Why is Blackboard trying to talk to Facebook (or Twitter)????

Filed in In the Classroom, Tools for Teaching by on January 4, 2013
On Friday, January 4th, WPI upgraded our Blackboard 9.1 server to the latest release (Release 9.1, Service Pack 10 for those that prefer specifics).   We’ll be highlighting some of the new features included in this release over several new posts here on the Technology for Teaching and Learning blog, however, we want to address the number 1 question we KNOW we’re going to get when you first log in: WHY IS BLACKBOARD TRYING TO TALK TO MY FACEBOOK (OR TWITTER) ACCOUNT?

First, some things you should know:

  • Blackboard wants to do a one-time PULL from your Facebook or Twitter profile.
  • This pull only happens once.  If you do connect your Blackboard account to Facebook or Twitter, it will not change your Blackboard profile each time you change your social profile picture, “About me,” etc.
  • Beyond the “About” info and profile photo, nothing else is shared between Blackboard and Facebook or Twitter.   Status updates, photo albums, etc. are not connected to your Blackboard profile.    Read:  they are NOT visible to your professors (or students, or project team members, etc.) unless you are connected within Facebook or Twitter. 
  • If your profile photo and “About” info from one of these two realms is decent (and professional!), connect away!
  • It is not possible to connect a LinkedIn profile to Blackboard at this time.  HINT HINT Blackboard… 

I already have a presence somewhere in the social media realm.  So, why would I want to take advantage of these new social features?  

The most obvious reason is to separate your “social” life (i.e. Facebook/Twitter) from your “academic” life.   We’re not necessarily advocating that you connect your Blackboard account to Facebook or Twitter (unless your profile info is professional/academic).   However, we are suggesting that you might want to consider creating a separate, NOT-connected-to-Facebook/Twitter-profile within Blackboard.


headshots in the discussion board

profile pictures now appear in the discussion board tool; hover your mouse over a student picture for their profile information

Student scenario:  Let’s say you’re in a large-enrollment course and you’ve been assigned to a group project.  You have no idea who your teammates are, and their Facebook or Twitter default profile picture is a random cartoon drawing.   But hey, they have a Blackboard profile and it’s actually a normal picture, so now you can find them in class to schedule that first team meeting! Instructor scenario:  The profiles, including a small profile thumbnail, are now connected to the roster and discussion board tools.  So, now in a threaded discussion, there’s a small picture next to each student post that lets you place a face with a name.   Assuming students have created their profile, that is.Another instructor scenario:  Let’s say you want your students to form project teams based on similar experiences, interests, or plans of study.  If you used to use the “Student Homepage” tool in Blackboard 8, this is a great replacement.  Bonus for students: the profile extends across all their courses so if multiple courses require a student introduction, they only have to update one profile!

and lastly…  we’ve had many requests for a photo roster to be available within Blackboard.   We can’t connect Blackboard to your Banner photo roster, BUT, this is the next best thing!   If you encourage students to upload a picture to their Blackboard profile, you’ll have a photo roster!

new Blackboard profile tool

a screenshot of the new Blackboard profile tool (image courtesy of help.blackboard.com)

In summary…

  • We are not suggesting that you should connect your WPI Blackboard account to your social media presence (unless you have a professional/academic presence anyway!).  Unfortunately, we can’t edit the text in the prompt that you initially get when you first log in to the upgraded system, or else we would.  (Sorry!)
  • Instead, we ARE suggesting that you use the new Blackboard profile tool to create a separate academic presence for your WPI peers, colleagues, students, etc.
  • Or, at the very least, upload a professional picture of yourself so that your headshot is visible in the various tools that are now connected to the profile features (e.g. discussion board, class roster, groups tools, etc.)!

For more information on the new profiles features, visit Blackboard’s support information at: https://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_SP_14/Student/030_Nav_My_Blackboard/Profiles

Want to preview some of the other features in the new version?  Check out these links from Blackboard below.  (We’ll be highlighting several of these new features in upcoming posts as well!)

  • Profile Cards and People: tools to incorporate social functionality, such as a Profile Wall for communication and following to build one’s personal Blackboard network.
  • Spaces: a new feature to facilitate peer-to-peer learning by allowing any user to create a “space” as needed for communication and collaboration within the institution or across other Blackboard campuses.
  • Messages: facilitates user-to-user communication within the institution or across institutions
  • Updates to “My Blackboard”: Sort of like a news wall or feed, this integrates the new social tools into existing “My Blackboard” features.   For example, the “Posts” tool will aggregate wall posts from Spaces one is a member of and wall posts of Profiles one is following.


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