Minutes, March 22, 2017 (Approved)

A meeting of the Committee on Information Systems (CIS) was held Wednesday, March 22, 2017 from 1:00-2:00 PM in Library Room 115. The attendees were:

  1. Robert Adcock (SIS)
  2. Stefano Costanzi (CAS)
  3. Alan Isaac (CAS)
  4. Billie Jo Kaufman (WCL)
  5. Stefan Kramer (LIB)
  6. Joseph Mortati (KSB)
  7. Lindsay Murphy (CTRL)
  8. Chris Simpson (CAS; attending for Sarah Menke-Fish)
  9. Scott Vanek (LIB; guest speaker)
  10. Sonja Walti (SPA)
  11. Stef Woods (CAS)

The following items of business were discussed.

1. Scott Vanek (Assistant Director, e-Learning & Instructional Design Services, University Library) illustrated to the CIS committee the current state and the future directions of the Blackboard system. Blackboard was updated two years ago and is now never more than one update old. Workshops were held to show the new features. However, customers prefer one on one, in person interactions. Workshops for Departments can be organized upon request. Regarding future directions, Scott Vanek mentioned that a new version of Blackboard with a more modern look (Blackboard Ultra) will become widely available at AU in about a year and a half, preceded by some pilot experiments. Initially, both the classic version of Blackboard and Blackboard Ultra will be available to faculty members. However, eventually, Blackboard classic will be phased out and only Blackboard Ultra will remain.

A list of proposed improvements and ways to consolidate the use of Blackboard by faculty members follows.

– Several members of the committee raised the point that it is rather difficult to find information to solve issues with Blackboard (primarily concerning the grade book). As a result, most faculty members resort to Google searches that lead to relevant information posted by other universities. The CIS committee widely agreed that a frequently asked questions (FAQ) manual could be compiled based on the history of the past requests for help received by the AU Blackboard team. It was also concluded that AU’s manuals should be made more searchable and should be advertised better.

– Sonja Walti proposed the idea of certifying Blackboard power users as “Blackboard experts in residence”. These volunteer faculty members would have a sticker on their door and would be willing to answer questions and support colleagues with the use of Blackboard.

– Scott Vanek proposed the idea of having faculty-led “tech teas”. However the CIS committee suggested that attendance could be rather low.

– Chris Simpson suggested that students could be leveraged for Blackboard support.

– Alan Isaac suggested that AU’s Blackboard support page should have: 1) a link to a forum; 2) a telephone number that could be called for support; 3) a manual and a FAQ document.

– Scott Vanek suggested that it is important to let faculty members understand that, for security and privacy reasons, they should not use social media in lieu of Blackboard. Chris Simpson commented that the fate of the data that reside on the Blackboard system should also be clarified. Could the data be sold by Blackboard or mined?

It was unanimously felt that Scott Vanek’s presence was very beneficial and led to a very productive meeting. Hence, it was concluded that it would be desirable to establish a stable relationship between CIS and AU’s Blackboard support team.

2. There being no additional business for the good of the order, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 1:00 PM in Library 115.