Blackboard Collaborate Update (June 27th, 2013)

I wanted to take the opportunity to provide you an update from Blackboard Collaborate around three key areas: the improvement of our Web Conferencing availability, the evolution of our Building Block development, and our plans for minimizing the impact of java requirements for end-users.

I’m happy to report that we have fully resolved the issues related to Denial of Service Attempts that caused some disruption in Q1. There have been zero issues on this front since the implementation of our filtering system on March 22, 2013. We continue to tweak network parameters, and each day our protection grows stronger as does our ability to provide the high levels of service that you expect.  We are busy now preparing our network and application for a smooth back-to-school season.

The past six months, we have changed how we work with the Blackboard Learn development team to create a more consistent experience for customers using both Blackboard Learn and Collaborate.  We have invested in improvements to design and workflow, aiming to make the instructor’s work simple and easy with the automatic creation of instructor offices and course-based rooms.

We released this advanced Collaborate integration for Learn last week; however, the release was premature. The Collaborate Building Block (4.2) had a software defect which impacted upgrades from previous Building Block versions. We know this caused frustration for some of you. We apologize for this and wanted to let you know our plan for resolution:

First, the new Block was removed from distribution as soon as the flaw was discovered and an emergency patch plan was activated to deliver a corrected version as quickly as possible.  We anticipate this patch release to be available early next week.  If you want to receive a notification when the patch release is available, subscribe to our Knowledge Base article on this topic. http://support.blackboardcollaborate.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=8336&task=knowledge&questionID=2189

We have been developing automated quality assurance and testing processes for the Collaborate Building Block, but an important upgrade scenario was missed during this recent release.  Going forward, we will increase the comprehensiveness of our automated testing to improve quality for future releases.

You can expect we’ll be working very hard to limit the potential for these types of problems in future releases. Despite the issue, I wholeheartedly encourage you to check out the new integration soon – the quality of experience it delivers is truly impressive.

Separately, I would also like to share plans for proactive work we’re doing to address the concerns that some of you have raised regarding Java.  Vendor security measures around Java, such as the recent changes Apple has introduced in Mac OS X 10.8.4, as well as the general pace and stability of Java updates issued by Oracle have created a barrier for students and participants and affect users' first-time experience with our products. We also understand that frequent Java updates create product performance issues, and that conflicting Java version requirements across the enterprise are a headache for administrators.

Since earlier this year, Collaborate has been executing a plan to eliminate the need for end-users to maintain Java as a third-party dependency. With this plan, users will not need to install Java and Java updates on their systems in order to use Collaborate web conferencing. We are targeting our first release at Mac users and are aligning those activities for a release prior to back to school. We plan to follow up with improvements to the ease-of-use of this solution and a Windows version for spring semester.

I appreciate you taking the time to learn about updates at Blackboard Collaborate and how we continue to prioritize our roadmap to meet your needs. As always, we encourage you to provide feedback through your client manager and also through our product feedback alias at BbCollaborateFeedback@blackboard.com.  

Maurice Heiblum
President and GM
Blackboard Collaborate