NYU Classes phases out Blackboard system

Students are saying goodbye to Blackboard as NYU completes the transition to NYU Classes, a new online resource for courses. The university is currently in Phase 3 of the transition process, which involves developing and testing the Classes system.

Phase 1 of the transition began last January, and Phase 2 was carried out throughout the fall semester. Phase 3, the final phase, will continue through the spring semester, and will be complete by August 2013.

Phase 1 involved testing the usability of NYU Classes with faculty and students, and developing an effective content transition strategy for Blackboard users. The phase provided a teaching and learning service for selected courses both in New York City and at NYU’s global sites. Phase 2 worked to expand NYU Classes to thousands of professors and students in some NYU programs, including the Liberal Studies Program and some NYU Abu Dhabi courses. It carried out a full service support model, including documentation and training. Phase 3 will finalize the transition process. For the spring semester, Classes will work as the University’s primary learning system. Some Blackboard content will move to NYU Classes, and by fall 2013, Blackboard will be retired completely.

David Ackerman, associate vice president for NYU’s Information Technology Services, has been involved in the migration from Blackboard to NYU Classes.

Ackerman said he and his co-workers moved thousands of faculty and students during Phase 2. This semester, Ackerman will extend NYU Classes to the rest of university with the exception of the Stern School of Business, the NYU School of Law and the School of Dentistry, all of which will transition by mid-August.

NYU Classes is based on Sakai, an open source software program.

“[Sakai] has numerous additional features and capabilities,” Ackerman said. “For example, it is easier to embed multimedia content throughout the system, navigation is more intuitive for both students and faculty, and faculty can make their course sites available to their students with a single click.”

More than 300 universities around the world, including Stanford University, Yale University and Duke University, use Sakai.

Beau Gabriel, a junior at Yale University, finds the Sakai system accessible.

Shaghayegh Harbi, an adjunct professor in the Liberal Studies Program, said there was little need to change the Blackboard system.

“Unlike the Google migration, with Google Docs, Google Talk, greater storage space, et cetera, I see very little benefit in the Blackboard to NYU Classes migration,” Harbi said. “In phasing out the old email [and] communication services, the advantages of the Google migration were significant.”

However, CAS junior Samuel Rolfe said Blackboard looked outdated.

“The only problems that I had with Blackboard were the aesthetic qualities of the site. It wasn’t very attractive and seemed a little outdated to me, personally,” he continued. “I think I am excited to see how they have changed with
NYU Classes.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 28 print edition. Su Sie Park is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]