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Blackboard Partner Cloud

The Blackboard Partner Cloud streamlines our inventory of content building blocks into a single registration and activation process. While eliminating the challenges of managing old and new building block versions, the Blackboard Partner Cloud also accelerates the delivery of new partner features and product updates. And at the same time, sensitive student data remains private and secure.

In moving to this technology, Blackboard will continue to incorporate best practices and deploy consistent and native Blackboard Learn workflows for all partner integrations, including:

  • Single sign-on provides instructors and students with the convenience of one login for all course resources.
  • Automated gradebook refresh ensures all assignment grades appear in the Blackboard Grade Center, saving instructor's time.
  • Deep linking functionality gives faculty greater control over how they deliver information and provides students easy access to their course work.
  • Compliance with student data privacy laws, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), ensures sensitive student information remains protected and secure.

How do I make the Blackboard Partner Cloud made available at my institution?

The Partner Cloud is available to institutions through the free Partner Cloud Building Block. You must first install and configure the Building Block and make it available. Then you can configure the individual partner integrations you would like to make available for faculty and students.

For details on how to install and configure the Building Block, please refer to the Administrator Guide.

What are the technical requirements for the Partner Cloud Building Block?

  1. The Partner Cloud Building Block is available for client licensing Blackboard Learn 9.1 Service Pack 10 and later.
    1. Service Pack 10-12: The Building Block can be downloaded from Behind the Blackboard.
    2. Service Pack 13 and later: The Partner Cloud Building Block will be bundled.
  2. The Partner Cloud Building Block requires Cloud Services, which is available with Blackboard Learn SP10 and above. Specifically, the Cloud Connection must be enabled. Other Cloud features, such as Profiles, are optional.
  3. The latest patches must be installed for the Partner Cloud Building Block to function properly.
  4. The Blackboard Learn environment must be reachable by the external Cloud Services, through any firewall or security software. This includes any test or development environments that will need access to the Cloud.

To learn more about Blackboard Cloud, see Cloud FAQs.

What if my institution is currently using one of the legacy publisher Building Blocks from Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, or WileyPLUS?

Legacy content partner integration Building Blocks for McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Pearson, WileyPLUS, and Cengage Learning will continue to exist and be maintained for a period of time. If your institution is currently using these Building Blocks, please continue to do so and install the Partner Cloud Building Block to access Partner Cloud integrations.

Are the Partner Cloud integrations FERPA compliant? What information is passed between Blackboard Learn and partners via the Partner Cloud?

In working together to integrate Partner Cloud partner content into Blackboard Learn, Blackboard and its partners are very conscious of FERPA law and privacy issues associated with student information. As a result, data sharing and storage is limited to institutional information and encrypted unique identifiers only, and sensitive student information is not shared between Blackboard and Macmillan or stored in the cloud.

The integration of Blackboard Learn and Partner Cloud partner systems follows the Basic LTI (Learning Tool Interoperability) standard for open interoperability of learning tools. The Partner Cloud Building Block passes Institution Name, Shared Secret, and Consumer Key to the partner. Blackboard Learn never shares any sensitive student information (for example, Blackboard ID) with the partner by default. To establish the single sign-on into partner systems, Blackboard Learn sends only a unique identifier to the partner using industry-standard encryption. This encrypted identifier is completely opaque to the partner, as it is encrypted by Blackboard Learn and may not be directly traced back to a Blackboard user.

The local campus Blackboard administrator has complete control over how much additional information to share between Blackboard Learn and the partner. For example, the Blackboard administrator can choose whether or not to share the name of courses and users. If enabled, this basic information is simply displayed to users to improve their overall experience; however, none of this information is shared unless the local Blackboard administrator explicitly allows it.

All data transmitted between Blackboard Learn and the partner is signed and securely transmitted over SSL. This security ensures that the information is 100% secure and protected at all times. Upon completion of a partner assignment deployed in Blackboard Learn, the partner encrypts the score and transmits it to Blackboard Learn over SSL using encrypted identifiers. Blackboard Learn receives the score from the partner and records it into the Blackboard Learn Grade Center.

What effect will disabling the Partner Cloud Building Block have on instructors and students who were previously using one of the Partner Cloud integrations in their courses?

If the Partner Cloud Building Block is disabled/uninstalled, the links to partner content made available within the Blackboard Learn course will not work. The instructor will need to delete or hide these links from student view. The partner links within the Course Tools area will disappear automatically.

