Topics: Emerging Media, College of Communication Information and Media

February 21, 2008

Blackboard Inc., a leading provider of enterprise technology for the education industry, announced Ball State University's Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts and Animation (IDIAA) as the winner of the company's first $25,000 Blackboard Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds for its Cinema Arts Project.

 By leveraging the interactive technology of Second Life with the Blackboard course management system, Ball State's program will extend instruction to an e-learning community that will provide a hands-on learning environment exploring digital cinematography using virtualized studio and laboratory equipment.
The grant was developed to foster and promote the integration of virtual worlds into everyday teaching and learning, said Craig Chanoff, Blackboard's senior vice president of client success.
"We wanted to encourage and support our clients who are constantly creating innovative learning environments for their students and the global e-Learning community," he said. "Programs such as Ball State's cutting-edge cinema arts course will offer unique educational opportunities for student engagement and skill development in Blackboard's secure learning environment."
Ball State's IDIAA Cinema Arts Project will combine Blackboard's course management tools, particularly the adaptive release feature, to automate and control access to virtual facilities in Second Life. By combining virtualized equipment and lab capacities with access control, students will have an exploratory learning environment with enough structure to make the Second Life experience comfortable and productive. 
"Blackboard and Second Life will provide learning environments to a remote distance education audience and leverage our success in real world new media arts into virtual worlds," said John Fillwalk, director of IDIAA and associate professor of electronic art. "While our students will be the initial benefactors of our cinematography class, the technology that bridges the gap between Second Life and Blackboard will be available to the Blackboard community so other schools will be able to create and deliver their own immersive learning environments."

Through the use of adaptive release, Ball State professors will be able to control, monitor and create assignments according to their evolving student assessment and criteria. The IDIAA Cinema Arts Project will use the Second Life platform to provide students with specific studios within the learning environment through the use of the project's Holodeck tool. The projects virtualized equipment is designed to mimic real-world functionality in great detail and allow students to make virtual movies within Second Life.

Additionally, a student union, a large studio and a lounge area in Second Life will provide arenas for students to discuss course issues with peers and faculty and present their artifacts.
The IDIAA Cinema Arts Project was chosen by a panel of academics currently using virtual worlds to improve online learning, including William Brinkman, assistant professor of computer science and systems analysis at Miami University; Bill Moseley, adjunct professor of computer science at Pepperdine University and Bakersfield College; and Theodore Ubhaus, information systems manager at Berkeley College.
"The Blackboard committee selected Ball State University's proposal out of a large and diverse pool of competing submissions because it demonstrated a complete understanding of a virtual world environment," said John Fontaine, senior director of Blackboard's engineering services.