Category Archives: Blackboard

Challenging mobile learning discourse through research: Student perceptions of Blackboard Mobile Learn and iPads

Student Perceptions of Blackboard Mobile Learn and iPads #edtech

From my previous post about designing Blackboard courses for a mobile-first delivery, and the discussion I’ve been having with Peter Reed and friends on his blog, this paper came at a good time to further the question “do we need this?” – AJET: “Student Perceptions of Blackboard Mobile Learn and iPads”

Well, do we? The paper concludes in saying that the students “did not demand mobile learning and were in fact mostly neutral about the experience” and that “they did not perceive a notable improvement to their learning” (Kinesh et al, 2012). While the students did not report an opposition to the inclusion of the mobile App, they also are not reported to have had any prior experience of it, a preference to mobile learning that was not limited to Blackboard Mobile Learn, nor they opinions (positive or negative) to mobile learning in general.  Continue reading

Blackboard Mobile Learn App

Blackboard Mobile Learn App – examples?

Here’s the question … has anyone designed a Blackboard course purely from the perspective of working from the Mobile Learn App? Is it a mobile-friendly Bb course, or is it in fact a mobile-first approach to course design?

In my very unscientific approach I have seen differences between content I have loaded to a Blackboard (Bb) course and how it is displayed in the browser and in the App, but I’ve not seen what a Bb course looks like if it’s been designed purely for access and interactions through the App. Here’s why i’m asking:

  • I suspect that no one has built one yet.
  • I suspect that the course, designed for mobile, would not work well for a desktop  learner.
  • I suspect that some elements, like tables and other “customization” approaches (as Bb refers to them), will not work pedagogically when we follow the Bb guide and the “suggest adding these content types as a PDF file” advice.
  • Can you create a good ‘design’ that allows for good pedagogy in the restrictions imposed by the App (images, files, layout, screen real-estate, etc.)?

I see plenty of resources that mimic the Bb help pages and resources, but none that actually explain and/or showcase good ‘design’. If you have examples, or links, or screenshots, or reports, or journal articles you can share with the rest of us then please leave them in comments below.

Badges - New Currency for Professional Credentials

Blackboard, Student Achievements, and #OpenBadges

Badges - New Currency for Professional CredentialsAs many of you will have heard, either from the tweets or Blackboard notices, there is building block for Blackboard that allows you to assign and issue badges of achievements to students which they can copy to their Mozilla Back Pack.

I think there still needs to be some proper consideration on what the badge is being issued for: the video below states the badges are issued based on “specific student performance metrics” (don’t get me wrong, I’m in favour of badges and some gamification of learning, but it needs to be an appropriate badge for an appropriate activity) such as:

  • a section of a course … possibly using the ‘mark as reviewed’ status? This is not meaningful as the students can just mark everything as reviewed and get the badge (I’ve done it before).
  • complete assignments … why give a badge for this? if they complete the assignment they get a mark and progress to the next module (would a student want to show a badge for a B grade when their friends are showing A’s)?

I would argue that a badge issued to a student who shows a skill learned, not a score or grade given, is more meaningful: e.g. debating skill, team or group management, individual goal attainment, etc. The badges could be carefully aligned to skills and metrics that are as much about the learning and subject as about the professional nature of the course – something the student can use to demonstrate a skill and understanding, something that an employer or interviewer would want to see from an applicant? That would make it more valuable to the student, and increase the importance of the badge.

There are more to badges in learning than just being able to show that the student passed an assignment or activity. What do you think?

YouTube: Blackboard Learn – Achievements

#durbbu

Blackboard Users Conference #durbbu: MOOC Pedagogy

Durham Blackboard Users ConferenceDay two of the Durham Blackboard started with an extremely useful insight into the roadmap Blackboard is taking with their product(s), as well as Blackboard’s own opinion on the conference theme: “Make Do or Spend?”. However, the Conference’s second keynote is from Jeremy Knox from the University of Edinburgh and was on “MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera”.

What challenges, dilemmas, and opportunities do MOOCs offer:

  • cMOOC (connectivist) and xMOOC (Udacity / Coursera / edX – Institutional led): what is the value to the distinction between each?
  • MOOC tutoring & support is ‘light touch’ approach with low study hours per week, with certificates for completion and not credit.
  • Udacity is more corporate association developing MOOCs (for-profit, independent of institutions). Continue reading

#durbbu

Blackboard Users Conference #durbbu: Blackboard Roadmap and The Challenges Ahead

Durham Blackboard Users ConferenceDay two of the Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference started with this extremely useful insight into the roadmap Blackboard is taking with the ‘Learn’ product, as well as Blackboard’s own opinion on the conference theme: “Make Do or Spend?”.

