Subject Business Informatic
Case Study Blackboard and WebCT
Blackboard and WebCT are two virtual learning environments used by tuter to deliver material to students and facilitate interaction between the tuter and the students, and among the students themselves. The two companies merged in 2006 and the two products became one. The Blackboard Learning System allows documents such as course notes to be posted so that students can access them through a web browser, and lets tuter create and manage discussion boards, e-mail, blogs, and live chat. Links can be created between the material and external web pages to enhance the student experience.
At the center of the Blackboard Learning System is a database that contains information about all students enrolled on a course, all course materials, and stores all interactions (for instance discussion board posts) that have happened. When a student logs into the system they see the latest material on a secure web page, created dynamically from the material in the database. This makes maintenance of the system very easy – to upload a new document all the tuter has to do is save it in the database (again via a web interface) rather than having to edit HTML code.
Systems like the Blackboard Learning System are expensive. Critics say that this expense is wasted and that the system gives nothing that cannot be obtained for free elsewhere. Consider a tuter who wants to use email, a discussion forum, live chat and a blog – each of these things is available for free from Yahoo, Google, MSN and Blogger respectively. The tuter could upload videos to YouTube or photos/images to MySpace for free, and record his or her own audio files using Media Player. Webspace is available for free from many hosting services. Open source (i.e. free) HTML editors are easy to use to create webpages and more open source software can be used to upload those pages to the free webspace. (In any case, most universities will provide webspace for tuter’ webpages and an email system, so there is no need to register for free versions of these technologies.)
1. Create a data model for a system such as Blackboard using the approach shown in this chapter.
2. What additional functionality could Blackboard give that would be difficult for a tuter to get elsewhere? (Consider the data mining section of this chapter.)
3. Universities often choose a learning environment centerally – individual tuter may not have much say in the matter, and students even less. If you had the chance to tell university decision makers, what functionality would you want to see in a learning environment and what existing functionality (assuming your tuter uses an online learning environment) is not used by you?
I have created a E-R Data Model for the system described in the question.
Explaination of Data Model pointwise-
a) Rectangular Boxes are entities
b) Rhombus are relationships
c) Oval are attributes
d) Underlined attributes are primary keys i.e. they can have only unique values.
e) Double circled ovals are multivalued attribues i.e. they can take more than one value. eg. – Phone number because a person can have more than one phone number.
f) Attributes like Name are composite attributes which in turn are composed of more attributes.
g) Dotted outline of attributes represents derived attributes i.e. they are not directly stored in the database but are derived from stored data. For Example- Age can be derived from Date of birth.
Rest of the Data model is pretty self explanatory.
2. Blackboard can provide a new few feature for Analytics – A tuter may want to analyze the views and engagements by students on his/her posts/blogs etc. For example: A tuter may want to know what is the best time to post a blog/course material so that it gets maximum visibility, i.e. most students log in and see it. For this Blackboard can analyze past records and deduce what is best time of the day to make a post. Similarly there can be many analytics functionalities that Blackboard can provide.
3. Functionality i would like to see in a learning environment – Buit in Compilers and Simulators so that programmers can write and run their programs in the environment. Simulators for Civil or Mechanical Engineering students who can simulate their ideas inside the environment only and they don’t have to go elsewhere (on another software) for it. Similarly many simulation and modelling tools can be developed inside the learning environment.
Functionality i would like to eliminate – Sometimes videos inside the learning environment are played on their proprietary media player. The experience of video watching on these players are usually very bad due to their inefficient algorithms. On the other hand, YouTube had invested a lot of capital and efforts in developing their state of the art video player which plays videos in a seamless manner. Therefore videos should be uploaded on youtube and those videos should be embedded in learning environment wherever necessary.