E-Learning | Educause 2013 News

Blackboard Integrates Virtual Classroom, Releases Free Student Response System

At the Educause 2013 conference Wednesday, Blackboard revealed several new e-learning tools, including an integrated virtual classroom for Blackboard Learn, an updated mobile learning app, and a free student response system designed to work with phones, tablets, and traditional computers.

Integrated Virtual Classroom
Among the new offerings is a virtual classroom integrated into Blackboard Learn. The new functionality allows instructors to use a range of Web conferencing tools for live and recorded classes or other types of meetings.

"The integrated virtual classroom helps provide our customers with a seamless teaching and learning environment that leverages the strength of our portfolio and builds on our world-class LMS," said Jay Bhatt, CEO of Blackboard. "We are committed to continue delivering tools to our customers for learning management, collaboration, analysis, and more, all in one unified environment."

Students can participate using their iOS- and Android-based phones and tablets, Kindle Fire HD devices, or desktop browsers.

The integrated virtual classroom is available for institutions that have Blackboard Collaborate enterprise or departmental licenses.

Free Classroom Polling
Blackboard has also released a new free student response system designed for a range of mobile devices. It's available as a native app for iOS devices and also supports SMS messaging and mobile and desktop Web browsers.

As the company described it, the new tool, Polls by Blackboard, "removes the need for students to purchase expensive classroom response clicker hardware as the vast majority of them already own mobile devices. Users can provide feedback from within the app and on the product website, allowing the company to gather information and make improvements for future releases."

Polls by Blackboard is the first product of the new Blackboard Labs, an initiative launched by Blackboard that "focuses on experimenting with new teaching and learning technologies and launching early prototypes for users to test and provide feedback on," according to the company.

"Blackboard Labs represents a place for us to explore new ideas and use them to push the industry forward," said Mark Strassman, senior vice president of product management at Blackboard, also in a prepared statement. "The ideas coming out of Labs won't always be successful — but we are okay with that. We are using the platform as a way to gain insight into how to make good ideas great and as a way for users to give us immediate and incredibly impactful feedback."

Updated Mobile Learning App
Finally, Blackboard also launched a redesigned version of Blackboard Mobile Learn.

Mobile Learn is a native app for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and webOS. It offers two-way communication between students and teachers, access to gradebooks, blog access and commenting, discussion board participation, and student-to-student e-mail communications, push notifications, Dropbox integration, rosters, and task management.

The updated version receives a streamlined user interface designed for "easier consumption, navigation, prioritization and customization of content," according to Blackboard.

Blackboard is exhibiting at the Educause conference this week in booth 537.

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