Transitioning from Learn 2012 to Learn 2016 Branding

Document created by lowey.kevin on Jul 18, 2019Last modified by lowey.kevin on Jul 18, 2019
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Learn Q4 2018 now supports mobile web browsers, but ONLY when using the newer Learn 2016 branding. That provided the incentive we needed to make Learn 2016 branding available to our users.


We wanted to roll this out as an option over the summer. People could choose to stay with the old branding, or try out the new branding. This article discusses how we did that.


Step 1: Create two institutional roles:

  • Blackboard lets you associate brands with specific institutional roles.
  • Anyone with the role as as their primary institution role will see the branding associated with that role.
  • We created two roles: "Branding - Normal" and "Branding - Pilot" to use for this purpose. Anyone with "Branding - Normal" would use our default "Learn 2012" branding. Anyone with "Branding - Pilot" would use our new "Learn 2016" branding.


Step 2: OPTIONAL: Create additional themes

  • This is optional, you can just use the default Blackboard themes if you wish.
  • We modified the themes to tailor them for our institution, which involves copying the old themes and creating new themes. Other articles talk about specific customizations you may want to make so I won't cover details here.  Just main process.
  • System Admin > Brands and Themes > Theme and Palette Catalog
  • Download either the "Learn 2012" or "Learn 2016" theme (options menu > download)
  • Rename the downloaded file to reflect your desired theme name (like "" or "")
  • Edit the theme to make changes as described in other articles. I create a single new file, and then include it in the "theme.css" file at the end.
  • Select the "Create Theme" link
  • Add an appropriate name, reference name and description and then upload your modified theme.
  • Select "Submit"

Step 3: Create new brands and associate with those roles

  • System Admin > Brands and Themes > Manage Brands > Create Brand
  • Provide a name, like "Pilot Brand" and leave the host name as "Default". Set the availability to the role you set up (like "Branding - Pilot")
  • In the "customize" section, select the theme you want for the pilot. Either the "Learn 2016" theme or your custom theme.
  • Make any other customizations (colour palette, colours, navigation settings).
  • Select "Apply All Changes".
  • Verify that in the "Manage Brands" page, the new "Pilot Brand" is listed, host name "Default" role "Branding - Pilot".


At this point system administrators can manually change a person's primary institution role to "Branding - Pilot" and as soon as they refresh their screen they will see the new branding. Admins can also manually switch the primary role back to either the default of "Student" or to the custom role "Branding - Normal". If "Branding - Normal" is used, since no brand is associated with it, it will show the default brand exactly like the "Student" role. The advantage however, is that in the "Institutional Roles" page it will list how many people have this role, so you know how many people "switched back". The people with "Student" never participated, those with "Branding - Pilot" switched to the new brand and stayed, those with "Branding - Normal" tried the new brand but then moved back.


Step 4: Provide a mechanism for users to select their primary institutional role


Everything above can be done on any Blackboard system. However, I wanted to take the system administrator out of the loop. Instead I wanted users to be able to select which brand they wanted on their own. We did this by creating a building block with the following properties.


The building block provided a  custom module that provided some help information and let people select which branding they wanted to use.



The B2 settings let us map the "default" and "New" choices to institutional roles. So "default" was mapped to "Branding - Normal" and "new" was mapped to "Branding - Pilot".


A user would select the desired branding, then select "Change View"


The B2 would update that user's primary institution role to the correct role, then issue a "browser refresh" to immediately update the browser page.


Users then immediately see the selected branding.


Unfortunately our block has wording that is hard coded. We would need to add options to let people provide their own paragraph for help, change the names of the selection options, etc. So it isn't ready to share with others.


I hope you find this useful.


Kevin Lowey