Unless I’m missing something it’s not obvious from Blackboard’s website what their future development roadmap is but a recent posting to the Blackboard Midlands User Group, pointed out by A.J.Cann shows some of the things that are being talked about for the v9.0 release due in January 2009. What can users of other VLEs/LMSs learn from this?
Blackboard will have a new user interface, with dragging and dropping of different sections around the screen, presumably based on ajax. Moodle’s got an ajax interface already, though we’re still exploring whether or not to make that available here at the OU.
The chat facility will be made available in the same area as the wiki. There’s evidence that our students are making increasing use of synchronous tools and the ability to be able to discuss the changes you’re making to a wiki in real time could be very useful. It does beg the question though, why have chat integrated with just the wiki? Shouldn’t it be there all the time in the way that most users of instant messaging systems have got used to?
Another interesting new feature in Blackboard v9 supposedly is an ‘instructor dashboard‘ showing who is late, who has submitted work etc. Moodle needs to improve in this area too; the reporting facilities for tutors are not yet up to scratch and at the OU are not yet integrated with other data available to tutors. An equivalent ‘dashboard’ for students in promised. Is that going to be a kind of meta-course which aggregates data from all the courses they’re subscribed to?
Finally, Blackboard apparently promises to open itself up in all sorts of interesting new ways. This is precisely what needs to happen with Moodle as well. Blackboard will integrate with iGoogle, the iPhone interface and other mobile devices, Facebook, Sakai and, wait for it, Moodle. They’ll also be opening up their APIs a lot more, allegedly.
The interoperability issues are huge and I can’t see many in the Moodle community working flat out to achieve integration with Blackboard, but the company is on the right tracks here if they can pull off these innovations. Maybe not everyone’s view, though.