Jeff Longland

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Blackboard DevCon 2011 – Letting the Lunatics Run the Asylum: Students Developing Building Blocks

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I’ve been thinking a lot about community development lately.  Specifically, having a campus community working on extending the LMS (and other apps).  So I was excited to see that Malcolm Murray has been working with Computer Science students to develop Building Blocks.
  • 3 Computer Science students over 10 weeks
  • No experience with Building Blocks
  • Projects managed in Google Wave – “audit trail” of discussion around whether ideas are feasible
  • Projects: Photo roster, Flash card tool, Twitter, more
  • Functional specs and Balsamiq mock-ups stored in DropBox
  • Initial issues when starting the projects: required iterative/agile development, some ambitious projects, threat of scope creep.
  • Each student had a test server with Blackboard, full sysadmin rights.  Next time, will look at providing a virtualbox VM and database access.
  • Asked students not to run “real” courses or create accounts for friends.
  • No prescribed IDE.  Provided DevCon webinars on how to setup a dev environment.
  • Provided series of demo building blocks: portal module, course tool, custom content type.
  • Regular meetings with students to check-in on progress and manage the projects.
  • Students found OSCELOT to be their most helpful resource – lots of example code to review
  • Student feedback – more documentation!  Why is it such a closed environment?  “Go look at how Moodle does it”
  • Student feedback – “A helluva lot more documentation would be nice”
  • Students were unfamiliar with the instructor side of Learn.  They didn’t get the terminology used.
  • The process helped students develop an understanding of Blackboard and why instructors use it differently
  • Need to have expertise / experience with Building Blocks to provide the students with assistance.
  • Students would do peer review and Malcom followed SVN updates, reviewed the code.

Written by jlongland

July 12, 2011 at 9:20 am