UQ’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is currently under review for improvements in functionality and support starting with UQ's core Learning Management System (LMS) – Blackboard. The LMS underpins almost all teaching and learning activity across UQ. Every course offered to students has an active Blackboard course site, and the system manages up to 80,000 logins per day in peak periods.

In 2016, UQ's Chief Information Officer commissioned a report on the viability and suitability of the Blackboard cloud-hosted option to replace our on-prem system with the recommendation to migrate to a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform as part of the UQ ITS cloud-first strategy.

Key benefits

  1. The current on-prem maintenance model includes an annual 48-hour upgrade outage which is disruptive to teaching activity and means new functionality can only be delivered once a year. The SaaS solution means a vendor-managed development and maintenance cycle, where regular maintenance occurs with limited service disruption. This will directly benefit UQ staff and students who rely on continued access to Blackboard throughout the academic year.
  2. The planning and execution of the annual upgrade require considerable effort from Application Administration, Data Services and Infrastructure Services (ITS), and the eLearning Systems and Support Team (ITaLI) staff in the months preceding the outage. On migrating to the SaaS solution, it is projected that the ITS/ITaLI staff effort required will reduce significantly. ITaLI will retain responsibility for User Acceptance Testing (UAT) after maintenance, and updating the relevant training and support resources.
  3. The SaaS model allows the vendor to accelerate the product development in line with developments in the education industry.
  4. The migration to SaaS provides an opportunity to review and improve the current system modules, integrations and user experience, along with implementing best practice to control the features and components added in the future to ensure a smooth high-quality experience for all users.

Timeline and milestones

  • 9 November 2020: Refactored the Building blocks and Integrations for SaaS
  • 20 October–9 November 2020: Test migration
  • 9 November–18 December 2020: Blackboard SaaS test window
  • 18 December 2020: Go/No-Go decision
  • 24–30 December 2020: Blackboard SaaS Migration change window
  • 28 December 2020: Blackboard SaaS Go live

Project team

Role Person
Sponsor Dr Greg Winslett – ITaLI Deputy Director (Digital Learning)
Service owner Dr Simon Collyer
Program Manager Daniel Goninon
Lead Business Analyst Vidya Jambu
Lead System Administrator Beau Henderson
Lead Developer John Stupple
eLearning Representative Michael Luyten