Blackboard Users Conference – Content meeting

The first day of Durham Blackboard users conference was on the Wednesday and involved a meeting of the Content System users.

The Content System is Blackboard’s file repository – it provides smarter storage and sharing of files that can be linked into Blackboard courses.

We started off discussing the ways various Uni/Colleges use the content system and I will summarise that here (occasionally I didnt get the name of the Uni someone came from so apologies if I attribute the activity to the wrong institution).

Durham – has had the Content System for a number of years, they rolled it out department by department.  First department scanned everything they held on paper and put it in content system – all users can access these files as department didnt want the admin overhead of assigning permissions etc. Their Medical department used it heavily and have been put off due to issues with course rollover this summer (Blackboard 9.0 and 9.1 have real problems with copying content materials from one course to another – Blackboard.com say these are/will be fixed in service pack 4 and 5).

Durham also use eReserves extensively and Dr Malcolm Murray has written a building block to support this.

(Unknown Uni) They have had considerable success training their admin staff to use content system to provide central documents (however admin staff not confident setting permissions etc).  They have also been using the Community System to provide intranets for departments and the files for these intranets are held in the content system.

Leeds (on 7.3 about to move to 9.1) Every module (would be Unit at Bristol) has a space on the Institution area.  Little uptake so far (2 1/2 years) staff find it cumbersome to upload materials to content system and then link into course.

Birmingham – looking to save time and improve collaboration.  Had content system for a long time but previously haven’t pushed it.  Also want to store their extensive collection of flash learning objects.

Liverpool.  Had content since 2006.  Initial enthusiasm from staff but didn’t convert into use.  Mainly use it for ePortfolios.

Reading – had for a few years.  Used for course content and to support department. webpages.

Group Concerns

We then fed back to Blackboard our concerns/gripes about the content system.  These boiled down to 2 areas

Closer links to learning system – for something that is meant to be part of Blackboard the content system sometimes seems to not understand the Learning part of it, as illustrated by Adaptive release release – should affect the files that are attached to items that are hidden by adaptive release (it currently doesnt so Lecturers think they have hidden files but students can find them using search (will be changing this in an upcoming release – summer? For service pack 9.1.?))

Archiving and copy into
They are aware and are looking into it.  Watch upcoming service packs.  I outlined our issues with Archiving for legal reasons (ie you need to have a copy of everything in the course not just the bits stored in course content but also the bits in my content and institutional content).  Also explained the process of summer rollover where we will want to copy materials from this years courses into next years courses.

Most useful part of this was that most of the institutions around the table agreed with me and we are going to form an online group and plan out exactly how we need the processes to behave.

There are various ways that Uni’s do their course rollover (archive/import, copy_into, blank course and staff do copy). Sheffield Hallam offer staff the choice, new blank copy yourself OR we copy it for you.

Durham leave all the Units visible to students until they finish their course.  Staff are removed from courses when a unit finishes.

Bb workplan (upcoming things)

Desktop integration – ie webdav.  A xythos integration branded for blackboard that would basically be a webdav that works.  With much closer integration between desktop and web interface.

Using content system to support sharing learning objects (ie tests and assignments) which can then be shared.  IE test updated centrally and it will update in all the courses it is deployed in.

Planning to update their txt editor to a decent one (ePorts will get this) – end of year on this.

Content alignment – allows you to stick in info about level of content and objectives.

Better search ie on content type (question pools?).

Making it easier for staff to share stuff – ie when something added to a course an easy way to say how you want it shared (rather than having to put it in a particular folder).

Metadata

I spoke to a number of eLearners about this as we are very keen that our shared content has metadata to support decent searching.  The feedback was that in most institutions Metadata is not popular with staff.  Where uni’s have insisted on tagging staff have just stopped adding materials to the system.  So I need to think of some (meta)carrot to entice staff to do it.

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