CourseSites by Blackboard was launched in 2011. An enhanced, cloud-based version of CourseSites was moved into Blackboard Learn in 2018. If you haven’t tried Blackboard Learn yet, then you can get a 30-day free trial. And, if you want to create online courses that are engaging and interactive, that’s where SoftChalk’s Blackboard Authoring Tool fits in.
In other words, Blackboard has retired the “CourseSites” name and rolled it into Blackboard Learn. Now, I realize that this sounds like something Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) said in The Princess Bride (1987): “Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” So, let me take you through what happened step by step.
What was CourseSites by Blackboard?
CourseSites was Blackboard’s free course delivery option for individual instructors. Launched in February 2011, the free, fully hosted and supported online course system featured Blackboard’s latest teaching and learning technologies. The offering gave individual K-12 and higher education instructors an innovative, high quality cloud-based option to host online courses or add a Web-based component to traditional ones.
Blackboard released an enhanced, cloud-based version of CourseSites in July 2018. The new and improved version provided both learners and educators with a more modern, intuitive and engaging user interface through Blackboard’s Ultra experience. In addition, users were able to access newer features faster with the platform delivered in the cloud.
Blackboard’s CourseSites was designed to support instructors who may not have access to a learning management system at their institution or school, or who may have access to an older platform system from Blackboard or a different course management provider. There was no license fee, no hosting fee and no additional setup required for instructors to get started.
Blackboard’s Ultra experience, which is deployed via software as a service (SaaS), brought important benefits to CourseSites users, such as a more intuitive and responsive user interface. It also included streamlined workflows, a personalized user experience that brings aggregated and actionable information to a user’s view, and a mobile-first design.
The move of CourseSites to Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience reflected Blackboard’s confidence in the maturity of its updated and fully responsive user experience. At the time, Jim Chalex, Blackboard’s Vice President of Teaching & Learning, said, “With the recent release of core features and functionality, and the momentum we’re seeing in interest and adoption, the time was right to move our free offering to Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience.”
So, what happened next?
What is the Blackboard Learn Ultra roadmap?
In October 2021, Anthology, a leading provider of higher education software solutions, and Blackboard completed their previously announced merger.
In April 2022, Nicolaas Matthijs, the Vice President of Product Management at Anthology, shared some highlights of the Blackboard Learn Ultra roadmap. He said, “The Blackboard and Anthology merger has allowed us to make more significant investments in Learn Ultra with a goal of accelerating the roadmap. We have tripled the size of our product development team and are starting to see the results….”
Major focus on assessment and grading
It’s clear that there is a major focus on assessment and grading. Matthijs said, “We’ve introduced some powerful features in this area over the past few months, such as granular accommodations, points-based rubrics, preventing late submissions, etc., but the best is yet to come.”
He added, “We’re building towards providing what we consider the best student test-taking experience in the market. In the March release, we made it easier for students to understand their progress through a test. In the April release, we’re making it possible for test questions to be presented one at a time. And the May release will be enriched with different filters that align with common student test-taking strategies.”
Building on the initial implementation of progress tracking
Another area that gets Matthijs excited is building on the initial implementation of progress tracking. He said, “We are currently working on providing instructors with more detailed information on student progress on assessments to help track engagement and ensure that instructors can support their students in a timely manner. As an example, instructors will be able to filter on student submission status, e.g. to find students who have submitted or not and will be able to easily reach out to those students.”
Matthijs added, “Our next step will be to provide instructors with the insight they need to better understand activity in their course, like who may be falling behind and the ability to take action with that insight. This will make it possible for instructors to view progress information for any item in the course, including ungraded items such as course content.”
Where does SoftChalk’s Blackboard Authoring Tool fit in?
If you are like many educators at universities, community colleges, or K-12 virtual schools and blended classrooms, then you will find Blackboard Learn Ultra’s course creation options to be static, which doesn’t work for today’s learners.
