Easy updates, without interruptions.

Blackboard Learn is hosted, delivered, and managed using a modern cloud-computing infrastructure as the environment for our software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment.

All updates are done for you. Your users experience the most recent version of Blackboard Learn without significant downtime or service interruptions.

Blackboard Learn with the SaaS deployment also provides the option to use the Ultra experience, a new design to the user interface that makes student and instructor workflows more efficient and modern.

More on the Ultra experience


What does this mean to you?

We redesigned some Original features in the Administrator Panel to provide the following:

Improved service

  • Quality: Blackboard can deliver maintenance and fixes to production faster than ever, as well as enhancements and new features.
  • Change management: More frequent, modest releases allow for easier change management.

Improved uptime

  • Zero-downtime updates: This is for Learning Core (sold in NAHE). Users won't experience any downtime. Thanks to the cloud environment, Blackboard can update instances without any interruption.
  • Elasticity: The new platform allows the ability to scale in response to load.
  • Resilience: Cloud platforms are designed to deal with hardware failure quickly and seamlessly.

Improved server management experience

  • Log Access is available through the Administrator Panel. Logs are saved to your institution’s local file storage for quick reference and reliable storage.
  • Software Updates has been removed. Blackboard manages all upgrade deployment, maintenance, patches, and building block updates.
  • The Admin Console Building Block is not available in SaaS deployment. The Redis Cache Building Block is still available with limited administrator control.
  • Technical Settings in the Content Management section has been removed. Blackboard manages the performance impact of content management functionality on the resources in the SaaS deployment.
  • System Performance Settings in the System Configuration section has been removed. Blackboard manages all of these settings.
  • Math Editor Image Service Settings has been removed. Blackboard defines the location and path to the Math Editor Image Service host.
  • SaaS customers have access to a set of preinstalled building blocks included with Learn SaaS by default. Customers can also request additional building blocks be installed on their Learn SaaS system.
  • You can't install custom reports, and the interface has been removed from the UI.

Improved Learn implementation management

  • You can't disable SSL. The feature to control SSL was removed from Blackboard Learn 9.1 in the April 2014 release and has never been available in the SaaS deployment of Blackboard Learn. The SaaS deployment of Blackboard Learn will always run under TLS. Learn more about TLS, which is the successor to SSL.
  • These authentication mechanisms are supported by default:
    • LDAP is supported
    • SAML is supported
    • Default authentication is supported
    • CAS is supported
    • Shibboleth is not supported

      Blackboard can help if you need assistance or guidance moving to SAML authentication as part of your migration to Blackboard Learn SaaS.

    SaaS Plus and Advantage customers have the ability to install custom authentication solutions via building blocks.

  • All student information system (SIS) integrations must go through the SIS Integration Framework. The command-line Snapshot Controller tool is not supported in the SaaS deployment. The Snapshot file format is still supported, but can only be processed through the SIS Integration Framework. Because of the constraints on client-specific building blocks, building blocks that manage custom SIS integration are not supported. Custom SIS integrations can still be supported through web services.
  • Command-line access and command-line tools aren't supported in the SaaS deployment.
  • Direct access to data for the purposes of direct querying isn't supported. Similarly, the Advanced System Reporting (ASR) feature that extracts a subset of the Blackboard Learn data set and flattens it in a separate database to be used for reporting is not supported. The ASR database architecture is not supported in the SaaS deployment Cloud tech stack.

Security and roles

The SaaS deployment uses the Original system, institution, and course roles and privileges you're already familiar with.

We built security into the SaaS deployment from the beginning.

We're committed to improving security features and resolving security vulnerabilities quickly and carefully. Security vulnerability resolutions may lead to the release of a Security Advisory. We may also release needed product updates based on the context, severity, and timing of confirmed vulnerabilities.

More on Security


SaaS deployment tiers

Blackboard offers two tiers of the SaaS deployment option: Plus and Advantage. These deployment tiers offer additional customization and configuration options for institutions and administrators.

More on the Learn SaaS Plus and Advantage options


Blackboard Learn with the Ultra Experience

Learn SaaS introduces the option of new user interface, the Ultra experience, which can be enabled by administrators.

Tour the Ultra experience!

Video: Introduction to Ultra for Administrators

The following narrated video provides a visual and auditory representation of some of the information included on this page. For a detailed description of what is portrayed in the video, open the video on YouTube, navigate to More actions, and select Open transcript.


Video: Introduction to Blackboard Learn for Administrators will help you become familiar with the Ultra interface. The streamlined navigation and workflows are designed to allow you to get in, get done, and get out.

