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Durham University

Internal Communications
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We're getting a new Virtual Learning Environment

(24 July 2020)

Over the next year, we will be getting ready to replace our current Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Duo, with a new platform; Blackboard Learn Ultra. Duo has been our University-wide VLE for over 20 years, and like other home-grown systems, it's been used for many things not just teaching and learning. As such, it's complex to manage and requires significant downtime periods for maintenance and updates.

To ensure we meet our strategic aim of having a "First-rate digital learning environment on a par with the best in the UK", we will be moving to Blackboard Learn Ultra. This VLE will be hosted in the cloud, giving us more flexibility to scale up as required, and to implement regular software updates without the need for lengthy downtime.

University Executive has now approved the move to Blackboard Learn Ultra for the 2021-22 academic year. To help us understand how best to manage the University-wide migration, we will be conducting a pilot programme throughout the 2020-21 academic year.

During July, Faculties were invited to nominate programmes to be involved in the pilot, and we had a really strong response from the academic community, which was fantastic. We’re now able to confirm that our pilot participants for the October pilot will be MSc Data Sciences/MSc Data Sciences (Digital Humanities), BSc Biological Sciences (Year 1), BSc Accounting (Year 1) and the Foundation Programme. They will be joined in January by MSc Marketing.

The October pilot group will be starting the new academic year using Blackboard Learn Ultra as their VLE with students being inducted on this rather than Duo. We are now working with those teams to repurpose and migrate their content to the new VLE in readiness for the start of term.

Over the next few months, we will be in touch to share updates from the pilot programmes and to give you more information about the University-wide roll out in 2021-22 academic year. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact Steve Leggetter, Programme Manager at

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