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Flexible Deployment Option

Help users adjust to software changes in Learn SaaS.

To manage change for your users, your institution may decide to space out the introduction of new features or functions. With the Plus and Advantage deployment tiers, Blackboard offers you the option to delay feature adoption so you can prepare users for a collection of changes, rather than have them appear incrementally as part of a continuous delivery release.

Maintenance items, such as bug fixes and security patches, are continuously delivered to all tiers of SaaS deployments. These are critical updates to the health and security of your Blackboard Learn instance and cannot be delayed.

What's the difference between features and maintenance items?

A feature is a capability or function that you can see and use in a piece of software. Discussions are a feature in Blackboard Learn, for example. Instructors and students use the Discussions feature when they create, post, and edit discussions. As an administrator, you see the Discussions feature after you upgrade your version of Blackboard Learn SaaS to the release that includes this feature. New features are enabled by default when upgrades to new Q2 or Q4 releases occur.  Once a Q2 or Q4 release is applied, any new features included in the release will be available to end users.

Blackboard is constantly working on new features, but because we carefully research, develop, and test each one, regular releases may be limited to include only maintenance items. To learn more about what's included in each release, take a careful look at the Blackboard Learn SaaS release notes.

Have an idea for a new feature? Visit the Blackboard Community site to let us know!

A maintenance item describes a piece of code that fixes a known bug or issue in your software. For example, if the Discussions feature isn't properly displaying the title of your post, this is a bug. A release will include a maintenance item to fix this issue and improve the feature for your users. Sometimes these issues can concern the security or performance of your system.  Flexible Deployment Option customers will receive maintenance updates on the same cadence as Cumulative Updates for Q2 and Q4 releases.  These maintenance updates are applied to all FDO customers at the same time to reduce variability and ensure stability for all customers.

You can report bugs and other issues by visiting Behind the Blackboard.

When do flexible deployments occur?

Plus and Advantage customers can choose to delay adoption of feature releases until Q2 (April) or Q4 (October) each year instead of receiving them continuously. However, this option is available only for feature releases less than one year old. The expectation is that customers on the Flexible Deployment Option are upgrading at a minimum of once per every 12 months.

For example, starting in spring 2016, you can upgrade your system to the Q2 2016 release, and you can do so any time before the Q4 2016 release becomes available. Blackboard can assist you in the upgrade as needed. Each Q2 or Q4 release of Learn is fully support for 20 months, with an additional 4 months of operational support, for a total of 24 months of support following its release. Therefore, the support period may be shorter if you upgrade closer to the end of the window. For the Q2 2016 release, this means that support for this version ends mid-Q2 2018.

Do I select a particular version for my upgrade?

When you choose to upgrade, your system receives the features that were released between your last upgrade and the most recent Q2 or Q4 release. This ensures that you and your users can take advantage of the latest features all at once.

Haven't updated in a while? Don't worry. Blackboard offers full support for each version of Learn SaaS for up to 24 months following deployment. However, before the Q2 or Q4 release your instance is on becomes unsupported, your instance of Blackboard Learn SaaS must receive feature updates in the next release cycle for flexible deployment. This ensures that your institution's instance of Blackboard Learn never falls out of our support.

When can I start?

If you are interested in putting your Blackboard Learn system on a flexible deployment timeline, you can begin flexible deployment starting in Q2 2016. When you choose the flexible deployment option, your Blackboard Learn SaaS instance will receive feature releases continuously until the next flexible deployment release. If you choose flexible deployment in Q3, for example, the change takes effect after the Q4 release.

As an institution on the Plus or Advantage deployment tier, Service Delivery Management and Service Delivery Engineer packages are available to help you manage the upgrade. Contact your account representative to get started with flexible deployment and to request assistance.