Introduction: How to Make Blackboard User Friendly
Like many educators, I am experimenting with how to write curriculum and develop an online course using Blackboard. According to its website, Blackboard is an online content management system that is “designed to enable educational innovations everywhere by connecting people and technology.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Blackboard is a threat to the nation’s future in education. I say this because it has stifled innovation in the education field with it’s terrible user interface, clunky WYSIWYG editor, and sloth-like performance. It is so frustrating to use, for both educators and students, that many have just abandoned the concept of leveraging the power of the Internet for educational purposes.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Blackboard, consider yourself lucky. Blackboard is an online educational platform that has entrenched itself in several school districts and universities across the country. Now that it has established itself as the status quo, school bureaucracies have been slow to look for and implement an alternative.
And if you don’t believe me, simply do a google search for, “I hate blackboard.” Two million websites cannot be wrong. And if you still doubt the severity of the issue, just google,"I * hate blackboard” and you will be amazed that so much creative language can be used to describe an educational platform that is supposed to be helping our students.
Like many educators, I am unfortunately stuck with it. My school’s administration has adopted it. Most of my students already use it. Many of my colleagues use it. And it is, in fact, a relatively secure method of distributing grades.
So I have come up with a way to improve the ease of use of the program. This video shows some simple ways of using hyperlinked Google Documents to manage the class assignments in Blackboard. More importantly, the user-interface for the students can be greatly improved by placing an entire semester’s curriculum on one page. The advantage (or “learning outcome”) of creating a one-page hyperlinked curriculum map on Blackboard is that teachers will be able to:
Create, update, and edit class assignments on Blackboard without having to log into Blackboard and suffer through its terrible user interface.
And students will be able to:
Analyze an entire semester’s worth of curriculum without having to navigate through Blackboard’s confusing folder structure.
So far, my students like the simple interface. They can find their assignments quickly and have not complained about navigating through Blackboard. As a teacher, I love this set up. I can make last minute changes to my lesson plans, on Google Docs, before printing them and I don’t have to worry about them being updated on Blackboard; it just happens automatically. The face-to-face and online components of my class are seamlessly integrated. Any and all handouts are automatically updated online!
I hope that you find this video to be informative. This system has made my online teaching and media curriculum run a lot smoother. If anyone has any additional ideas on how to write curriculum for Blackboard, please let me know! I’d like to make additional Blackboard tutorials and curriculum mapping videos.
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