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Blackboard and McGraw-Hill Test New Course System in 20 Pilots

A slew of schools are testing out a blend of course management functionality and textbook content that could make for a simpler transition for institutions to the use of more digital curriculum. Blackboard and McGraw-Hill Higher Education have put together an integrated digital course system that combines a single point of access, learning tools, and class content, along with multiple other features.

Currently, 20 colleges and universities are running pilots tests, and an additional 100 instructors are expected to participate. The offering combines the latest version of Blackboard Learn, a learning management system, with McGraw-Hill's Connect and Create. Connect is an application to help faculty create digital course content and assignments and do automatic grading; Create lets faculty compile textbooks that use their own materials as well as content from the company's publishing portfolio.

The joint offering, which has no name, features single sign-on to give users access to all of the programs with one log-in and does automatic grade synchronization between Connect assignments and the Blackboard Learn gradebook. Faculty can build their own textbooks by compiling chapters from the McGraw-Hill catalog and then selling them to students through a link on the course site. Other tools enable instructors to provide students with textual content and recorded lectures, also from within the course site.

The product is expected to be widely available in summer 2011 and will run on Blackboard Learn version 9.1.

"As instructors, we have limited time with our students in the classroom, and have found that digital programs allow us to continually engage with them on their schedule and in an online environment that they are comfortable in," said Kayla Christensen, a lecturer of accounting at Iowa State University, one of the schools that will pilot the new platform. "This solution will give us more time with our students and facilitate on-going learning and assessment through streamlined access to course materials. Automatic grading that provides instant feedback to students, homework, and practice problems will be more effective for students and more efficient for teachers."

Ray Henderson, Blackboard Learn president, believes the new offering will lead to "faster and deeper adoption of digital products" in higher education. "This is the industry's first solution that effectively pairs a top-flight learning platform with high quality, cloud-based publisher content and tools," he said. "What we've built together allows faculty to pair the two systems at a course level with a high level of convenience and a low learning curve."

The companies have provided a video that explains the integrated system online.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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