FacultyEnlight

BLACKBOARD'S ENHANCED MOOC

If you thought that news concerning MOOCs was calming down, think again: The online education arena is bursting with developments nearly every week, and the past few weeks have been no exception. With more and more colleges and universities moving to MOOC-based classes for their current students, there’s even more business competition and money on the line. Now figure into the mix Blackboard Learn’s newest enhancements to their comprehensive learning management software.

During Blackboard’s announcement at their annual conference, BbWorld, they explained why their MOOC platform is different, and how the company plans to set itself apart from the competition. While it may seem as though the web is already filled with MOOC providers such as Udacity, edX, and Coursera, Blackboard’s version has carefully created a platform that supports not 4 million, but 40 million online users. It boasts specially designed test logs, new channels that allow educators to create and copyright material, and more, creating an all-inclusive online system that is taking web education to the next level.

With the new hire of chief executive Jay Bhatt, who has a software background, Blackboard has decided to focus more on innovation than on simply fighting for MOOC market share. While they carefully watched the online learning market develop, Blackboard decided on a strategy: Their platform will be free for existing Blackboard customers. Nearly every institution signing up for Blackboard Learn’s enhanced MOOC tools is already familiar with the platform, making any move to full, online classes a smooth transition for everyone involved. Compare that to the other MOOC powerhouses, which require new users to also learn how to navigate their sites.

Will Blackboard sit back and watch their new platform catch on? No, Bhatt says, suggesting that this is just the start of the company’s plans to help institutions transition to online learning. “We need to take the handcuffs off the innovation,” he states. “Yes, it’s about supporting massive open online courses. But it’s also about supporting programs online, or complete institutions as they move online, or distance education on a global scale.”

In addition to course management features that will support extremely large classes while still filtering and grouping students for a small-course feel, mobile applications for Blackboard Learn will enable students and instructors to access all Blackboard Learn course content from iPhones, iPads, and Androids. The company also plans on spending a substantial amount of money on its software development, and to move to the technology forefront in the world of higher education. So what can be made of all the MOOC competition? For students who simply want to learn, it can only be a good thing.