About Blackboard

Overview and History of Blackboard at NIU

Blackboard Learn was originally licensed at NIU in 1999 as a learning management system to facilitate the delivery of web-based courses, but it has been used much more broadly as a critical system for facilitating teaching and learning. .

Over time, other components have been added (initially individually priced but now included in our license):

  • Community System in 2003 - facilitates non-academic use of Blackboard
  • Content System in 2007 - file repository for storage and sharing, within and outside of courses
  • Blackboard Collaborate in 2011 - two-way audio/video web conferencing (upgraded to Collaborate Ultra in 2016)
  • Mobile Learn in 2011 – mobile app for student and faculty access to Blackboard on smartphones and tablet

NIU hosted Blackboard locally from 1999 to 2018, when it was migrated to the cloud to reduce costs, increase performance, and provide a path to the Ultra Experience, Blackboard’s modern and completely redesigned interface. The Ultra Base Navigation and Course View were introduced in Spring 2019.

Blackboard was relied upon heavily in the pivot to emergency remote instruction in response to the pandemic and continues to be a mission critical technical platform for NIU.

NIU conducted a comprehensive Learning Management System (LMS) review during the 2020-2021 academic year. The review was a thorough, comprehensive effort to evaluate the primary learning management systems in the higher education market. Of the LMS platforms reviewed, Blackboard Learn received the highest review score and was recommended for renewal for another 5-year contract term, thru August 2026.

NIU is seen as a leader and exemplar in the Blackboard community, which contributes to the brand and reputation of the university. NIU has been recognized with five Catalyst Awards, two Exemplary Course Awards, three Key to the Community Awards, and two individuals have been recognized as Blackboard MVPs, in addition to three recognitions from the SLATE user group. NIU’s Blackboard help site is often visited and shared by other universities.

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Technical Support and Student Help

Division of IT Service Desk


Teaching Support and Faculty Help

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning


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