Today I took a walk around the San Marcos campus; this is fairly unusual for me, as I don’t get out of the office much. Few people were around, as it’s just after the end of an academic year. I suspect the staff on campus outnumbered the students, although I was asked for directions from one student during my wandering.
I walked past many classrooms, the Student Union, and – of course – the construction going on nearly smack in the middle of campus. The shells of two buildings were crawling with construction workers, all busily accomplishing things that no one will notice later unless they don’t do their jobs right.
The whole campus put me in mind of how Blackboard has been implemented at Palomar: Much of the campus is the same now as it was when I first came to Palomar years ago, and the old familiar brickwork that I’m used to is even being added to the new construction to keep a similar look and feel. However, unlike when I first started here, there are now numerous building with elevator shafts; there was a time when only the LL building had elevators. On an invisible level, there is wireless Internet access across a good bit of campus now, as well as wired network access in pretty much every room. When I came on-board here the computer lab in the Library had four computers with modems for dial-up Internet service. As much as things have stayed the same on campus, they’ve really changed, too.
Blackboard was first introduced on campus over a decade ago, and comparing what it looked like back then with what it is now, there are a lot of similarities still. The Control Panel is nearly unchanged in appearance, even if the functions have shifted a bit; some courses use the buttons styles and Content Area names that were standard (required, actually) back a dozen years ago; there are even a few syllabi that list the old address for our Blackboard system that hasn’t worked since mid-2005. But like the changes to campus buildings, some new construction on the Blackboard front will change the way courses can be conducted online. With the advent of the new version of Blackboard which will be in effect starting Spring 2011, things like the Control Panel screen and the button-based course menu are going away. The Digital Dropbox tool (which I’ve railed against for several years now) will be gone. And it’s entirely possible that students and faculty will be using the Blackboard system without real computers.
Although Palomar isn’t going to change the version of Blackboard we use until the Spring 2011 term, we are enabling the Blackboard Mobile Learn tool in mid-June, so that users may begin reading and posting to Blackboard courses using iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys, and Android devices. (This makes me a bit sad, as I’m a Windows Mobile user and am left out in the cold with this app, at least for the moment.)
I guess, if there’s any moral to this rambling post, it’s this: Change is coming to Palomar’s Blackboard system; if I do my job properly in constructing the new system, things will go smoothly; but even with all these changes, many things will stay the same, work the same, and the service you should expect out of us should only get better.