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Blackboard Partners with ReadSpeaker

ReadSpeaker is the worldwide leader in online text to speech. In 1999, ReadSpeaker created the first-ever speech-enabling solution for websites followed by the first web-based platform for producing digital talking books. ReadSpeaker speech-enables content in 40+ languages and 100+ voices. All of ReadSpeaker’s products are web-based and work with all browsers (Firefox, Mozilla, Safari, Chrome, Lynx, etc.). Having their products be web-based allows users to avoid tedious downloads and allows users to access their products from any location.

ReadSpeaker has teamed up with Blackboard to make its text-to-speech technology more available to students around the world. Enabling text to speech is an important pillar of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Rather than reading through challenging articles, auditory learners can simply listen to the content on-demand. This not only benefits those who prefer to learn by listening, but also students that are language learners. Students with visual impairments and with certain learning disabilities will also benefit from ReadSpeaker and Blackboard’s collaboration.


(Photo Credit: ReadSpeaker Website)

Blackboard is committed to improving accessibility to learners. Katie Blot, senior vice president of corporate strategy & industry relations at Blackboard, shared that the partnership between Blackboard and ReadSpeaker will help make learning more adaptable and accessible for educators and learners.

Text-to-Speech is opening doors to help students access higher education.

Click here to learn more.

Blackboard 9.1 Close Up: Plagiarism Prevention using SafeAssign

There will be new online tools available for use once the campus moves to Blackboard 9.1 for spring quarter, 2012. One of those new tools will be SafeAssign which helps instructors prevent plagiarism by detecting unoriginal content in student papers. How it works is that an instructor sets up a SafeAssign assignment turn in area, and as students submit papers, they are automatically checked against the following databases:

  •  Internet – comprehensive index of documents available for public access on the Internet
  • ProQuest ABI/Inform database – over 1,100 publication titles and about 2.6 million articles from ’90s to present time, updated weekly
  • Institutional document archives – consists of all papers submitted to SafeAssign by users in their respective institutions
  • Global Reference Database – containing papers that were volunteered by students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism.

Once papers are turned in, instructors will get a report back within a couple of days on each paper. You can view a sample report to get an idea of what you can expect if you use SafeAssign. You can also view other anti-plagiarism resources on Learning Technologies’ plagiarism web page.

As a reminder, all Blackboard courses with all of their content except for 2007-08 academic courses will be moved to Blackboard 9.1 starting Tuesday, March 20 at 6 PM. The 2007-08 courses will be archived (not deleted). You’ll have access to a test version of Blackboard 9.1 starting February 16. Learning Technologies has created a video that highlights the changes. There are also UW Bothell web tutorials available, and Learning Technologies will provide training sessions later in the quarter.

Blackboard Upgrade Coming in Spring

The campus will be moving from our current Blackboard 8 version to Blackboard 9.1 (or Blackboard Learn) for spring quarter. Courses will be copied over so that faculty and students can continue to reuse their course materials. The Leadership Development for Educators (LEDE) program will also be piloting Blackboard 9.1 during the winter quarter to help ensure that the spring transition to Blackboard 9.1 goes smoothly.

There are a number of improvements in Blackboard 9.1, not the least of which is improved navigation, making it easier to move around the course with less clicking. Other new features that can help meet online teaching and learning needs include:

  • Blogs
  • Journals
  • Wikis
  • Plagiarism detector
  • Central course file repository
  • Drag and drop functionality

There will be training sessions and online help resources available to help everyone make the switch, though a number of faculty at UWB and other institutions who have used Blackboard 9.1 have often found the changes to be fairly intuitive. More information to follow.

LMS Trends & Predictions

In a recent article in Campus Technology, a panel of educators, technologists, and vendors were interviewed to discuss what they thought of the recent upheaval to the LMS market and the future of learning management systems in education. Blackboard, once the dominant LMS in higher education, now holds only 57% of the market compared to 71% in 2006. Alternative learning management systems such as Moodle, Sakai, Desire2Learn as well as the new start-up Canvas now control over 30% of the market.

In addition to the numbers, learning management systems are also facing several new factors that are changing the way they operate. Social networking, mobile devices, and a shift of preference to open source systems are some of the things that face LMS developers today.

Read more about these changes and the Q&A session that was conducted at Campus Technology.

Duke University launches Sakai Pilot

Sakai Logo

Duke University has announced that they are launching a Sakai pilot as part of an eventual migration from Blackboard. After using Blackboard for the past decade, their license will expire in 2012. Duke is looking at Sakai as an alternative since it is open source providing flexibility to implement different tools and has no licensing costs.

See http://news.duke.edu/2011/01/sakai.html for details.