CXO

Blackboard.com can bring you into the new millennium

If you're looking for a way to get started with online training, take some notes on Blackboard.com. This site allows you to develop your own training programs and sign up students.


The Web is becoming a more important part of many training programs, but some companies are still trying to figure out how to start using online educational tools. Blackboard.com can help with the first baby steps of Web-centric training, and perhaps become a part of an organization’s ongoing online learning efforts.

What it is
Blackboard.com describes their site as, “a free service where instructors can create their own course Web site with their own learning materials and students. Provide a password to your students, or leave the course open to anyone for enrollment.”

This service is a way to get started with Web-based training. Use the tools on the site to develop a course, and let your employees have access to it. When you add the word “free” to the equation, most managers will be sold. There are also tools and programs that, for a fee, offer more flexibility and additional services for an organization.

On the site
The site offers three main sections:
  1. Instructors. This section allows you to manage the courses you have already built and to build new ones. The first step for building those new ones is on the home page. All you need is a course title. The tools used to build the courses are quite user-friendly. While they don’t offer the range of features and flexibility of purchased packages, they are great for the novice and eager learner.
  2. Students. This section takes up the most real estate on the home page. You can click to search for classes or find a course starting from a series of categories on the home page. (There are 15 categories ranging from art/music to business to computers to social studies.)
  3. Institutions. Here you can get more information about some of Blackboard.com’s products. The site boasts an impressive list of more than 3,300 institutions, including corporations, school districts, and associations, as well as colleges and universities that are using the site’s tools.

Courses
One of the nice features of this site is that there are courses (the site says thousands) available for anyone to take. While many of them are academic in nature and wouldn’t necessarily be useful to a corporation, there are many, especially in the business and computer categories, that would be a good fit. As with any site of this type, the quality of the programs varies, based on the designer and instructor. These courses are generally instructor-led, as opposed to Web-based.

When selecting a course, a short description is available with all the typical “stuff,” including any applicable fees. I wondered, though, if two courses seemed to be about the same, how I would choose which one to take. Even though there is a preview feature, some comments from past participants, when available, would help people determine the best course choice for them.

Final impressions
This is a site worth visiting; as a training professional, it is another link you can share with learners in your company. If you are looking to dip your feet in some distance-learning options via the Web, this is a great resource as well. Also, because the site is run by a software development company, you may be able to move from “dabbling” to full-blown integrated training systems software, all from one source.

For these reasons, the site needs to be on our radar screen. However, if you are in a corporate setting, the variety of offerings currently available may be less than you are hoping for, due to the broad range of subjects covered. But if you want to learn something about biology, here’s a place to go. (Hey, I’ve got to keep up with my kids somehow!)

Kevin Eikenberry is president of the Discian Group, a learning consulting company in Indianapolis, IN.

If you would like to comment on this article or have any questions or suggestions of other Web sites to review, please write to Kevin.

Here is Kevin’s review of blackboard.com.

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