As online learning and training continues to grow, there are many companies that have developed products to support asynchronous and synchronous learning within the online world. This paper is a comparison of two of these products: BlackBoard, an asynchronous technology, and Elluminate Live, a synchronous technology. In the scope of this analysis, the general aspects, the technological and pedagogical views, and the strengths and weaknesses of these two products will be examined.
General Aspects of the Systems
BlackBoard, an asynchronous technology, is considered to be a Learning Management System (LMS). A web-based LMS, like BlackBoard, is a collection of tools within one application that allows the instructor to select what tools to use to enhance the online learning environment. Examples of some of these tools include mail, discussion board, announcements, etc. The idea behind asynchronous technologies is that it allows users to interact with one another at different times. For example, users can log into the technology and utilize the discussion board to interact. Users would continue to log in throughout the assigned period (as outlined by the instructor) and post and respond to other users. The key is that no set meeting time is required while collaboration can exist between the students and instructor.
Elluminate Live, is an example of a synchronous technology. Synchronous technologies require that users are logged in at the same time to the application. The instructor then utilizes a set of tools in real time with the participants. Typical synchronous tools include web white-boarding that uses audio and/or video conferencing, chat, and file sharing.
Asynchronous Technological View
There are many options available to both the participant and the instructor in BlackBoard. This is the platform that is currently used at the institution where I work. As the instructor, I use a variety of these tools within my online courses. The discussion board is the “go to” tool to create interaction among students. I tend to customize the discussion board by including grading rubrics (that can tie directly into the grade book) and creating small groups that help build community among the students. To assist with the progression through the course, the instructor can link the course content, exams, web links, etc. directly to the calendar. These are just a few of the asynchronous technologies that can be employed by instructors in BlackBoard.
Very little training will be required for students to use this software. They will be able to log in and get started right away. Students can also use several pieces of technology within BlackBoard to assist them in their course progression. One of the tools is the online notes. Students can take notes and save them to the course as they move through the course materials. They can also create entries to their own calendar that links to the course calendar created by the...