WAYNE, N.J., June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- This morning ConnectYard, Inc. announced the general availability of its first Blackboard Building Block(TM), which provides seamless connectivity from the Blackboard(R) system to the ConnectYard communications platform. ConnectYard allows faculty, staff and administrators to easily communicate with students across a variety of popular social and mobile media, including Facebook, Twitter and text messaging. The company provides educational institutions with an efficient centralized social media communications platform that opens a dynamic two-way messaging channel for engaging with today's media and social networking-savvy students.
"Integrating ConnectYard into courses offers students the ability to experience different ways to share information, connect with classmates and use technology in their education," said Jill Labuda, a graduating senior at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. "Incorporating new ways for students to learn allows their technology skills to flourish as they get older and prepares them for the workplace."
Faculty and staff have the option to post new messages or respond to student queries directly from within the Blackboard Learn platform, or using email, without having to join a social networking site. Likewise, students can receive and respond to messages from social media spaces such as Facebook and Twitter, or via any text-capable mobile device.
"Our students and faculty are excited about the opportunities that ConnectYard gives us. Now we can interact with students using technology they know and love instead of making them come to us," said Pamela Gutman, Instructional Designer at Loyola University Maryland.
According to Daniel Robertson, a graduate student at Howard University, "Allowing instructors to interact with students on Facebook and Twitter by simply using email without any friending or following is a real game changer." Robertson added, "ConnectYard has definitely increased discussion between instructors, TAs, and students in my calculus section and the great thing is that everyone was able to continue using the technologies they were already familiar with."
Notifications for all communication channels are opt-in, can be customized by the student for each individual course and are conveniently stored in the Blackboard course. ConnectYard also features the ability to trend discussion topics at a course level based on frequently asked questions, providing instructors with the ability to readily identify key concepts students may be struggling with.
"As educators, we must do whatever we can to reach out to the new digital native students and connect with them in ways unheard of previously, in such ways that these students stay focused on their work instead of other daily distractions," reported John Lane, Instructional Applications Engineer and Blackboard Administrator at the downtown campus of the University of Houston. "These new students have a need of being connected and digital social circles are integral in their daily lives. I feel strongly that universities can benefit by increasing student grades and retention levels."
Other popular features include the capability for students to create their own team or study groups directly from within a Blackboard course and a matching engine that recommends potential study partners and mentors based on academic and social profiles.
"In addition to establishing online communities across campuses, ConnectYard has tremendous potential when used as a pedagogical tool," according to Dr. Renee Robinson, Associate Professor of Communication at Saint Xavier University. "Due to its navigational ease and streamlined communication options, faculty members can re-imagine how to engage students in course materials and assessment tools more easily both in and out of class."
ConnectYard can also be used across various college and university departments to more effectively and expediently reach students by distributing institutional announcements, course-level notifications and emergency alerts into students' Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"I started to use ConnectYard to remind students about the deadlines for their online quizzes and homework assignments," Lane added. "Interestingly, the quiz completion ratio for students has increased dramatically and I feel this is due to the immediate reminders that I am able to send directly to cell phones."
The ConnectYard Blackboard Building Block is already in use at over a dozen institutions and can be downloaded from the Blackboard Extensions Catalog found at http://www.blackboardextensions.com. Information is also available on the ConnectYard website, http://www.connectyard.com.
Blackboard Building Blocks allow clients to incorporate specific add-on tools into the Blackboard Learn platform to address unique challenges. "The flexibility of Blackboard Building Blocks provides our clients with a more customized experience. From open source tools to Blackboard Partner supported extensions, clients can truly build the Blackboard system that's right for them," said Matthew Small, Blackboard Chief Business Officer. With hundreds of extensions from Blackboard Alliance Program(TM) Partners and client developers available on http://www.blackboardextensions.com, Blackboard Learn clients can customize unique solutions to enhance their institution's teaching and learning.
As a member in the Blackboard Alliance Program(TM), ConnectYard is also part of the Blackboard Developers Network(TM), an innovative community of technical experts with a passion for using technology to enhance teaching and learning. Within the Blackboard Developers Network, developers from schools, colleges, universities, associations, government organizations and companies are developing software and applications - Blackboard Building Blocks - that extend and enhance the Blackboard learning environment.
ConnectYard provides a centralized social media communications platform for higher education that simplifies and unifies communications across a variety of social technologies, including Facebook and Twitter. The platform also can be used by various departments for institutional messaging, notifications and emergency alerts. In addition, the platform seamlessly integrates into existing portal and learning management technologies, providing increased communication capabilities for both administrative and academic purposes.
ConnectYard, Inc. was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Wayne, New Jersey. For more information on how ConnectYard can help your institution improve teaching and learning, please visit http://www.connectyard.com or call 973-494-8041.
Blackboard(R), the Blackboard Alliance Program(TM), the Blackboard Developers Network(TM), and Blackboard Building Blocks(TM) are trademarks or registered trademarks of Blackboard Inc. and are used with permission. All rights reserved.
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