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Using Blackboard as a Portal to the Larger World Wide Web

These are exciting times to be teaching online.  The internet has literally and figuratively eroded the walls of the classroom.  In addition to providing flexibility for time and space to both you and your students, it has also provided an on-ramp to the collaboration occurring in many places in the networked world.

Blackboard is excellent for the administrative areas where security is vital, such as managing who is in your class, who has access to grade information, and who can confidentially contact you with class issues.  Research has shown that students like to use course management systems…but more for the convenience factor than for learning.  Our job as faculty is to shift this emphasis so that Blackboard opens up avenues for learning.

To do that, in many cases, we need to move outside of Blackboard.  Most of us teach in areas where it would enhance the class to bring in outside discipline experts…without physically bringing them to our campus.  Webconferencing and microblogging make this easy! 

More importantly, we no longer as faculty have to gather the course material and present it to the students.  Rather, we can take advantage of the varied array of excellent material on the web and provide for a rich learning process by co-opting our students as fellow researchers.

There are literally thousands of web applications that can be used to engage your students in the learning process.  The key is not see Blackboard as a closed system but rather as a portal to the wider world wide web.

In Online Teaching Toolbox, we discuss various web-based tools for connecting and collaborating, such as blogs, wikis, and Google applications. 

As an example of one use, we wanted to bring some national speakers in to our online class.  We used the built-in Wimba Classroom to set up a website for this interaction.  Wimba allows for guest access, so we did not have to get a VCU eID for our guests.  We were not only able to have a synchronous online verbal discussion with them and our students, but we were able to open the session up to interested people in the field through an invitation sent out on Twitter.  On the night of the discussion, we had nine people from around the country join our five guest speakers and our students for a lively and very relevant discussion.
So check out Online Teaching Toolbox for more information on:

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • RSS Feeds
  • Google Applications
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Web Conferencing
  • Podcasting
  • Microblogging
Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 09/22/2009
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