Test driving Blackboard

Oct 31, 2008

Kettering University is one of only 50 institutions in the country selected to "test drive" Blackboard's latest learning technology.

Blackboard Inc., a leader in educational enterprise technology, has come to Flint, Mich., to “test drive” its latest learning technology at Kettering University.

The company launched the Beta program for Blackboard's Release 9.0 on Oct. 29, making Kettering one of only about 50 institutions with an advanced look at what’s new for the industry.

“This is more than just cutting-edge,” said Donna Wicks, system administrator for Blackboard at Kettering.  “Kettering was one of the first institutions to upgrade to Blackboard’s Release 8.0.  Our campus community is already exploring new ideas and opportunities with Release 8.0, and we look forward to continuing that exploration with Blackboard Release 9.0."

Jessica Finnefrock, senior vice president of Product Development at Blackboard, said Project NG and its releases are being driven by the community as much as they are being driven by Blackboard.  “Hundreds of educators, instructors, students and technologists are helping us to conceptualize and pursue this effort,” Finnefrock said.  “Most importantly, we are fully engaging both users and developers in this initiative."

Wicks agrees.  “Project NG has been a major part of our effort to support our faculty and students with the best available learning technology,” she said.  “Kettering has been in the Blackboard Beta program since 2004.  This will be our sixth Beta test for the company,” she explained.

“The best part for me is that the new version is taking advantage of the Web 2.0 technology and will allow users to personalize their experience with the Blackboard system,” Wicks continued.  “Faculty and students will have the information they want at their fingertips or their mouse clicks,” she added.

Members of the Beta program are evaluating and providing feedback on elements of Release 9.0, the next step in the company's multi-year, multi-release effort to deliver a next generation teaching and learning platform, which began with Release 8.0 of the Blackboard Academic Suite(TM) in January of this year. Release 9.0 is also undergoing more than 40,000 hours of performance engineering and testing as part of Blackboard's product development process.

The Beta program will include the participation of colleges, universities, and K-12 schools and districts in the United States and around the world.  Wicks said the institutions selected for the “test drive” is an exclusive list that includes: Princeton, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Wayne State and international universities in Australia, England and theNetherlands.

The effort represents the latest step taken by Blackboard to engage its global community of practice-including users and developers-in efforts to develop the vision for Project NG.

With Project NG, Blackboard aims to create a more open and flexible platform that combines the best of Blackboard and WebCT solutions with new innovations, including new capabilities to engage students, leverage the power of social learning communities and drive success in institutional assessment. In addition, Blackboard is working to provide new levels of freedom and choice for institutions by partnering with leading universities to develop integrations with the open sourceSakaiand Moodle course management systems.

The Beta program for Release 9.0 extends Blackboard's intensive approach to evaluating and strengthening its technology in concert with its user and developer communities. Previously, Blackboard initiated work with developers and partners to enable over 150 free and open source extensions to the Blackboard platform to be integrated with new capabilities within Project NG.

Blackboard has also led and co-chaired collaborative effort with members of the IMS Learning Technology Interoperability Working Group to ensure that technology developed under Project NG is supportive of industry-wide standards for sharing learning tools. In addition, Blackboard has conducted an Accessibility Evaluation Program to test the usability and accessibility of the user interface, including accessibility for learners with cognitive or physical disabilities.

The announcement was made at the EDUCAUSE 2008 annual conference in Orlando, Fla., where several thousand members of the higher education community gathered at the industry's premier information technology event.  For more information about Blackboard, please visit http://www.blackboard.com.

About Blackboard Inc.

Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard's solutions allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate, and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security, and communicate more effectively with their communities. Founded in 1997, Blackboard is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Written by Patricia Mroczek and Blackboard sources