The University of Toledo has updated the way students and faculty members interact in online courses with an upgrade to Blackboard 9.1 from its former version, WebCT.
The upgrade was necessary because Web-CT was going to become obsolete after Blackboard acquired it in 2006 and announced it will cease support beginning next spring, according to Dr. Ben Pryor, assistant vice provost for learning ventures.
Because of the University’s strong presence in online learning, pursuing this upgrade also was important as part of Learning Ventures’ goals to step outside of what’s known and do something different with education technology and explore what’s possible, Pryor said.
Blackboard has a much more modern look with modules that students and faculty can personalize and enhance opportunities for collaboration using better interactive tools, including Wimba chat, writeboards and student blogs. Students also can change the information on the homepage to show their mail, tasks and due dates for all courses.
Many of WebCTs features are incorporated, but with a different interface for both design and navigation. Pryor encourages people to “just play around — you’re not going to break anything.”
“After a while, you’ll notice it works in recognizable ways. It’s just updated and faster,” he said.
Learning Ventures offers workshops on Blackboard, online teaching and learning, and education seminars. It also is beginning to reach out to students to give workshops for them as well, Pryor said.
“The success of the tool depends on effective course design,” Pryor said. “And faculty who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable need to consult Learning Ventures’ designers, as they are there for assistance.”
The Blackboard program will be assessed at the end of the year, comparing it to what else is out there, Pryor said.
So far, feedback has been a mixture of good and bad. But even if a majority of people love it by the end of the year, the University could still change the program if there is something better out there, Pryor said.
For more information on the seminars and workshops, visit the Learning Ventures blog at wordpress.utoledo.edu/learningventures or contact Pryor at 419.530.2075.