Looking at Blackboard V 9.0

Several days ago, I attended an IT Services campus presentation on Blackboard 9, as the University will be moving from V 7.3 to V 9.0 later in the summer.

If given a choice, I much prefer to watch an experienced user demonstrate software before I dive in myself. In fact, I’m pretty sure the most useful PC stuff I’ve learned (e.g. alt+Tab in Windows) has been while looking over someone’s shoulder.

This presentation was no different, as Richard – who’s forgotten more about learning technologies than I’ll ever know – took several hundred of us (developers, academics, administrators) on a whistle-stop tour of the main features of 9.0.

V 9.0 does look significantly better. I’ve never seen V 8.0, but our V 7.3 has always seemed a little constricted to me, especially from a designer’s viewpoint, and – to put it bluntly – pretty ugly. (Think of the illegitimate love child of a website circa 1998 and an uninspiring accounting package. It even has the option of chunky menu buttons!)

V 9.0 is far more customisable, has plenty of drag and drop functionality, and, overall, is far better looking; it definitely has a ‘Web 2.0’ thing going on.

More importantly, the addition of blogs and journals allows students to be more than passive recipients of content pushed at them by the tutor. They can now generate content of their own, plus BB9 provides a central area where all this can be accessed by tutors and students alike. ‘Inclusiveness’ seems to have been at the forefront of designing this upgrade. Assessment capabilities and control in BB9 also seem much stronger.

Because he was talking to an experienced Blackboard audience, Richard was able to focus on areas of change that will affect how all of us do certain things on campus, about which he has detailed knowledge. The talk was snappy, clear and directly relevant: it was a great shoulder over which to look.

I’m looking forward to getting my BB9 test account next week.

Simon Kear

Learning Technologist

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