SmartClassroom :: Wednesday, January 24, 2007

News & Product Updates

UMassOnline To Expand Blended Programs

The University of Massachusetts' online education center, UMassOnline, will expand its blended programs with the help of a new grant it received from the Sloan Foundation and the University of Massachusetts' five physical campuses.

The goal of the $650,000 Sloan grant is to expand access to the University of Massachusetts by developing, delivering and marketing new online blended services. UMassOnline, which launched five years ago, presently offers 69 online degree and certificate programs and enrolls some 22,000 students. Its programs come through the system's five campuses, which include Amherst, Dartmouth, Boston, Lowell and the Medical School in Worcester.

In a prepared statement, UMassOnline CEO David Gray said, "UMassOnline has established itself as a national leader in asynchronous online learning. Many of our students come from all over the world. Yet we know there are many prospective students and companies in our own backyard who recognize the value of a UMass education and consider access to campus research facilities and labs, for example, an added value. This grant will give us the opportunity to explore new elearning models and enable us to extend these resources locally to more prospective students and business partners."

With the new grant money, each of the five campuses will develop or expand two programs. Some of the initial programs will include: a bachelor of arts in individual concentrations in health and human services; bachelor of science for registered nurses; a humanities and social sciences degree completion program; a master's program in health management and policy; and a post-master's certificate in the nurse's education program.

The grant will be administered by UMassOnline in partnership with the Lowell campus....

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Blackboard Previews Outcomes System

CMS developer Blackboard Inc. announced its Blackboard Outcomes System (BOS), a new tool to help assess institutional effectiveness in higher education. It's designed for both academic and administrative applications ("from classrooms to the president's office," according to Blackboard) with an eye toward improving the effectiveness of systems.

According to Blackboard, BOS is designed for use across the entire higher-education institution, keveraging the capabilities and "user experience" of the Blackboard Academic Suite.

According to Blackboard: "The platform is organized around the stages of assessment: 'Plan,' 'Measure,' and 'Improve;' with specific tools to help users meet the challenges in each stage. Tools enable building rubrics; documenting curriculum maps; managing standards; collecting and evaluating artifacts of student learning; surveying attitudes and interests, running online course evaluations; managing departmental improvement projects; analytic and operational reporting, and other key activities."

More information and a link to Blackboard's Early Adopters program can be found below....

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Moodle 1.7.1 Adds Functional, UI Enhancements

A new version of the open-source course management system Moodle has been released. The latest version, 1.7.1, addresses a number of reported bugs and adds some enhanced and new functionality. The full "generic" 1.7.1 release is available for download now.

Moodle is a course/learning management system that provides tools for building and running Internet-based course sites. It also includes a number of modules to add specific functionality, such as forums, resources, journals, quizzes, surveys, choices, glossaries, lessons, and assignments.

The new 1.7.1 release, aside from addressing almost innumerable minor bugs (link to complete list below), also adds in some feature enhancements and new functionality. On the new functionality front, it adds new GIFT options, including import and export of categories, as well as an option to set shuffle answers in the GIFT format. And it improves the import of Blackboard 5 questions. On the improvements front, it includes tweaks to the UI, such as improvements the feedback edit box in Essay Questions. It also adds some optimizations and performance improvements.

Moodle is PHP-based and supports systems running Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, Novell and Unix. It's available in 35 languages and is free, open-source software available under the GNU public license.

Complete release notes for version 1.7.1 can be found at the link below....

Read more here and here.

About the author: Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at
Have any additional questions? Want to share your story? Want to pass along a news tip? Contact Dave Nagel, executive editor, at

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