SoftChalk has developed a Blackboard authoring tool designed to provide the fastest, easiest, and most flexible way to create, manage, and share interactive course content with no programming skills needed.
Our built-in authoring tool is where the SoftChalk cloud-based platform shines and what makes it the perfect companion product for your learning management system.
The Benefits of SoftChalk’s Blackboard Authoring Tool
SoftChalk’s Blackboard Authoring Tool offers educators with several benefits.
With SoftChalk, you can create interactive, engaging, and accessible lessons for their students. You can include games, self-assessment quizzes, and annotated text to give your learners rich, interactive learning experiences that are delivered directly into your Blackboard course.
SoftChalk also provides you with efficient content management. You can create a SoftChalk lesson and link it into one or more courses in Blackboard. When you need to update your lesson, simply modify your lesson in SoftChalk Cloud, and every course in Blackboard that links to that lesson is automatically, simultaneously updated.
SoftChalk provides score tracking, so you can track student score results from SoftChalk lessons directly into your Blackboard gradebook. You can also view detailed student score results like time spent on the lesson, number of lesson attempts, and which questions and answers the student completed.
Finally, SoftChalk helps you create transition-proof content that integrates with any LMS. So, it’s quick and easy to make the transition from one LMS to another. You can even deliver your SoftChalk lessons into more than one LMS simultaneously.
Blackboard Authoring Tool User Guides
SoftChalk has done their best to make the process of creating course content as easy as possible. But, they know that you might still have some questions. So, you can check out resources like their Blackboard and SoftChalk Cloud Integration Guide to learn how to:
- Create Content: You can use a SoftChalk Cloud account to create and save your lesson in the Cloud. Your lesson will be assigned a unique hyperlink that you can use to share your lesson with your students in Blackboard.
- Link Your Lesson: You can use the SoftChalk Link Selector app to link your lessons into your Blackboard course(s). A single SoftChalk lesson can be linked into as many Blackboard courses as you wish. If you wish to collect scores in Blackboard, student scores for your lesson will pass into each individual course gradebook.
- Update Content: If you need to update your lesson, you can login to SoftChalk Cloud, edit your lesson, and save it. Immediately and simultaneously, all courses in Blackboard that are using that lesson will be automatically updated.
- Student Access: Your students do not need to have accounts on SoftChalk Cloud to use your SoftChalk content in Blackboard. Students can login to your Blackboard course and click on your SoftChalk lesson links to view your content. To the student, the content is seamless with Blackboard and appears to be native Blackboard content.
- Collect Scores: Before linking your SoftChalk lessons into your Blackboard course, you can decide if you want to collect scores from your students or if you want your lessons to be “practice” lessons and you don’t need to collect scores. Each time you link a lesson into Blackboard, you can decide whether or not to collect scores. Many instructors use both “scored” and “practice” lessons within a course.
Using SoftChalk Inspire lessons in Blackboard
If you prefer to learn by watching videos, then you can watch ones like this six-minute long video that shows how to place the lessons you have stored in SoftChalk Inspire into Blackboard.
Next steps to putting your courses online
So, you can’t put your courses online for free with CourseSites for Blackboard anymore. But, you can get a 30-day free trial of Blackboard Learn. And, if you want the courses you develop to be engaging and interactive, then check out SoftChalk’s Blackboard Authoring Tool.
And, when you are ready to take the next steps, you can request a live SoftChalk demo or a free 30-day trial of SoftChalk, the award winning eLearning authoring solution designed by educators for educators.
Greg Jarboe is the president of SEO-PR, which has provided services to the University of the Pacific, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, and Dickinson College. He has also been an instructor in several Rutgers Business School Executive Education Mini-MBA programs.
In addition, Greg is the author of YouTube and Video Marketing and co-author with Katie Paine of the Communications Measurement eBook for Higher Education. From 1999 to 2001, Greg was the Vice President of Marketing for WebCT, the world’s first widely successful course management system for higher education, which was acquired by Blackboard in February 2006.