We view Google Apps for Education as both a product and a platform. That's why we work hard to open up lots of integration points, letting our tools interact with other systems used by our Education customers.

For example, we've supported work that has integrated Google Apps into
environments such as Moodle. We also share a large number of APIs to allow integration into our user management system, and many of our individual apps like Google Docs and Google Calendar.

Because we care so much about integration, we were excited to discover that Northwestern University has been working to integrate Google Apps Education Edition with Blackboard, one of the predominant providers of educational technology. Northwestern was one of the first schools to deploy Google Apps in 2007; it joined our Higher Education Customer Advisory Board as a founding member later that year.

This week at the BB World conference, Northwestern is unveiling a Blackboard Building Block called "Bboogle" that they have built and are releasing to the community as open source. Building Block includes single sign-on, automated account provisioning, and automated sharing of Google Documents and Calendars through Blackboard course sites.

According to Jonathan Smith, Software Architect at Northwestern, "I initiated our Google integration project because we were approached by a faculty member in anthropology who had been using Google Apps in his classes. In the past we had used wikis in history classes to allow students to work directly with primary source materials, and it occurred to me that Google Apps could support a much higher level of student and faculty collaboration. By integrating the applications into Blackboard we could make that kind of collaborative learning experience available to more of our students than ever before."

These images show the process of creating a link to a Google document....

...and the resulting link in the BlackBoard course site:

We love to see customers and partners innovating and integrating with our products. The power of Google Apps comes not only from Google's applications, but the ability to integrate them with other environments our customers use. Incorporating Google Docs and Sites into systems likeMoodle and Blackboard make it easier for student and professors to collaborate seamlessly.

Thanks to the team at Northwestern for this integration, and for opening it up for others to use. It's still early days, and Northwestern is still polishing the code, but check it out and let us know what you think.

Posted by Gabe Cohen, Product Manager, Google Apps team