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Course Availability and Deletion Policy

When Blackboard, then known as OAK, was hosted on Vanderbilt servers, there were no consistent systems in place to archive courses, and courses were never permanently purged, meaning that courses generally remained available to instructors indefinitely, and instructors generally left courses available to students indefinitely, as well.  This meant keeping all past courses on the OAK servers, which may have contributed to the performance and reliability issues OAK suffered in its last years.  With the move from Vanderbilt servers to Blackboard managed hosting, we want to avoid this potential problem.  Moreover, server space is not free.  The greater the amount of course data we maintain on Blackboard, the higher the financial cost to the institution.

For these reasons, beginning May 2016, courses on Blackboard will be made unavailable to students and instructors and eventually deleted per schedule below.  This schedule encourages students and instructors to take responsibility for maintaining personal copies of relevant course materials, instead of relying on Blackboard as indefinite storage, while also allowing instructors teaching courses every year or every other year to take advantage of course copy tools within Blackboard.

(Note that summer courses are grouped with fall courses for the purposes of this schedule.)

One semester after a course ends, the course will be made unavailable to students enrolled in the course.  This encourages students to take responsibility for their own course materials, while also providing time for most incomplete grades to be resolved.  The course will remain available to instructors associated with the course.

Example: A Spring 2016 course will be available to students through the end of Fall 2016.  It will be made unavailable at the start of Spring 2017.

Two years after a course ends, the course will be made unavailable to instructors associated with the course.  The course will remain on Blackboard servers, but will only be accessible by Blackboard administrators.

Example: A Spring 2016 course will remain available to instructors through Spring 2018.  It will be made unavailable to instructors at the start of Fall 2018.

Such a course will remain on Blackboard servers for one semester, then be deleted entirely.  This offers a one-semester grace period to instructors who forget to copy course materials to their personal storage, while ensuring that only three years of courses remain on Blackboard servers at a time.

Example: A Spring 2016 course will be deleted at the start of Spring 2019.

Consider the following timetable as an illustration:

Course Group Unavailable to Students Unavailable to Instructors Deleted Entirely
Spring 2016 Start of Spring 2017 Start of Fall 2018 Start of Spring 2019
Summer and Fall 2016 Start of Fall 2017 Start of Spring 2019 Start of Fall 2019
Spring 2017 Start of Spring 2018 Start of Fall 2019 Start of Spring 2020
Summer and Fall 2017 Start of Fall 2018 Start of Spring 2020 Start of Fall 2020

An email notification will be sent to students and instructors four weeks before they lose access to a course, reminding them to keep personal copies of any course materials they might need at a later date.

Some caveats:

  • During the time period a course is available to instructors but not to students (approximately two years), an instructor can elect to make the course available to students for as long as the instructor has access to the course. Note that an instructor cannot make a course available to a single student—the course is either available to all enrolled students or none.
  • During the time period when a course is maintained on Blackboard servers but not available to an instructor (the one-semester grace period), Blackboard administrators can grant temporary access to that instructor upon request, to allow the instructor to copy course materials to another Blackboard course or to personal storage. Requests should be submitted via blackboard@vanderbilt.edu.
  • Exceptions to the standard availability and deletion schedule can be requested by instructors and school administrators. Exception requests should be submitted via blackboard@vanderbilt.edu, and must be approved by representatives of the University Registrar and the Center for Teaching.  Note that once deleted, a course cannot be retrieved, so all exception requests should be made before the end of the grace period.  (If students want access to a course beyond the one-semester window after the course ends, they should speak with their instructors.)
  • Alternate availability and deletion schedules can be set for individual colleges and schools, depending on local needs. Non-standard schedules should be drafted by the appropriate associate deans and approved by the Provost’s Office.
  • Some very large courses, that is, courses that occupy an unusual amount of disc space on Blackboard servers, will need to be managed ahead of the standard availability and deletion schedule. The Vanderbilt Blackboard team will identify such courses during occasional reviews, and work with instructors to reduce course sizes or move content from these courses to other platforms.
  • Multimedia content stored in “My Media” is exempt from the above policy. This content is hosted on Kaltura, a media streaming service that integrates with Blackboard, not on Blackboard servers.  Blackboard users can “publish” media from “My Media” to Blackboard courses.  The links thus created will go away with the course they live in, but the media itself will persist in “My Media.”
  • The above policy does not apply to courses and organizations created manually on Blackboard, only courses automatically generated through integration with Vanderbilt student information systems. Manually created courses and organizations will be reviewed occasionally to determine if they are still needed.

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