The eLearning Unit and CSD provide a range of VITAL support services for staff, from email and telephone help to written guides and workshops. We also listen to staff about where and how VITAL does not meet teaching and learning needs or could be improved, collate this evidence and then try and influence the development of the VITAL software as well as explore whether other software applications might be better suited to the required task.
Blackboard, the company responsible for the software behind VITAL, have set up a number of systems for gathering feedback from users, from bug fixes to product suggestions, which are currently our main means of influencing their product development. These include:
- Product Suggestions Box – for submitting ideas for features/facilities that you wish were available in Blackboard VITAL. (Open but no transparent tracking of suggestions yet).
- Blackboard Bug Squad – for voting on priority bugs to fix in imminent service packs. (Requires sign-in account and approval).
- Blackboard Suggestion Squad – for voting on priority new features (gathered in part via the Suggestions Box) and enhancements for release in imminent service packs. (Requires sign-in account and approval)
We have joined and contributed to all of these facilities recently and will regularly report back here on how useful/effective these are. If you want to have a look at these facilities and even try them yourself we would be very interested to hear about your experiences of these systems, particularly if you make any product suggestions. Currently we have no way of looking at any of the product suggestions so it would be useful to know what UoL staff might suggest. (Please be aware if using any of the above facilities that we use the “Blackboard Learn 9.1” product).
At the institutional level I am evaluating the Blackboard Ideas Exchange as a means of representing the ways in which UoL would like Blackboard to develop their software. This requires a serious time commitment but facilitates direct influence on how new features, enhancements and fixes look and work. Additionally, we are in the process of restarting the NorthWest Blackboard User Group which we initiated last year and involves institutions from across the region, in part as a means of acting in concert to present Blackboard with feedback on major development requirements and issues.
The eLearning Unit and CSD are also currently considering new strategies for gathering requirements from staff at UoL on what facilities, features and enhancements you would like to see in VITAL (and outside of VITAL). We are also working on improving our processes for reporting bugs and problems and to make the progress of the fixes, workarounds and responses to these as transparent and useful to staff as possible. We would be very interested in any thoughts, comments and ideas on how this might best be achieved, what would be the most useful information to have in sight, how much you would want to be involved in any process and so on. Please do use the comments facility on this blog or email us at the eLearning Unit – all contributions will be much appreciated.