Over the past several months, there have been many articles highlighting the growth in popularity of open source software solutions in education.
Here at Blackboard, we also feel that open source plays an important role in education. The recent incorporation of a non-profit organization called OSCELOT (the Open Source Community for Educational Learning Objects and Tools) by a group of passionate members of Blackboard’s developer community reflects this trend.
OSCELOT’s mission is to promote the development and sharing of open-source plugins and extensions for learning environments, including Blackboard Building Blocks and Blackboard PowerLinks, that allow Blackboard users and our partners to customize, enhance, integrate and extend our core LMS products using our open API architecture.
By pairing open source plugins with Blackboard’s commercially supported teaching and learning platform, we’ve seen rapid uptake of educational tools and platform enhancements that everyone can benefit from.
To date, there are over 70 projects hosted on OSCELOT’s site and over 150 known free or open-source plugins contributed by the community, which can be used today with Blackboard solutions to address a wide variety of teaching, learning and institutional priorities.
Earlier this year, I received a random e-mail from a student at Carnegie Mellon University named Ed.
Now, I have to admit that as the manager of Blackboard’s developer community, I receive quite a number of random e-mails, which range from students asking me how they can enroll in their courses to professors who can’t remember their passwords. I don’t quite know how some of these folks find my name, but I do know that I can attribute the particular message I’d like to tell you about here to EduGarage.
Ed’s email began: "I am a junior at Carnegie Mellon University . . ." He continued: “CMU utilizes the Blackboard Learning System . . . one of our ideas for our group project was [to create] a widget of sorts . . . I have been researching your site and EduGarage . . . I thought you might know someone who could be of assistance.”
A few months later, which I’m sure included many long nights of coding by Ed and his peers, I found myself at CMU this past Friday, admiring the handiwork of Ed and his team – a completed Blackboard Building Block that displays such information as course announcements, calendar items and new course content alerts inside of a Yahoo dashboard widget.
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.