Today I attended a Blackboard webinar entitled ‘Life in Blackboard Learn, Release 9.1 for CE/Vista clients’ with Stephen Clarke and below are my notes from the session:
- ‘Project NG’ (Next Generation) – bringing all their platforms (including CE4 and 8, Vista 8, Classic 8 and Angel 8) in to one.
- Blackboard are going to create ‘conversion guides’ to help with converting content.
- Demonstrated a course in Vista 8 and Blackboard 9, which had just been imported with no other changes. This was done by going to ‘Manage course’, downloading the course from the ‘Backup’ tool and then ‘importing’ this as a package in Blackboard 9.
- It is possible to do a batch backup and batch import but it’s important to have a review process for this before releasing the course to students (to check for accuracy).
- Learning modules have pretty much the same layout.
- There is only one icon set, but it is possible to bring cutomised icons in by: going to ‘edit learning content’; if customised icons have been bought across in the course import you can add the icon as an image from the file manager in the HTML creator. The customised icon will then appear in the description and the existing default icon can then be removed.
- Active collaboration – includes integrated communication tools and a new wiki tool.
- More personalisation with the Blackboard dashboard, which provides notifications on recent activity, new content, reminders etc.
- Blackboard Connect solution for mobile use is soon to be available – this provides a mass notification system including text, SMS and voice messages. There is also a mobile learn package (currently only available in North America but due to be launched in the UK later this year). It is also possible to write your own mobile applications.
- ‘Achieving more with less’ – It was claimed that the Blackboard course file area helps deliver this. The File Manager has thumbnails that makes it easier to search and there is also the option to upload and download multiple files and it allows the sharing of content. Sharing reusable questions is also possible in the assessment manager through the question bank and it is possible to add metadata on questions.
- Among Blackboard 9 partners are Facebook, Bing, Echo 360 and Wimba.
- Expanding the web services tool and integrations to other platforms (eg. commercial tools, portals, open source tools, home grown tools) allow pedagogic innovations but still with a reliable platform.
- The Blackboard wiki can be used to do online grading and feedback. It is possible to link to an existing wiki or create a new one and a column will automatically be created in the gradebook. There is an option to track the number of views and an option for participation and marking – providing a summary of what the student has done.
- There is a dedication upgrade site: www.blackboard.com/upgradecentre
- There is limited capability for working offline, including webdav and backpack, but not full capability.
- There are approximately 100 known clients using BB9.1 (upgrading or in production) worldwide. From searching on the Internet, some of these include:
Freed-Hardeman University (who have a great blog on their progress of upgrading)
University of Southern California (some links require University login details)
Marshall University (includes a very useful comparison chart)
- A number of useful resources and links have also been collated by David Hopkins in his fantastic blog: Blackboard 9: links and resources
- It was not known during the webinar whether Blackboard 9 will be supported by Chrome, but there is some further information on compatible operating systems and browsers here: Release 9.1 GA Supported Browsers & Operating Systems.