What additional functionality could Blackboard give that would be difficult for a tuter to get elsewhere?

Blackboard and WebCT
Blackboard and WebCT are two virtual learning environments used by
tuter to deliver material to students and facilitate interaction
between the tuter and the students, and among the students
themselves. The two companies merged in 2006 and the two products
became one. The Blackboard Learning System allows documents such as
course notes to be posted so that students can access them through
a web browser, and lets tuter create and manage discussion boards,
e-mail, blogs, and live chat. Links can be created between the
material and external web pages to enhance the student
experience.
At the center of the Blackboard Learning System is a database that
contains information about all students enrolled on a course, all
course materials, and stores all interactions (for instance
discussion board posts) that have happened. When a student logs
into the system they see the latest material on a secure web page,
created dynamically from the material in the database. This makes
maintenance of the system very easy – to upload a new document all
the tuter has to do is save it in the database (again via a web
interface) rather than having to edit HTML code.
Systems like the Blackboard Learning System are expensive. Critics
say that this expense is wasted and that the system gives nothing
that cannot be obtained for free elsewhere. Consider a tuter who
wants to use email, a discussion forum, live chat and a blog – each
of these things is available for free from Yahoo, Google, MSN and
Blogger respectively. The tuter could upload videos to YouTube or
photos/images to MySpace for free, and record his or her own audio
files using Media Player. Webspace is available for free from many
hosting services. Open source (i.e. free) HTML editors are easy to
use to create webpages and more open source software can be used to
upload those pages to the free webspace. (In any case, most
universities will provide webspace for tuter’ webpages and an email
system, so there is no need to register for free versions of these
technologies.)
Questions
1. What is the advantage of using the Blackboard Learning System
over the free software that does the same thing? What are the
disadvantages?
2. Create a data model for a system such as Blackboard using the
approach shown in this chapter.
3. What additional functionality could Blackboard give that would
be difficult for a tuter to get elsewhere? (Consider the data
mining section of this chapter.)
4. Universities often choose a learning environment centerally –
individual tuter may not have much say in the matter, and students
even less. If you had the chance to tell university decision
makers, what functionality would you want to see in a learning
environment and what existing functionality (assuming your tuter
uses an online learning environment) is not used by
you?

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