An Overview and Explanation of the Missouri Baptist University Snapshot System

concepcionsockSoftware and s/w Development

Aug 15, 2012 (5 years and 11 months ago)


DIY SIS Integration

An Overview and Explanation of the

Missouri Baptist University Snapshot System

Copyright © 2010, All
Rights Reserved

MBU Blackboard Environment

Original Environment

Blackboard 6.3

Windows 2003

SQL Server 2000

SIS is CAMS Enterprise

SnapshotGenerator 1.0

Current Environment

Blackboard 9.0 SP3

Windows 2003

SQL Server 2005

SIS is CAMS Enterprise

SnapshotGenerator 4.0

All SnapshotGenerator updates from 1.0 to 3.2 were to add functionality,

not because updating Bb broke anything.

Version 4.0 was developed to fix flaws inherent in the original Database Views

on the SIS side, again nothing broke when we updated Bb.

How we got here

2000 offered first online classes using WebCT 3

2004 moved to Blackboard 6.3 Basic

December 2005, I took over as Technical Director
(Blackboard Administrator)

Everything was manual up to this point

2006 moved to Bb 6.3 Enterprise

Snapshot was the main factor

Summer 2006, developed SnapshotGenerator 1.0

January 2007, updated to Bb 7.1

March 2007, SnapshotGenerator 2.0

help option, multiple terms

How we got here

November 2007, SnapshotGenerator 3.0

week scheduling, automated course availability

December 2007, updated to Bb 7.3

June 2009, SnapshotGenerator 3.1

configured to use properties file to load config settings

Developed installer for SnapshotGenerator

Developed Snapshot Controller

Prior to this, integration had been accomplished by Windows
shell scripts that were scheduled, but had to be updated
every semester

August 2009, updated to Bb 9.0

December 2009, SnapshotGenerator 3.2

Removed limitation on number of concurrent terms to


SnapshotGenerator 4.0 put into production June 18

Nearly complete rewrite of system

Original system made use of recursive SQL functions

The presenter did not write these, our former DBA did

New views were developed in the SIS database

The presenter did develop these

All processing of data now takes place in

Typical runtime for snapshot generation went from 5
minutes to a matter of seconds (always less than 1 minute)

Components of the Snapshot Process

The MBU Snapshot System

CAMS Enterprise Database Views

SQL Server 2008

Snapshot Generator

Java application

Snapshot Controller

C# application + Windows Command Script

Blackboard™ Snapshot Tool

Copyright © 2010, All
Rights Reserved

Snapshot System Components

Snapshot Generator

Java application

Developed with NetBeans

Run by Snapshot

Can be run manually

Generates snapshot files
for each term currently
identified in SIS database
as “current”

Term active now, +30 days,
+60 days

Snapshot Controller

C# application

Run every 15 minutes by
Windows scheduler

Launches Snapshot

Launches snapshot tool for
each snapshot file

MBU Snapshot System Architecture

Snapshot Controller

Snapshot Generator


Command Script

Feed Files

Bb Snapshot

Blackboard Server








“We’ve never heard of CAMS”

We use CAMS Enterprise from Three Rivers
Systems, inc.

Three Rivers Systems, inc. is 25
years old, and is
based in Saint Louis, MO

The important factors

SQL Server database (SQL Server 2008)

Access to the database allows us to create custom views

These principles should apply to any SIS running
on an accessible SQL database

Copyright © 2010, All
Rights Reserved

Features of the MBU Snapshot System

Changes to SIS appear in Blackboard within 15

listed courses are automatically combined
into a single Blackboard shell

This will require us to develop a custom application for
importing grades from Bb to our SIS

This is in the planning stage now

It will make use of Bb 9.x Web Services

It will reside within our Faculty/Staff Portal, which is part of
our SIS

Students who add a class are automatically
enrolled in Blackboard

Features of the MBU Snapshot System

Students who drop a class are automatically
disabled in the course on Blackboard

Courses are made available to faculty 60
before the start of the term

Courses are made available to students on Friday
before the course starts

Understanding Snapshot

Snapshot is Blackboard’s method for importing and
updating data within the Blackboard LMS


Blackboard Enterprise

Snapshot Files

Students, Faculty, Courses, Assignments, Enrollments

Data Source Keys



Understanding Snapshot

The key to understanding the Snapshot process is
understanding data sources

A data source is a batch of data which will be
manipulated collectively within Blackboard

You can have any number of data sources, we use
two permanent data sources: Faculty and Students

We also use three additional data sources per term:
Courses, Assignments, and Enrollments

Each data source is identified by a unique data
source key

The MBU Snapshot System

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DIY SIS Integration