What were we thinking? Why would a brand new college in the throes of
creating a college culture, constructing a campus, and preparing for
accreditation decide to pilot a still-in-beta product with live courses in an
untested integration? When I put it that way, maybe we are crazy, or maybe
as was said of Hamlet, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
As part of the University System of Georgia, Georgia Gwinnett College
is a Blackboard Learning System (WebCT) Vista school. I’m the GGC LMS
Administrator, and have been a WebCT user since 1997 and a Vista Admin since
2003. We like many Vista features, but wanted more flexibility.
Because GGC is new and agile, we have the luxury of being in a
position to envision how we want information to flow into and out of and between
the systems we stand up. When at last year’s BbWorld, I heard about the openness
and flexibility of “Project NG” and about the option of co-production with
Vista, I just knew this was something GGC and our CIO, Lonnie Harvel would be
interested in. So just after BbWorld, we started in with the what-ifs ...
What if Blackboard could deliver NG by the end of the year?
What if this co-production idea really works? What if we could get a pilot up
and running with at least a few live classes in January? We of course had to
also consider the negative side of these questions, like what if it all blows
up on January 15? But we proceeded with the idea that it might just work
and it was certainly worth trying.
In late October, the Release 9 Beta Program was opened, and shortly
afterward, we began discussions of being hosted by Blackboard for both Vista
(for courses) and the Blackboard Learn platform. The
servers were set up and successfully integrated and tested. In January,
five bold faculty began teaching ten live Vista 8 classes via Bb9, dubbed Platform
8 3/4. The Spring pilot worked so well that we are doing it again this
This may all indeed be madness, yet there is method in it. The plan is
to move all our courses to our ggc.blackboard.com Platform 8 3/4 environment
for Fall. There are features of the WebCT Vista toolbox that we are
not willing to part with, and there are aspects of the Blackboard Learn
platform that may just make it our campus portal.
I’ll be presenting GGC’s co-production experiences at BbWorld '09, in a
Monday afternoon pre-conference seminar with Ben Wang of Blackboard Product
Development. Ben will share the vision for Blackboard Learn and discuss how the
openness and flexibility that attracted GGC to the platform can be a draw for
other WebCT institutions. I will share our co-production environment in action
from both the Institutional Admin and Instructor roles. We will discuss the
steps needed to make the move to co-production from a functional and technical
perspective, the decision-making process behind our move, and our vision for
Release 9 as our "portal" environment.
If you can’t make the pre-conference session, I’ll be presenting
Platform 8 3/4 on Tuesday at 10:30 and in a panel at 4:14 with Santo
Nucifora and Daniel Szabo from Senica College, and Donna Wicks, of Kettering
University. Check us out.