Monday, September 15, 2008

More of Blackboard as bad, bad, bad

Continuing my previous post:
1. It is very difficult to link to anything within Blackboard.
2. If you don't think like the Blackboard design team--most of whom I'm guessing have little actual educational experience--than nothing will be intuitive about the system. Look, I've used a lot of Blackboard. Try and do something simple. For example, enter a grade for a student in the gradebook; it is a lot more difficult a process than you would think. I've had to write it up with about ten lines of directions for some of my adjunct instructors. Try and make a suggestion about what would work better, forget it. Changing the corners and colors of the buttons does work well.
3. Why doesn't Blackboard recognize that I am an instructor when I log in so that I have the tools that I need as an instructor available to me from my carefully chosen menu buttons?
4. I also think that BB is close to being illegal by seeming to protect instructional materials from perusal and use by the citizens of the state that have paid for those materials.
5. BB destroys the entire premise of the web which is the free access and sharing of materials across all disciplines and boundaries. If I create something for one of my history courses, other students in other courses can have access to those materials and use them if they wish. They can learn! The web is great at fostering collaboration; but not BB because you can't get to or share anything in there unless you have the magic password.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The electronic textbook

Just received an email from the editors of Innovate, a journal of online education, in which the editors are seeking contributions about the future of textbooks and how they might or might not change in the electronic near future. Very interesting. I have been toying with the idea of abandoning a regular textbook in my HIS 135, contemporary history course, but I haven't yet been able to get up to do that, thinking that I need a bunch more resources online for the course before I could make any change.
It is worrisome, the thought of abandoning the text, not from the point of view of the material in there, but considering that students read so little now, and they have such poorly defined reading skills, especially when it comes to interpreting the information--not to mention actually being able to read a couple of hundred pages a week. I am not sure where that leaves us if we abandon a large part of the reading demands on them, because you can't just replace a text with an equivalent amount of online text. More thoughts on this later.

Blackboard, let me count the ways that it is bad, bad and bad

1. It uses an archaic frame-page set up that was long ago abandoned by most web designers. With the current way that BB run, you get about 30-40% of a computer screen (in the target area) to design with. Boy, that is real exciting! You can really do a lot with graphics and images in a 400x400 pixel box.
2. Blackboard depersonsalizes (sic) the educational experience. When you take classes in person at any college in this country, every time you step into a different professor's classroom, you experience a different learning environment (some are good; some are not so good), but all are different. Everyone teaches slightly differently from their colleagues, even with the same course. Well, Blackboard aims for uniformity of expression' although the BB people do allow you to change the color and style of the buttons. Wow, that makes for a different classroom experience.
3. It is ugly. Enough said; oops, maybe I should say BB is really, really ugly. There is no aesthetic sensibility about it.
4. The BB setup also rewards those instructors who don't want to go beyond the technological requirements of being able to create and upload a Word document. The web and the "cloud" have a lot more potential than a black-and-white, text document.