Electronic Course System to Get a Technological Makeover
ELearning Upgrades Later This Year Will Come With Mobile Apps and Other Upgrades

An upgraded electronic learning system that UT Dallas classes will start using later this year features a mobile application that will send notifications to students when updated grades, discussions and announcements are posted in the class Internet network.

Course material on a cellphone

The University’s new eLearning system will include mobile applications so students can keep up with course material on smartphones and more.

The next-generation system will be tested in selected summer and fall classes in preparation for a campuswide rollout next spring.

“The new system is not going to be as much of a walled garden as now,” said Dr. Darren Crone, UT Dallas eLearning director. “It will reach out to students where they are via Facebook, email and text messaging.”

Blackboard Learn, the new system, was chosen by the Academic Senate after receiving input from professors, administrative leaders, and faculty and student focus groups.

“We respect that people throughout campus are impacted by the system, so it’s only right that they have input,” Crone said.

Electronic learning, or eLearning, uses Internet technology to help professors manage classes. The current eLearning system, known as Blackboard Vista, is an online repository for courses where educational materials such as syllabi, videos, assignments and discussions are kept. With Blackboard Vista, students had to log into the system to know whether anything new or different was posted.

“The new system will provide immediate notification of changes with a more modern look and feel,” Crone said.

Blackboard Learn is cloud-based, so infrastructure such as networks, applications and storage are hosted remotely on the Internet.  This will help ensure continuity in the event of a disaster.

Dr. Darren Crone

“It will reach out to students where they are via Facebook, email and text messaging,” said Dr. Darren Crone, the UT Dallas eLearning director.

“If the server containing all of the courses is damaged or destroyed, students would be redirected immediately to a backup on the Web,” Crone said. “Coursework would continue as if nothing happened.”

This eLearning system was chosen also because of its capacity to mesh smoothly with existing campus systems.

“Blackboard Learn will integrate seamlessly into the University’s existing systems right out of the box,” Crone said.

The current Blackboard Vista is expiring and will be used through next fall. Information security factored heavily in choosing Blackboard Learn, Crone said.

“While using the system easily is very important, the protection of our students’ personal information is paramount,” he said. “The committee found that Blackboard Learn was the most complete learning management system available.”

Progress and news about Blackboard Learn can be followed on the eLearning Blog.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].