A new Blackboard tool lets campuses connect the company's course-management system to Google's free e-mail and document-sharing services.
The connecting tool, which was developed by Northwestern University, is now available to other campuses as a "Building Block" plug-in for Blackboard. It allows students to access Google Apps within the Blackboard platform, meaning they don't have to sign into the two platforms separately.
Hundreds of colleges have signed up for Google's free services and made the company's Gmail service the official student e-mail program on their campuses. Google's services include a series of online programs as well, including a word processor and a spreadsheet application, and some students are using them for their classwork.
About 1,000 students at Northwestern are using the new connecting program.
Making it easier to access the programs means students can work outside of the classroom more efficiently, said Wendy Woodward, director of technology support services at Northwestern. "We saw an opportunity to leverage the capabilities of two very important systems," she said.
Northwestern has been using Blackboard for more than eight years, and Google Apps for two years, she said.
Ray Henderson, a Blackboard official, said in a written statement that "there is tremendous demand in our user community for the new model of document creation and collaboration that Google has created."