The Spaces tool enables users to create ad-hoc communication and collaboration group spaces – for study groups, group projects, interest groups, or other informal learning purposes. Each Space contains a wall where the members of that Space can post and communicate with each other. These wall posts are then aggregated in each member’s Posts tool, so they can always stay up-to-date on the conversations going on.
Users can create a Space on their own in less than a minute. They don’t have to go through an instructor or administrator to have a Space created, they simply go to the Spaces tool in My Blackboard and select Create a Space. They can also search and join other Spaces that have been created by others at their institution and throughout the global learning network.
The Groups tool is a tool for instructors to define and manage groups of students within an individual course and it replicates the richness of existing course tools (such as blogs, wikis, journals, discussions, and so on) for group assignments.
An Organization is a full-featured collaboration area outside of courses that replicates the rich capabilities of the course environment and is best suited for standing clubs, groups, committees, organizations, and so on.
Spaces are lighter-weight communication and collaboration areas outside of courses, which can be created ad-hoc by users and are best suited for purposes of informal learning (for example, study groups), affinity or interest groups, and community-building. Most importantly, Spaces can include people from different institutions from across the global learning network so it provides a means for cross-institution communication and community-building not offered by other Blackboard Learn features.
All three tools will remain available in Blackboard Learn, as they address different scenarios and different user needs.
Because Spaces are cloud-based, they are stored in the Blackboard Cloud. Therefore, Spaces will not affect your Blackboard Learn storage capacity.
At the time of launch for the Social Profiles & Tools, our cloud infrastructure includes services and components hosted both within Blackboard Managed Hosting data centers in Reston, VA, and the Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure. Profile and Social data will reside within the US-based AWS-hosted components. Currently, all of the cloud services data is hosted in the United States.
One of the benefits of cloud-based services is the flexibility they provide to leverage multiple infrastructure platforms, so the details of our service deployments across infrastructure platforms may change over time.
The different privacy settings for Spaces include the following:
- All Blackboard Users – Any Blackboard Learn user can discover and join this Space.
- Protected – Any Blackboard Learn user can discover this Space. Users can request to join or be invited to join. The Space manager(s) approve all members.
- Private – The Space does not appear in searches, except to managers and members of the Space. Users must be invited to join.
The default setting for Spaces is Protected. System administrators can't restrict certain privacy settings or change the default setting, as these settings are the same for all Learn institutions that connect to the cloud-based global learning network.
Spaces can be monitored and reported in the same manner as Profiles. From a Space, any user can select Report and fill out the form to report the Space.
Spaces are associated with a specific Blackboard Learn instance, so the system administrator is notified when the Space is reported – regardless of who reports it (from any Blackboard Learn instance). The administrator can then take action and block the reported Space by going to Reported Items under Cloud Management on the Administrator Panel. When a Space is blocked, it is blocked across the entire global learning network. This is different than with Profiles, since when a system administrator blocks a Profile they are only blocking it from users in their Learn instance.
Users must have a Blackboard profile to join a Space because Spaces are part of the global learning network of Blackboard Learn institutions. This network is only accessible by people who have a user account on a Blackboard Learn instance that has Social Profiles & Tools enabled. Access to Spaces or any other social learning tool is not available for people without a Blackboard Learn user account, as other platforms are not currently supported and the global learning network is not open to the public.
A user’s profile displays the public or protected Spaces he/she is a member of at the bottom of the Profile’s sidebar. It only shows public or protected Space membership because those Spaces are discoverable through the Space search capability. It does not show membership in private Spaces, because those are only discoverable through invitation. There is no way for another user (including a Learn system admin) to determine what private Spaces a user has joined.
There is no way to get a list of all public and private Spaces. Public and protected Spaces are discoverable from the Space search capability, however you must search for a keyword. There’s no way to generate a list of every public or protected Space, though they are discoverable.
There is no search for private Spaces, as it’s only discoverable by being invited to be a member of it. However, a Learn system admin can get a list of private Spaces originated by users on that Learn instance. Note that this is not a list of all private Spaces in use; a Learn system admin has no right or privilege to see private Spaces created by users at other institutions. The list of private Spaces originated from users on that Learn instance exists because the Learn admin receives reports on inappropriate Spaces created by users on his Learn instance, whether those Spaces are public, protected, or private.
Remember, the Profiles and Spaces are not Blackboard Learn features. They are features of a cloud environment tightly integrated into Blackboard Learn, but both are designed to be cross-institution and lifelong, hence they have a life independent of the user account or the Blackboard Learn instance.
Deleting the user record in Learn does not delete the user’s Profile, because that same Profile can be used simultaneously through other Blackboard Learn instances or serially when the user goes to their next institution that uses Blackboard Learn. Nor does it delete Spaces that were created by that Profile, as (a) the Profile and Space may still be in use at another institution or (b) the Profile and Space may be in use later when the user reconnects to their Profile from a future Blackboard Learn instance. When the user reconnects to their Profile from another Blackboard Learn instance, the user will should access to all the same Spaces that he/she always had.
A Space can't exist without at least one manager. If a user who is the sole manager of a Space attempts to leave the Space, the system will alert him/her that they must either promote another user to manager of the Space or delete the Space. The system will not allow a Space to exist without a manager.
Although not implemented yet, we may develop a Space purge policy. If a Space is inactive for a certain number of months, the managers of the Space will be sent a message letting them know the Space will be automatically deleted in a month if it remains inactive. This is to prevent inactive, unused Spaces from cluttering up the search.
Profiles and Spaces are not Blackboard Learn features under the full control of a system administrator. They are intended to be cross-institution and lifelong, therefore they are under the control of the end-users who created them. Admins are not allowed to delete Profiles or Spaces (or Messages, for that matter), because that would block the end-user from being able to maintain lifelong and cross-institution access to his or her learning network.