Blackboard Open Content FAQs for Administrators
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Is Blackboard Open Content a replacement for an LMS?
While Blackboard Open Content has some feature overlap with Learning Management Systems (LMS), it does not replace an LMS but rather complements the LMS by supporting new use cases, primarily around the discovery and sharing of content. The Blackboard Open Content platform helps to break down the walls that restrict most content to a single course context in the LMS. Through its support of rich learning objects that exist outside the context of a specific course, Blackboard Open Content supports new possibilities for sharing these learning objects across courses because Blackboard Open Content hosts content centrally in the cloud, even across institutions. The Blackboard Open Content platform focuses on learning object sharing and discovery, while the integrated LMS continues to provide a familiar environment for user and course administration, enrollment, gradebook management, and scope/sequence of content presentation (adaptive release, and so on).
How is Blackboard Open Content different from a content management system?
Traditional content management systems provide sharing, versioning, management, and access control only for file-based content resources, and are most often limited to integration with a single LMS instance, limiting sharing to users within a single institution. The Blackboard Open Content platform extends similar sharing capabilities to rich, interactive learning objects, such as assessments and discussion forums. It enables discovery and reuse of these content resources not only across courses but also across institutional boundaries on multiple LMS platforms.
How does Blackboard Open Content know who the user is and what institution the user is from?
Blackboard Open Content uses LTI 1.1 to communicate important details from the LMS.
Does Blackboard Open Content know anything else about the user?
To function properly, Blackboard Open Content needs to know a minimal amount of information about who is using it.
Blackboard Open Content needs different types of information for students as compared to instructors. Blackboard Open Content does not need any personally identifiable information, though everyone using Blackboard Open Content resources must be linked back to an account on their LMS. This is important because resources in Blackboard Open Content may require submissions and report grades back to the LMS.
What about students?
Blackboard Open Content receives some information about a student when they follow an LTI link into Blackboard Open Content. The information passed by LTI is the most basic information needed for Blackboard Open Content to display a resource in the correct state. When a student interacts with a resource (takes a test, submits a dropbox) Blackboard Open Content will store and then share details about these interactions as appropriate. For example, an instructor might see submission details for a quiz or comments made in a discussion forum. All gradable activities are shared from Blackboard Open Content to the LMS gradebook.
What about instructors?
When an instructor views a Blackboard Open Content resource or goes to Blackboard Open Content to add or manage resources, they are using LTI and passing all of the information required by LTI. In addition, the LMSs that are a part of Blackboard's Academic Platforms include a special integration with Blackboard Open Content. This integration extends the communication channel established by LTI using a series of APIs. These APIs allow for direct-publishing of Blackboard Open Content resources into the LMS.
These APIs communicate the following information:
- Courses taught
- Course structure (if applicable)
- Publish LTI links to Blackboard Open Content resources
Instructors are visible to their own students. Instructors may also be visible to other instructors within the social sharing areas of Blackboard Open Content called channels.
How does Blackboard Open Content support open standards?
Open standards are at the foundation of Blackboard Open Content. Learning objects authored in Blackboard Open Content are compatible with the IMS Common Cartridge format by design, providing maximum portability of Blackboard Open Content content across LMS platforms. Content from Blackboard Open Content is delivered into supported LMS platforms through integrations based on the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard. Additionally, Blackboard Open Content provides built-in support for management of content under the Creative Commons licensing standards.
Where do resources in Blackboard Open Content come from?
Blackboard Open Content resources come from two sources: Open Education Repositories (OER); and crowdsourced resources.
OER resources, like Khan Academy, are generally created under a Creative Commons license and are meant to be shared, modified, and remixed.
Crowdsourced resources are commonly created with the same Creative Commons license and intent to share as OER resources. The difference is that OER resources are typically created by foundations, schools, and organizations, while crowdsourced content comes from individual teachers wanting to share their resources with a community of educators. Both sources of resources provide a rich body of educational and teaching materials for use in courses.
How do instructors create resources?
Instructors may create or upload any resource supported by Common Cartridge.
What is the user profile in Blackboard Open Content?
The user profile in Blackboard Open Content is populated with information from the user's learning management system. Users of Blackboard Open Content can modify their profiles in the following ways:
- Use the profile icon in the upper-right hand corner of the main Blackboard Open Content interface.
- Select the Profile option available in the drop-down list on resource preview.
- If you are using Blackboard Learn, your Blackboard Open Content profile is the same as your My Blackboard profile. In My Blackboard, click the avatar icon to edit your profile.
