Blackboard launches a free online course system



Blackboard Inc. has announced the launch of CourseSites by Blackboard, a free, fully hosted and supported online course system featuring the Company\’s latest teaching and learning technologies. The offering gives 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.

The simple, easy to use system gives educators greater choice and flexibility for online courses in a system with cutting edge features that encourage experimentation. CourseSites is 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 competing course management provider. There is no license fee, no hosting fee and no additional setup required for instructors to get started.

\”We want to reduce all barriers, whether technical, financial or administrative, to getting our best technologies into the hands of educators new to online learning products or unfamiliar with our latest offerings,\” said Ray Henderson, President of Blackboard Learn. \”We\’re investing with a belief that CourseSites can become the most accessible option for introducing new educators to online instruction in the market.\”

CourseSites presents an option for instructors looking to preview and test Blackboard\’s teaching and learning software before their institution makes a purchasing decision. It can also serve as a production-quality teaching and learning pilot environment for instructors at institutions preparing to upgrade their implementation of Blackboard Learn(TM).

\”We heard from many individual instructors whose schools had not yet purchased a learning management system that they felt their only choice was to download an open source product,\” said Lara Oerter, Vice President of Blackboard Strategy. \”But the challenges of learning how to technically install and manage an open source product on your own server are significant. With CourseSites we are removing those technical barriers since the set up and hosting are all provided by Blackboard for free.\”

Based on Blackboard Learn, Release 9.1 – the Company\’s newest platform for teaching and learning – CourseSites features a range of social learning tools and Web 2.0 functionality. The system also features integrated technologies from Blackboard partners and platform offerings that will be expanded over time, including Blackboard Collaborate(TM) instant messaging, live collaboration, conferencing and voice tools; assessment, self-assessment and locked browser tools from Respondus, Inc.; and content authoring tools from SoftChalk LLC.

CourseSites also features a range of innovative, instructor-focused features including dedicated homepages and URLs for instructors, templates to guide course development, themes to allow instructors to customize the look and feel of their courses and the ability to login using credentials from popular Web sites like Facebook and Twitter. In addition to being fully hosted and offering live support for users, CourseSites comes with a complement of training resources and course development resources and tools.

\”CourseSites opens up so many possibilities with a host of new educational tools and communication vehicles,\” saidLou Tharp, an instructor at Long Beach City College that has been using an early release version of the system. \”I taught in the traditional classroom for over 30 years and truly believe that my online course enables me to teach even more effectively. I am more available than I was before, since students can contact me at any hour in any part of the world.\”