Thursday, 11 April 2013

My blackboard: community or collaboration?

I feel a little bit bad about saying this, but here goes . . .
Blackboard's latest developments of a student lead social space has me confused. They have developed a set of tools that now sit on the homepage. These draw discussion topics or key dates from the calendar and present them in one handy place. So far so good, no one would argue that this is not a useful addition for any user, student or staff.
What's confusing is the addition of a small chat space within this area. This allows students to build a profile and share it with students in the institution or potentially with other institutions. What I'm surprised by is the lack of information that surrounds this development. I expected to hear some stories of piloting, or some connection with student demands for this service. It feels to me as if this is as Jessica Finnefrock put it at the beginning of the conference, a chance for blackboard to "play" with the potential of these systems.
I've got a feeling that the tool probably didn't take that long to develop, it is very simple in structure, but why dedicate development time to something that offers the user so little.
It all feels a little like the 'scholar' blackboard social bookmarking tool. Which tried to bring the power of 'delicious' into the blackboard environment. But the tool simply didn't match to the larger and more popular bookmarking sites, and was quietly closed. As delegates pointed out during the blackboard keynote, why concentrate on these types of enhancement, when the main tool is still crying out for development. Blackboard can never catch Facebook, or even emulate it. There seems to be a gap between what blackboard would like to give academics and students, and what is needed at this current time.

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