Users accessing Blackboard Open Content as an instructor will be required accept the terms of service and create a profile before accessing Blackboard Open Content. Students accessing Blackboard Open Content resources through a course will not be required to accept the terms of service to access the Blackboard Open Content resource; however, they will be anonymized in Blackboard Open Content until they do so.
Although students without profiles will appear as anonymous in the Blackboard Open Content interface, the numeric Blackboard Open Content ID persists and is still mapped to the Learn user ID, so the submissions to Blackboard Open Content assignments and tests appear attributed to the correct user in Learn. However, that data will not be present in any Blackboard Open Content interface.
What tables in the Learn database are used?
At this time, the only way to track Blackboard Open Content availability is system_registry. It is still a work in progress.
Where are the Blackboard Open Content settings (license type, and so on) stored?
License information is stored within Blackboard Open Content itself.
How is the shared key/secret determined?
The shared key/secret is created by the Cloud Registrar service and passed to Blackboard Open Content and Learn.
What happens if multiple systems attempt to connect with the same shared key/secret, such as when an institution clones one of their servers?
Safeguards are built-in to prevent a key from being reused. Whenever a new instance is created through cloning or otherwise, it has to register itself with the Cloud Registrar. The registrar recognizes that the server is a new instance, even if it's a clone, and assigns a new key/secret for the instance. An administrator could copy the database for the Learn instance, and recreate a Learn instance using the copied database, but the registrar knows what URL the original key/secret was associated with and would see the URLs as different and create a new key/secret. Also, the key/secret is not visible to end-users, so it's not possible to copy and paste (reuse) a secret/key that already exists.
Can I work within Blackboard Open Content in multiple tabs in a browser?
It is possible and may work, but it is not recommended. If a session is lost in one tab, that session is also lost in any other tabs and any unsaved work will also be lost.
What useful information is contained within the Blackboard Open Content URLs?
From the Blackboard Open Content URLs, you can determine, among other things, the base file server (in this case, xplor-beta.cloud.bb) and the resourceID (in this case, 5056eb35c48917d056000863).
What about the resource links within the LMS?
Like the Blackboard Open Content links, the LTI links you see within courses point to a base file server (in this case, xplor-beta.cloud.bb). However, the remainder of the link determines exactly how and to whom Blackboard Open Content delivers the resource. In the basic example given, resourceId=5056eb35c48917d056000863 points to a unique resource within Blackboard Open Content that is being called.
The resViewId in the Blackboard Open Content URLs equals the resourceId in the LTI links within courses.
How does Blackboard Open Content content appear if a Learn instance is set up to use custom branding?
Custom branding in the LMS is not expected to appear in Blackboard Open Content at all. It should maintain its view within the iFrame regardless of the environment's custom branding.
What happens to content within a course if Blackboard Open Content is down?
Because Blackboard Open Content content is delivered through LTI links, if there is a connection issue with Blackboard Open Content/cloud, the links out to the content will be unavailable to access. In the event of outage, the content will return upon service return. Any unsaved edits will be lost.
Is it possible to access Blackboard Open Content directly without being authenticated within the LMS?
No, all users will need to be authenticated within the LMS in order to access Blackboard Open Content.
Is it possible to directly view a student's attempt (answers, and so on) from the Grade Center?
While you cannot view the Blackboard Open Content attempt itself from the item's Grade Center column, you can launch directly to the Blackboard Open Content submissions screen from the Grade Center, select Manage > Blackboard Open Content Activity Manager. From the Blackboard Open Content Activity Manager, you can filter down by course, activity, and graded status.
Are institutions able to install Blackboard Open Content on test and live systems simultaneously?
LMS Test and Staging servers are not connected to the Blackboard Open Content Production server. Instead, they are connected to one of the Blackboard Open Content Staging environments, of which there are multiple, depending on the intention.
It is possible to run two LMS servers connected to separate Blackboard Open Content instances. However, content created on the Blackboard Open Content Staging server will not be accessible from the Blackboard Open Content Production server, and each LMS instance can be connected to only a single Blackboard Open Content server. So if the Learn instance is set to "test" or "staging," it will not be able to access content created on a "production" Learn instance because the two Learn servers are connected to different Blackboard Open Content environments.
If you are interested in developing content that will not be released to users until it is ready, please contact your Blackboard Client Representative as we can accommodate that use case using the permissions framework in Blackboard Open Content.