As many faculty are already aware, there is a Blackboard Mobile Learn app available for iOS and Android devices. That isn’t news, as the app has existed for a couple years now. What is news relates to a change in the way that app is licensed.
Previously the app was usable only by certain devices using certain connections, in a fashion that was confusing to explain. Unless, of course, the institution you were attending actually purchased a license, in which case everything just plain worked. That last is still true, that the institution can purchase a license to use the Mobile Learn app… but that isn’t going to happen here at Palomar. However, it is now possible for individuals to purchase their own license to the Mobile Learn app, and thus use the app in whatever way they wish even though the college isn’t footing the bill.
Here’s how it works: You would install the free app, either on your Android device from Google Play, or on your iOS device from iTunes. Then you search for the institution, and log in. At that point you will be prompted to purchase a license for the app.
What does it cost? There are two licensing options, a one-year license which is priced at $1.99, and a lifetime access license which is prices at $5.99. That license will allow you to install the app on any devices you have of that same type, so if you have both an iPad and iPhone you can have the app on both for the same cost.
Now, I’ve gone on record in the past as saying that the Blackboard Mobile Learn app is clearly designed with the student in mind, and that’s certainly still true. The tools are really not there for faculty to create rich content within a course right from the app. Of course, if you’re trying to create content on your mobile device… I’d say you were doing it wrong. Use a computer for creation, and leave the mobile devices to consumption of material. The app does do a great job of allowing access to attached files right from within the app, as well as a convenient jumping off point for accessing the whole course site from within a browser without having to log in again. The most attractive part of the app for faculty at this point to my mind is that it allows easy browsing of the discussion forums, so you can sit out on your patio with your iPad and monitor discussion threads. Just don’t expect to grade tests from the app at this time, because that level of functionality just isn’t there.
To see what it looks like to start up the app on an iPad now that licensing is required, take a look at this video:
As you can see, the app itself is the same as it was earlier this year, but thanks to the option (okay, requirement, but I’m trying to be optimistic about this change) for individual licensing, now more users can use the app on more kinds of devices. And, to my mind, anything that makes it easier for students to get at the material faculty put into Blackboard is a good thing.