Educational CyberPlayGround ®

There are 24 Distance Education Benchmarks
to help evaluate Online Courses.

"Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education"
Chickering & Gamson, AAHE Bulletin, 1987
established a framework for evaluating teaching in traditional, face-to-face courses, based on fifty years of higher education research. A team of five evaluators from Indiana University's Center for Research on Learning and Technology (CRLT) recently used these principles to evaluate four online courses in a professional school at a large Midwestern university. From their study they developed a list of "lessons learned" for online instruction corresponding to the original seven principles. A brief overview of their findings is in "Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses" by Charles Graham, Kursat Cagiltay, Byung-Ro Lim, Joni Craner and Thomas M. Duffy
A comprehensive report of the evaluation findings is available on the Web PDF Tech Source 2001 The Center for Research on Learning and Technology.

The CRLT's mission is to promote and support a community of scholars dedicated to research on the design, use, and implementation of technology to improve learning. For more information contact Center for Research on Learning & Technology, 201 N. Rose Avenue, Suite 2201, Bloomington, IN 47405 USA; tel: 812-856-8200; fax: 812-856-8232; email:; Web:

Blackboard Gets Gag Order Against Smart-Card Hackers
By Anitha Reddy Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, April 18, 2003; Page E01

A D.C.-based company that sells a "smart card" network used on more than 200 college campuses has blocked two students from publicly describing how to override the system to circumvent building security, obtain free soft drinks and avoid paying for laundry.
Blackboard Inc. obtained a court order last weekend preventing Billy Hoffman, a computer science major at Georgia Tech, and Virgil Griffith, a student at the University of Alabama, from discussing vulnerabilities in the card system at a hacker convention in Atlanta.
The case has prompted heated discussion online among hackers and technology groups, because it touches on a controversial federal law that forbids people to pick the virtual locks protecting electronic content.Hoffman described breaking into a card reader installed in a dorm laundry room "with a cheap metal knife" and discovering how to trick the system into doling out free washes in an article last year in 2600, a hacker magazine."Hopefully, this article will force Blackboard to change to a more secure system," Hoffman wrote. Hoffman has spoken at several hacker conventions on the topic in the past two years, according to his online résumé and Bob Roth, the chief executive of another campus card provider, NuVision Networks Corp.
Blackboard did not sue Hoffman immediately after the article was published because it understood that Georgia Tech had punished him, said Greg Baker, vice president of product development for Blackboard Transaction System. Georgia Tech would not say whether it sanctioned Hoffman.But now, the company says Hoffman's talks provide a "blueprint" for vandalism and copyright infringement and mislead clients about the safety of its systems.
"We weren't really worried about security of the system. We were worried about the reputation of the system," Baker said. The company said that, to its knowledge, no one has ever hacked into its card systems, used on college campuses since the 1980s.
In a statement, the company accused Hoffman and Griffith of "promoting methods to dismantle secure hardware installations by vandalizing and gaining access to wiring of Blackboard Transaction Systems.""These flaws don't necessarily just extend to silly things such as tricking a Coke machine -- they have much more important implications to physical security," Hoffman said in an Associated Press report yesterday.
Hoffman and Griffith declined to be interviewed yesterday through their lawyer, Pete Wellborn. Blackboard cards go by a variety of names and have a variety of uses. At some schools, such as Ohio State University, students swipe their Blackboard cards to enter dormitories and other secured buildings.
At Georgia Tech, Blackboard's cards are called BuzzCards, a reference to the school mascot, the yellow jacket, and they are carried by all students, faculty and staff. They are the school's main ID card and serve as library cards, meal cards and campus debit cards that can be used in vending machines and laundry rooms.The computer system that stores BuzzCard balances isn't linked to the same databases that store students' financial, academic and health records, according to university spokesman Bob Harty.Wellborn, the attorney for Hoffman and Griffith, said Blackboard rested its case on several federal and state statutes, but not the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That act set off a debate between proponents who argued it safeguarded intellectual property and legal experts who declared it would smother innovation. It remains controversial in the technology community.
Blackboard's lawyers cited the act in their letter last week demanding the pair call off their presentation. Wellborn, who has an undergraduate degree in computer science and teaches Internet law at Georgia Tech, said it could come up in the case. Last month, Hoffman attended a trade show for campus card users as a paid consultant for Blackboard competitor NuVision Networks. Roth said the company had invited Hoffman to the New Orleans event after using excerpts from his article on Blackboard's card system in its promotional literature for the past two years. In fact, Hoffman peppered Blackboard's Baker, who was manning a booth at the show, with questions about Blackboard's security before identifying himself, Baker said. He added that Hoffman "seemed nice andpleasant." A hearing on the case is scheduled for May 30 before DeKalb CountySuperior Court Judge Anne Workman, who issued the restraining order.

