Project_ngGreetings, 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.)

Over the past seven years instructional technologists, academic developers, and commercial partners with a passion for education and a desire to extend the Blackboard learning platform have grown Blackboard’s developer community to over 2,100 members.  Our recent Blackboard Developers Conference, held earlier this summer, just before BbWorld ’08 in Las Vegas, was the largest to-date.  The feedback we’ve received from the community and from our events indicates that there is an ever-increasing desire to do more with Blackboard products.

The possibilities for integrating campus systems, learning applications, and educational content into the teaching and learning process are indeed endless. As we learn more about effective ways to teach, to engage students, and to assess learning outcomes, it is more important than ever to have a way to deliver a flexible and personal learning experience.

With Project NG, we intend to make even more types of integrations and customizations possible as the platform’s openness capabilities evolve.  These expand on our existing Building Blocks technology to provide an easy, secure and maintainable way to innovate on top of our learning platform.

Over the next several months, we will be working with many members of our developer community to ensure that everyone successfully understands the upgrade paths to our releases under Project NG and that your arrival to releases under Project NG are greeted with more options than ever to customize your experience and connect to other systems and applications.  Stay tuned to this blog to hear about our progress and the innovations coming your way.

To learn more about getting started with Blackboard development, please visit our developer community website: EduGarage.com.

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