Keynote: NG

July 28, 2008 – 4:28 pm

Keynote:  Michael Chason

Bb World, 2008

This will comprise an introduction to v9, dubbed Next Generation (and always referred to as NG).

A recurring theme throughout the talk was a spoof on the MS/Mac commercials where a  button down guy plays Microsoft and a with-it dude plays Macintosh.  In this case the button–down dude is Blackboard v.4-8 and the with-it dude is v.9   They kind of flop because the original commercials cream Microsoft, but it’s not in Blackboard’s interest to sneer at the version of the product everyone in the room is using.

Chason announces that Bb World has drawn 2,200 users from 28 countries

Right now there are three levels of Bb entanglement involvement:

  1. Bb Learn – the LMS
  2. Bb Transact – performs e-commerce and transactions
  3. Bb Connect – campus-wide alert.  Later Vlad points out to me that Bb owns the company that we’ve contracted with for campus alert, so whether we know it or not we are working with Bb on that end.

Every time I hear the Bb big-wigs talk they apologize for the quality of support and announce a re-organization that will resolve the issue once and for all.  Having heard this for years now there is much twittering (and some grumbling) from the assembled masses.  Anyway they’ve outsource Tier one calls and are concentrating on Tier 2.  Productivity is up 23% — 23% of what?, I ask.  It’s a silly number to quote.  And what does “productivity” mean?, that they are closing calls or that they are resolving client issues?  And by what magic 8-ball are we gauging the success rate of Tier 1 calls?  I swear, this guy needs a good editor.

Suggests a community engagement tool by which users could log on and be marched with similar schools.  One could compare strategies, do a little dance, etc.

OK, on to the Brave New Frontier of NG

This is the ultimate merging of Bb and WebCT, and will be a multi-year, multi-release effort.  Version 8 will be the last of the old school, while v.9 will be the first of the NG releases.  V.10 will be the mature NG release.  Right, and I wouldn’t install v.9 just out of the gate.

The example he displays uses all three modules:  Learn, Transact and Connect.  In many ways it really is a portal solution.

If a given campus uses more than one LMS (Berkeley, Rutgers, etc.)  NG will aggregate courses from each of them.  So this is how they are going to compete with Sakai, Moodle and the bunch: they are going to act as an umbrella tool for the competition.

Instructors can get updates on student attendance, grades, etc. on Bb or via the phone, SMS, etc.

Modules can be moved about the page as they have been on Google for years now.  He’s pretty stoked about this one.  Faculty, he suggests, will have a great deal more leeway in designing their courses.  Actually I think they have a lot now but don’t use it because it’s not fall-out-of-bed easy, whereas this looks as though it will be.

There will be rubrics function, but it doesn’t seem to be loaded with any examples.  It’s just an area where one can write rubrics.  Waypoint users won’t have much use for this, I don’t think.  Still, it’s less complicated than Waypoint, so while the COE may use the latter more informal users might take advantage of what Bb offers.

Groups look like they are more logical, and students should have less difficulty than they do now with the threaded nightmare.

Instructors can go to one site and manage multiple gradebooks from there.  That got a round of applause from the audience.  Chason wondered why his module thing didn’t get that level of excitement, and someone calls out “because it’s not innovative any longer.”  And that line got applause.

v.9 will ship with 15 languages, many of them European.  I wonder if he is counting English . . .

The portfolio tool is improved because instructors can see the rubrics as well as the materials from across their courses.  This really looks like the webpage interface Terry has been on about re: portfolio, so it might make him happy.

He shows off the Scholar (bookmarking) and plagiarism tools, but they seem pathetic shadows of good products already out there ( and

He talks shortly about the Sync tool, which I’ve discussed earlier.  In initial iteration will synchronize Bb and Facebook, but iPhone, myYahoo, and iGoogle are on their way – but not imminently. Maybe not until 2012.

For more information see:

Interactive Guided Tour of Project NG