Opinion: the #Blackboard Mobile App and why it matters for Moodle

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I use Blackboard for my day job at StraighterLine.com.  It’s the system that I inherited.  Truth be told, it works well for our needs, there’s great and responsive technical service and the learning curve was small (I’m convinced that any LMS user could easily jump between the various systems available, with just a little time and patience).

Post Pages - Post Inline - WIRIS

Through Blackboard’s documentation and website I was able to test out their new Mobile app (Mobile Learn) which was provided to all licensees for testing (Blackboard also provided free iPads for testing purposes).  The app was released in June, was supported on Android and iOS (both iPad and iTouch/iPhone).  The apps renders Bb on the iPhone and Android using a similar approach to the apps we’ve seen for Mobile Moodle so far, but with the iPad they made a huge shift.

Honestly, the iPad app is one of the most innovative approaches and retooled mobile apps I’ve seen for an existing LMS.  It’s hardly resembles the student experience online, instead providing a robust level of Blackboard’s collaborative tools through the app.  There are downsides too (no test taking, which in my opinion is one of the most important and must have functions of a mobile app); but even the video demo got me excited about trying out the app:

Now, there’s a flurry of activity surrounding the development of Moodle Mobile (http://lmspulse.com/tag/mobile-moodle/) and it’s all positive (the more apps in development, the better off the community will be; but Blackboard has the advantage of concentrated effort).

The apps under development for Moodle all have a generally similar look and feel (which is not a bad thing), but there is a developer that’s thought quite outside the box for their organization specific iPhone/iPad app which pulls data from the Moodle quiz module: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/unio-pagesos-cuestionarios/id346456267?mt=8#.  According to the translated app site [translate.google.com],

Farmers Union uses Moodle as a tool for managing your online training. Thanks to an amendment to the authentication plugin, the iPhone/iPod can directly access the campus, and through export of the questionnaires as these are displayed on the iPhone/iPod.

The user can respond to the questionnaires, see the photos and videos associated and know their score.  Scores are calculated and stored directly in Moodle.

It’s a pretty far cry from the current Mobile Moodle apps, but it’s the kind of development and out-of-the-box thinking needed to differentiate the Moodle app from just a mobile rendering with a similar look and feel to Moodle on a compute screen.

In my opinion, the Blackboard apps matter to Moodle because Blackboard has the lead.  In other aspects of development, Moodle has outpaced Blackboard in terms of flexibility, community building and ease of use (not to mention providing an outlet for 1000s of other capabilities through 3rd party plug-ins).  Mobile though could prove to differentiate LMSs very soon as it becomes more and more of a necessary feature for schools and teachers world wide.  Though cost prohibitive to some, the availability of a polished Mobile application (compatible with the various mobile OS’s) may be a deciding factor as licenses come up for renewal in the coming years.

The obstacle is harder yet to overcome due to the decentralization of development efforts.  Maybe Moodle.org will step to the plate.

What do you think?

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1 COMMENT

  1. Hi there,

    Kayvon here– I head up the Mobile team at Blackboard (and blog at http://www.mobilegarageblog.com). Wanted to thank you for your post on Mobile Learn– glad you’ve had a chance to check out our hard work.

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of mobile. We were really challenged and excited by the opportunity to streamline – and to some extent reinvent – the experience of interacting with an LMS from mobile devices. We believe that new devices such as iPad (and of course, smartphones such as Android and iPhone) beg for new, elegant interfaces that are simple and intuitive. It’s these connections that will change the way students interact with their learning content and, in turn, change the way that learning happens.

    As a team that’s right in the middle of this fast moving space, I share your enthusiasm for what might come next for mobile learning.

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