Am I head over heals for Blackboard CourseSites? CourseSites offers anyone who signs up as an instructor 5 free courses, templates, plenty of integration such as Blackboard IM and Facebook, which means you can chat with your students that are in your course. Anyone who has a Facebook, Google, twitter, Hotmail, yahoo, i.e. OpenID account can login to CourseSites as a student - without ever creating a Blackboard account. This seems like an awesome step forward for online education. Unfortunately, it may take a few years for universities to realize that net ids and expensive custom SSO portal integration offers little value for the cost.
In minutes I had configured a profile: https://ktdockins.coursesites.com/
There is a lot of potential here, even for those who are not instructors at universities. For example, someone who just wanted to offer an online course could use this - imagine this site http://www.aslpro.com was merged into CourseSites, forging an online class with a large repository of ASL videos. A lot of websites exist which aim at educating people, why pay for website hosting, website design, website up keep especially for those that don’t know css, html, jquery, php, etc?
Don’t forgot Blackboard collaborate. A powerful tool which is essentially a live virtual classroom. I prefer Collaborate over Webex, Livemeeting, Dimdim and Adobe Connect; while Collaborate isn’t flawless, it is very slick and being heavily developed on at this time.
CourseSites is also used for collaborating with other Blackboard users; currently I am a member of the ASR user group and several cohorts. These aren’t really used to teach a structured course but rather to learn through a community-like process. I may setup a course (if I can think of a good idea) to illustrate some Blackboard tools and advantages to distance learning.