Blackboard’s bests and blunders

Students, professors point out pros and cons of the university's learning system

By on October 24, 2017

Erin Kane | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
Blackboard is a learning management system (LMS) from a private billion dollar corporation. It was brought to the university to efficiently manage classes as well as record grades, conduct tests, post assignments and organize classroom content, according to Vice President and Chief Information of Technology Officer Fred Tarca. He was one of many faculty members who promoted the use of the system between 1999 and 2000.

“One of the many positive by-products of using an LMS is to bring consistency to the administration of course materials across Quinnipiac,” Tarca said in an email. “Blackboard is often used to post assignments for students to access anywhere or anytime in order not to miss class time. It extends the classroom to a worldwide audience.”

Many professors utilize Blackboard, including Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences Craig Magie.

“I use Blackboard for all my classes. It is the easiest way we have here at QU to disseminate information to all of our students,” Magie said in an email. “I post things like lecture slides, videos, study guides, etcetera. I have also had students conduct online group activities such as constructing wiki pages.”

On the other hand, some faculty members choose not to use the system, including Assistant Professor of Journalism Molly Yanity.

Yanity said she does not like using Blackboard because of its clunky platform and difficulty to communicate with students through email. Yanity said one of the first indicators of Blackboard’s unreliability was during her time in graduate school.

“I was teaching and all the grades I had posted into Blackboard they had some kind of glitch with the system and everything was gone,” Yanity said. “In most of my classes I’ll put grades on it but I’ll totally keep an excel spreadsheet backup, so it’s just like doubling up on all the work.”

Junior psychology major Gabriella Palmeri said she has encountered professors who didn’t use it in her classes.

“Some of my professors didn’t use Blackboard in the past, and my current teacher now doesn’t even know how to work it. So I’m not sure what my grades are, or what he’s doing with any of my assignments,” Palmeri said.

It is not mandatory of any faculty member to use the system often; the degree to which Blackboard is used is an individual choice, according to Vice President for Academic Innovation and Effectiveness Annalisa Zinn.

Faculty members are only required to put in place basic Blackboard functions for the start of each semester, which include posting the course syllabus, a text document like a reading list or list of assignments, and a “welcome to the course” message sent to students using Blackboard’s email function.

“The University does expect that all faculty use Blackboard at least minimally in accordance with the Faculty Blackboard Utilization policy that is in both the Faculty Handbook and the Part-Time Faculty Resource Guide,” Zinn said in an email.

Zinn said that she personally finds Blackboard to significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of student learning in the course as well as her workload as a course instructor.

“The university wishes to be prepared for continuity of instruction in case a disaster (severe weather damage, flu pandemic, or public emergency) requires the closure of campus,” Zinn said. “Blackboard provides a means of working with students at a distance in case of such a campus closure and faculty must be prepared to shift quickly to Blackboard as a primary means of instruction and student contact.”

There is no plan to remove Blackboard anytime soon from the curriculum, according to Director of Academic Technology Lauren Eradi. Erardi said doing so may be disruptive to the university. However, the system is scheduled to be upgraded between Dec. 2017 to Jan. 2018 with streamlined security enhancements.

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