Blackboard Inc. has partnered with Iowa State University to develop software that will allow colleges and universities to connect their Blackboard Learning Environment with the open-source Moodle course management system, the company announced Oct. 28.

In July, Blackboard announced a similar partnership with Syracuse University to develop an integration for the open-source Sakai course management system. Both efforts–which will be made available at no cost to Blackboard users–are part of Project NG, Blackboard’s multi-year project to deliver a next-generation teaching and learning solution that can be more easily customized.

With support from Blackboard, Iowa State will develop a Learning Environment Connector for Moodle that will seamlessly integrate the two systems, giving faculty and students access to the full range of opportunities and materials offered by both systems in one place. The Connector will allow students and faculty who primarily access their courses through the Blackboard platform–but are part of a program, department, or class that also uses Moodle–to access all of their courses in one place, with a single login.

The Connector also will allow institutions to share information, data, learning tools, and resources between the Blackboard learning environment and Moodle, creating a greater level of interoperability and flexibility for faculty and course designers, Blackboard said.

"This effort will create new levels of freedom and control for faculty and students," said Michael L. Chasen, president and CEO of Blackboard. "A more open learning platform is something that we have made a priority, and are excited to be delivering, in collaboration with active members of Blackboard’s global community."

"We are pleased to partner with Blackboard in this effort that will bring new flexibility and ease of use, not just to our own campus, but to our peers in the Blackboard community," said Randal Dalhoff, assistant director of academic technologies for Iowa State University’s Information Technology Services division.

The Connector will be released as open-source software, joining more than 150 free or open-source "Blackboard Building Blocks" currently available to the Blackboard community. Iowa State will lead development of the Connector, with design guidance and support from Blackboard.

Blackboard’s announcement follows a similar move the company made in July, when–no doubt sensing the threat that open courseware systems pose to its business–it said it would team with Syracuse University to create software that would allow schools and universities to connect Blackboard’s online environment with the Sakai Foundation’s open-source course management system.

Like Moodle, Sakai is a free, online learning environment used by teachers internationally to manage their courses. Teachers can maintain assignments, grade books, and syllabi, among other functions.

"Students should not have to worry about whether different technology is powering their online learning environments for different classes," Chasen said in July. "With a single login, users should have access to all of their courses and course material. There should be one place they can go to get all of their course information."

Links:

Blackboard Inc.

Iowa State University

Moodle

Syracuse University

Sakai Project