Building blocks and integrations can be used to extend the functionality of Blackboard Learn, the Imperial College London virtual learning environment (VLE). To request an extension to Blackboard, follow these steps:

  1. Read Extending Blackboard Learn if you have not done so already.
  2. Discuss your request with your Faculty Learning Technologist or Faculty E-learning Implementation Group before making a request, to ensure that there is a justifiable need for the extension.
  3. Complete the Blackboard Learn extension request form and return it to the ICT E-learning team via the ICT Service Desk.

When do installations take place?

The installation of new building blocks and integrations takes place outside of term-time as follows:

  • Requests received and approved by 1 December are installed during the Easter holiday.
  • Requests received and approved by 1 April are installed during the Summer holiday.
  • Requests received and approved by 1 September are installed during the Christmas holiday.

How are requests approved?

All requests will be posted to the E-learning Advisory Panel (ELAP) Sharepoint site and will be discussed and voted on by members of the panel. Where more than five building blocks or integrations have been requested, the ELAP will prioritise those to be considered in the current installation and testing cycle.

Selection process for building blocks and integrations

Building blocks and integrations are classified as follows:

  • Core: Enhancements with widespread use or integrated with centrally supported systems e.g. Turnitin and Equella. We wait do not upgrade to new versions of Blackboard until these extensions are compatible with the new version.
  • Desirable: Enhancements that are nice to have and have a small user base. We will not delay a Blackboard upgrade for these extensions, meaning that they may not be compatible with future upgrades. If an upgrade or patch to the Blackboard system renders a building block inoperable, it is the responsibility of the building block owner/vendor to provide us with an updated version of the building block or a specific solution to address the problem and bring the building block back online.

The following criteria are used to evaluate requests:

  • Compatibility with the latest version of Blackboard and Imperial's Blackboard architecture.
  • Whether the functionality already exists in Blackboard or other integrated systems or not.
  • Whether the proposed building block or integration has the appropriate support available or not.
  • Whether evidence exists of expected widespread usage or substantial growth in usage of the building block or integration across the College or not.
  • The price, if any, of the building block and whether funding is available for the initial purchase and ongoing costs or not.
  • Whether the feature exists on the Blackboard roadmap or not.

Installation and testing

If a building block or integration is selected for installation, it will be installed on the Blackboard Learn sandbox server for initial testing to ensure compatibility with Blackboard. If there are no issues, the building block or integration will be installed on the Blackboard Learn development server for user testing.

The installation and testing process according to classification is as follows:

  • Core: We will lead the testing and produce a test plan for future upgrades.
  • Desirable: The Faculty Learning Technologist associated with the building block will then coordinate testing with the named individuals, other Faculty Learning Technologists and the ICT E-learning team. It is the responsibilty of the lead Learning Technologist to ensure that the building block or integration meets their requirements, works as expected and does not affect the Blackboard system. The lead Learning Technologist must produce a test plan for use during future upgrades.

If there are no issues, the building block or integration will be signed off for use by us and the lead Learning Technologist. We will schedule the building block or integration for installation on the Blackboard Learn production server during the next holiday (see dates above).

Ongoing maintenance and use

  • The lead Learning Technologist is responsible for coordinating the testing of desirable building blocks in preparation for future upgrades of Blackboard or updates of the building block or integration.
  • We have the right to disable or remove a building block should a security vulnerability surface after it has been deployed to the production environment.
  • Faculty Learning Technologists and the ICT E-learning team will review the use of building blocks or integrations on an annual basis to ensure that they still meet the needs of the College and that the functionality is still not provided by the core Blackboard system.