Academic Technology @ Palomar College

Remote from BbWorld 2012

Remote from BbWorld 2012

For fairly obvious financial reasons, Palomar didn’t send any of our Blackboard system administrators to the annual BbWorld conference again this year. However, thanks to the power of Twitter and a whole host of avid convention-goers, we have been hearing some interesting developments coming to Blackboard.

The Blackboard corporate keynote is concluding as I write this, so details on these points are still sparse on the ground from where I sit, but here is a brief overview of the noteworthy things I’ve heard (in no particular order):

  1. Blackboard is launching a content repository system – called xpLOR (yes, LOR, as in Learning Object Repository, presumably pronounced “explore”), so that content may be imported easily into Bb Learn or just about any other learning management system with ease. This system is also to include authoring tools, so it should be possible to create your own content and make it available to the whole world quite easily.
  2. A new service which should be freely available to us called ConnectTxt “empowers you to create a dialogue using two-way text messaging” (as per the website), so once we get that straight here at Palomar it may be very simple to get notifications out to all cell-phone-toting students.
  3. Lots of statements along the lines of “publisher integration is now here” have shown up, which means that if as a faculty member you haven’t heard about Blackboard integration from your textbook publisher rep recently, you may want to ask them what is available. There have been lots of new offerings on the publisher/Blackboard front over the last few weeks.
  4. The Blackboard Collaborate web-conferencing tool (which we’ve had available here at Palomar for quite some time) will now function on iOS, so it will soon be possible for students to engage in web-conference sessions via their iPad.
  5. The Blackboard Mobile app, available for Android, Blackberry, and iOS devices, has received significant updates lately. In my opinion it functions well for student consumption of course content – including discussion boards and blogs – but doesn’t function quite as well for instructors. The content creation tools are more simplistic than what we’ve become accustomed to through the web browsers, but if you just want to post up text the free app does a good job of it.
  6. Also on the Mobile app front, it is now possible to create tests which can be taken using the app. There are some question types that don’t function in the mobile-enabled tests, but certainly the old standby of Multiple Choice works just fine. Of course that doesn’t mean you should offer your final exams that way; use the tools, but use common sense too.
  7. Apparently the Blackboard Mobile app is changing up its licensing schema, too. Looks like there is now an option for students to pay for full Mobile app functionality on their own, even when the school does not… as Palomar does not. (Again, those obvious financial reasons.)

So, overall, my impression from the Blackboard corporate keynote is that the big changes are coming in the products that interface with the Bb Learn system, such as the Collaborate and Mobile devices, and in allowing existing content (from publishers and repositories) to more easily integrate into the course sites.

Again, all this news is second-hand and so new that websites don’t yet reflect the information, but from the sounds of things that’s what is happening with Blackboard.

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