Banner enhances Blackboard, improves security
Although not as obvious as other changes Banner has brought to Purdue, the ones affecting Blackboard Vista have been no less important.
This online course environment allows instructors to deliver class materials, communicate with their students, and create learning activities. Blackboard Vista has been used at Purdue for about 10 years, and currently in about a third of classes at West Lafayette. When the new student systems went into production last summer and fall, it was integrated with Banner.
The most visible effect Banner has had on Blackboard Vista has involved online grade submissions, said Joe Conte, manager of consulting and training in ITaP.
Banner or Blackboard
Final grades were entered and submitted online for the first time last fall, and though the vast majority of the faculty did so through Banner’s myPurdue portal, Blackboard Vista is also an option. In fact, 28 percent of grades were submitted using Blackboard in December.
“Each way has its pros and cons,” Conte said. “With myPurdue’s pull-down menus, each student has preset values, so an improper grade cannot be submitted. Of course, one can still accidentally chose, say, an B+ instead of a B from the menu, but it’s impossible to assign a traditional letter grade when the student is taking the course pass/fail because an incorrect option will not appear.”
For very large classes with 200 or 300 students, however, Blackboard Vista probably has an advantage, he said, because all the grades can be push in one step, whereas Banner limits the number of grades you can submit at one time.
“Still, no matter which method is used to enter grades for a class, only its instructor of record can actually submit them. This is because the Banner applications are integrated and role-based, so since every user must log in with their Purdue Career Account username and password, the system knows who has what role(s).
Checks and Balances
“Banner has definitely added some checks and balances to the process,” Conte said, “and this is especially true when it comes to making sure faculty and staff members are up to date with their FERPA certifications.”
By federal law, anyone with access to student data (e.g., grades) must be in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and renew his or her certification each year.
“Since the system knows who is and isn’t current with their FERPA certifications, it won’t allow anyone to even enter grades if they’re not — and we cannot override that restriction,” Conte said. “This is good, because now the University can always be certain that these federal regulations are being followed. Blackboard can’t do that on its own.”
“The new system has made grades more secure, too, whether one is using myPurdue or Blackboard,” Conte said. “When grades were submitted on paper, there was always a chance something could happen to them while en route to be scanned or entered manually.
“But all grades are now submitted electronically, and because it’s now integrated with Banner, grades submitted through Blackboard go to the same Data Warehouse (Banner’s database) used by the other student systems. It’s a much more secure process than before.”
Grades also are now available to students more quickly because they all are released at the same time — and within 24 hours of the deadline for submitting them.
“Obviously, this kind of turnaround was impossible with a paper-based system, or by using Blackboard alone,” Conte said.
“Blackboard and Banner play well together, which has meant significant improvements.”
More details about Blackboard Vista are available on ITaP’s Web site, which also includes step-by-step instructions on how to submit grades in Blackboard Vista and further information about how it has been impacted by Banner.