September 3, 2014

OAK system testing planned for Sept. 7-20

VUIT and Blackboard employees are working to address performance issues with OAK exacerbated by heavy use at the semester’s start, part of an overall effort to test and configure the application for optimal performance.

A team comprising VUIT and Blackboard employees is working to address performance issues with OAK that have been exacerbated by its heavy use at the start of the semester. This work is part of an overall effort to conduct a performance assessment to test and configure the application for optimal performance.

System testing will take place Sept. 7-20 and will occur overnight to avoid service disruptions during peak hours. Additional updates will be made throughout the first semester, and a stronger, more responsive OAK will be in place for the spring term.

OAK, which stands for Online Access to Knowledge, is the university’s primary course management and learning technology system and is powered by Blackboard. The latest upgrades were part of the plans announced last spring to update and improve OAK. The Provost’s Office formed the OAK Faculty Advisory Committee to assist with analyzing the system’s needs pertaining to functionality and features.

A second committee will be formed in early September to address issues of copyright as it pertains to OAK. The assembled team will include representation from the library, faculty, general counsel and student body, according to Cynthia Cyrus, associate provost for undergraduate education and digital learning.

“[lquote]Now that we’re empowering faculty to do what they need to do, we need to have policies already articulated,” Cyrus said.[/lquote]

Following September’s testing and incremental enhancements, VUIT will continue improving OAK by making it faster in late December, adding additional features for streaming video and audio in January, and launching an upgraded system in June.

OAK will soon include a more user-friendly navigation and homepage, making important messages more accessible over the course of the fall and spring semesters. The streaming media tool planned for January, called Kaltura, will enable faculty to upload, publish, search, create, re-use and share video directly from OAK. Users will be able to upload media more quickly, playback response times will be faster, and students will be able to view the videos on a wide range of devices.

Next June’s upgrade of Blackboard, the system that powers OAK, will include enhanced features that will improve next year’s faculty-facing website, such as student preview and inline grading. With the student preview feature, instructors will be able to easily see their courses from the perspective of their students. The improved assignment grading function will allow instructors to view and grade student-submitted files in the web browser without requiring any plug-ins, applets, downloads or additional applications.

To offer feedback regarding OAK or to participate in the pilot of the Kaltura streaming media tool, please email