Depending upon the specific partner integration, instructors and students may be able to access their partner content directly via the appropriate partner website using their partner account credentials. In this case, no student participation or performance data will be lost.

How do instructors get started with the Partner Cloud integrations?

After the individual partner integrations have been configured and made available through the Partner Cloud Building Block, instructors will be able to access the partner content from within their Blackboard Learn courses. All Partner Cloud integrations can be accessed by selecting Commercial Content under the Publisher Content tab in all course content areas. The first time an instructor attempts to access the partner content they will be prompted to register with the partner and associate their partner content with their Blackboard Learn course. This is a first and one-time registration process.

Please visit the Blackboard Partner Cloud Communication & Adoption Toolkit for more information.

How do students get started with Partner Cloud integrations?

When an instructor adds partner content to their course, a direct link will be embedded in their Blackboard Learn course. The first time a student clicks on this link, they will be prompted to register with the partner and either enter a pre-purchased access code or purchase the code at that point. This is a first and one-time registration process. Moving forward, when the student clicks on an embedded link, they will be taken directly to the partner content.

Please visit the Blackboard Partner Cloud Communication & Adoption Toolkit for more information.

If Profiles are enabled at my institution, how does that affect the instructor and student experience with Partner Cloud integrations?

If the Institution has Cloud Profiles ON, users accessing the Partner Cloud will be asked to confirm or create their Blackboard Profile on their first access to the Partner Cloud integration - either via the Publisher Content tab as an instructor or an embedded link as a student. This step is not blocking – the user can select an option on this screen that bypasses without connecting a Blackboard Profile. This step occurs directly before the registration process with the specific partner.

If the Institution has NOT enabled Cloud Profiles, the above step is skipped in the workflow – the user will see no reference to Blackboard Profiles when accessing the Partner Cloud. The only data passed to the Blackboard Profile in this scenario will be a unique identifier tied to the user's Learn account.  No personally identifying information will be stored on the Blackboard Profiles service in this scenario – the Profile will NOT store name, email address, or anything else, only the unique identifier created for that user.

Does the Partner Cloud support multi-institution installations?

Yes. When multiple institutions are sharing a single Blackboard Learn environment, certain partner licensing agreements may vary between one or more institutions using the same Blackboard Learn environment. Often, this means that teachers and students in certain Blackboard courses are provided with different partner functionality than teachers and students in other Blackboard courses. When redirecting users from Blackboard to the external partner site, Partner Cloud can relay to the partner specific contextual information about the Blackboard Learn environment, specific resource requested, user, course, user's course role, and optionally, any "institution(s)" (departments, schools, programs, etc.) to which the course belongs. It is this course ownership data that enables partners to deliver the appropriately licensed functionality to the user requesting the resource. The Multi-Institution Installation option in Partner Cloud is what enables users in specific Blackboard courses to experience differentiated partner functionality when using Partner Cloud integrations based on licensing agreements between the "institution" and the partner.

If users in certain courses are allowed to experience specifically licensed partner functionality (one "institution") which is different from the partner functionality allowed to be experienced by users in other courses (a different "institution"), those courses need to be aligned with their institutional "owner", and that institutional ownership data can then be passed to the partner via the Partner Cloud integration. By organizing the affected courses to align with the relevant institutional owner, the partner can parse that ownership data to determine what level of functionality to deliver.

Partner Cloud can leverage 3 different administrative tools that can be used to organize, "flag", or "bucket" courses in Blackboard Learn. These include: Institution Hierarchy, Data Source Keys, and Domains. While each of these tools offers a full host of functionality that has no inherent connection to Partner Cloud, they all share a common feature: the ability to create and manage course groupings. In many cases, a Blackboard Learn system administrator may already be using one or more of these administrative tools for other purposes – this does not exclude them from being used to enable a multi-institution installation in Partner Cloud.

When considering between Institution Hierarchy, Data Source Keys, and Domains, each of these tools has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on a variety of local factors. These factors might include the partner integration implementation timeline, configuration of the Learn environment, availability of course-institution assignment data, and staff skill level. Understanding how each tool can be used to enable a multi-institution installation of Partner Cloud will help determine which tool is best suited for a given Blackboard Learn environment.

For more information on Institution Hierarchy, Data Source Keys, and Domains and how to set these up at your institution, please review the Multi-Institution Installation Guide for the Partner Cloud.