Good day, all. For those of you who haven’t met me yet, I am the Blackboarder in charge of Blackboard’s developer community. The members of this group are those individuals who are out there finding innovative ways to extend and enhance Blackboard’s core product functionality by using Blackboard Building Blocks and Blackboard PowerLinks plugin technologies.

Through interacting with this community, I often find that similar institutions face similar challenges and have similar wants and needs for extending and customizing their learning environments. Part of my job is to find ways of connecting developers at these institutions and make meaningful and collaborative projects happen.

Many of these projects are often released as free and open source tools through OSCELOT, our affiliated open source community of educational tool developers. You might recognize the Sign-up tool, the Podcasting tool, or the Who’s Online tool by name; each of these is a product of this community.

This past week, I found myself at the University of Southampton for the 2008 Open Repositories Conference.

This is a conference that aims to address information storage, classification, retrieval and archival needs at academic institutions. I was in Southampton to showcase and support a project out of which we hope to release our next new tool to the wider educational community.

Through the collaborative efforts of Mark O’Neil from Dartmouth College in the U.S. and Birkbeck College in the UK, the standards expertise of Jeff Kahn from Verbena Consulting, and technical coaching from Blackboard, we will soon have a tool that speaks to the major themes of this conference. It allows a user to search multiple campus content repositories (and potentially many other free ones) and link directly to this material from within a course site.

It can also allow content from within the Blackboard Content System to be searched for and used in other places outside of the Blackboard Learning System, making it part of a better-integrated content system architecture.

Our hope is that this tool puts more educational materials from more places into the hands of educators and students more easily.

OSCELOT plans to release version 1 of this tool at this year’s Blackboard Developers Conference. You can find the beta release of this tool and contribute your own ideas for this and other projects by visiting the projects page on our developer community web site, EduGarage.

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