Blackboard Launches “Building Blocks” Program

With Widespread Support by Academic & Commercial Partners
Dozens of New Applications Now Enabled in the Blackboard Platform

October 29, 2001, Washington, D.C. – Blackboard Inc., the leading software infrastructure company for e-Education, today announced the first group of academic and commercial partners who have joined the company’s revolutionary Building Blocks Initiative (B2). Blackboard’s Building Blocks program provides the industry’s first open set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and developer services for creating extensions to Blackboard. From institution-developed innovations that extend Blackboard into new pedagogical frontiers, to commercial applications from 3rd party providers who speed their growth through Blackboard’s platform technology and client base, Building Blocks represents a springboard for innovation in the e-Education market.

Blackboard Building Blocks enables the extension of Blackboard’s enterprise course management, community portal, and commerce and access systems. The Blackboard Building Blocks program enables any customer, vendor, or partner to integrate external applications, tools, content, and services into the Blackboard e-Education suite. Through the development of system extensions based on Blackboard’s documented and freely available APIs, developers can extend the features and functionality of the Blackboard platform. Most importantly, the extension developed through building Blocks are fully supported as new releases of Blackboard are brought to market.

The Building Blocks program structure includes a free Software Developers Kit as well as fee-based services and products, including the Blackboard Developer Network (BbDN), Blackboard Developers’ License (BbDL), and custom consulting on Building Blocks-related projects for partners who desire development assistance.

Sparking Innovation at Education Institutions

For academic institutions, the Building Blocks program addresses an oft-repeated request by clients who wish to extend Blackboard teaching, learning and commerce systems to meet the specific needs of their faculty, student and administrators. Building Blocks’ free Software Developers Kit (SDK) provides faculty and students the ability to build innovative customized applications (e.g. assessment engines, collaboration tools, simulations, and other technologies) that integrate into the Blackboard platform, as if they were part of Blackboard natively. Early academic adopters include two leading universities:

• Carnegie Mellon University – Creation of a Virtual Chemistry Lab that interoperates with the Blackboard platform for security, data exchange and session management

• Princeton University – Integration of college calendar, facebooks and syllabus which extend Blackboard’s functionality

“A critical next step for course management systems is to provide APIs through which educators can “plug-in” their own or third-party interactive applications – such as simulations, assessments and exercises – that focus on particular teaching and learning needs,” said Joel Smith, Director, Office of Technology for Education at Carnegie Mellon University. “The Blackboard Building Blocks architecture is the first initiative in that direction.”

Enabling a Marketplace of Commercial Applications Available to Blackboard Clients

For commercial partners, the Building Blocks program will enable technology companies a ready way to integrate applications and platforms which either go above and beyond that which Blackboard already offers, or extend the platform beyond its current capabilities. Initial partners in this category include:

• Bantu – instant messaging and presence detection with leading security features

• Centra Software – virtual classroom and Web meeting capabilities

• Campus Pipeline – online environments for unifying administrative services, campus news, distance learning and other services

• Concord – content management that automates the processes of building, linking, maintaining and disseminating course content

• Datacard – system data sharing between Bb Optim and the DataCard ID card production system

• HarvestRoad – content management solutions for the e-Education market, enabling the collection, management and sharing of learning materials

• Horizon Live – enterprise grade synchronous tools for chat and streaming media

• MetaText – eBooks provider with substantive customization options for faculty and students

• Questionmark – assessment technologies, empowering educators and trainers to create, administer, and report on exams, tests and surveys securely

• RMS – residential management system interface allows for sharing demographic and system data between Bb Envision and the RMS Conduit application

• WebEQ – web-enabled equation editors and scientific symbols

In addition, Blackboard Research has built several extensions through the Building Blocks program. These include “BlackboardtoGo”, which enables wireless and handheld device access to course content, a dictionary and thesaurus system that can be integrated into any course, and integrated access with Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access.

Launch of Building Blocks to Include “Academic Innovation” Grant Program

To encourage innovation and experimentation at academic institutions, Blackboard is offering enterprise client the opportunity to apply to an Academic Innovation Grant program. The Blackboard Building Blocks Academic Innovation Grant program is designed to provide Blackboard 5 Level 2 and 3 clients the opportunity to build new and innovative extensions to the Blackboard platform. Clients who are selected to receive an Innovation Grant will receive a development license of Blackboard 5TM and a free one-year subscription to the Blackboard Developers Network (BbDN). Under this grant program the extensions created will be made available as shareware to all Blackboard clients in the online Building Blocks Catalog.

For more information, please visit or visit Blackboard’s booth (#823) at the Educause conference in Indianapolis.