Blackboard Learning System moves beyond classroom
The secret is out: Syracuse University faculty members are no longer the only people on campus using the Web-based Blackboard Learning System. Student organizations, research groups and other academic and administrative groups are building online communities through the new Blackboard Organizations at SU.
Hosted by SU’s Faculty Computing and Media Services, Blackboard Organizations began last spring as a pilot project to extend to campus organizations the same online features of the Blackboard Learning System that have been successfully used for both campus-based and distance learning courses. The system provides secure Web space that enables group members to communicate in real time or through discussion boards and e-mail; make announcements; set up an organizational calendar; share documents and images; and link to online resources. Groups can store up to 100 megabytes of content on their Blackboard Organizations site. What’s more, customized banners can be used on the sites to reflect the look and feel of individual organizations.
“Blackboard brings people together in a virtual community where they can share knowledge and resources unrestricted by geographic location and time,” says Michael Morrison, faculty liaison and manager of Faculty Academic Computing Support Services (FACSS). “We are delighted to be able to move Blackboard beyond courses and make it available to campus groups.”
Nineteen campus groups are currently using Blackboard Organizations in diverse and interesting ways. Student groups in the College of Law are using the tool to set up virtual communities, as are the SU Student Association and the Syracuse Oratorio Society. Pamela Shoemaker, the John Ben Snow Professor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, set up an online Mass Comm Scholar community to offer graduate students a place to engage in discussions even though they might not be enrolled in the same classes.
“I am extremely pleased with the concept of having an online Mass Comm Scholar community and can see that it has tremendous potential,” Shoemaker says. “Although I am considered a computer nerd by some, I had never before visited a discussion board, and didn’t know what a thread was. Nevertheless, I set the whole thing up and community members made suggestions for improvements. It’s that easy.”
Likewise, Assistant Professor Ian Gallacher, director of legal research and writing in the College of Law, uses Blackboard Organizations as a way to bring first-year students enrolled in one of the school’s five separate Legal Communication and Research courses together in a single virtual community. The site includes program announcements, assignments and a course calendar. In addition, the program’s research assistant uses Blackboard’s chat feature to hold real-time electronic office hours twice a week.
“We’re the only course with a class-wide curriculum,” Gallacher says. “Blackboard Organizations seems to be a good platform for speaking directly to the students.”
Further information about Blackboard Organizations, including information about how group leaders can request a site, is available byvisiting http://syllabus.syr.edu/blackboard6/orgs/.