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First Steps Using Building Blocks

NOTE: For new development, Blackboard recommends building REST and LTI integrations and NOT Building Blocks(B2s). B2s do not work within the Ultra Course UI; REST and LTI works for all Learn deployment and UI options. Use the Developer AMI listed under DVBA for your Blackboard Learn server.

Developing extensions for Learn requires a development environment. Your development environment refers to (1) the development workstation on which you will be doing your development work - the actual coding, compiling, and debugging - and (2) the development server on which you will deploy and test your extension.

This set of tutorials will provide instruction around setting up your development workstation, development server, and how to enable debugging of your code so that you can step through it line-by-line when trying to isolate issues or bugs. It also covers more generally the overall life cycle of the typical Blackboard Building Block development project.

Development Workstation

Your development workstation will host the software and libraries necessary for writing and building java web applications. This may be any software of your choice that is up to the task though most development is done using one of the more prominent Integrated Development Environments - Eclipse, Netbeans, or IntelliJ. This tutorial will focus on using Eclipse (with some notes re the use of Netbeans).

Development Server

Your development server will host an instance of Blackboard Learn, Developer Edition - a version of the Blackboard learning platform that we make available for development purposes that has the Content System, Community System, and Learning System all enabled to support up to 150 test users, 100 test courses, and 1000 test enrollment records. In many cases, developers choose to run Blackboard Learn, Developer Edition on their development workstation rather than on separate server hardware. Others choose to share a dedicated development server among multiple developers, each connecting to it from their individual development workstations. Still others have created their own virtual machine images that allow unwanted changes to be “thrown away” and easily restore to a vanilla installation of their development server.

Supporting Libraries

Blackboard ships Learn with various proprietary or open-source .jar files as resources. Blackboard includes or excludes these resources depending only on the needs of Blackboard Learn. We do not know which ones independent developers might want to use. When you build a Building Block, do not rely on the presence of any particular resource in the Blackboard Learn installation. Instead, include a copy of any necessary resources locally with your development project.

Available Tutorials

The following tutorials are available to help you get started with Building Block development: