September 2021 Blackboard News

The Moodle cow in front of DuBois Library, under a double rainbow.

Blackboard has a new home for Fall 2021

On August 20, 2021 in support of flexible learning at UMass Amherst, Blackboard, one of the campus learning management systems, has transitioned to an upgraded version using software as a service cloud architecture (SaaS).

UMass has made 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).

You will access your Fall courses at the regular Blackboard url:

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:

Instead of putting the spotlight on a single tool or setting this month, we have a few things to highlight that might help make your Blackboard course run a little smoother this spring.

Did you know that…

  • You have access to a handy checklist for starting your semester using Blackboard? The Course Update Checklist page has a list of common topics to make sure are ready and includes resources and information for each of them.
  • You can create groups in Blackboard? These groups allow you do things like facilitate peer-to-peer instruction in forums, or have students submit assignments in groups. For more information, check out An Overview of Groups and Groupings in Blackboard.
  • You can add user and group overrides for Tests in Blackboard? These allow you to set special options such as increased time limits, staggered start and end times, and additional time access for students, or groups of students, who need it. For more, check out Creating Exceptions for Exams/Tests/Quizzes.
  • You can generate transcripts automatically for your recordings? Both Zoom and Echo360 can automatically generate interactive transcriptions for your recordings? These transcripts allow students to search for information in your recordings, including key terms and phrases. Automated transcriptions are not 100% accurate, but if you edit them they can be a powerful study aid for your students. For information, check out Add and Edit Transcripts in Zoom or Add and Edit Transcripts in Echo360.
  • You can improve accessibility with Blackboard Ally? Blackboard Ally is a built-in tool that automatically evaluates any files attached to your Blackboard course to help identify possible accessibility issues. For more information, check out An Overview of Blackboard Ally.

Planned Downtimes

There are no planned downtimes for Blackboard during September 2021.

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: