As one of more than 100 full-time professionals on the Blackboard Managed Hosting team, I’m proud of the fact that we are supporting educational successes everywhere in truly remarkable ways. Our team provides services and technology that ensure the overall stability, reliability, availability and scalability of the Blackboard application platforms so that millions of users around the world don’t have to worry about whether or not their Blackboard software will be available and ready, wherever they happen to be. But we’re always pushing ourselves to do more.
In simple terms, Blackboard Managed Hosting is now hosting more clients in our datacenters than ever before—over 500 and counting. As a result, not a day goes by that we don’t remind ourselves that students are accessing online learning tools through at least one Blackboard Managed Hosting datacenter every hour of every day. Whether studying the latest advancements in vocational procedures in South America, collaborating with classmates in Japan, downloading lecture notes in North America or taking an online exam in Europe, learners expect and deserve the best software and support, and we are keenly aware of this.
Our clients are also doing more with their Blackboard implementations; and they’re setting peak records in terms of data transfer rates, numbers of users, and sizes of their databases and content storage, among other things. We now have datacenters in five locations on three continents. And we’ve spent more time and resources preparing for this busy back-to-school period in August and now September than ever. As a result, the majority of our hosted clients have told us that they’ve had one of the smoothest beginnings of the semester experiences than ever before. To me, that’s the most satisfying feedback we can receive.
We’re also doing more to communicate with our hosting clients and provide easy access to updates and further information. Let me tell you about just four ways we’re doing that:
An exciting, recent development in e-Learning is the ability to create new and powerful learning tools for a course using "mashups."
Defined simply, a mashup is the combination of two or more data sources to create a unique result. Often a mashup involves a map, photo, video and/or news. For a more detailed explanation of mashups, check out this definition on Wikipedia.
Mashups are a popular topic of discussion amongst developers, but why do they matter to education? They matter because they are . . .
- Alive: They are current, up to date, and so consistently relevant. For instance, live election mashups show you how an election is changing as those changes happen.
- Interactive: Mashups can immerse you in the educational experience. Google Earth, for example, provides the ability to traverse ancient Rome, visually follow the growth of the world’s population or examine more than 50 years of U.S. Geographical Survey data.
- Engaging: Because they are always relevant and immersive, and because they bring students into the learning process, mashups have the potential to be highly engaging.
At Blackboard we’re trying to envision ways to help increase student achievement by making learning experiences increasingly engaging. Imagine being able to include a mashup in an assignment within your Blackboard learning environment.
The University of Manchester, the co-host of BbWorld Europe ’08, was featured in an article published this week by Crain’s Manchester Business. The university implemented the Blackboard Learning System and will make its features – including SafeAssign – available to 13,000 students next month, and then plans, over the course of the year, to roll out access to all of its 40,000 students.
The strategic project manager for teaching and learning at U of M, Sarah Morgan, is quoted in the Crain’s article. While providing reasoning for Manchester’s use of Blackboard software, she cites an interesting fact that exemplifies the seemingly exponential growth of the student population in the UK during the last decades:
“The whole of the UK had as many students in the 1960s as Manchester University has today. That’s good but it means we are chock-a-block with students, and it’s challenging to meet the needs of so many.
(To view the Blackboard Blogs archives for previous posts about U of M, click here.)
Greetings, all. I’m George from Blackboard. You may have seen my posts here to Blackboard Blogs before. My primary responsibility for Blackboard is to ensure members of our developer community have the resources they need to be both innovative and successful.
We all know the Blackboard learning platform contains a fairly robust set of tools and functionality. What many people don’t realize is that since 2001 many Blackboard products have been capable of supporting additional functionality and customization through an extensible plug-in framework called Blackboard Building Blocks. Just as one can add applications to Facebook or gadgets to iGoogle, similar capabilities are possible within Blackboard products by using Building Blocks.
Today, we know of over 350 commercial and free/open source Building Blocks that can be used to enhance the Blackboard learning platform. You may recognize some of the more popular ones, such as the SafeAssign plagiarism prevention tool, the Wimba Collaboration Suite, the Echo 360 Lecture Capture solution, the Sign-Up Tool, the Discussion Grader or the Baylor Podcast Tool. Each of these provides capabilities made possible by using the Building Blocks plug-in technology. (Search the archive of available Building Blocks here.)
During a series of meet ups earlier this summer at BbWorld ’08 in Las Vegas, I discussed blogging with many members of the global Blackboard community – current bloggers and folks interested in learning more about social media. A recurring theme in our discussions was internal blogging, how peers are using blogs to publicize and provide updates and information internally (to colleagues, staff and faculty members, instructors and students) about their Blackboard implementations.
If you’re in the process of, or thinking about, creating an internal blog for your institution, school district, agency or company, here are four examples (in no particular order) at different types of schools that run Blackboard software, which I’ve been exploring this week, and which you may want to review, to glean ideas: