I was somewhat amused when I arrived at the BbWorld keynote address and heard CEO Jay Bhatt outline his priorities for the Blackboard Learn product:
- Improve the user interface
- Mobile first
- Cloud infrastructure
- Big Data
Now, after we get done chuckling over "mobile first" being the second item on the list, what we have here is a recipe for incremental, evolutionary change. Some people I respect spent a lot of time looking at the new user interface and came away impressed. Bb claims they are moving to a fully responsive design, and from what I saw it appears to use a timeline as the key organizing principle for the interface, which seems like a promising approach to me.
Providing a better interface and better mobile access can potentially improve the user experience for Blackboard - and perhaps help catch them up with the competition - but does nothing to address the essential nature of the critique I've developed here. Any LMS built around the model of a closed course has severe limitation and implications that I think have negative consequences (elucidated nicely here by Michelle Pacansky-Brock).
I don't have a lot to say here about cloud infrastructure - I think this is a move that Blackboard needs to make to be competitive but it has no inherent impact on the student or faculty learning experience. Big data... I don't want to go there right now. Just for the moment, let me say my optimism about the potential for big data is balanced by some pretty big doubts about the value and concerns about the risk.
This is Blackboard's plan and the list might be different for another LMS, but an evolutionary change means we've accepted what an LMS is and what it can do, we just want it to do it better. That might be the most likely path for the near future, but it's also the least interesting, so I'm looking forward to my next post on revolutionary change.
(photo credit: Bert Hakim @flickr cc-by-nc-nd/2.0)