Migrating Blackboard Journals as FoM ePortfolios


The Faculty of Medicine MD Undergraduate Program (MDUP) used the Blackboard Journal tool as an ePortfolio during the 2015, 2016, 2017 academic years as part of the MEDICOL program delivery of resources.

However, as of Sept 1, 2018, Blackboard was no longer available as a resource, as UBC had moved from Blackboard to Canvas as the institutional LMS (Learning Management System).

This meant that the student ePortfolios, housed in the Blackboard Journal tool, needed to be extracted from Blackboard before it was decommissioned.

As well, the Faculty of Medicine had deployed Entrada as its learning platform, starting with Years 1 and 2 as of Sept 2017, and completing the entire curriculum in Sept 2018.

There were two types of ePortfolios on Blackboard (Curricular Portfolios and FLEX Notebooks), and three cohorts of classes. Fortunately, all ePortfolio entries for a type and a cohort were each in a single Blackboard course. This meant that six Blackboard courses needed to have their journals extracted.

High Level Procedure:
1. Archive six Blackboard courses
2. De-construct Blackboard course archives to determine journal component
3. Determine desired output result
4. Write program to extract journal content from archives
5. Work through archived anomalies and omissions.
6. Integrate journal output with Entrada.

Twenty Curricular Portfolios and thirty FLEX Notebooks were processed and migrated. This resulted in a total number of 30,018 portfolio entries, 5981 comments, and 30,489 attached files.

Portfolio entries, comments, and files were migrated to Entrada and made available to students and Portfolio administrators.

There were a total of thirty attached files that were not included in the Blackboard archives. These were recovered by hand and included separately.

100% of the content of the Blackboard Journals was recovered and delivered to students and faculty.

This result is a significant win for the Faculty of Medicine’s MDUP, (now called UnderGrad Medical Education (UGME). Students now have an archive of their past ePortfolio work easily available in Entrada as part of their profile.

Addendum – Details

1 Blackboard Archives

  •  It initially appeared that some Journals were missing from the archives. However, either another attempt at archiving, or choosing different archive options (include ALL files even those outside of the course) recovered the missing Journals.
  • Some of the archives were very large, around 12Gig. This was testing the limits of downloads from Blackboard and may have contributed to some of the difficulties. The archive size was directly related the size of student file attachments.
  • Blackboard journals reference users with an ID that is not related to their Blackboard ID. Therefore a translation file was needed to translated the internal journal user id to a student number. UBC IT provided a document based on a Blackboard database query that made this association. The migration process would not have been possible without this translation file (thanks Jeanne!).

2. De-construct Blackboard course archives to determine journal component

  • The Blackboard archive is a series of files and folders that document and contain all content within a Blackboard course. The controlling file (imsmanifest.xml) defines all of the components of the course and references files and folders within the archive.
  • The archive contains ALL content for the course. We were only concerned with ‘Journals’, which were implemented using the Blackboard ‘Blog’ component. Therefore, Journals appeared in the archive as Blogs.
  • There is no documentation that defines the structure of a Blackboard archive, but with some trial and error, the structure for Journals was determined and used in the extraction program.

3. Determine desired output result

  • Initial discovery of the archive lead to an html file output structure with one subfoldered website for each student. However, this quickly proved unworkable.
  • With the realization that there were a finite number of interested journals to extract, and that the journals could be identified as entries, comments, and files, it was determined that an ‘Entrada-like’ database structure and file delivery was the most appropriate.

4. Write program to extract journal content from archives.

  • A PHP program was written that was run against each of the six course archives. It read the archive controlling file, cross-referenced archived entries with Journals already identified, and then wrote the entries, comments, and files references to database tables, and copied the actual file attachments to the Entrada storage area.

5. Work through archived anomalies and omissions.

  • Files with n-dash. A number of files names included the unprintable character ‘n-dash’. The extract program and the file copy program could not successfully process these files. A utility program was written to change ‘n-dash’ to a dash (‘-‘) in the supporting files and to rename files thusly (thanks Trevor C!).
  • Files with names too long. The Blackboard archive has a file size limit of 130 characters. Files with names longer than this were not included in the archive, and could not be recovered. These were recovered by hand and provided separately.

6. Integrate journal output with Entrada.

  • A program was written in Entrada that displays all the journals to a Portfolio/FLEX administrator, based on student number.
  • A similar program was written for students and available through their Profile area. This program showed all of the students’ past Curricular Portfolios and FLEX Notebooks.
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