Refined business contingency process now in place to support assessment

Over the past few months, the Assessment Journey Programme team has been working with a number of key stakeholders across the University to define and test a business contingency process that will be implemented in the event of system downtime.

The agreed process will ensure that there is a consistent approach should Blackboard be unavailable for the submission of student work or the marking or provision of feedback by academic staff.

Details on the agreed process can be found in Assessment Essentials.

Frequently asked questions:

  1. What will happen if a submission point is unavailable at the time of submission?
    A. An extension from the time the system is restored is to be provided to all affected students. Digital Technology Services will place a standard message on Blackboard and Faculty Student Services teams will contact students with further details. Module Leaders do not need to take any action.
  2. What will happen if Blackboard is unavailable at the time of, or becomes unavailable during, a Blackboard test?
    A. The Module Leader should liaise with the affected student(s) to arrange an alternative date and update Blackboard accordingly.
  3. What will happen if system unavailability prevents access to work for marking?
    A. An extended period of time equivalent to the duration of system unavailability (up to 48 hours) will be allowed to complete the marking and provide feedback to students. Module Leaders should advise students by email if there is to be a delay in providing feedback due to system unavailability; either at the time of marking or the time of releasing feedback. If staff can still meet the original turnaround times this is encouraged.

“I just submitted my assignment on line – how do I know it’s been received?”

The University will shortly be launching a new feature for our students when they submit an assignment to a Blackboard. After they submit their work, students will receive an email confirming the details of their submission.


Online submissions through Blackboard

The student – or group of students if it is a group submission – will get an email confirming who submitted the work, when it was submitted, the module title, the assignment title, and the name of the file(s) submitted, including file size(s). It will also contain the name of the module leader and their email address as well as a link to the relevant faculty helpdesk should further help or support be needed by the student. A copy of the receipt will be saved as a PDF in an area of the Blackboard site teaching staff can access.

All other submissions

At present, there will be no changes to the process for any assessments that are not submitted through Blackboard. The current arrangements around receiving and receipting these assessments will continue.


It is anticipated that this new receipting feature will be launched during July 2015. Further information and guidance will be available on shuspace for both students and staff once the launch date is confirmed and communications will also be cascaded within faculties and via other university communication channels.

This feature is being introduced as part of the improvements being delivered by the Assessment Journey Programme and is a result of student feedback. The benefits include a reduction in anxiety currently experienced by many students due to the lack of a confirmation receipt and this should also help reduce the volume of queries directed to both academic and administrative staff from students questioning whether work has been received.

If you have any queries please or would like further information, please contact the Assessment Journey Programme Team.

We look at the technology needed to deliver this project

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The programme will deliver an integrated technical solution that supports online submission, marking and feedback of assessment tasks. It will also deliver an integrated assessment scheduling and diary system to support the communication of assessment task (including exams) deadlines and extensions and a single accessible portal for students and staff to access all relevant assessment information relating to their areas of study. The development of this solution is the part of the project called Online Management of Assessment (OMA).

Following a review and evaluation of possible solutions a high level approach has now been defined. This primarily uses SITS and Blackboard as core systems with additional capability provided via the data warehouse.

The technology will be developed in phases over the three year programme and will support areas such as

  • better integration of systems to reduce manual set-up for staff
  • electronic receipting when students who submit to Blackboard
  • improved visibility of upcoming assessments
  • providing students with electronic feedback, including training and support for staff on how to use e-marking tools
  • a single mark entry through Blackboard.

Next steps

  • a roadmap for developing the technology has been finalised
  • key development areas have been identified and with the support of colleagues from across the University requirement documents produced
  • we are working closely with Tribal and Blackboard to explore all aspects of the technical model and ensure our requirements are met