Our upgrade to Blackboard CE8 introduces a new tool, Blackboard Scholar. Scholar is a social bookmarking tool that is available to all Blackboard account holders. For us, that means all faculty and students can create a Scholar account. That account can be maintained even after an individual has graduated or otherwise left the NLU community.
For those of you unfamiliar with social bookmarking, I suggest that you read up about it here or listen to this OIT podcast.
For those of you already familiar with the practice of social bookmarking, you may be curious about whether you should use Scholar for your classes or continue to use whatever free service- such as Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, or Furl –that you are already using. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
First, I am thrilled to see a Web 2.0 technology incorporated into our course management system. I think this shows how important Web 2.0 tools are becoming in education and is a small preview of more collaboration tools that will be a part of Blackboard in the future.
Scholar has all of the features that you would expect from a social bookmarking tool: tagging, building relationships, RSS feeds, import and export, tag clouds and browser buttons for easy bookmarking. It is just more geared towards education and offers ways of tagging and searching for items in particular disciplines and from a pre-populated list of your courses.
One of the biggest advantages to using Scholar would be that it is now part of our online learning tool. I believe that this will help legitimize the use of social bBookmarking in Education for both faculty and students. Also, the tool is right there and accessible through Blackboard. If social bookmarking sees more adoption at NLU, it would be much more convenient for a student if they keep all of their bookmarks for all of their courses in Scholar rather than across multiple social bookmarking tools.
A huge, huge downside to using Scholar is that Scholar accounts are only available to Blackboard users. For a tool that’s usefulness and power lies in the number of its users creating and sharing bookmarks, limiting the tools user population is a drawback. This may improve if Scholar becomes a popular tool and if faculty use it for their personal and professional bookmarking, and if students use it beyond college and into their own professional lives.
Scholar does not have all the features of Delicious or Furl. It’s not as powerful and does not have nearly as many users. But for those just seeking to dip their toes into social bookmarking, it would be a good jumping off place and a way to explore how other students and faculty make use of social bookmarking.
If you would like to learn more about Scholar and Social Bookmarking in education, view the Resources for Social Bookmarking on the top right of this page. You can learn more about Scholar there too.
If you have thoughts or comments about these tools, please leave a comment for this blog post.