The Ultra experience is a new design approach to our teaching and learning environment. It redesigns existing workflows and capabilities-and adds some new ones-to improve instructor and student efficiency.

More on enabling the Ultra experience

After you enable the Ultra experience, you can still use the Original Course View.

The "for Instructors" links in the following table take you to the instructor help. After you view the instructor information, select your browser's back function to return here.

About the Blackboard Learn Ultra Experience
Feature Description
Ultra: Design
Aesthetic Design The overall look has changed significantly. Learn more about the Ultra Experience.
Dual Model When you enable the Ultra experience, you can allow your instructors to offer a combination of Original and Ultra Course Views. To learn more about the two course views, see Courses for Instructors.
Navigation

When you enable the Ultra experience, the left navigation is what all users see when they log in. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Navigation for Instructors.

More on Ultra Base Navigation for Administrators

Ultra: Features
Activity Stream An up-to-the-minute activity stream on the first page users see captures all the action in their courses. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Activity Stream for Instructors.
Assignments Instructors can add assignments alongside other course content. If allowed, students can start a conversation about an assignment with their classmates. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Assignments for Instructors.
Calendar Users can access their global calendar pages from the base navigation to view all upcoming deadlines and events in all their courses. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Calendar for Instructors.
Courses Users can access their courses from a timeline offering high-level information about each course. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Courses for Instructors.
Course Content From the course content page, students can browse the various course materials. Users can access essential information about everyone enrolled in their course from the roster. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Course Content for Instructors.
Discussions The discussions feature allows instructors and students to communicate asynchronously. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Discussions for Instructors.
Grades The Grades page provides students and instructors with all grading activity in all their courses in one location. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Grades for Instructors.
Roster The course roster displays everyone enrolled in a course. Instructors with the appropriate permissions can perform basic user management functions. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Roster for Instructors.
Simple Profile User profile pictures and basic information appear in the course roster. User profile pictures also appear in the activity stream, discussions, and messages next to their activity. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Profile for Instructors.
Tools The Tools page provides a single location for accessing areas that are outside of a course, such as the Content Collection. To learn more from an instructor's point of view, see Tools for Instructors.
Administration
Administrator Panel Certain administrator capabilities no longer apply in the Blackboard Learn Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment. To learn more, see Admin Panel Updates.
Building Blocks Pre-installed building blocks provide a uniform experience in the Blackboard Learn SaaS environment. These building blocks are either developed by Blackboard and its premier partners or are open source.

How has the Admin Panel changed?

Admin Panel Updates

See what's new in the SaaS Admin Panel.

The following table identifies what changes and what stays the same in the Administrator Panel when you migrate to Blackboard Learn SaaS. We've also outlined what changes when you enable the Ultra experience.

What does it mean?

  • Unchanged: The feature behaves exactly the same is it did in Blackboard Learn 9.1.
  • Restrictions or moved: The feature behaves mostly as before with some modifications due to the redesign of the Ultra experience.
  • Original Course View only: The feature or configuration applies only to courses using the Original Course View.
  • Does not apply: The configuration option still appears, but doesn't work in the Ultra experience yet.
  • Removed: The feature is no longer available in SaaS deployment of Blackboard Learn.
Feature Changes
Feature Description

User Management

Users Unchanged: No changes to how you create, modify, and delete users.

Restriction: At this time, observers can't access associated users after you enable the Ultra experience, and guests are only allowed access to the Original Course View.
Institution Roles Unchanged: No changes to how you manage these roles. Institution role privileges don't apply to unavailable tools.
System Roles Unchanged: No changes to how you configure these roles. System role privileges don't apply to unavailable tools.
Course/Organization Roles Original Course View only: Custom roles and privileges you assign will only apply to users enrolled in the Original Course View.

You can assign Ultra Course View instructors the privileges of enroll, create, and invite at this time. Facilitation privileges may apply to both Original and Ultra.

Course Management

Courses Unchanged: No changes to how you create, modify, and delete courses.

Restriction: Some course settings apply only to the Original Course View such as enrollment options, language packs, banners, guest access, and course cartridges.
Course Settings Most of these settings apply to the Original Course View only.

Exception: In Default Course Properties, you can choose the Default Course View to Original, Ultra, or Instructor Choice.
Course/Organization Catalog Does not apply: You can create course categories, but they don't currently appear anywhere in the Ultra experience.
Terms Unchanged: No change to how you organize courses using term information. Courses organized by terms appear in the appropriate section on the Courses page in the Ultra experience. Learn more about course terms.

