I’ve been using course management software for a long time. As early as 1994, I was involved in a project called “The Virtual Classroom” at the University of Connecticut, trying to figure out how to supplement the course experience with online components. Our tools were Gopher, NCSA Mosaic, and a small web server. At the time, most students had to visit the library or a computer lab to even get online. I later started using WebCT at the University of Denver in 1997 and soon joined the company as an employee in 1999. I may have left teaching, but educational technology has been my profession and passion ever since. My career has given me the opportunity to work with lots of educational software over the years, and in my role in Product Marketing here at Blackboard, I am closely involved with the evolution of the Blackboard Learn Platform. So it is with great anticipation that I look forward to my first peek at a working build of each new release. The excitement of seeing named features in working code for the first time remains a true joy of this job, but with Service Pack 8 I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew we were updating the user interface and continuing to improve core workflows, but the actual working product was beyond my expectations. I knew then that this was more than your average service pack. I enjoyed working in the new software so much that I decided to do a product launch video for it. This would be too much fun to outsource. I dove into our demo course and recorded my actions with screen capture software. It didn’t take me long to figure it all out. Everything is still just where you expect it to be, but the user interface is so much cleaner that it truly feels new. Edit controls just get out of your way when you don’t need them, workflow improvements make it easy to hop from one course to another, and it all just looks so good. Speaking of looking good, there are over fifty course themes that you can apply to personalize your course or make it match your subject. The more I used it, the more I loved it, and I couldn’t wait for the day when we could release it to all of you. Well, that day is here and I hope you will take this opportunity to try SP8 for yourselves. You can see more in the video below and you can learn more about the release at http://blackboardlearn.com/new where you can also sign up for webinars and upgrade cohorts. I’m confident that SP8 will save you time, make you more efficient, and make your time spent in Blackboard Learn more enjoyable. While you are at it, take a look at how you, our clients, influenced this release with the Client Impact Report. I hope you enjoy working with Service Pack 8 for Blackboard Learn as much as I do.
K-12 industry leaders and executives are starting to take serious note of Blackboard and our giant push into the market. With the addition of Edline to the Blackboard family, we have increased our K-12 community of practice and now provide a complete end-to-end solution set. Despite being known as a “higher education company” we now have more clients in K-12 than postsecondary. Who knew? Brett Frazier, SVP of sales, and Rick Noble, president of Edline, recently sat down with Tom Vander Ark (of GettingSmart.com and a former BbWorld keynoter) to discuss our new K-12 position, Edline and the ever-changing market. Brett noted, “Our strategy is driven by a view of an active consumer. This type of consumer has changed many industries from banks to bookstores and is beginning to change expectations for schools.”
The use of Blackboard Collaborate’s web conferencing opens many opportunities for learners to come together online to expand their knowledge and expertise. Unfortunately, mischief can happen in the virtual classroom just as in the physical classroom. Advantage Collaborate! Collaborate makes it easier and quicker to put a stop to unwanted, inappropriate behavior. You can send a disciplinary warning via private chat or private announcement to the bully. If that does not stop the disruptions then the moderator can easily remove that bully and lock him/her out of the room. Private chat is a direct channel to the instructor that is ALWAYS there for students. Even when the chat permission is off, participants can still use chat but only moderators will see the message. This will keep bullies from sending hurtful messages to other students in Collaborate web conferencing. Additionally, teachers can rest assured that students in need will always be able to inform them immediately via chat if bullying is taking place. Virtual Time Out can be easily made by creating a breakout room and loading it with sensitivity training materials. It’s easy to preload a variety of engaging content in your Virtual Time Out breakout room. For instance, you could load this PPT I found on the North Carolina Juvenile Justice website.
Exemplary Course Program (ECP), I look forward to this time of the year because I have the opportunity to begin the review of course submissions. I also take time to reflect on the progress of the ECP program and the yearly advancements in e-learning pedagogy throughout the academy that are demonstrated in the course submissions. To go a step further in reflection this year, I recently interviewed several of the 2011 ECP winners to ask them to reflect on the process of submitting their courses. All of them commented on how valuable it was to receive input from peers at other institutions, and they all indicated that the recognition they received was very nice too. When I asked Lorna Kearns, an instructional designer with the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education at the University of Pittsburgh, about her experience with the ECP program and their winning course, Organization and Management Theory, she indicated that the self-review process was the most valuable component of the program for her and her colleagues. “Going through the self-evaluation process revealed insights not only about the course I submitted but also about other courses for which I provide instructional design support. Working with two of my colleagues as course reviewers offered additional opportunities for understanding what constitutes effective online course design.”Guest Post by Dr. Shirley Waterhouse, Senior Director of the Office of Academic Excellence and Innovation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University January is the time of the year when we all seem to do some reflecting. As a director in the
In November I wrote about how Kaltura’s partnership with Blackboard helps address the challenge of campus media head on. This December, Kaltura released an updated version of their Building Block to make it even more helpful and user-friendly. Some of the new product features include:
- Additional clipping functionality, allowing users to create clips from existing content
- Improved galleries, enabling users to click thumbnails
- New workflows, allowing administrators to assign content to Blackboard courses directly from within the Kaltura Management workflow