Transitioning Academic Learning Environments: A TALE as Old as Time

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Touro College & University System each used Blackboard for more than fifteen years, pushing it to the limits. While Touro initiated a migration to Canvas, UMBC opted to move to Blackboard’s Ultra Experience. Learn how each plans to support a dynamic and complex transition.


As eLearning Manager, Dr. Mariann Hawken oversees several Blackboard applications at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and provides support for faculty course development activities. With more than 20 years of experience in educational technology, Mariann is a Blackboard MVP and a certified Peer Reviewer with Quality Matters. Past activities include distance education policy development and comprehensive faculty training programs for online/hybrid course redesign.

Extended Abstract

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) has used Blackboard for more than fifteen years. In 2015, we migrated from an aging self-hosted arrangement to Blackboard’s managed hosting environment. By summer of 2017, we migrated to Blackboard’s cloud environment (SaaS) and subsequently piloted the Ultra Experience in spring 2018. Ongoing partnerships and extensive analytics research supported ongoing use of Blackboard, but the Ultra Experience represents a substantial change to UMBC’s current Blackboard interface. With 85% of faculty currently using Blackboard across 87% of course sections, the University needs a robust plan to support the campus during its transition to a new academic learning environment.

Touro College and University System (TCUS) is a dynamic and complex system of undergraduate and graduate schools. Each Touro school has specific requirements for the learning management system, and each requires training for its faculty. All course content either needs to be moved from Blackboard or recreated directly in Canvas. To successfully accomplish this, coordination, communication, and local resources within every school are required.

Both institutions target summer 2019 as the launch date for Transitioning the Academic Learning Environment (TALE). Each conducted pilots and collected surveys from pilot participants. Results of those experiences will be shared with session attendees. The goals of our respective TALE projects include:

  • Supporting teaching and learning with the necessary tools to support, design, build and deliver courses in multiple delivery modes (face-to-face, hybrid & online);

  • Giving faculty time to acclimate to a new environment;

  • Providing additional tools for teaching and learning to facilitate communication, assessment and reporting;

  • Building a technically reliable system that can be integrated with other campus and third-party systems.

This session is ideal for administrators, technical staff, system administrators, instructional designers, support staff, and faculty champions who engage the campus community on topics related to the learning management system, instructional design, online learning, and help desk support. Although this session will not be highly technical, but some technical elements will be reviewed as part of our planning stories. Attendees should have a fundamental understanding of learning management systems and their own campus culture to successfully plan their own migration or ask the right questions during team planning.

Presenters will review effective project planning and communication strategies, support and outreach tips, technical challenges, and customized integrations as well as best practices, pitfalls, and lessons learned. Slides and web resources will be posted on the conference website and shared during the session. The speakers will use web-based response systems to poll the audience with multiple types of questions including open-ended feedback