CTL Blog

Remaking the BBS

August 27, 2010 | 2 Minute Read

Over the past few months, we've been collecting a lot of feedback about the BBS tool used in online courses and in CoursePlus. The BBS tool hasn't really be updated since we started using that particular piece of software back in 2002. It's been a reliable tool, but one that we really cannot alter to meet the evolving needs of the faculty, students, and staff who use it because it's a third-party product whose internals are off-limits to us. We've received a lot of great ideas from the people who use the BBS about how to make it work better, but we've been limited in what kind of changes we could affect due to the "black box" nature of the product.

Earlier this year, the Center's Web development team decided that it was time to get rid of the existing BBS software and build something new, from the ground up, incorporating the feedback and vision of the people who have used the BBS for years. There are three major goals in this project:

  1. Make it easier to find new posts and posts of interest to you
  2. Provide more configuration options for faculty
  3. Improve the experience of navigating BBS content

These goals came out of a fairly extensive customer feedback process -- the one I referred to at the beginning of this post. Input was taken from instructional designers at the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology, a group of 18 faculty, a group of 5 TAs, and a group of 8 students. Input was received through three main activities:

  1. Email inquiries were sent about both General and specific features of the BBS.
  2. Participants were asked to complete a $100 allocation exercise wherein they were presented with a list of potential features for the BBS and given a virtual $100 to allocate to features as they saw fit.
  3. Participants were shown mockups of the revamped BBS user interface in a real time session and were asked to give feedback.

The result of this customer feedback process are the features and design of the new BBS. The people who have seen the mockups of the revamped BBS user interface were very excited by what they saw, and we're pretty excited too. I'll be covering the new features and redesign in upcoming posts, but wanted to begin by giving you this background about the project.

The million-dollar question, of course, is "Can I use this now?" The answer: not yet. Our expectation is that the new BBS will be available to online courses in the third term of the current academic year, and then in CoursePlus at the start of the next academic year. This timeline is tentative, however, and I'd be remiss if I didn't say that posting these estimated dates of availability in no way guarantees availability at the estimated time.

In the meantime, though, I look forward to sharing with you our progress on remaking this very important part of online learning here at the School.