Guest post by Brian Morgan, Assistant Professor, Integrated Science and Technology Department, Marshall University, and a member of the Ask Dr. C program, a free question and answer service for Blackboard Users. There have been hundreds of articles published in the last few years on creating a “green” learning environment. If you are trying to do everything you can to help in this effort, you should consider using Blackboard to assist in reducing the paper in your classroom and office. I’ll cover a number of techniques, which involve using Blackboard Learn to go green, below. Encouraging Faculty to Do More Online Even with technology as prominent as it is today, some faculty still feel trepidation when offering any part of their courses online. Many still do not understand that online environments, such as Blackboard, are secure and that no one is truly going to steal their intellectual property. At Marshall University, the Information Technology department has created the MUOnline Design Center, staffed with instructional technologists and designers, to assist faculty in converting their materials to a digital format. These individuals also work with faculty to encourage new techniques in online teaching and the development of materials for the digital age.
But how? By participating in our Opening Keynote Giveaway! This year, instead of just announcing our opening keynote speaker as we’ve done in years past, we decided to spice it up a bit! Starting today, all week long, we will leak one new clue about this individual. And each day, we want you to guess who you think it might be. If your guess is correct, you could be joining us in New Orleans this summer for our annual user conference and biggest event of the year! All you need to do is:
- Like us on Facebook
- Tweet us your guess and include the hashtag #BbW12
- Post your guess in the comments below!
In a few short days, the impact these mobile devices have had on the students at Nangwanda Secondary School has been profound. 97% of these students never touched a mobile phone before this week, but now their mechanical functioning of the phones increases exponentially every day. And they just love using these devices! They are highly engaged and you can see their minds transforming right before your eyes as they attempt to solve new problems in new ways. The smartphones we are using have the Blackboard Mobile Learn application installed along with content developed by Stanford University and the Seeds of Empowerment team. The mobile learning exercises developed by the research team allow us to measure the cognitive functioning and technological aptitude of the students.
“Sweet looking theme, a vast improvement over the current Bb Learn Theme, the revision in look and feel makes it a lot smoother to use.” — overheard during usability testingEarly reactions to the new system theme in Service Pack 8 have been overwhelmingly positive. Users that have seen it love its clean and modern look. UI changes in the new System Theme, “Blackboard Learn 2012” offer a change in the look and feel, but the functionality of the system remains exactly the same. So, what does that change to the look and feel mean to the people that support teaching and learning on campus? Instructional Designers sometimes cringe when they see interface changes because it often means changing screenshots used throughout tutorials, tip sheets and other training materials. I lead a team of instructional designers at Blackboard, and like you, we spend a considerable amount of time ensuring that our training materials, help documentation, and video tutorials help people meet their teaching and learning objectives. Before you dive in, we want you to understand that the new theme is optional. The original 9.1 default theme will still be available and Administrators can make the switch when the time is right. Existing customizations are unaffected. The new theme can be applied on a timeline of your own. Trying out the new theme is low-risk since it has no functional changes. If your campus is excited about a new modern look for Blackboard Learn, read on to find out what we think the impact will be and our ideas for managing the transition to a new look and feel (hint: we don’t think it is as big an effort as it first appears).
Blackboard product teams works closely with clients to build and introduce new versions of our platforms, including Blackboard Learn(™), Blackboard Collaborate(™), and Blackboard Mobile(™). We independently launched major versions that offered improved user experiences and brought us closer to customers in the process. Recently, we came together to discuss what Blackboard offers as a whole – across all of our platforms and services – to address the problem of student engagement that can result in dropouts, poor test scores, and transfers to other institutions. We put aside talking about cool new features and instead talked about how to effectively break through to today’s “always on” students. We identified how Blackboard’s entire portfolio can help students get engaged and personally invested in their learning for solid outcomes, college readiness, and career success. We are convinced that Blackboard offers the widest variety of tools to connect and engage learners in a way that each prefers – regardless of time, place, device or learning style. It’s no surprise that this results in increased learning, retention, and institutional growth. One client, Ivy Tech Community College, an educator of over 120,000 students across in 75 locations across Indiana, solved their growing requirement for more robust and resourceful engagement tools by deploying Blackboard Collaborate and Blackboard Mobile after attaining a solid foundation with Blackboard Learn. Among the benefits of the combined solution are 24×7 service to students, onboarding of 25,000 new students each year, and steady growth in enrollment with a goal of 200,000 students by 2020. What exactly does Blackboard offer to engage students? First of all, a plethora of learning-focused features – customized online courses and vibrant communities in Blackboard Learn, access to coursework virtually anywhere with Blackboard Mobile, and live classes with breakouts and multi-user whiteboards in Blackboard Collaborate. We also have capabilities that reach these students 24/7 on their own terms, enticing responses and interaction – “anywhere” courses with Blackboard Mobile Learn, faculty messages to mobile devices with Blackboard Connect for Learn(™), and presence and instant messaging in Blackboard Collaborate. There are features for measuring engagement with Blackboard Analytics(™) and taking corrective action. And finally, we work with our clients to help ensure a seamless user experience and optimization for teaching and learning. As a company, we are quickly realizing that the sum is greater than the parts. That is, with a broad set of integrated platforms, professional services, and education expertise, Blackboard enables institutions to tailor learning to each individual student while reaching and growing the entire academic enterprise. That’s what enables institutions to excel and stay relevant in today’s changing education environment.