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ConnectYard Adds Social Tools to Blackboard Learn

ConnectYard is bringing its social channel communication functionality into BlackBoard Learn through a Blackboard Building Block. ConnectYard said its functionality will now integrate with Learn 9.1's Announcements and Discussions sections. Previous editions of the Web-based software used a QuickConnect widget that required more implementation effort on the part of IT and faculty members.

ConnectYard's product extends the communication capabilities of learning management systems. With the use of the new Blackboard building block, when new announcements or discussion threads are added to a course, notifications will be automatically sent via social networking sites, text message, and e-mail. Faculty will be able to engage with students without having to "friend" them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or exchange cell phone numbers.

Likewise, students don't have to use Blackboard or e-mail to respond to instructor announcements or discussion posts; they can reply via their preferred mode. All posts and replies, regardless of where they originate, will be recorded in the institution's Blackboard system, making them visible and searchable by course members.

As Engagement Specialist Sophie Alstrom explained, when a teacher sends out a post about a change to that day's class, for example, students don't have to pull up Blackboard to send follow-up questions or responses; they can simply respond in the same way they're notified. That response becomes a group response.

The tighter integration with Blackboard also means that students will be auto-enrolled based on their inclusion in the course, and they can specify how they want to receive messages from the course. Under the widget model, somebody--typically an IT person--would have to create the groups, or "yards" as ConnectYard refers to them, that would be part of that communication network. "Now, when you install the building block, anyone in the Blackboard group is in that 'yard,'" she said.

More technically savvy faculty can also access other new aspects of the application, such as a report that shows what students have viewed an announcement or discussion post and by what means.

The new version also includes a "Like" feature, which, according to ConnectYard CEO Don Doane, tends to encourage people to participate more in forums. "Students will post an interesting comment or question, and their classmates will 'like' it. Those students are more likely to interact with that course more often."

Also, students can specify from whom they'll receive notifications.

Doane said the inclusion of social networking into course management "opens up opportunities for learning in new and exciting ways."

Further information can be found here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.