Blackboard is getting more mobile

Blackboard has released the free version of their mobile app. Previously it came with a small charge, but the latest version is free for all WSU faculty, staff and students. It’s available for both major platforms, iOS and Android, in the usual places (iTunes App Store and Google Play Store). Your students can use it to check their grades and assignments, view documents and web links, and create discussion and blog posts. Instructors can also post announcements (handy if you’re snowed in or forgot to mention something in class), create and edit assignments (although not grade them), email your class or create new discussions.

To get it, just go to the relevant store and search for Blackboard Mobile Learn. Once it’s installed, open it and log in using your normal Wayne State credentials (yes, it’s safe–it goes directly to Blackboard).

Some FAQ’s about what you can do with it are here

Online education is sad and lonely. Say what?

Thursday’s New York Times had an article about how online courses only attract lonely geeks who have no social lives. Or something. Perhaps I exaggerate a little.
Anyway, the libertarian blog Hit and Run skewers the article, and so do the comments.
Warning–there is very little control over the language in comments on the Reason blog and it may contain language that is not safe for work or the sensible of spirit.

Hit and Run

Blackboard is About to Change

Over the weekend of May 12-13 Blackboard will be unavailable for an extended period (roughly 7 PM Saturday to around 2 PM Sunday) while we upgrade it from 9.0 to 9.1. It’s important that you know this is happening because when you open Blackboard after that it will look really different. Don’t be alarmed, though. Pretty much everything you need is in the same place as it always was, just a different color and a cleaner look:

New Blackboard Look
View of the announcements page of my (just completed) American Dialects Course.

But under the hood, it will look behave quite differently. Almost everything will require fewer clicks. For example, adding items to a content area involves a single click and you can add not only files but YouTube, Flickr and SlideShare links, which play directly inside Blackboard. You can add textbook information which connects directly to the publisher’s website, simply by typing or pasting in the ISBN number. Here’s how you insert YouTube videos:

Add YouTube
Screen showing how you choose YouTube videos
A set of YouTube videos after searching for ‘SR-71’

And here’s what the textbook facility looks like:

Textbook Display
Inserting your textbook information by typing in the ISBN number


There is now provision for wikis, which are gradable, and, for those who need them, you can establish grading rubrics which can be called up when grading an assignment.
The grade book is much easier to navigate, and you can color-code grades (by, say, percentage or some other criterion). Smartviews have been enhanced as well.
You can temporarily view the site as a student views it.
The Visual Text Box Editor now has many more buttons for inserting stuff (videos, audio files, as well as an equation editor). But, for many of us, the biggest advantage is that you can paste directly from a Word file without losing any of the formatting. Here’s the ‘Create Item’ form:

New Textbox Editor for 'Create Item'
For those interested in foreign languages, Blackboard can be set to display in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, and two varieties of Chinese.
You can learn more by looking at the newly installed 9.1 tab on your Blackboard page. I also recommend you attend some of the training sessions being offered at OTL over the next couple of weeks and additionally spread throughout the summer. Here is a list of those already planned:
Tuesday, May 1, 2:45-4:15PM 238 P/K Library
Thursday, May 3 3:15-4:45 PM 150 P/K Library
Friday, May 4 9:30-11:00 AM 238 P/K Library

Wednesday, May 9 1:00-3:00 PM 150 P/K Library

Friday, May 11 1:00-2:00 PM Webinar (Archived)

Monday, May 14 10:00-12:00 PM 150 P/K Library
Thursday, May 17 2:00-4:00 PM 150 P/K Library
Tuesday, May 22 9:30-11:30 AM 150 P/K Library
Friday, May 25 11:00-12:00 PM Webinar (Archived)


You can register for them through Pipeline, and watch for announcements of more, some elsewhere on both the Main and Medical campuses over the next couple of months.

Combatting Plagiarism–an In-depth and very interesting Chronicle Article

It’s worth plowing through not only this long article, but also many of the comments. All of the issues relating to plagiarism detection software such as SafeAssign are discussed, and there are some very interesting ideas also.

The article is only available for a limited time:

Software Catches (and Also Helps) Young Plagiarists

Bonus: article on where students most frequently copy:

THE Journal

Blackboard Mobile Pilot for Winter 2010

Blackboard has developed a mobile version that will run on smartphones. Of course, given politics and business rivalries and so on, their version currently runs only on iPhones, Blackberries and Droids (so not on my current smartphone, a Palm Pre). They have released a free version and Wayne has decided to experiment with it in the Winter semester. If you have a Sprint Droid or BlackBerry you can download the Blackboard Mobile Learn app for free and connect to over the Sprint network, or you can use an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad over wi-fi (but not over the phone network). This may seem rather restrictive, but that’s how the free version works. Blackboard has made a fuller version available, but at this point C&IT is just piloting the free version, as they want to gauge the level of interest in the whole idea.
I should add that, from the faculty point of view, the features that come with the mobile version are somewhat limited, but the students have been asking for it. Your students will be able to see their grades, and both you and your students can read and participate in discussion boards, blogs, journals and read announcements. They can also see any media you have uploaded—video or audio, for example. But faculty can’t, for example, enter grades, or look at assignments that have been handed in.
To play with it, download the Blackboard app for free from the iPhone App Store, BlackBerry App World or the Android Marketplace. After that you simply log in to Blackboard with your AccessId and password.
C&IT will be interested in whether this catches on, particularly with students. Students asked for it before C&IT had even considered it, because they found it in the App Store, but the very high cost has given us pause, which is why C&IT is experimenting with the free version, despite its limitations. Send me your thoughts, or tell bbadmin about it.