Blackboard is a complete learning management system. A learning management system is defined on Wikipedia as “a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of e-learning education courses or training programs.” It was chosen as a product that can not only meet our immediate needs but allows us a range of scope and flexibility in terms of future proofing what we as a school provide and how we go about providing it. As a tool it provides the opportunity to create a full, rich and engaging overall learning experience that caters for our students in both traditional and 21st century learning models. Blackboard is a platform that accommodates multiple pedagogical (teaching and learning) approaches to class room teaching as well as extended opportunities for outside hours learning experiences. It allows children to access notes and resources as many times as that need to and in the comfort of their own home. Or on a bus, or at MacDonald’s… Whenever and where ever learning… Using instructional videos, copying down a worksheet to redo because you struggled with it in class, showing Dad how to do the maths “like we do it these days”… and both of them watching the video and doing the examples… (Flipped learning) Blackboard has the potential to facilitate communication between all members of the Citipointe community and beyond. Children can post a question on blackboard and their peers or teachers answer it. They can learn collaboratively working in groups or even individually while consulting with someone else. Students can discuss, reply, blog, ask, engage all in the safety of a closed group. Blackboard provides a means of easily tracking student engagement and involvement flagging children that are in danger of falling behind and monitoring them can be done with the click of a button.
Why did we choose Blackboard?
After a significant period of requirements determination and vendor analysis in seeking a solid Learning Management System (LMS) and Content Management System (CMS), the College finally settled on Blackboard as the platform that would promote our vision of 21st Century teaching and learning. Some of the benefits of Blackboard as a LMS / CMS include:
- Markedly better communication paths between staff, students and parents
- A fully developed and supported LMS / CMS backed up by a multi-national company
- Allows for digital content to be centralised and accessible to students anytime, anywhere
- In conjunction with a 1:1 device, Blackboard allows for personalised learning for students
- In-class discussions, forums, surveys, online testing, all become available to students
- An assignment drop box allows students to submit work digitally rather than in print
- The College can begin to convert all documentation into electronic workflow with CMS
- Blackboard follows world LMS and CMS standards
- A mobile app that works very well on both iPad and iPhone
How was the decision made?
In 2012, the College created the Strategic Planning Team for ICT to represent the key areas of the College including ICT, Administration, Secondary and Primary schools. This team was tasked with the research and determination of an intranet system which would encompass both Learning Management System (LMS) and Content Management System (CMS) to replace an existing, aging CMS in production for several years. After writing a comprehensive requirements determination document, the team evaluated up to ten vendor products, varying markedly in their LMS/CMS offerings for education. Some of the key determining factors in choosing Blackboard over the other vendor products included:
- Superiority in almost all areas of the product comparison that students and staff would be using on a daily basis
- A comprehensive array of LMS/CMS features, with no initial requirement for in-house or consultant development to launch into production
- Blackboard provided a complete implementation path and support follow up plan within its initial and annual subscription
- It was found during extensive demonstration and trial of vendor products, that Blackboard’s interface was in fact intuitive, had a professional look and feel, was powerful and yet relatively easy to use by teachers and students, therefore promoting rapid adoption
- The Blackboard system is completely hosted off-site in one of Blackboard’s data centres, requiring no on-site management of servers and systems, minimal configuration changes by College IT staff, and provides fully supported and staged upgrades by Blackboard itself
- Blackboard provides P-12 schools a complete solution, competitive pricing for the core LMS components (those of greatest benefit to schools), and the scope to expand into deeper data analysis with modules once only available to universities
- Data integration with the Synergetic school administration system was key, and Blackboard provides connectors and building blocks between the two systems
Once a College decision was made toward the end of 2012 to select Blackboard as our Learning Management System for the foreseeable future, it was a matter of working with Blackboard representatives in Australia and oversees to begin the planning and implementation phases of the system. This occurred during 2013, with the goal of going live with a basic Blackboard system in 2014. Teaching staff were required to port to Blackboard the existing content in the older intranet system by the beginning of 2014. By the end of 2014, teaching staff will have completed uploading curriculum content for the year’s work program.