Topics: College of Fine Arts, Emerging Media

July 13, 2009

 A powerful online toolset combining Blackboard and Second Life will premiere in Washington, D.C., July 15.

The toolset, developed by Ball State University's Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts (IDIA), will be welcomed by educators now enabled to more easily manage classes in the online world of Second Life, said John Fillwalk, IDIA director.

"By bridging Second Life with Blackboard Learn, we are giving educators a unified, secure and fluid hybrid-learning experience — for free," he said. "The virtual and Web-based software toolset will allow educators to manage, administer and facilitate any hybrid Second Life/Blackboard Learn instructional experience."

The IDIA Second Life/Blackboard Building Block Project will debut at Blackboard World 2009. It is funded by the Blackboard Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds.

The necessary applications will be housed on Ball State University Island, one of the university's locations in Second Life. Course organizers will be able to coordinate registration, class lists and manage the online status of their students. Additional applications include chat logging, which captures and archives conversations and forums, and class validation, which manages classroom security.

The Blackboard building blocks and Second Life scripts were specifically developed for a Second Life cinematography course taught with a complete set of virtualized filmmaking equipment. Created by IDIA, the class has been honored with multiple national awards and served as a prototype for Blackboard courses that use Second Life, especially courses delivering studio, laboratory or other hands-on modes of learning. The interchangeable building blocks, however, can be used for many different courses, Fillwalk notes.

"All of the online inventory can be used for many different purposes," he said. "The programming is open-source, so teachers can use it as is or have it modified to suit their needs."

IDIA is part of Ball State's Emerging Media Initiative, a planned $17.7 million investment in focusing the university's historic strengths in this area, accelerating benefits to the state of Indiana with media-savvy human capital.

"With Ball State's roots in its Teachers College, it was satisfying to develop this partnership and launch a practical application of our emerging media expertise that benefits educators," Fillwalk said. "What will be interesting is to see how our work is adapted and what new classes will evolve from this initiative."