Bb World 2006

Finally … an opportunity to write down (AGAIN) some thoughts about the Bb usersconference 2006. I had written a posting monday but thanx to shutting off the network in the cybercafe at 7:00 pm I couldn’t save my entry and my writings disappeared in thin air. Yesterday I started writing this one and today I am hoping to finish it. I feel really handicapped not having my own laptop at my disposal.

Blackboard 2.0
Blackboard 2.0 is coming soon. That was the general message of Michaels and Matthews keynote. For the first year the keynote wasn’t about the networked learning environment but Blackboard has jumped on the 2.0 bandwagon.

First Blackboard compared e-learning 1.0 to e-learning 2.0. According to Blackboard the differences can be characterized as follows:

  • Platform adoption (i.e. getting people to use a VLE) versus extending the platform (through Buildingblocks for instance)
  • Focus on Courses versus focus on Social Networks
  • Educational segments (contents is specific to an organization: if you move from one segment to another you lose the work you have produced so far ) versus life long learning
  • Inputs (how much stuff can you put into a VLE) versus outcome (are we getting enough out of the system)

Then Blackboard 2.0 … I had hoped to hear Blackboard’s philosophy on moving from a teacher centered learning environment towards a student centered learning environment using social software and web 2.0 tools and technolology (f.i. RSS-feeds for every Course our Coursearea).

But for Blackboard 2.0 is something different. First of all it is the merger of Blackboard with WebCT. That’s not 2.0. The 2.0 component is to be found in the Blackboard beyound initiative. Blackboard is creating a number of webservices that are centrally hosted and can be integrated into Blackboard.

Currently Blackboard is working on 4 webservices:

  1. Learning objects catalogue
  2. Scolar.com (a kind of linked-in or openbc aimed at connecting people based on their discipline identity)
  3. E-portfolio’s for life
  4. Collaborative Benchmarking and analysis (Institutions can upload statistics anonomously into a Blackboard database) 

Merger of Blackboard and Webct
The merger of the Blackboard and webct companies is official. The two products will merge in time into one new learning environment. It starts with adding common API’s for both systems, then the portal and content systems are added to webct, The new evaluation system (Caliper) is added and it ends with as Blackboard names it a next genetation learning system with a single code base. All changes are carried out using the application pack strategy.

Upcoming new features beyond release 7.1

  • Blackboard announced it is working on a blogging tool that will be integrated in Blackboard. I haven’t found more information about this initiative. But it is not the Learning Objects Buildingblock.
  • An early warning system is being developed for monitoring student achievements
  • Microsoft sharepint integration
  • Caliper: evaluation and assessment system that can evaluate both Courses, programms and the institutions mission.

Blackboard for dummies
In april you can find Blackboard for dummies in your local bookstores. 

Interesting third party Buildingblocks
I found two Buildingblocks that I think are worth exploring:

  • Classtop
    This is a buildingblock that allows teachers to create their courses offline using a client program on their computer or laptop. They can create a folder structure, drag and drop attachments to it, fill out the required and optional Blackboard fields and with a click synchronize with Blackboard. An additional feature is the what’s new functionality: when a teacher is online he will receive notices if students have made contributions to his Blackboard courses.
  • Tegrity Campus
    This is a tool consisting of a mediaserver in combination with a buildingblock that allows teachers to easilly record a lecture (audio + video + powerpoint slides) and post it as a podcast in Blackboard. In the Blackboard Course a link is automatically created to an audio-only and audio+video file. Also RSS-feeds are created at which students can subscribe using both I-Tunes or a any other feedreader.

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