That would require some changes in methodology, though.

Like many other system gurus at BbWorld 2015, we were perplexed with the advent of Ultra and the new technological challenges ahead!


Last year was actually the shock of our lives during BbWorld 2014. The new interface threw us the biggest curb-ball with a revamp of Blackboard Ultra's prototype. The hype grew even more before we went to D.C. where we suddenly felt our plans and high hopes crash and roll down to the National Harbor river, needless to say Ultra remains a prototype. The new interface would force us, a self-hosted and self-governed environment, to have a few regrets for the recent purchase of our big infrastructure. Now a few days after the conference we must start making plans for the new SaaS/RESTful technology.


Although Blackboard promises to complete Ultra in the upcoming months or perhaps years, we at FSU are getting acquainted with the new terminologies. It is my duty to diligently do my homework. Since AngularJS seems to be the preferred JavaScript by Blackboard to control the interface, I started tinkering with bootstrap and some service calls.


My research brought me to the Open Source RESTful server called DreamFactory. I wanted to figure out how could I use setup enrollment records and present them to our developers for quicker access. If JAVA development will somehow diminish on our side, I wanted to see if our team could start making API calls via other technologies, such as Python, and AngularJS.


DreamFactory (DF and Apache2 dependent), open source available for downloads or in the cloud, was the biggest hit for me. The straight-forward interface convinced me that we could attach our enrollment records DB and easily setup RESTful services with required credentials. Since most of our data resides within the internal network, integrating the DB to DF was flawless and in a matter of minutes we had API docs available for REST calls. I really liked that DF has connectivity for Oracle, MS-SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, No-SQL, and other connections.


Here is the interface looks like where I setup DB connections and turn them into services. Note: this screen shows the default services that come with DF.

Once a service has been setup, the API Docs is the area where we can see the contents of 'db' table listing:



By selecting a GET for table names, the RESTful service is described:



Are we done with RESTful setup and do we have a portal ready for our developers? Well, almost. The quick setup has been done but now it is time to decide who will have access via Keys called app_name. DF already comes with some builtin apps for JQuery, AngularJS, and Sencha. Such apps can be re-engineered to make them work for our processes.


The biggest question I kept asking myself, do I have to be proficient in AngularJS or JAVA to build and manage a RESTful server? The answer is NOT necessarily. The important part of not knowing anything about a technology is to have the desire to master it. Here is where I find myself, posting about how little I knew yet how much I could learn. I am not proficient in programming but I know where and how to look for solutions.


DF has provided us the path to saved hours on development on a RESTful server and possibly has given us the option of integrating our future REST calls to SaaS Ultra.


In the coming days and weeks I plan to post my findings on this revolutionary product. DreamFactory is built in PHP, that could be a deal breaker for some institutions and for us we are eager to stress test it with our biggest 180K enrollment transactions.


Feel free to reach out. I strongly believe that if you create an account with DreamFactory before you choose to install it at your institution, it would be your playground for ideas. As far as I know, caching is very important for transactions that may tax the DreamFactory server which can be integrated with Redis.


Thank you,


Julian Hernandez

Sr. Systems & Application Administrator

Florida State University