Editor's note: George Kroner is a Developer Relations Engineer for Blackboard, a company that focuses on transforming and improving the educational experience at over 5,000 institutions worldwide. Through the work of Blackboard’s community of over 1,000 educational tool developers, George sees many opportunities where Blackboard’s and Google’s open platforms can be paired together to provide better and more productive teaching and learning experiences.

Thanks to George for sharing these outlooks.

Technology has the potential to transform the educational experience and to connect students, instructors, and researchers in new ways. We think it's critical for schools and institutions to expose learners to these tools and practices to impart information literacy skills required to succeed in their careers – as students and beyond.

Sharing a strong belief in the power and possibility of open platforms, Google and Blackboard have recently teamed up to combine our platforms, and we wanted to share a few powerful examples of these integrations with you here.

Enhancing collaboration in the classroom.
Earlier this summer, Northwestern University took the lead on developing a way to facilitate classroom activities by letting instructors embed Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and calendars into Blackboard course sites. Individuals enrolled in Blackboard courses are automatically added as collaborators to these documents, and single sign-on capabilities allow documents to be accessed without logging in twice.

A recent student newspaper article details how these new capabilities are being used in courses ranging from foreign language to world history enabling new models of academic collaboration and assessment. What Northwestern has accomplished exemplifies one of the best recent examples of tying together the unique capabilities of Google Apps for Education and Blackboard Learn.

Now, more than ten different institutions, Google, and Blackboard meet on bi-weekly calls to regularly discuss the future of the Bboogle project. Northwestern has also made this Blackboard plugin available through an open source educational tool community called OSCELOT for other clients to download and contribute back to.

Enabling coordinated collaboration. As part of a class project at Penn State University, a team of students examined ways to improve their online learning experience by integrating Blackboard with other systems. After some analysis, their top recommendation was to develop a solution that combined events from their multiple school-related and personal calendars into a single location.

By integrating with Google Calendar, they were able to create a Blackboard plugin that combines events from Google Calendar with academic course schedules, assignment due-dates, and group meeting times from Blackboard. Their plugin was also made available as an open source project at the end of the semester. More details, including user documentation, are available through OSCELOT at this link.

Connecting researchers where they teach. The London International Development Center was formed to connect researchers from the University of London's six Bloomsbury Colleges. Its mission is to find ways to solve complex problems relating to international development by bringing together scientists from interdisciplinary backgrounds. By creating a Google Spreadsheet that integrates behind the scenes with the familiar Blackboard user experience, the LIDC provided a way for researchers to search and connect with each other by name, college, and research interest.

Facilitating new ways to communicate. Google Wave represents a new way to approach group collaboration and communication, and thus the potential for impacting education using such a tool is significant. Imagine creating a course assignment within Blackboard that triggers a contextualized Wave of thought and conversation that can react to changes in course content within the LMS and relay thoughts and comments from subject matter experts around the world back into an assessable course discussion forum or blog.

Today we invite you to join a discussion of how you think Wave should be used to enhance educational experiences. Log into Wave and click this link to post your thoughts, then see your comments show up within the discussion forum in this Blackboard course.

The examples listed above are just the beginning of what's possible when combining the power of the Blackboard and Google platforms, and we salute the institutions that are on the cutting-edge, creating these integrations.

– George Kroner, Blackboard Developer Relations Engineer

Posted by Gabe Cohen, Google Apps Education Edition team