Greg Ritter (@gritter), Director of Product Management with Blackboard Learn, showed Blackboards perspective on ‘the challenges ahead’ and on the conference theme, ‘Make Do or Spend?’. Greg showed us, and discussed:

  • Blackboard Analytics [product]: extract student data, from both Blackboard and Institution student-records systems, for use in reporting to different stakeholders.
  • Focus on fundamentals, 2010 to 2012:

Focus On Fundamentals (Bb 2010-2012) Continue reading

#durbbu

Blackboard Users Conference #durbbu: The Learning Ecology

Durham Blackboard Users ConferenceAfter several years of trying to get the UK Blackboard Users Conference it seems 2013 (and the 13th conference – it’s a teenager!) is my lucky year. The theme for the 13th Annual Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference is ‘Make Do or Spend’ with presentations looking at how colleges and universities are responding to pressure:

  • Increasing consumerist attitudes amongst students, and
  • Severe fiscal constraints.

What I hope to get from the 2 day conference, apart from the networking, product/Blackboard development, Bb mobile progress, conference dinner, travel, etc., is insight into how individuals and Institutions are dealing with, and adapting, to the changing conditions within the UK FE/HE market. How are these changes are affecting approaches to learning management systems (Blackboard) and can these changes be sustained or modified if the conditions ‘worsen’? Continue reading

Durham Blackboard Users Conference

13th Durham University Blackboard Users Conference #durbbu

Durham Blackboard Users ConferenceThe Durham University Blackboard Users Conference on January 8/9, 2013 is all about ‘Make do or Spend?‘ next year (spelt ‘sp£nd’ – see what they did there?) with the focus clearly on the VLE (or other technologies) and how well we use it in the face of stiff competition for student numbers in the current economic climate.

You can follow the growing Twitter backchannel on the #durbbu hashtag.

With a choice of 25 or 40 minute presentations, 40 minute workshop, or a 60 minute panel discussion the event looks to attract a good crowd and diverse set of discussions and presentations.

Read the Call for Papers if you’re interested or register for an early-bird rate Conference.

From past couple of years I’ve followed the Durham event I found the following of interest, either because I follow their work or because, at the time of presentation, the topic piqued my interest:

See you in January!

 

Blackboard 9.1 SP8

Blackboard: Announcements

Blackboard Announcement

Is anyone else getting fed up with this message yet? It is so simple to avoid – just remember to select either the ‘Not date restricted’ or ‘Date restricted’ option before trying to submit the announcement!

I’m sure the old Blackboard (9.0) one of these options selected for you, making it really quick & easy to publish your announcement, but this is not the case in 9.1. I know I’m being lazy but it is little things like this that frustrate me when using Blackboard, and makes it hard to ‘sell’ the upgrade to staff when they too are annoyed and frustrated at little (and, in their mind, unnecessary) changes.

Blackboard Announcement

Sorry, moan over!

Blackboard Essentials for Teachers

Book Review: “Blackboard Essentials for Teachers”

Blackboard Essentials for TeachersBlackboard Essentials for Teachers” is new book written by William Rice for teachers and educators who use Blackboard. By following the examples in the book you will be guided through the process of creating your own Blackboard course, adding static material for students to view (such as pages, links, and media), adding interaction to your courses (discussion boards, blogs,  wikis, etc) and using interactions to engage students in the course through the communication channels.

Scroll down to find out how you can win a complementary copy of the paper or eBook edition of the book from the publishers …

What the book hopes to do is to get a novice or first-time Blackboard user familiar with the interface and features in a manner that they can (a) understand, and (b) use in relation to a taught course site. With the help of the book the reader should be able to:

  • create web pages using Blackboard’s test editor (note: the new content editor is not featured, therefore the book is already a little out of date),
  • organise courses using pages and modules,
  • upload files and learning materials
  • set up discussion boards, blogs, and wikis for student engagement and interaction
  • build and administer online tests
  • online assignment submission
  • manage groups
  • use announcements effectively for student information

I was one of the technical reviewers of the book while it was being written by the author, and provided feedback on the content as well as the presentation style. I’ll say now that I received a complimentary copy of the book for my time and trouble in reviewing the submitted chapters, but received no other payment for my work on the book (i.e. I don’t have to do this review, I wanted to). There, now that’s out of the way.

This review is as much about the book as the process of being involved in the reviewing process, one that I enjoyed and would happily be involved in again (given the chance).

What do I think of the book?
It’s a basic introduction to Blackboard that non-Blackboard users will welcome. There is enough here for more advanced users too but it lacks explanation (for my liking) of the more pedagogical implications and applications of the tools and features of Blackboard. I do, however, agree that the approach used in the book is appropriate for the target audience. The book is effective in its approach and the way it introduces the various features and tools, and goes further than other guides I have read on the administration tools that can help academic and support staff engage the students online.

