I spent a couple of days in California last week at the offices of Blackboard Mobile. As you already know, I'm a fan of the apps from the fine folks at Bb Mobile. Mobile Central and Mobile Learn brought major shifts in user interface, design, and creativity when they were launched "back in the day." The newest solution from the Bb Mobile team is called Mosaic. My mission for this visit was to use Mosaic to create my own app. To get ready for this endeavor, my "handlers" at Bb Mobile had me download Xcode (it includes an iOS emulator for app demos/testing) and acquire developer credentials for the Apple Store as well as for Google Play. My "homework" also included suggestions for my app assets - icons, load screen graphics, background images.
I've never made an app before so I was hoping for a fair amount of handholding. It turns out that Mosaic represents another shift in how Blackboard provides mobile-centric solutions. In the past, if a client wanted to make content (data stream) changes, they had to work with Bb Mobile to get things pushed through. With Mosaic, content updates and additions are handled by the client via a nifty web-based editor. The editor split into two sections: data and devices. The data streams are ridiculously simple to update. I added various modules for RSS feeds, YouTube videos, contact information, and images in about an hour. Creating my app for iPhone, Android, or mobile web (sorry Blackberry or Windows Phone - you'll have to go with mobile web) was super swift. In fact, the longest part of the app creation process for myself/schools will be the approval pipeline for the Apple Store. My Bb Mobile support crew informed me that that process usually takes about two weeks.
If your school is looking for a mobile app solution, my current recommendation goes to Mosaic. It's better than anything that I've seen from other mobile app developers in the higher education sphere. My hope is that Mosaic pushes other solutions providers to create something even more spectacular in both form and function.
An important note: When you stroll into the Bb Mobile offices, you're immediately struck by the overall openness of the work space. The majority of employees work in open spaces. Offices and cubicles are few and far between. The atmosphere at Bb Mobile represents all of the stereotypes that you would expect at a Bay Area start-up. However, Bb Mobile is part of Blackboard and "fun" is something that most people do not associated with Bb. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The future of Blackboard Inc. rests with their Mobile division.
Full disclosure: Blackboard Mobile paid for my trip to their HQ in San Francisco. However, I did pay for my Economy Plus upgrades. Legroom is vital for 5 hour flights.
Additionally, I'll be presenting more about mobile + higher education at this year's Bb World Conference. The title of my talk: "Not Mobile Yet? WTF is Your Problem?" If I decide to talk about Mosaic, it will be because of its overall functionality…Bb World is in Las Vegas…my least favorite conference city.
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