August 2021 Blackboard News

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Blackboard has a new home for Fall 2021

In support of flexible learning at UMass Amherst, an upgraded, cloud-based version of Blackboard, one of the campus learning management systems is transitioning to software as a service cloud architecture (SaaS) and will be available for Fall UWW & University courses.

UMass is making this change with the goal of improving our teaching and learning experience and expanding the reach of UMass Amherst education.

While we’ll be hosted in the cloud, Blackboard Learn will appear the same. Most changes are largely transparent to current users. Notable improvements include faster performance, just-in-time bug fixes along with a few subtle tool enhancements (like a streamlined content editor).

Blackboard Learn courses for Summer 2021 will remain in the current managed hosting environment.

What does this mean for instructors?

  • Fall 2021 courses will be temporarily located at
  • After August 20, 2021 you will access your Fall course at the regular Blackboard url:
  • Faculty teaching online in Blackboard Learn for the Fall 2021 term may start developing their courses in anticipation of the switchover. Instructions for accessing the new environment will be sent after Fall course requests are made.
  • All courses offered for Fall 2021 and after will be hosted in the new cloud environment.
  • Faculty should expect to see courses taught up to two years before Summer 2021 previously restored to the new environment. Summer 2021 courses will become available in the cloud early in the Fall 2021 semester.
  • For students there will be no change. They will login using the same URL they use now. Blackboard Learn will look as it always has.

More information will follow.  For questions, please contact the Instructional Media Lab at

Request your Fall Blackboard Courses

Fall Blackboard courses are available for request through SPIRE. Don’t forget that each semester you will need to request Blackboard for the courses you are teaching.

For detailed instructions, see:

Request your Fall Echo360 Courses

Echo360 course requests for Fall 2021 are available in SPIRE. Just like Blackboard, each semester you will need to request Echo360 for the courses you want to use it in. For step by step instructions, see Request Lecture Capture

Echo360 allows you to create recordings of your lectures to deliver to students. Students can access recordings to learn new content or review content to reinforce the information. The system also allows you to add interactive content and measure student engagement.

Echo360 Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) uses speech to text algorithms to create an interactive transcript for your recordings. After you do a little editing for accuracy, your students will be able to study for exams, find relevant information in recordings, and even turn on Closed Captioning for your media.

.Once your Echo360 courses are ready, it’s easy to give students access to Echo360 recordings through Blackboard.

Automatically copy your Zoom cloud recordings to Echo360

You can connect your Zoom and Echo360 accounts, and have all cloud recordings copied into Echo360. If you enable this, you can even have a recurring Zoom meeting publish directly to an Echo360 course. Unlike Zoom recordings, which are kept for 120 days, Echo360 does not have a storage limit on your recordings.

Blackboard Tip of the Month: Using the Retention Center

Did you know that Blackboard’s Retention Center allows you to get a bird’s-eye view of student progress in 4 key areas, including access, activity, deadlines, and grades. This can be useful to keep an eye on your students as you get to know them, and may help you as you support students who are struggling.

Planned Downtimes

Blackboard will be unavailable on Friday, August 20, 2021 for the majority of the day during the upgrade for Blackboard in the Cloud. Users will be unable to access Blackboard during this time. Please update your plans accordingly.

You can check the status of Blackboard, Zoom, and other supported teaching technologies on the IT Services Status for Remote Teaching and Learning page.

Blackboard Help and Resources for Instructors

To learn more about Blackboard or to get help, you can: