Statement from EdTech on New Building Blocks in Blackboard and Other Technologies

Pearson Education recently sent an announcement to several instructors that a new building block for Blackboard was now available, similar to other publishing company building blocks (e.g. McGraw Hill Connect). We will not be able to deploy the Pearson building block at the beginning of the Fall semester 2012.

We here in Educational Technology (EdTech) are always excited with new technologies become available, but timing is often a critical issue for us. In this case, Pearson announced the release of their building block just before the beginning of the semester before we had a chance to thoroughly evaluate it.

Whenever new learning technologies are released on campus, we here in EdTech take three things into consideration:

  1. First and foremost, it must pass a thorough security audit to ensure that confidential student and faculty information is not compromised and that the integrity of the network will not also be compromised. We take both issues very, very seriously.The Pearson building block so far has not passed this first test to our satisfaction.
  2. New technology must also be tested to ensure that it will work well with the other technologies that have been installed on campus. This is often a very challenging process, but in most cases we are able to find an acceptable solution.Again, the Pearson building block for Blackboard does not meet our expectations for how well the technology will work from inside Blackboard.
  3. Finally, EdTech staff needs time in order to become familiar with the technology ourselves. We will not be able to provide adequate support to our campus community unless we have a thorough understanding of how the technology works, including any potential quirks. Our general preference is to have the technology made available to us (EdTech) in our development environment in the semester prior to its deployment to the production environment. In practice, this means that we want access to the technology in the Spring semester if it will be used in the Fall. This gives us the opportunity to test the technology, learn how it all works, and use the Summer semester as an early-adopter phase for some instructors.Once again, Pearson Education has not been able to meet this simple requirement despite our repeated requests.

Our commitment in Educational Technology is to provide the instructors we support with the best possible experience we can with the technologies that are available. Only when technology has met the three basic requirements above do we feel comfortable supporting it for the campus.

As always, we welcome all feedback from our campus community on this or any other educational technology issue.