29 Oct 2008 @ 1:21 PM 

First, before you read on, let me assure you that my blog has not been hijacked. This is, in fact, Sarah writing and not the result of someone stealing my login.

That being said, I’ve just spent an hour at the BlackBored booth at Educause and I think I may have drank the preverbial kool-aid. Many of you have heard me knock Blackboard in the past for being boring, oblivious to social media and prosumer content, and frankly having missed the boat. Version 9 may have just changed my mind. Here are a few reasons:

  • The interface is Ajax enabled and allows you to drag content modules around the page to customize the way the course materials are presented
  • An editable CSS allows users to fully customize the look and feel of the pages to suit your campus etc
  • Bb finally has mashup capabilities so you can pull in content from flickr, Facebook, RSS aggregators and other social media tools
  • Bb can interface with Sakai, Moodle, and other management systems so we don’t have to put all of our eggs into one basket
  • Finally, the community piece enables students to create groups, clubs, and other affiliations that have all the same functionality

So there’s the cheerleading. Now the caveats…

  • All of these groovy functions are optional and can be turned off by administrators who fear allowing users to contribute content that they can’t control in advance
  • The mashup features will only be as useful as they are used. No matter how cool the tool, if folks aren’t creative enough to imagine using it in creative way then there will be no change
  • All I saw was a demo in action. We’ll have to wait to see if 9 really has all these features functioning as they’re being advertised

That being said, most of my caveats aren’t concerns about the tool itself but about how it will be adopted. Frankly, I’m excited about the possibilities that such openness may foster. I hope that faculty on Bb campuses embrace them, enjoy playing with them, and see the possibilities beyond simply uploading a syllabus. There’s real potential here for institutions to feel safe adopting a new student-centered way of delivering content and engaging in academic communities but the jury is still out. We’ll see what happens when the rubber hits the road.

Thanks to the Bb folks for tolerating all my annoying questions and skepticism.

Posted By: Intellagirl
Last Edit: 29 Oct 2008 @ 01:21 PM

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  2. Geoff Cain says:

    Caveat Freakin’ Emptor
    We have Bb and you are right, you are only looking at a demo. What they say and what they deliver are invariably two different things. Also, read your contract. They claim to have redundant storage backing up all of the classes and data. They lost 200 of our classes and according to our contract, that is just tough luck on us. They said one data tape accidentally overwrote the other. We said, “that does not sound like redundant storage” and they really didn’t care. Also, we had service tickets on things that were broken with their product that were three years old. They finally started emailing us with messages that said “Due to age, we are closing this ticket. Please re-open if this continues to be a problem.”

    All of those exciting features you are talking about are already available in modern LMSs like Angel – a Bb rep told us that all of the Bb Ng stuff would catch up to that within two years. But really why wait? Why not learn to leverage the free and the open source out there waiting to be put together?

    Those big corporations make the sweetest kool-aide, don’t they?

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