This is the first of two blog posts covering the recent Durham Blackboard
users Conference .
This post will concentrate on the presentation on day two of the conference
by Greg Ritter, Director of Product Management with Blackboard Learn. He
covered the details for Bb service pack releases, their current support
websites, and future plans. I’m also going to comment upon a panel
presentation covering recent experiences of Bb mobile.
Firstly I’ll cover the Bb plans, drivers,new products and enhanced support services. Then I’ll highlight the new features in service packs 10,11, and 12.
Greg was keen to underpin his presentation with their primary drivers, which
have are summarised into four major challenges driving product development. They are: recruitment, instructor efficiency, student engagement & retention, data
driven decision making. He also commented upon their new automated testing on
Bb platform. What took 3-4 days now is is done overnight. A mixture of auto
and manual testing.
So the new products (i.e, Blackboard Connect text 2), and a wealth of new
inbuilt and optional analysitcs tools really highlighted the increasing
importance of accurate data driven decisions across modern educational
organisations. I’ll cover some of these later in the post. One of the main
conference sponsors http://www.eesysoft.com/ offers analytic solutions for
educators to measure VLE impact/ ROI / engagement! Let’s not forget Bb’s own
analytics tool that offers the ability to extract a wealth of data for various stakeholders.
Greg was also keen to highlight the new and improved websites offering
specific guidance to users, including new upgrade cohorts, the improved help
site , etc. The list:
- blackboard.com/bits - Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series
- blackboard.com/digitalcontent – Integrating 3rd party resources
- blackboard.com/cohort – Upgrade Cohort Programs
- blackboard.com/rubrics – using and sharing rubrics
- blackboard.com/trial – free guided trials
- go.blackboard.com/faculty – train staff, innovate and share effective
- blackboard.com/bie – idea exchange, get involved in product development
- blackboard.com/usergroups – join online networks to share practice
- blackboard.com/catalyst – exemplary courses
- Not forgetting Coursesites - who offer free online courses & training for educators
I watched a very useful panel discussion by five institutions (HE & FE) who all launched Bb mobile last year. They either bought the product, or just enabled the option on Bb to allow students to access Bb via native apps. The common themes were; soft launch, and unfounded concern about staff and students inability to cope! All five panel members remarked that the process had been far less painful than envisaged, and all had experienced far less support calls that expected. Mobile access continues to increase across all institutions, a positive result! There was only one institution (Liverpool John Moore’s) to provide staff training/support and regular forums exchanging ideas. The rest just quietly launched it! The Blackboard mobile users group met at the conference. This blog post by Sharon Flynn of NUI Galway is worth reading to find out about future mobile plans – including a new native app this summer.
Perhaps the most interesting new product was announced off the back of Greg’s
comments about their MooodleRooms acquisition last year, and their
Sakai support. So it seems Bb are strategically aligning themselves
as a multiple VLE support company now. Therefore the Xplor (in beta) tool
has been created to enable cross platform creation and sharing of learning objects/resources using OER and Creative Commons licensed resources. Resources can be embedded into all supported VLEs. You can also create and manage content from xplor,
including links,assignments, assessments, and discussions. Fewer question
types available than BB Learn. This is an interesting move for Bb – embracing
cloud based content creation and sharing. It could provide a viable
application to allow staff to “easily” create and share learning resources.
Service packs 10,11,12
To finish off let’s have a look at the highlights out now, or soon to be