Ten years ago, Princeton adopted Blackboard as its course management system. During the past decade, the system has moved from serving a handful of courses to every course. What was an occasional convenience has become an integral part of the educational process at Princeton.
In June, the University will be upgrading the system to Blackboard 9. New features promise to improve teaching, learning, and course management. The most striking change initially, though, for instructional staff and builders, will be the new interface for editing and managing the course sites.
No longer is the control panel a single page you go to with links to everything you need to manage the site, such as content editing, the grade center, user management, email, and other tools. Now, site control elements are accessed “in-line,” from drop down lists attached to, or found below, the course menu. While this method of access is more logical, it will take some getting used to for those accustomed to the old single-page control panel.
At the May 5 Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, Dennis Hood, Princeton’s CMS Manager for ten years, demonstrated many of these and other improvements. “All the tools old tools are still there, plus new ones,” says Hood, “you just get to them through a different route.”
For assignments, instructors can now permit students multiple attempts to take quizzes and exams. Faculty will know when assignments and tests have been submitted. A todo list gives students a clear sense of what tasks are outstanding. It is now far easier to manage group assignments and tasks. And the new version offers a nice range of customizing features. For example, students will see only those tabs that contain information.
Faculty will appreciate that it is easier to upload syllabi and other course materials. And those who are giving classes that are similar to others they have taught will easily be able to copy older offerings into their new courses.
They will also appreciate the inline confirmations used throughout the system. The result is a more seamless workflow… fewer clicks to navigate the system and to complete tasks, and with embedded help throughout.
The new blackboard also offers a range of new tools, notably blogs and journals. With Blogs, students can openly share their thoughts. They can post text, images, links and attachments, and their posts are open for comments. Journals are self-reflective essays. Only students and faculty can comment upon these posts, though faculty have the option of sharing journal posts with the class. In version 10, which is expected in a year, faculty and their students will also be able to experiment with Wikis.
“The transition to the new version will be an easy one,” promises Hood. “But if you still have trouble, feel to call.” Assistance with Blackboard is available at 258-0737 or at blackboard.princeton.edu