We started our installation of Blackboard back in March 2003 and, building from a newly introduced system, we carried out an extensive staff development programme throughout May and June 2003. We trained staff in the basic use of Blackboard and saw a range of success, with staff adopting the system enthusiastically from a very early stage.
The number of courses being uploaded to Blackboard started to rise quickly with more staff undertaking training. Some 400 full time and part time staff now use Blackboard. Further staff development sessions are delivered by the Information and Learning Technology (ILT) Champions, within their own departments and specialist training sessions such as ‘Making Media Part of Your Blackboard Course’.
In September 2003 and the start of the academic year, Blackboard was ready for its full scale launch. Access ‘Hits’ soared on the system, with a record 39,877 page hits being recorded on one particular day. By April 2004 we had around 450 active courses present on Blackboard with over 1,500 active users participating in e-learning activities. On average we receive over 12,000 page views per day. This was all achieved in just one year!
We quickly identified the National Learning Network (NLN) materials as a relevant content source that could be used within Blackboard to support a wide range of subject areas. We also realised that for the materials to be adopted by staff within the college, access to the materials would have to be made simple and effective. With this in mind we set about developing a Materials Gateway to house the NLN materials. An outcome of this has seen the effective adoption of the NLN materials college wide, with many courses on Blackboard making use of the materials. These materials have been found by instructors and integrated into their Blackboard course sites by accessing our Materials Gateway. By using simple search tools, instructors are now able to find and link to any relevant NLN materials for their courses efficiently.
We feel that the introduction of the Materials Gateway has been a key factor to the success of the Blackboard at the college. From the success of the Materials Gateway, we have progressed into developing a separate Media Gateway to house Multimedia content such as JISC’s Collections of Video, Audio and Images. Video Clips are stored within the Media Gateway and they can be searched and previewed directly from the browser. The Gateway now supports streaming Video in the form of Windows Media. This ensures that the media is accessible to a range of audiences such as students from a low bandwidth connection at home to students and staff within the college with high band width resources.
In the summer of 2004 we embarked on a project that will see Blackboard being used in schools in our local community. Initially, this will involve a pilot stage bringing together learners within the local schools that are currently participating in Increased Flexibility programmes at both school and college, a programme which aims to improve staying on rates for students. We are also bringing other groups of disenfranchised learners onto Blackboard with vocational courses. Such students will be engaged more readily when faced with an interactive Blackboard course and therefore our emphasis on deploying multimedia content will continue to be a priority.
We hope to see more Media resources being generated by our staff and students in 2004 / 2005 to support online courses. Our intention is that these resources will be uploaded to the Media Gateway and accessed via Blackboard as well as short classroom clips being used offline.
If you would like any more information regarding our NLN Materials Gateway or are interested in the developments of our Media Gateway please contact us.