R.I.P. Blackboard, Hello Classes

At the start of this semester NYU transitioned its online services from Blackboard to NYU Classes. The deployment of NYU Classes began a year ago, with the first phase lasting from January until August of that year. During that time, an exploratory group investigated how well Classes would function within NYU by testing it on a few courses and holding focus groups.

From September until December 2012, NYU Classes was rolled out to thousands of additional students and faculty, while preparations were made to deploy the system university-wide. Finally, at the start of this semester NYU Classes went fully live.

The most immediately striking thing is that the new interface actually looks new. NYU Classes is so clean and streamlined it has that new car smell; well, it’s far cry from the rusty minivan with cat piss-stained seats aura of Blackboard. Besides being so pretty, Classes is also much more intuitive.

In Blackboard you would have to go digging to find your course’s syllabus or your grades. With Classes everything that you need to access is readily available, and no tools are buried within other pages. Besides having better individual course pages, Classes also has a “My Workspace” tab that keeps a running list of all of your upcoming assignments and a calendar. Blackboard can’t touch the functionality of Classes.

NYU Classes was developed by a non-profit software corporation called the Sakai Foundation, of which NYU VP for .edu Services and Digital Library Technology Services David Ackerman sits on the board. The Sakai Foundation makes free education software that’s meant to “develop a collaboration and learning environment.” All of the software they develop is “open source,” meaning that the software is collectively developed by foundation members before being released to the the general public for free.

This stuff is all pretty cool, but we’re still gonna miss Grandpa Blackboard’s nonsensical interface and vintage Windows ’97 charm. Blackboard’s senility itself was kind of endearing. He always made everything more complicated for no reason, but we had to keep crawling back to him all the same; ultimately we knew deep down that we really loved him.

R.I.P. Blackboard, we’ll see you in cyber-heaven.

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