Have you ever had a student teach you something?

Blackboard has. Nearly 600 students and over 600 instructors at 640 institutions taught Blackboard a thing or two and helped them redesign Blackboard Learn™ into a simpler, more functional LMS. Redesigned with familiar functionality borrowed from popular social tools, it engages students and eases the burden on educators. Its innovative interface takes everyday tasks like grading and publishing content beyond the basics.


Early November, Blackboard unveiled this major new release for its flagship LMS Blackboard Learn, continuing the evolution of its learning environment and the result of an effort to bring new innovation to its core teaching and learning products.  With the help of more than 640 institutions, and backed by a substantial amount of user testing and research, the enhanced Blackboard Learn offers an enhanced approach to system usability that is consistent with the experience that teachers and learners have come to expect from current technology.


Peter Yeates from the Australian Ipswich Grammar School said “The new and improved features in the new release of Blackboard Learn are a blessing for blended learning, providing more options for collaborative, social and web/mobile based K12 teaching and learning.” Dolf Jordaan from the University of Pretoria adds “The new release is a significant step forward in design and innovation. Its focus on integrating Social Learning provides a personalised learning experience to users. Through this release, Blackboard changed the traditional perception of a LMS.”


One of the biggest changes, “My Blackboard,” offers users a new, simpler way to access information that’s most important to them with a centralised view of updates from all of the courses and organisations they participate in. Using the same feature, instructors can check activity across their courses and quickly engage students as needed.


The user interface and experience ultimately fosters more student engagement and helps educators become more efficient.  Mark Radcliffe of blendedschools.net wrote:


“My Blackboard is my favorite SP10 feature. The first time I logged into SP10 as a teacher and saw that little red “1” in the top right hand corner of the screen, my interest was piqued. I found that without even making a click, Bb had told me that one of my students had submitted something. Within two clicks, I was grading that assessment. This same speed improvement affects students and is all achieved through a very contemporary look.”


 The release also lets users create profiles and, through an additional update planned for later this year, follow and message other users with similar interests, post to their profile pages, and make their profiles discoverable by people at other institutions using Blackboard Learn. A planned feature called “Spaces” would let students set up their own study and work group pages to collaborate at their own institution and others using Blackboard Learn, without requiring instructor or administrator approval.


“We’ve taken inspiration from the social aspect of students’ lives to create a more dynamic and collaborative learning experience,” said Jessica Finnefrock, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Product Development for Blackboard Learn. “It’s a new way of thinking about the LMS that’s less course-centric, and more learner-centric. We’ve borrowed key elements from social networking but recreated them in a way that’s easier to manage and more relevant to the academic environment.”


Focus on Student Retention, Instructor Workflow


In addition to a new experience for students, the release also brings a set of new capabilities that ease workflows for educators and improve the ability for educators and institutions to leverage the LMS to support student retention efforts.


At the institutional level, the release includes enterprise surveys that allow clients to collect feedback on courses, departments, institutions and external audiences, and gain greater visibility into performance by disaggregating data and analysing outcomes by term or by year. Similar survey tools often can cost institutions tens of thousands extra per year and aren’t as tightly integrated with the LMS.


For instructors, the release brings enhanced communication through two-way text messaging from Blackboard Connect for Learn™, allowing them to interact more easily with students. The release also includes a completely redesigned content editor that makes it far easier to deploy rich content throughout the course environment, including wide use of video with a planned update to come later this year.


The release also includes a new item analysis feature that helps instructors improve the validity and effectiveness of test questions, and a completely overhauled calendar, planned for release in December, marking a vast improvement over the current version with new capabilities and customisation options.


Learn more about the enhanced version of Blackboard Learn at: http://www.blackboardlearn.com/enhanced


Visit the Blackboard stand at Online Educa to learn more – schedule a personal demonstration at http://bbbb.blackboard.com/berlin2012.

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