July 10, 2000 Press Release: NEA and Blackboard Inc. Study Finds 24 Measures of Quality in Internet-Based Distance Learning

Washington, DC, March 21, 2000 The National Education Association (NEA) and Blackboard Inc. today unveiled an important, research-driven list of quality benchmarks for distance learning in higher education. The list of 24 quality measures is the centerpiece of "Quality On the Line" -- an Institute for Higher Education Policy study commissioned by NEA and Blackboard Inc. With the growth worldwide of teaching and learning on the Internet, attention is being paid to the nature and quality of online higher education. Speaking before an international forum of higher education policymakers convened for the Blackboard Summit 2000, NEA President Bob Chase and Blackboard Inc. Chairman Matthew Pittinsky previewed the findings of the study and declared the 24 benchmarks essential to ensuring excellence in Internet-based learning. "The distance from faculty to student must be measured in results achieved for our students," said Chase. "The benchmarks identified in this study are important guideposts as our nation navigates the future of online higher education."
Pittinsky said, "The quality of the education we provide for students is the driving force behind the way teaching and learning takes place. The benchmarks identified in the NEA-Blackboard study will be invaluable to colleges and universities around the world for years to come as they keep their focus on quality while working to create and improve their Internet-based teaching and learning environments." To formulate the benchmarks, the report identified first-hand, practical strategies being used by U.S. colleges considered to be leaders in online distance education. The benchmarks distilled from this study are divided into seven categories of quality measures currently in use on campuses around the nation. Many are common sense, but the study validates their importance. The categories and benchmarks include:

Institutional Support Benchmarks.

1. A documented technology plan that includes electronic security measures to ensure both quality standards and the integrity and validity of information.

2. The reliability of the technology delivery system is as failsafe as possible.

3. A centralized system provides support for building and maintaining the distance education infrastructure.

Course Development Benchmarks.

4. Guidelines regarding minimum standards are used for course development, design, and delivery, while learning outcomes -- not the availability of existing technology--determine the technology being used to deliver course content.

5. Instructional materials are reviewed periodically to ensure they meet program standards.

6. Courses are designed to require students to engage themselves in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation as part of their course and program requirements.

Teaching/Learning Benchmarks.

7. Student interaction with faculty and other students is an essential characteristic and is facilitated thr

8. Feedback to student assignments and questions is constructive and provided in a timely manner.

9. Students are instructed in the proper methods of effective research, including assessment of the validity of resources.

Course Structure Benchmarks. 10. Before starting an online program, students are advised about the program to determine if they possess the self-motivation and commitment to learn at a distance and if they have access to the minimal technology required by the course design.

11. Students are provided with supplemental course information that outlines course objectives, concepts, and ideas, and learning outcomes for each course are summarized in a clearly written, straightforward statement.

12. Students have access to sufficient library resources that may include a "virtual library" accessible through the World Wide Web.

13. Faculty and students agree upon expectations regarding times for student assignment completion and faculty response.

Student Support Benchmarks.

14. Students receive information about programs, including admission requirements, tuition and fees, books and supplies, technical and proctoring requirements, and student support services.

15. Students are provided with hands-on training and information to aid them in securing material through electronic databases, interlibrary loans, government archives, news services, and other sources.

16. Throughout the duration of the course/program, students have access to technical assistance, including detailed instructions regarding the electronic media used, practice sessions prior to the beginning of the course, and convenient access to technical support staff.

17. Questions directed to student service personnel are answered accurately and quickly, with a structured system in place to address student complaints.

Faculty Support Benchmarks.

18. Technical assistance in course development is available to faculty, who are encouraged to use it.

19. Faculty members are assisted in the transition from classroom teaching to online instruction and are assessed during the process.

20. Instructor training and assistance, including peer mentoring, continues through the progression of the online course.

21. Faculty members are provided with written resources to deal with issues arising from student use of electronically-accessed data.

Evaluation and Assessment Benchmarks.

22. The program's educational effectiveness and teaching/learning process is assessed through an evaluation process that uses several methods and applies specific standards.

23. Data on enrollment, costs, and successful/innovative uses of technology are used to evaluate program effectiveness.

24. Intended learning outcomes are reviewed regularly to ensure clarity, utility, and appropriateness.

About Blackboard Inc.

Blackboard is the leading online education company. Its software products and Web services reach 3,000 colleges, universities, K-12 schools and other organizations in every state and in more than 70 countries. More than 2.1 million people worldwide teach and learn in online education environments powered by Blackboard. Blackboard education partners include Academic Systems Corp., Archipelago,, Houghton Mifflin, KPMG LLP, Learnware, Microsoft, NextEd, Norton Publishing, Oracle, Pearson Inc., PeopleSoft, Sun Microsystems, Sylvan Learning Systems and The TLT Group.