Starting July 2020, Blackboard will no longer support the Flexible Deployment Option for SaaS environments. Blackboard Learn SaaS will only be delivered in a continuous delivery cadence at this date. For more information on how and when this change affects you, visit Behind the Blackboard.

Help users adjust to software changes in Learn SaaS.

To manage change for your users, your institution may decide to space out the introduction of new features or functions. With the Plus and Advantage deployment tiers, Blackboard offers you the option to delay feature adoption so you can prepare users for a collection of changes, rather than have them appear incrementally as part of a continuous delivery release.

Maintenance items, such as bug fixes and security patches, are delivered quarterly to all tiers of SaaS deployments as cumulative updates. These are critical updates to the health and security of your Blackboard Learn instance and can't be delayed.

At this time, the Ultra experience is available only to Blackboard Learn SaaS customers on the continuous delivery release cycle.

What's the difference between Continuous Delivery and the Flexible Deployment Option?

Continuous Delivery is a software industry standard term for delivering SaaS software on a frequent basis. Blackboard has implemented the concept of Continuous Delivery as updates approximately once per month.

The Flexible Deployment Option is a Blackboard-specific term for delivering Learn SaaS in a similar manner to what Self- and Managed-Hosted customers have come to expect from major Q2/Q4 Releases and Cumulative Updates.

Below is a graphic that helps to explain the release cadence and upgrade schedules for Learn SaaS Continuous Delivery (CD) and the Flexible Deployment Option (FDO).

The table below shows an example of timing and dates for FDO customers upgrading from Q4 2016 to Q2 2017.

Milestone Date
Q4 2016 / 3100.0.0 released 18 November 2016
Q4 2016 CU1 / 3100.0.1 Production update 28 January 2017
Q4 2016 CU2 / 3100.0.2 Production update 12 March 2017
Q2 2017 / 3200.0.0 Applied to FDO Test + Staging 7 April 2017
Q2 2017 / 3200.0.0 Production Update Option #1 18 May 2017
Q2 2017 / 3200.0.0 Production Update Option #2 25 May 2017
Q2 2017 / 3200.0.0 Production Update Option #3 8 June 2017

More on the Blackboard Learn SaaS release schedule

What's the difference between features and maintenance items?

A feature is a capability or function that you can see and use in a piece of software. Discussions are a feature in Blackboard Learn, for example. Instructors and students use the Discussions feature when they create, post, and edit discussions. As an administrator, you see the Discussions feature after you upgrade your version of Blackboard Learn SaaS to the release that includes this feature. New features are enabled by default when upgrades to new Q2 or Q4 releases occur. Once a Q2 or Q4 release is applied, any new features included in the release will be available to end users.

Blackboard is constantly working on new features, but because we carefully research, develop, and test each one, regular releases may be limited to include only maintenance items. To learn more about what's included in each release, take a careful look at the Blackboard Learn SaaS release notes.

Have an idea for a new feature? Visit the Blackboard Community site to let us know!

A maintenance item describes a piece of code that fixes a known bug or issue in your software. For example, if the Discussions feature isn't properly displaying the title of your post, this is a bug. A release will include a maintenance item to fix this issue and improve the feature for your users. Sometimes these issues can concern the security or performance of your system. Flexible Deployment Option customers will receive maintenance updates on the same cadence as Cumulative Updates for Q2 and Q4 releases. These maintenance updates are applied to all FDO customers at the same time to reduce variability and ensure stability for all customers.

You can report bugs and other issues by visiting Behind the Blackboard.

When do flexible deployments occur?

Plus and Advantage customers can choose to delay adoption of feature releases until Q2 and Q4 each year instead of receiving them continuously. The expectation is that customers on the Flexible Deployment Option are upgrading twice per year rather than monthly.

View the Flexible Deployment Option release schedule

Do I select a particular version for my upgrade?

When you choose to upgrade, your system receives the features that were released between your last upgrade and the most recent Q2 or Q4 release. This ensures that you and your users can take advantage of the latest features all at once.

When can I start?

If you are interested in putting your Blackboard Learn system on a flexible deployment timeline, you can begin flexible deployment starting in Q2 2016. When you choose the flexible deployment option, your Blackboard Learn SaaS instance will receive feature releases continuously until the next flexible deployment release. If you choose flexible deployment in Q3, for example, the change takes effect after the Q4 release.

As an institution on the Plus or Advantage deployment tier, Service Delivery Management and Service Delivery Engineer packages are available to help you manage the upgrade. Contact your account representative to get started with flexible deployment and to request assistance.