Thursday, 29 October 2009

Why isn't it on Blackboard? (Or, eleven reasons why I don't use Blackboard.)

One question I have been asked, many times, is "why isn't this lecture/assessment etc. on Blackboard?". Well, there are a number of reasons....
Blackboard is an old technology and cannot do a lot of the things I want to do with my teaching. In fact, the technology in Blackboard dates back to the 1990s, and is very web 1.0 (we are now said to be web 2.0). Some of the things Blackboard can't do are:
  1. There is no way to bulk upload lectures.
  2. It is not possible to generate 'static' links to lecture notes etc. so therefore I cannot email the class a link to download a file in a single click. All I would be able to do is send an email that says new material has been posted, and then you would have to login to Blackboard to find it.
  3. There is no way in Blackboard to provide you with the feedback on assessments you want. I have 3 choices on Blackboard: a) No feedback or mark; b) Just a mark; c) Mark and a lot of feedback. So what is wrong with choice c? Well, it is not possible to delay feedback being sent, it can only be given when you complete an assessment. Hence, if the rest of the class is still doing the assessment I cannot do c, and that just leaves a or b, which would give you insufficient feedback.
  4. The technology in Blackboard does not allow for interactive tests as I use in CMB2005.
  5. The technology in Blackboard does not allow for the construction and management of large sites used for teaching, i.e. CMB2005.
  6. Blackboard does not allow for the construction of the types of assessment (with feedback) I use in BGM1001 and CMB2005.
  7. Blackboard does not allow for the easy creation of interactive pages with embedded material (e.g. additional notes and videos as seen for some of my lectures).
  8. There is no push technology in Blackboard. You always have to go to find information. If you subscribe to the rss feed on this blog you would receive automatic notifications in your rss newsreader of updates, new notes and links to articles.
  9. If you are in your second or third years, try and find your lectures notes from last year on Blackboard? All my notes are online back to 2001.
  10. Posting to this blog has taken the length of time it has taken me to write this. No time wasted, no hassle, easy editing, and you will know about this within 10 minutes of posting, and be able to go straight to it using a direct link, as opposed to digging through Blackboard.
  11. By using Twitter and this Blog I can post a short note on line in a matter of seconds. If I find an interesting paper or news story, a quick tweet, and it is there. This is not possible with Blackboard (in reverse, as I post this to the Blog a Tweet gets sent out automatically so if you are following me on Twitter you would know in seconds).
As some of you may know I am chairman of the Blackboard Steering Group and one of the reasons I accepted the position is because I firmly believe in the use of technology in teaching, and I am aware of the problems with Blackboard. I am now working with the University to get Blackboard improved, and as soon as Blackboard can do the majority of the thing I need for teaching, I will use it.
Meanwhile, links to all my material are on Blackboard, and are in the relevant sections, so just follow them...
If you have any questions, please email me: n.j.morris@ncl.ac.uk.