Campus News

April 12, 2010

Report From: University Technology Services

BlackBoard, LearnLink, Insight to be enhanced

Alan Cattier is director of Academic Technology Services.

University Technology Services is busy planning a comprehensive summer upgrade to Emory’s core academic applications: BlackBoard, LearnLink and Insight. These technologies are essential learning tools for many students, and these significant upgrades will expand the utility of the tools available to our teaching faculty.

In the case of BlackBoard, preparation has been in process for over nine months. A prototype environment is operational and a number of classes have already been offered in the upgraded version as Emory works to tailor its online experience. The major change to BlackBoard lies in the customizability of the user experience. Where before instructors and students had limited capabilities to change BlackBoard’s look and feel, the application now offers a much more Web 2.0 experience where desktops can be extensively customized using drag-n-drop capabilities. In addition, streamlined pathways for navigating discussion forums or for making work submissions allow active participation to be just one click away.

From the faculty perspective, there is also a brand new “Grade Center” and “Peer Review” tool that have been winning our beta testers over.  Also, all the tools for managing and editing a course site are now right there when you sign in. To take a spin or to learn more, visit the BlackBoard project site.

LearnLink, the online communication tool used primarily by undergraduates, is adding an important new capability called the “community” space. Where conferences and collaboration were previously restricted to LearnLink users at Emory, the new application offers a rich collaboration suite where small groups can maintain their own blog, wiki and document store on the World Wide Web. The “community” offers the ability to reach beyond Emory and invite anyone to join in, when appropriate. The new “community” space will also be available from a new iPhone and Blackberry client, similar to the one that allows users access to their LearnLink mailbox.

Although Insight is an application that few outside of Emory College may have used, it is Emory’s online digital gallery and now contains nearly 115,000 high-resolution copies of images that reside in the Art History Slide Library. Where before access to this collection involved a clunky proprietary client and a kludgy interface, Insight has been revamped for the Web and truly offers a much better experience for researcher and student alike. UTS is looking forward to working with Emory Libraries to add more community content to Insight, broadening the scope of available images.

The public availability of these upgraded applications is scheduled to begin on May 14 and introductions will be available through Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching (ECIT).

Training workshops and hands-on opportunities will exist throughout the summer to ensure ample opportunity to test any of the capabilities that will be new to this suite of academic applications. Stay in touch with ECIT and you’ll stay on top of all that is at the heart of teaching and learning online at Emory.

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