OIT makes over Blackboard

By Katie Zeck

For students taking summer courses or those returning in the fall, The Office of Information Technologies (OIT) plans to improve the functionality of Rider students’ Blackboard accounts for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The website, which currently houses students’ grades,  online assignments, discussion boards as well as a variety of other useful classroom communication tools, will become more customized and accessible, according to Associate Vice President for OIT Carol Kondrach.

Blackboard will be converted from the current version 7.3 to version 9.1.  The actual switch will take place on May 13, at 5 p.m.

“The upgrade will resolve issues with the current system and will provide faculty with new teaching tools, as well as more storage space for courses,” Kondrach said in an e-mail. “The upgraded system will be available for student use starting Summer I 2011. The biggest change for students will be in the look and feel of the interface and options for personalization.”

Kondrach explained that the changes will bring Rider up to date with Blackboard’s newest model and provide faculty and students with a wide variety of new features.The revamped set-up will give access to Blackboard’s current function as well as tabs for students’ MyInfo accounts, the Library databases, a calendar to schedule assignments and events, Webmail and a link to the OIT help desk.

However, Kondrach sees the upgrades more as differences to the website than actual changes and ensures they will not be overly drastic or complicated.

“We think students will be easily able to make sense of the new version but anyone needing help should contact the OIT help desk,” she said.

To ease the adjustment to the new system, OIT will be offering group, departmental and individual training sessions throughout the upcoming months. There also will be sessions that allow students and faculty to transfer course data from 7.3 to 9.1 as well as how to move course content from different Blackboard 9.1 courses.

The updates in Blackboard are just a start in OIT’s greater goal to enhance the university’s website and expansions of the website, according to Kondrach.

“We are working on mobile access to our website and other services as a separate initiative with a planned launch of late fall or early 2012,” said Kondrach. “To help us identify mobile features most important to students, a survey was sent out via email to all students on April 19.”

Also, students’ MyInfo accounts will be replaced with a new system called MyRider in early 2012 as a part of a multi-year project to replace Rider’s administrative systems.

Though many students are in favor of the changes, stating they will be beneficial to them, some are concerned about having to re-learn an entire website they have grown so accustomed to.

“I hope the changes won’t be so confusing that I have to learn a whole new way to navigate the website,” said freshman Gina Marano.

Freshman Carolyn Wiley said she is glad OIT is making strides to improve the websites that students use for their classes on a regular basis.

“I like the idea that our different student accounts will run more efficiently and ultimately help us to do better in our classes.”

To learn more about the upgrade and to get a preview of the new Blackboard, go to www.rider.edu/blackboard.

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