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Rule-Based Blackboard Management

Introduction

The Problem

Blackboard’s LMS platform has many excellent features, controlled by a simple, user-friendly interface. The ease by which Blackboard Administrators can configure their system without specialist knowledge is advantageous, but it does have a few small drawbacks.

One such example is the process by which self-enrolment is handled. Enrolment can, and should, be handled by the snapshot process, but in reality, many institutions don’t have readily accessible records of who the academic is for each course; which are the teaching assistants; who is grading course assessments, who is mentoring groups and so on. Therefore the Blackboard system must allow these academics the freedom to self-enrol onto their courses, or allow the current course instructor to add the TAs, course builders etc themselves. However, therein lies a problem. The current Blackboard system does allow self-enrolment, but only as a student and adding users to a course can be a long laborious task that is prone to human error. Any method of limiting the potential for error but still delegating more freedom and responsibility to the teaching staff should be welcomed with open arms.

Another limitation of the Blackboard system is in the “My Courses” module (displayed on the My Institution portal entry page). This module lists the current user’s courses, their role within that course and new announcements, and does allow some customisation by the user. However, in today’s typical Blackboard system, one often finds past courses from previous semesters (terms) or even years, which, considering that a typical student may study six modules in each semester for three to five years, means a list of a least thirty-six courses could be displayed by default. Academics can also suffer if they require access to courses they’ve taught in the past, especially when the said courses have near identical names and course codes. Mistaking an historic Blackboard course for the current course then editing and uploading content could be difficult to spot. What would be useful is a portal module that distinguishes between different groups of courses and gives the users greater freedom to choose what courses are listed as current or relevant to them. Building Blocks Much like desktop operating systems, the Enterprise Edition of Blackboard’s LMS has a public API, allowing developers to create plugins (add-on) software that can be installed into the main application by Blackboard Administrators. Using this API it is possible to create new tools for managing course enrolments, a new My Courses portal module and many other applications besides. © Copyright 2005 VLE Genius Ltd.

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Author: Matt Elton

22 June 2005

VLE: Blackboard

 


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