Mobile Learning with Blackboard

School has started and my university uses the Blackboard Learning Management System, and I was told about a feature called Blackboard Mobile Learn that may enhance my learning experience.

Blackboard Mobile Learn is available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices over Wi-Fi, and Blackberry and Android devices on the Sprint network.

Mobile Learn allows students to access the same features available through Blackboard on a PC such as accessing grades, discussions, and content uploaded by instructors.

I’ve been trying out Mobile Learn to see what, if any, value it brings to the student learning environment. Since I’m not on the Sprint network, I can’t test it on my Android based devices, so my tests come from the iPad version.

When Mobile Learn is launched, you’re asked to search for your university. After typing in the search criteria and selecting the university you are prompted with either the login prompt provided by blackboard or the Single Sign On prompt used by the university.

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Once logged in, you are able to choose from a list of available classes or view the Dashboard. In the Dashboard you will be able to see notifications of new content that has been added to each available class.

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Navigating within a class on Mobile Learn is much the same as using Blackboard on a PC or Mac. The overall structure is the same, and the same features available on a PC are available within Mobile Learn. For instance, if you need to register a TurningPoint branded clicker, the registration tool is available and will open in a browser window within Mobile Learn.

Accessing content that is in the form of PDF files, Word documents, PowerPoint slide shows, or other common file types is incredibly easy through Mobile Learn. When you select a piece of content, for example, a PDF file of notes for Biology class, you are presented with two options. The first is to open the file in the browser, and the second is a direct link to the attached file. If you tap the button to open the attachment, it will open within Mobile Learn, and you can browse the PDF file just as you would normally.

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What impressed me the most about Blackboard Mobile Learn is the feature parity with accessing Blackboard from a PC. My testing has shown that if it’s accessible through Blackboard on a PC, then it can be accessed from Mobile Learn. The only real limitation seems to be, in this case, the iPad itself. If content contains Flash or Windows Media Video, then it won’t play, as the iPad does not support those types of files.

What I’m not so impressed by is the business deal between Blackboard and Sprint. I do not see many, if any, students who use Sprint. It’s Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile that students are using. To be honest, while Mobile Learn provides some compelling features, I wouldn’t change to Sprint just so I could use it on my cell phone. Hopefully, we will see this change and Mobile Learn will be available to any user on any cellular network.

A couple other minor annoyances are that there is not an ability to choose a school as a default. There have been times where the search I have used to find my school has stayed and other times I have had to search for the school all over again. For most people, being able to search for the school once and setting that school as the default would be a good feature to have. Another thing is that the application will occasionally hang after I login and I won’t be able to open any classes or open the dashboard, but after going back to the home screen and re-launching Mobile Learn, everything works okay.

Overall, I’m giving Blackboard Mobile Learn 3.75 out of 5 stars, with a full point deduction for partnering with Sprint and a quarter point deduction for the inability to set a school as the default when launching the application.