Recently, we announced a partnership with Syracuse University to create a connector between the Blackboard and Sakai course management offerings. The goal of the connector is to allow for greater choice and flexibility in teaching and learning systems, and to provide greater integration between them.
Now, I’m pleased to announce we are in the process of extending this solution to another popular open source system. In partnership with Iowa State University, we are working on creating a connector between the Blackboard and Moodle platforms. Just as with our Sakai effort, we are working with the community to develop this solution, and both connectors will be free, open source extensions to Blackboard software.
The idea behind these efforts isn’t ours alone – our clients have asked us to help bridge the gap between departmental and individual instructor implementations of Moodle and their institution-wide Blackboard system deployments.
With the Learning Environment Connector for Moodle, they will be able to use their Blackboard and open source systems in concert. Instructors who can create content in the Blackboard system will able to share it with peers who are teaching with Moodle. At the same time students will be able to access their classes online from a single location, whether its offered through Blackboard or open source software. Through this technology we hope to simplify the student experience and improve the sharing of ideas throughout the institution.
In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing here our vision for Project NG and Web 2.0. This is a broad topic covering user interfaces, technologies and information theory. We’ve spent a lot of time sharing our ideas of the new user interface we are working on under Project NG. The Web 2.0 underpinnings of Project NG go well beyond the new AJAX-based interface. Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss how this project, our multi-year, multi-release vision, aligns with other areas of Web 2.0.
Today, I’m writing about two technologies that pave the way for freedom and flexibility for learning tools and information.
One principle of Web 2.0 is that software should be simple for ordinary users, but open to extraordinary innovation. It is our hope that these two technologies working together will support this vision for our Project NG through a set of web services and APIs. The Learning Environment Connector (LEC) and Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) work in tandem to showcase how Project NG fits into the Web 2.0 vision of flexibility and empowerment through openness.
The first technology is the Learning Environment Connector (LEC), which I wrote about several weeks ago. This isn’t just a portal. While there are portal-like features to it, most notably, information aggregation, the Learning Environment Connector is bi-directional, allowing information to be published and consumed within both Blackboard software and remote learning environments.
Many of you may know me as the face of Bb Classic. The limited acting skills on display in those "Bb vs. Bb NG" videos may leave you wondering if I have a day job to sustain myself, or if like Keanu Reaves, some mysterious backstage force keeps propelling me into choice roles. Alas, it is the former; though I’m secretly hoping to be cast in the next Wachowski brothers’ movie.
For my day job I am the Senior Director of Technology Evangelism at Blackboard. This is a new position at Blackboard. I’ll be focusing on projects related to the openness of our products, on research projects related to open source development and on standards initiatives. Over the next few months, I’ll be providing more information on new technologies we are developing for Project NG to enable Blackboard software to interoperate with the rest of your e-Learning infrastructure.
Choice, diversity and experimentation are core values of educational communities. We see this reflected in the continual experimentation with alternative course management systems at colleges and universities around the world. Many schools have a Sakai or Moodle instance running alongside their Blackboard service. While supportive of faculty members who want to experiment, this can create a problem for students who get lost in a fog of different systems. To solve this problem, some institutions elect to choose a single course management solution on campus. But that approach won’t work for everyone.
At Blackboard we’re expanding your teaching and learning technology choices. We’re opening up the Blackboard Academic Suite and enabling connections to different course management systems through a new technology called The Learning Environment Connector, which is being developed as part of Project NG, Blackboard’s multi-year, multi-release project to deliver a next generation teaching and learning solution. And while we believe that our course management system is the best solution for most instructors, we want you to have the ability to experiment, and to have the teaching and learning choice that you need.
Imagine a world where students go to a single URL and connect to their course regardless of which course management system it is hosted on. Dashboards consolidate information for users from these many systems. Administrators easily access accounts and information across these systems; thus simplifying helpdesk operations. The Learning Environment Connector makes this world possible.
To demonstrate the power of this technology we’re working to build a connector to Sakai. We have partnered with a university that uses Sakai and Blackboard and shares our vision. When complete, the Blackboard Sakai connector will be available as open source to the education community.