We evaluated 4 LMS providers, conducted 3 internal surveys, and involved all stakeholders. Upon conclusion, we decided that Blackboard continues to be the right solution for UNI.

Jeff Ries
Jeffrey Ries
Applications Administrator, LMS
University of Northern Iowa

Reason for moving to SaaS and Ultra: 

“Our evaluation surveys revealed that 71% of our faculty and 90% of our students were either satisfied or very satisfied with Blackboard, so we decided we should stay with Blackboard.”

Transition timeline:

  • December 2017 – Decided to stay with Blackboard Learn, but move to SaaS

  • Spring 2018 – Planned for migration from self-hosted to SaaS

  • August 2018 – Full database migration

  • December 2018 – Enabled the Ultra Base Navigation

Perspective on Learn Ultra:

“I was skeptical about moving to SaaS at first, but it has been nothing but awesome. SaaS has enabled our 2-person administrative team to be proactive rather than reactive.”

“Faculty and students are having a better experience now that we’re on SaaS. When self-hosted, we took the system offline 1-2 times per month for server patches or maintenance. We were also usually a version or two behind. With SaaS, the system is rarely down and is always up-to-date.”

“We have always had a list of projects we’ve wanted to accomplish. Now that we’re on SaaS and no longer perform the actual upgrades ourselves, we finally have the time to focus on this other work.”

“We have less end-user support requests now that we’re on SaaS as the releases are cleaner, contain less bugs, and new features/tools come out in smaller bits. And, if there is a bug, the fix comes quicker.”


  • Cedar Falls, Iowa

  • 11,200 FTE

  • Blackboard client since 1999

  • Blackboard products: Learn Ultra with Original Course View, Ally