Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog


Blackboard Sync vs CourseFeed by Classtop – A Comparison
March 27, 2008, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Articles

I wanted to take a moment to provide an update on the soon-to-be-released Blackboard Sync Facebook application. According to the dates presented in today’s Blackboard webinar, Sync should be available in the April/May time frame.

While Blackboard Sync still appears to be in prototype, I thought I would try to collect what I saw in today’s webinar as far as potential features and place the features side-by-side with CourseFeed from Classtop Inc., which has been in operation here at GRCC since November 2007. In fact, since November, over 1,200 users on the GrandRapidsCC network have added the CourseFeed Facebook application.

bbsync.gif

While I have yet to get my hands on Sync, and realizing it is still in a prototype phase, it seems that CourseFeed has a more typical look and feel of a true Facebook application with the way notifications and updates are handled and displayed. I also like CourseFeed’s email notification capability and the personal mini-feed that can be placed on a users’ Facebook profile page. CourseFeed seems to integrate with the Facebook environment very nicely, and presents information in a way that users have come to expect with other applications.

That being said, the Sync application appears to have some outstanding potential, and I’m definitely excited and interested in trying it out. According to today’s webinar, Sync will be first available around the April time frame as an “Open Access” Facebook application, which would allow a student to add the Sync Facebook application without any institutional involvement. Institutions can “block” this Open Access connection by installing a simple “Opt Out” text file on their server. Another option for institutions is a Building Block that can be installed on the institution’s server which handles authentication slightly differently and has the potential for providing more accurate synchronizations.

Sync will eventually be included and bundled with an upcoming release of Blackboard. I’d imagine this will be similar to how Scholar and SafeAssign are now bundled with Blackboard 8. What intrigues me most is the potential for Sync to also integrate with additional social networks such as Google OpenSocial, and support other Bb products such as Bb Connect. In addition, Sync’s framework has potential for extending capabilities into other communication channels such as Windows Vista Gadgets and Apple Dashboard Widgets. This is impressive. I have heard some buzz about gadgets and widgets in Sakai, and it surprises me a little that someone hasn’t written a gadget or widget yet for Blackboard.

Here are some important notes about how CourseFeed and Sync handle the privacy of student and course information. CourseFeed and Sync:

  • Do not share Blackboard course announcements or content outside of the course – only students enrolled in the course have access to the information.
  • Do not transfer content to Facebook – only links to the content are displayed in Facebook.
  • Do not display student photos from Blackboard – student roster photos come from Facebook.
  • Do not make public a student’s private information.

The benefits of CourseFeed and Sync:

  • Allows students to receive their Blackboard course updates in Facebook.
  • Alerts students when new announcements and content are posted to Blackboard.
  • Provides a way for students to form study groups, ask questions, and interact with each other.
  • Encourages engagement with other students and helps to increase communication between students and instructors.
  • Helps to make learning social by providing classmates a way to connect, interact, and collaborate.

The following table below provides a comparison of Blackboard Sync vs CourseFeed by ClassTop Inc. The information below is compiled to the best of my knowledge:

CourseFeed by ClassTop Inc.

Blackboard Sync (Prototype)

Facebook Profile News Feed

YES

(Mini-Feed Only Visible To Profile Owner)

NO

Email Notifications – What’s New

YES

NO

CourseWall

YES

NO

CourseNotes (File Exchange)

YES

NO

Auto-Synchronization

YES

NO

Add/Remove Courses

YES

NO

(Displays All Courses)

Add/Remove Organizations

YES

NO

Content Area Folder and Item Structure

YES

NO

(Course Map is Available)

Synchronization

Once Every 8 Hours

(Automatic)

Every 60 Minutes

(Only Syncs if user is logged into Facebook)

Manual Synchronization

YES

NO

Invite Users

YES

YES

Announcements

YES

YES

Books

YES

NO

Course Content

YES

YES

Grades

NO

YES

Forums

NO

YES

Roster

YES

YES

Course Map

NO

YES

Scholar Bookmarks

NO

YES

Syncs Photo from Facebook

YES

NO

What’s New

YES

(Today | Yesterday | 3 Additional Days – In addition to Announcements and Content, also included are: Number of CourseFeed Users on the System, and New User Join Notifications.)

YES

(7 Days – Only displays Announcements, Content, Forums, and Grades.)

Longevity of Updates and Content

30 Days – Announcements and 30+ for Content

7 Days – Announcements and Content

Building Block Available

YES

YES

Institution Opt-In

Required

Institution Opt-Out

Required


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Thanks for doing this comparison Eric! It seems like Coursefeed has more features. I guess we’ll wait and see if it has any real advantages.

Comment by Garry Brand

[…] classtop vs sync A comparison of Blackboard Sync vs CourseFeed by ClassTop Inc. T – Thanks to Eric Kunnen: https://grcc.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/blackboard-sync-vs-coursefeed-by-classtop-a-comparison/ […]

Pingback by hc griffiths » Blog Archive » classtop vs sync

Thanks for the run down. I am trying out Bb Sync and I’m ready to publicize to students but it almost appears that CourseFeed is the better way to go. I guess I can recommend both.

Comment by Suzanne Darrow

[…] CourseFeed ha a course wall for student interchange.  Back in March, I took some time to run a side-by-side comparison of Bb Sync and […]

Pingback by How much are a student’s course notes worth? « Eric Kunnen’s GRCC Blog




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