I've never been a big fan of Desire2Learn's mobile interface. The Discussion tool, particularly, lacks many of the features that would make it useful to mobile users. For that reason, I decided to use an external service for all class discussions and announcements in WEB 2710: Web Design for Mobile Devices this semester. In this post, I'll give a brief overview of Glassboard, the service I chose, and share my experiences using it for a semester.
Glassboard is a collaboration tool that allows you to create private meeting rooms, or boards, where members can post messages and share files with each other. Users can access their boards throught the website or by downloading the free iOS and Android applications. The interface is intuitive and similar to other social networking apps you may already use.
Boards are private, so anything you post is only available to members of the board. This means you can create a separate board for each class you teach and you don't have to worry about students from different sections reading the wrong content. If you've ever tried using Twitter hashtags to organize content for different classes you're going to love this feature! You can create up to 10 boards with a free account and an unlimited number of boards if you go for the pro account ($50/year). Once you create a board, you can invite participants by providing a list of email addresses or by sharing a customized invite code/URL. I prefer the second option because it lets students choose the email address they want to use.
Users can choose to receive notifications of new content on their mobile devices or through email. Notifications settings are board specific, so you can choose different options for each board if you'd like. I ended up turning on device notifications so I could keep up with the discussion throughout the day.
Glassboard alleviated a lot of my past problems with using social media in the classroom. For example, I didn't have to juggle multiple Twitter accounts or course hashtags this semester. Because students can start their own threads (or even their own boards), I feel the discussions were more engaging and student-focused than in previous semesters when I used the LMS's built-in discussion tool.
Despite being a great tool, Glassboard still has room for improvement though. There's no built-in search functionality, so finding a topic discussed several days or weeks ago can be problematic. In addition, text formatting is minimal - there's no way to bold text or create a bulleted list, for example.
Will I use Glassboard again in the future? Absolutely. It is a fantastic collaboration tool that is both powerful and easy to use. And students seem to love it. My class of 13 (amazing) students ended over a week ago and the board has already had 15+ posts today.