Blackboard Inc. and Northwestern University have teamed up on a project to make the education version of Google Apps available to students using the Blackboard Learn platform with a single sign-on.
Developed by Northwestern’s information technology development team, the software that integrates Blackboard and Google Apps Education Edition has been released as open source and is available for other institutions to use or build on free of charge.
One of the first campuses to deploy Google Apps two years ago, Northwestern says it has seen a sharp rise in the number of students who use the web-based productivity tools every day. The integration of Google Apps with Blackboard’s learning management system will make users’ lives easier and more productive by offering access within the course environment, the university says–eliminating the need to log in separately to a Blackboard account to check grades or assignments.
This fall, more than 30 Northwestern faculty members and 1,000 students reportedly are using the software integration, which automatically enrolls individuals in courses as collaborators on Google’s documents, calendars, and spreadsheets. As a result, instructors now can leverage Google Apps to enhance their ability to give collaborative assignments, campus officials say, and students can more easily organize group meetings, interactions, and presentations.
"Google’s eMail and calendars have fast become the preferred way for our students to organize much of their academic and personal lives," said Mort Rahimi, vice president and chief technology officer for Northwestern University. "Connecting Google’s collaboration and communication tools with Blackboard services is a natural fit. It helps make the Blackboard environment more familiar and productive, and it brings together the innovative work of these two technology leaders for higher education."
"This integration has provided a perfect platform for class members to collaborate with one another and perform all of the tasks required to build a web site," said Geraldo Cadava, assistant professor of history at Northwestern, who is teaching a course that requires the creation of a collaborative, web-based encyclopedia. "Students in the class write entries, edit them, and continuously modify the site’s appearance and layout. They have truly taken ownership of the site and have demonstrated much excitement about this tool’s potential."
The integration of Google Apps and Blackboard’s software is made possible by technology that allows schools and others to create and share enhancements to the Blackboard learning environment. It joins more than 150 free or open-source "Blackboard Building Blocks" available to Blackboard users at the Open Source Community for Educational Learning Objects and Tools (OSCELOT) web site. OSCELOT is an independent volunteer community working to develop and share open-source solutions for education.