Book review: Blackboard essentials for teachers

PACKT Publishing asked me to write a review about the book ‘Blackboard essentials for teachers’ by William Rice. It is an instructional book on how to build courses in Blackboard. I get these kind of request occasionally, but most of the times I will not go into them. This time I did because as a CEO of an authoring tool it is very interesting to keep up to date with the authoring capabilities of Learning Management Systems. I was curious if this book could give me a clear impression on how Blackboard works and what kind of facilities it offers. And I must say, it did.

I must say that it is a very clear and instructive book. He has written it from the perspective of a teacher. The book has lot’s of screen shots, clear step-by-step instructions and it covers the subjects in a logical way. It has tips and warnings and could actually guide a teacher through the complex system Blackboard is and let him create, publish and use an eLearning course. It doesn’t stop at the creation of a course but it also covers how to deploy the course, and even how to grade your students. If I was a teacher and had to create a course within Blackboard I would be very happy with this book.

I don’t have access to Blackboard, nevertheless it gave me a very good impression on what the functionalities are and how to use them. The one thing that I missed are instructions on how to use of external course material. It does cover how to include content elements like images and video, but not how to use an external SCORM or QTI package.  As a teacher you probably want to use external courses as well, and especially within universities there will be often be a  department that will deliver the final assessment to you. Apart from this I can recommend this book to you. More info is available at PACKT.

Blackboard buys Moodle partners: open source?

I was planning to write about the fact that this is my 100th post. I was surfing the web to prepare for that post, when I saw a BlackBoard press release and immediately switched subject:

Blackboard acquires Moodlerooms, Netspot

This really is news. Blackboard is one of the largest LMS vendors in the world and is considered state enemy #1 in the Moodle community. Moodlerooms and Netspot are official Moodle partners and will together generate well over 50% of the total partner revenue of Moodle (which is by far their largest source of revenue). This is a takeover with serious impact! Blackboard has taken an interest in open source since a few years, but they where focusing on Sakai (another open source LMS). I visited the Blackboard news page:

Blackboard newspage

screenshot of Blackboards news page

Interesting combination of information on this page. Two news items about the takeover and the following creation of the ‘open source service group’. The third one is Sakai. Sakai is an open source initiative (mainly of US-based universities) and is steered by the Sakai foundation. Blackboard apparently hired Charles Severance, who is one of the Sakai founders and Sakai foundation board members. This gives them serious influence on Sakai (second most important open source LMS after Moodle).

The fourth post is about Angel. Angel was an independent LMS and it was growing rapidly.You could see them as the opposite of giants like Blackboard in many ways, and they where really making an impact in the market, challenging Blackboard. So Blackboard bought them a few years ago. The press release on the Blackboard site of today about Angel announces that support for Angel will not be discontinued yet……

When Blackboard bought Angel the hope was that Angel could influence Blackboard and make them more like Angel was. That it was a sign of change of Blackboard instead of them getting rid of a upcoming competitor in an easy way. I have to say that I wasn’t able to spot any impact from Angel on Blackboard.

This makes you wonder about Blackboards intentions with open source. Are they really embracing it and it this the beginning of something wonderful or will they smother it like they did with Angel.


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