A Solution to the Buy or Build Conundrum--Carnegie Mellon and Blackboard Building Blocks


At Carnegie Mellon University, there are several examples of faculty who have developed high quality educational applications who, in order to successfully deploy their work, had to develop versions of their own user management systems to deliver their software. The time required to implement these management features was time lost to testing and improving the significant part of their work: the applications designed to improve student learning.
Carnegie Mellon, in collaboration with Blackboard, will attempt to address this issue by leveraging Blackboard's Building Blocks initiative, which allows individual faculty members, institutions, or third-party commercial developers to create system extensions that can plug into the Blackboard platform. As Carnegie Mellon continues to explore the possibilities of this modular architecture, a number of ideas have emerged on how to leverage Building Blocks to enhance the core Blackboard learning environment at Carnegie Mellon, including creating a notification client that would notify student when a faculty member or fellow student has posted new information in a Blackboard course site as well as integrating a virtual chemistry lab for homework into the on-line quizzing system. The Blackboard Building Blocks initiative allows Carnegie Mellon to "buy" the fundamental backbone—Blackboard and "build" the educationally sound applications needed to plug into that backbone. This mix of "buy" and "build" seems an important new and viable model for educational technology and allows for the kind of innovation in education that only faculty (at all levels of education) can provide.

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