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NITLE Conference: LMS at LAC : 8 (developing Blackboard building blocks) November 2, 2006

Posted by ficial in conference, LMSLAC2006.
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[This is the presenation that Adam and I gave. Unfortunately this put us in a track where I had to miss some presentation in which I was especially interested. However, the ones I did see were still worth while.]

“Developing Blackboard Building Blocks” by Adam Wang and Chris Warren of Williams
This was a little awkward for a couple of reasons. First, this isn’t quite the talk we thought we’d be giving – the title was different than the one we’d submitted. Second, we’d planned a talk for about a 25 minute slot, and it turned out we had more like a 15 minute slot. So, we made some adjustments and forged ahead.

  • There were good reasons for choosing Blackboard when we did, but
  • Blackboard has turned out not to meet all our needs
    • it’s used mostly for administrative functions [not a bad thing, but misses a lot of potential]
    • it encourages bad habits
    • the UI is not good
    • some of the basic tools are flawed (e.g. calendar)
    • the marginal gain for small colleges is low relative to that for larger institutions
  • Customizing and extending BB solves some of those problems
    • Building Blocks are the extensibility framework for BB, but…
    • they’re only available with an enterprise license
  • Building Blocks my be bought from commercial vendors, downloaded for free from community sources, or developed in house (in increasing order of commitment/support required)
  • The least used aspects of BB tend to be the pedagogical ones, so the pedagogical oriented building blocks tend to be the ones we buy
  • We tend to download data management tools – document unpackager for uploading a bunch of files at once, power enrollment for simplifying the process of enrolling a person in a class
  • We build course/learning administrative tools – facebook to see picturs of others in the class (with opt out possibilities), sign up sheets to arrange meetings, field trips, lab sessions, etc.
  • Conclusion:
    • BB is still pretty good for administrative functions, but not ideal for small colleges
    • the pedagocial tools in BB have serious limitations
    • it’s expensive for waht it provides, but no LMS is cheap
    • to develop building blocks in-house, you’ll need
      • coding expertise (java, JSP, training in the Building Block framework)
      • design expertise
      • a development/testing environment
      • time
    • consider using existing blocks before creating your own
    • open questions:
      • do we continue to use BB and its component/extensions, or do we look to external options (wiki, blog, web DAV document sharing, calendar sharing, etc.)
      • do we look at other LMS options that solve some of the problems that seem to be inherent to BB
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