Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blackboard 2.0

I attended a session at MERLOT this morning about the Blackboard Beyond Initiative (BBI). A former WebCT employee was the presenter. She started the presentation with a slide saying the "The Tipping Point is Happening - Web 2.0" There are three main parts of this according to the BBI: (1) Rich User Experiences, (2) Architecture of Participation (better when more people are participating), and (3) Software as a Service.

Sidebar: I just finished reading the Tipping Point about an hour before the session this morning. Interesting timing. I guarantee you that when I read Gladwell's book I never once thought of Blackboard as being part of a tipping point. I'll blog about the book later.

BBI wants to help build relationships through social networks, using as examples Linkedin and MySpace. They want to enable the sharing of resources through social bookmarking, using del.icio.us as an example. They want to provide tools for creating content such as blogs & wikis.

Their mantra is that E-learning 2.0 is about Informal Learning (also here and Jay Cross) and dealing with the unexpected. However, an LMS is formal and intentional.

They draw these contrasts from E-Learning 1.0 to 2.0:
* Instructor productivity to student centered learning
* From courses to social networking
* Change focus from inputs to outcomes management
* Move from education segments to lifelong learning
* From platform adoption to extending the platform (customizing for different purposes)

NOTE: in a classic Freudian slip, the presenter actually said "Investor" productivity rather than instructor productivity before correcting herself. That was the session highlight for me.

Blackboard 2.0 (combo of BlackCT) now has about 3,650 subsrcibers (institutions), with about 1,000 developers of extensions to the platform (many not BB employees), and approximately 15 million users.

BBI - Five web services (initially) with a goal of connecting institutions, faculty, and students across campuses and disciplines. This would be a multi-year effort developed by Blackboard but shaped and run by the community.

The Five Services:
1. Student Centered Learning (envisioned as enhanced student research tools)
2. Social Networking (possibly expanding upon scholar.com) ;)
3. Outcomes Management (mentioned something about Collaborative Benchmarking and Analysis)
4. Lifelong learning (offering E-portfolios for life)
5. Extending the platform (Learning Objects Catalogue)

Other possibilities include: (1) Dedicated best practices site, (2) Catalog of distance learning courses, (3) Single sign-on between institutions, (4) Degree verification online.

Expected to take several years and current thinking is to rollout in phases:
Phase 1 (Foundation): learning object catalog, student research, social networking
Phase 2 (Expansion): benchmarking
Phase 3 (Transformation): e-portfolios for life

Here's a nice corporate learning phrase for you: "Content + Community = Educational Value" (gag)

Other ideas being tested: (1) Social bookmarking for the disciplines, (2) BB open courseware, (3) Test bank collaborative, (4) Take-a-peek course registry, (5) E-learning benchmarking, (6) Student research tools, (7) Teach-ipedia.

So here's my take on all of this:
All this stuff already exists in multiple forms, so expect them to be filing patents on this stuff any day now, unless they already have (couldn't stop myself). Why would this be a good thing for academia? Why do we want a vendor creating stuff like this where they control it, where they put up barriers to entry? This is totally contrary to the whole concept of Web 2.0 philosophy of no or low barriers to entry. Blackboard 2.0 will have very large barriers such as enormous licensing fees to join the community. University and corporate control over social networking means that the social network will die from neglect. I seriously doubt that students will flock to social networking inside the BB system. BB is a course management tool and not an authoring tool...which it would need to be to be successful in a web 2.0 concept. Finally, I find it really telling that Blackboard is talking about creating things that already exist, and that it will take them 3-5 years to do it.

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