Communities

Institutional Hierarchy Unchanged: No change to how you create, modify, and delete course and personal relationships. You can still search and find them.

Restriction: While you can define tab and module relationships, they're not reflected in the Ultra experience.
Tabs and Modules Does not apply: When you enable the Ultra experience, your users don't navigate using tabs and modules.
Brands and Themes Removed in the Ultra experience: Brands and Themes have been removed. The Customize Login Page option remains accessible from the Administrator Panel.
Discussion Boards Does not apply: When you enable the Ultra experience, your users no longer can access institution-wide discussion boards.
Institution Branding Ultra experience only: Update your institution logo in the Communities module. You can add your institution logo to the Ultra login page and the base navigation.
Domains Unchanged: No change to how you use domains to define administrative access to objects.

Restriction: When you enable the Ultra experience, users with administrative access no longer have tabs and modules.
Customize Login Page Moved: You can customize and style the login page. In the Ultra experience, you can find the Customize Login Page option in the Communities module. This page was previously under Brands and Themes in the Original experience.

Cloud Management

Cloud Connector Unchanged: No change to how you configure the Cloud Connector.
Cloud Profiles and Tools Does not apply: The cloud profiles and tools aren't currently available in the Ultra experience.
Blackboard Open Content Settings Restriction: Open content applies to the Original Course View only.
Partner Cloud Settings Unchanged.
Content Management Unchanged: Users can access the Content Collection from Tools in the base navigation in the Ultra Experience. Instructors can access the Content Collection in both the Original and Ultra Course Views.

Security

Privileges Unchanged: No change to how you manage privileges.

Restriction: When you enable the Ultra experience, some privileges may not apply.
Gateway Options Does not apply.
Safe HTML Filters Unchanged.

Integrations

Data Integration Unchanged.
Authentication Unchanged.

Restriction: You can't install new authentication types, but you can configure the available authentication providers or contact Support for help installing custom solutions.
Building Blocks Unchanged: How you enable and configure building blocks hasn't changed.

Restriction: You can't install new building blocks. Full building block support is available with the Learn SaaS Plus or Advantage deployment options.
Web Services Unchanged: No change to how you manage web services.

Restriction: You can't add additional SOAP web services.

Tools and Utilities

Goals and Assessments Unchanged: No change to how you manage goals and assessments. You can align goals and collect evidence in both course views.
Enterprise Surveys Unchanged: No change to how Enterprise Surveys work.

Restriction: Course evaluation invitations sent as announcements appear only in the Original Course View. For the Ultra Course View, the invitation appears in the stream.
Email Original Course View only.
Language Packs Unchanged. Available in both course views. You can create and edit locales in the Learn user interface after enabling the Ultra experience.
System Reporting Unchanged.
Logs Restriction: System Logs are accessible in the Content Collection.
Chalk Titles Original Course View only.
Avatars Changed: You have two options for avatars in the Ultra experience.

Option 1: Users upload their own avatar images. If a user hasn't uploaded one, a system-generated avatar is used.

Option 2: Administrator uploads avatars. When an avatar is missing, a system-generated avatar is used.

The previous method for uploading avatars required server access. In the Ultra experience, you can use an option through the user interface to upload avatar images.
Portfolios Changed: Users access portfolios from Tools in the base navigation.

Restriction: Instructors can use portfolio assignments only in the Original Course View. In the Ultra Course View, students need to use a workaround. First, they need to share the portfolio, then provide the portfolio link.
Achievements Original Course View only.
Spell Check Dictionaries Original Course View only.
Rubrics, for outcomes assessment Changed: Users can also access rubrics from Tools > Goals in the base navigation.

About release versions

Blackboard Learn release versions are based on the way the product is hosted for your institution. The SaaS deployment is released to production servers monthly. Learn 9.1 deployment for self and managed hosting clients is released to production twice each year, in Q2 and Q4.

Our SaaS release numbers are categorized with the numbering convention 3100.0.0. The fifth digit changes with each monthly version. Example: 3100.9.0, 3100.11.0

Learn 9.1 Q2 and Q4 releases are produced in accordance with a SaaS release. The second digit of our SaaS release numbers change to reflect the twice-yearly version.

Example:

  • 3000.0.0 = 9.1 Q2 2016
  • 3100.0.0 = 9.1 Q4 2016
  • 3200.0.0 = 9.1 Q2 2017

More on release version numbers for Blackboard Learn SaaS customers on the Flexible Deployment Option