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Blackboard Product Development Workshop

December 16, 2009

On the 3rd December I spent the afternoon at the Blackboard Development Workshop in London, where basically, some of Blackboard’s  techy guys, showed us what Blackboard had planned for the near, the not so near and the distant future, or as they said ‘In development’, ‘In planning’ and ‘In research’ and not forgetting, as they said, that any of  these things ‘may or may not actually ever happen’.

A lot of it I found was very generalised such as ‘increasing student engagement’, ‘more effective course design’, ‘improving instructor efficiency’ which all would be very nice. However, one of the more interesting ‘in development’ projects was the addition of ‘centrally managed content within a course’. This would mean that you would not have to come out of a course to administer a course’s documents in the content collection. This I thought would be far more intuitive.

Also some other quite interesting ‘in development’ things wereimprovements to the grade centre (to allow grading of blogs and journals) and anonymous grading. There will be better question management to allow easier aggregation of questions and the abillity to discover (find) questions.

Something further a field, ‘in planning’, that was demonstrated was enhanced course wikis, which I think could be a very good learning tool but as I have found by using course blogs, the students do not tend to put a lot of work into them unless that are part of an assignment. (Well why would they if there are far more interesting things they cold be doing instead!). The problem with trying to mark a wiki is ‘Who did what?’. The enhancements demonstrated should solve this and should allow better grading possibilities – I think having a wiki a part of a graded assignment could be quite interesting.

Long term ‘in research’ projects that definitely ‘may or may not ever happen’ or be at least 2 years away were things like ‘Mash ups’ added to the text box editor to do things like embed Youtube videos,  Google maps etc etc.  addition of Rubrics, ePortfolios, Learning Content Sharing/Reuse and Social Learning Spaces – which we all agreed when someone in the audience said ‘can we have them now, please?’.

However, I understand that some things do take a lot of work to produce but I was slightly dismayed when one of the presenters then said that ‘Our customers would not be happy for us to spend 75 cents in the dollar working on projects that many of will never see the light of day’ – to be honest I thought this was a bit negative and dissapointing, R & D should be a very major part of any innovative companies spending many be not 75% but certainly a substantial amount.

Overall, however, I was quite impressed by Blackboard’s future developments and I suppose it would be greedy to want it all now.

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