Part 2 of the Blackboard World 2015 conference in Washington DC – National Harbour Conference Centre, 20th-23rd July
Product Roadmap – Jim Chalex, Director of Product Management (Blackboard)
This morning (or afternoon in BST!) we heard from Jim Chalex, Director of Product Management at Blackboard. He outlined the product roadmap for Blackboard Learn 9.1, in particular the next generation ULTRA interface. This was heavily Tweeted by a number of people in the room as they gave details of how long 9.1 will be supported (or at least the service packs) and also which features of ULTRA are available now, which are in development and which were in ‘Research’. It was particularly reassuring that Tabs and Modules – the focus of our presentation – will be included in ULTRA in the future as this is currently in ‘Research’. More to come on that shortly…
ULTRA sees a big change in the way users will interact with Blackboard Learn, with anticipated improved workflows and navigation. If you want an early sneak-peek and a chance to evaluate the new interface, take a look at try.blackboard.com
Our colleague David Callaghan is currently looking in to the new aspects of this revamped product. The main change is the move away from having to install any Java applets before launching a session. There is also a ‘swishier’ minimalist interface, with easy access tools. The whole product has been rebuilt and quite frankly looks great, although some features are currently missing such as break-out rooms and polls. These are promised soon!
The Collaborate ULTRA Building Block (B2B) was released last Friday (17th) which is great news as this was holding up our testing. We look forward to incorporating it soon.
The new student version of Mobile Learn (UK) has been promised by Q3 (although we suspect we may not actually see it until the end of the year). The very final session we’ll be attending is the International Product update, so more to come on our final post.
The new Instructor app is ‘coming soon’. This will be a dedicated app to support academic staff in using Blackboard on their mobile device. There is currently available a Bb Grader app for iOS but this is purely to mark papers. The new Instructor app will incorporate most tools but specifically for Instructor use with Instructor functions. There will also be an Android version.
Respondus Lockdown Browser
While looking round the exhibition hall, we took some time to speak to vendors of proctor (or invidulator) free testing environments. One that stood out was Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor and it’s something we will be feeding back to our colleague Martin Baxter who is working with the Business department to evaluate online testing environments.
And finally… “They Loved The Tabs!”
Well that was the feedback from colleagues in the audience, following our presentation. Carol and myself presented on the customisations Edge Hill University had implemented to Blackboard Community Engagement over the past 24 months.
The presentation was well received and many institutions both applauded the customisations we had delivered and empathised with the challenges we faced; from Tab and Module administration/management to the particulars of sourcing reliable accurate data for staff secondary institutional roles.
One particular section of the presentation that stood out was our implementation of the NEW_STARTER role for new students joining the institution. Colleagues were fascinated to find out how the data was sourced to facilitate this role. We also suggested alternatives, such as an adaptive release for those who didn’t have technical support readily available, to implement a data feed.
During our Q&A session, a discussion took place surrounding the future of Tabs and Modules and how they will fit in following the announcement of ULTRA. Fortunately, Matt Franks From Blackboard was able to provide some guidance on the UX in the next version of Blackboard.
After the discusion he asked for our feedback on a beta design of Tabs and Modules. As we have extensively customised our environment. Matt asked if we would like to be part of the client consultation process so we exchanged contact details and will now be feeding directly in to the research and development of the new Blackboard user interface, in particular Tabs and Modules!
Our final post from the conference will be coming soon!
Learning Technology Development Systems Officer