I’m at a demonstration of Blackboard that is being delivered by a combination of Blackboard and former ANGEL staff.  The demo covers their current version, BB9, not what they plan to develop as part of their Next Generation strategy.

Blackboard’s Mission:
“To increase the impact of education, by transforming the experience of education”

Three main product lines:

  • Blackboard learn – typical content management features
  • Blackboard transact – secure access to campus buildings, student meal cards, etc…
  • Blackboard connect – notification and alerting platform through a variety of forms (text, email, etc…)

Their “Project NG” will focus on integrating product lines and make it have more of a Web 2.0 drag-and-drop feel – which will eventually be released as Blackboard.  Blackboard has committed to work on ANGEL 8, which will include some new features as well as some features that will eventually help transition to Blackboard.

Core Features of Blackboard (most of this isn’t too surprising):

  • Content delivery with custom paths
  • Communication tools
  • Assessment tools for feedback and analysis
  • Portfolio capabilities
  • Participation in common cartridge/IMS development

Advantages over ANGEL:

  • Very scalable platform
  • Building Blocks program – frameworks for building custom tools with hooks into Blackboard API’s

Moving to an actual demo now.  Version 9 focused largely on an interface change that brings together the best parts of Blackboard and WebCT.  After logging in, users are presented with a dashboard/portal that’s much like ANGEL’s home page that lists courses, announcements, headlines from external sources, and other panels that can be added by the user and may be customized based on the user’s attributes (e.g. student in the college of engineering).

Left-hand navigation (upper left) with links like tools, discussions, surveys and quizzes, groups, blogs, journal, web Links, Help.  Lower-left navigation for instructor course administration tools.  Good news here: you can place any tool within the course within the course content, so they could view content and then go right into a discussion area.  That should help maintain a more natural academic workflow for students and instructors alike.

Showing the editing features now.  The order of items in a content area can be dragged around to reorder, as well as the items in the left-side menu.  They have a visual editor available when you create a new item that standard web content, equations, and raw HTML mode.  They have some built-in support for quicktime movies to display the movie in-line and include ADA features.  Includes basic release controls (via dates).  Evaluate menu can link directly to SafeAssign (much like Turnitin).

Have about 1000 developers within Blackboard and another 2500 developers outside Blackboard who are working on the feature set, interface, and building blocks.  On their developer site, they have extensions, language packs, and course content that can be downloaded and integrated.  Their open development framework is hosted at edugarage.com.

They have a short video of their interface that can be found at blackboard.com/release9.  Not much there – just a taste if you haven’t seen it before.

Overall, the demo didn’t show too much beyond the content presentation features.  We really need to get our Blackboard 9 sandbox running and dig into the communication tools before we can really see how it works.

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