The downside of the paper book is, as ever, the black-and-white images. I am a very visual learner and like to see examples of what the author was trying to explain – so why not put more images in? Trying to describe a web page is best done with an image of the web page (in colour)! This kind of book subject would do well in an expanded eBook format with more dynamic images (video even) showing in much more detail the process or pages in question. Even if the paper copy is black and white, could they not have created the eBook with colour images?

How is the book structured?
Each chapter is well structured and written from the authors experience, but is based on the open CourseSites and may be subject to discrepancies if the Blackboard installation you have is set up differently from the one described in the book.

With different elements of Blackboard highlighted in the book it’s easy to find your way around the often complicated processes for creating materials or assessments, bold text boxes break the content up and bring new terms, features, or ‘quick tips’ to the fore make it a good reference book.

The structure is good, starting with the basics of organising your Blackboard course and setting up/loading materials before getting into the newer tools like wikis or blogs. My personal preference would have been to leave these kinds of tools until later (after handling the assignments, tests, groups, and Grade Centre) as wikis and blogs are good collaborative and reflective tools that are underpinned from concepts dealt with in those (earlier) chapters. Putting the Announcements and communication chapter so late in the book is a mistake, and I would have this nearer the front and this is still the more underutilised area of Blackboard I see on a regular basis.

One aspect of Blackboard that the book did not cover in enough detail for me is a ‘good’ structure for a Blackboard course site – I know this will always be subjective to the individual or Institution where we/you work but a demonstration of a good structure (and why it’s good) could have made it easier to explain why some of the other features are used, when, and where (contextual).

Did my revisions/suggestions make the final edition?
I think there are a few instances where I can see my comments had an influence on the final edit, but it could easily have been a comment made by the other reviewers too. The difficulty when reviewing a book (I have done a couple now) is that I only see one-chapter-at-a-time, and not always in the order they appear in the final edition. I also had no knowledge of the chapter list so therefore no knowledge of where the chapter I was reading would appear, and what came before or was to come after it. This made it difficult to review as much of what I wanted to know in each chapter may be dealt with later, or not, I didn’t know.

What would I include that the author didn’t?
I have already said, for me, it’s the presentation of the book that is mainly at fault, and to this I can’t blame the author – he’s only working according to the publisher guidelines and requirements. When dealing with a visual topic and/or software that needs explaining and demonstrating why try and describe or explain it in words when an image or video is far easier to understand?

The use of links (even QR Codes?) could have directed the reader off to a YouTube channel with supporting screencasts of some of the more trickier set up tools ro techniques, which would have helped with explanations.

Would I buy the book?
The book is impressive and a comprehensive guide to using Blackboard, and there is something for everyone here, even advanced users.

I can see there will need to be some fairly( major?) revisions in future, or indeed another book, when Blackboard has another update or new release, but the majority of the elementary features (Announcements, Groups, etc) have not changed over the last release or so, much!

Book Review: Blackboard Essentials for Teachers

The book is available in either paper or eBook format, ‘Blackboard Essentials for Teachers’ is available online from PacktPub.


Book Give Away!

The publishers are kind enough to let me copies of the book to give away – two paper and two electronic editions. All you have to do is leave a comment below about how the book will change how you work with Blackboard (and your preference of paper or eBook).

Only comments made to this blog – www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk – will count as an entry to the raffle and my decision on the winners is final. I will contact the winners and get the required details from you and pass these across to PacktPub where you receive your prize. Please note that paper copies can only be sent to UK, US, and European addresses.

The Voice of an Active Learner

“Do you recognise me? Very soon I will be your student, but I will not always sit in your classroom. I will not take out a pencil or open a textbook. You grew up with books, I read from a laptop, an iPad, a smart phone. I use a keyboard more than a pen. I’m a digital native, an “Active Learner” … why carry just a textbook when my iPad connects me to the world? I want to know things all the time, and right away!”

YouTube: The voice of an Active Learner

This is a good start to the video, but this next bit is what I liked the most:

“To learn, I look online because the classroom isn’t enough for me, not when I can see faces, hear voices, and chat with people on the other side of the world! My school has to keep up with me, not the other way round! I have more and more choices.”

If this is what students are saying (and most reports tend to point this way) then we, as educators or facilitators to education ought to respond to these students in their world(s) in order to make it relevant, engaging, stimulating, interesting, appropriate, and above all worthwhile?

The video closes with the same opening question, this time the answer is more about what students expect from us …

“Do you recognise me? Very soon I will be changing the world, but I need you. If you’re ready to help me I’ll find you, but it’s your challenge to keep up with me. I’m a digital native, an Active Learner. Listen to me, help me. Together we can create the future.”