Blackboard has just released a new Bb Student app in the UK and Ireland – the first in a new set of “persona based” apps which will include one specifically for instructors. The Bb Student app has been available in the United States since January 2015, and we’ve been anticipating the launch on this side of the Atlantic for some time. It finally came last week.
We already have Blackboard Mobile Learn. Why a new app?
The last major update to Mobile Learn was in 2013 and the interface is looking a bit tired. Blackboard, in parallel with the redevelopment of the VLE, wanted to develop a suite of new apps for students and instructors, with a new and consistent user experience.
The new app looks nice; very nice in fact. It is aimed only at students. So if you login you’ll only see courses where you are a student.
The current Blackboard Grader app, which is aimed at instructors, will be developed into the Bb Instructor app.
How do I use the new app?
Since I am not a student except on a small number of test courses, it’s a bit difficult for me to evaluate. But I can see that the app was developed with students in mind.
It’s available now on iOS, Android, and on Windows mobile devices, just search for Bb Student. If you are student at NUIG, when you first launch the app you should search for National University of Ireland, Galway, and login using your ID and password.
The interface seems simple and intuitive, with a high level menu offering
- Stream: announcements and notifications
- Courses: entry to individual courses
- Grades: high level view of grades for each course
- Due Dates: any upcoming assessment due dates you should be aware of
Not all functionality of the VLE is available in the app, and some content may not display (properly or at all). But the app is being actively developed and we are told there will be monthly releases. For administrators – release notes are available.
Discussion boards and notifications are next on the list to be developed.
Does this replace Mobile Learn?
Ultimately, yes, this will replace Mobile Learn, but for the next year (at least) Blackboard will continue to support (but not develop) Mobile Learn. This means that it’s possible for a student to have and use both apps.
It is not possible for an institution to switch off Mobile Learn. However, promotion materials will soon be available which can be used to encourage students to make the switch.
It is not possible, yet, to embed Bb Student within Mosaic. So the NUI Galway app (developed by students for students), which is based on Mosaic, will continue to require Mobile Learn.
Anything else I should know?
There is no specific iPad app, you need to download the version for iPhone, which means it is one of those horrible 2x interfaces.
Submission for Blackboard assignments from OneDrive or Dropbox is supported.
The app works with Collaborate Ultra, but not with Collaborate classic.
Access to third party integrations (such as Turnitin) is not nicely handled. This, coupled with the lack of full functionality, means that students should not rely on the app for a full course experience.
Support for the app is (like Mobile Learn) through the app, direct to Blackboard. This is good for institutions, so they don’t have to provide support, but also means there is no visibility of what the issues are.
At the meeting there was plenty of talk about the lack of availability of any analytics regarding the app. We’d really like to know what features are being used. This was raised as an issue three years ago, at the Mobile Users’ Group in Durham in 2013. It seems we’re no further along.