A phone vibrates. Two text messages emanate from a puny screen.
– A friend has sent plans about the upcoming weekend.
– A professor has sent a reminder about an assignment due Monday.
With Blackboard Inc.’s acquisition of mobile messaging group NTI, this scenario could become a reality.
Blackboard bought NTI for a reported $182 million with aims of increasing its users and its capabilities in mass communications.
“We also see tremendous potential for exciting applications of the technology,” Peter Segall, the president North America Higher Education and Operations, Blackboard, wrote in an e-mail.
In the future, Segall said, students may be able to choose how to receive grades or assignments via text message, e-mail or even a phone call.
“From the university side, it would be an option to connect with our students and faculty and provide more instant communication,” said Paul Erickson, the Academic Technology ‘ Middleware Coordinator for Information Services at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Blackboard will explore integration possibilities for NTI group’s Connect-ED with Blackboard Academic Suite.
Blackboard Academic Suite offers online course management for students’ grades and assignments in addition to offering communication options between faculty members and students.
The service Connect-ED, under NTI, powers enrollment communications, financial aid notices, first-year student outreach and incident awareness to text-receiving devices such as cell phones.
“Time-sensitive mass notifications systems are a top priority for academic institutions today,” Segall said.
Alert notification systems have been a growing concern since the Virginia Tech shooting. UNL runs its alert system through a Tennessee company called Wide Area Rapid Notification Inc.
However, it’s unlikely that Blackboard would take the reins of UNL’s alert system any time soon.
“WARN is specifically for emergency notification. They (UNL) don’t want to dilute it with any other kinds of messaging, because then people might not listen to it when it’s really necessary,” said Erickson.
He said the technology has to be backed by community demand and used in a stable, affordable and beneficial way.
“The last thing we want to do is just offer technology for the sake of technology,” said Erickson.