Use of the Blackboard Learning System has significantly increased during the eight years it has been offered as a tool for Temple instructors and students, according to officials.
The online course management system and classroom supplement, which was initially used by only 11 instructors, is now accessed by 3,557 instructors, according to data from a device that measures its use.
Blackboard, Inc., the company that provides
the software, is scheduled to release its seventh version May 14, said Eileen Aitken, director of instructional service. Users should expect a series of upgrades geared toward improving the overall learning system rather than the social networking features and performance, Aitken said.
The updated version will be equipped with an early warning system that observes a student’s academic performance and generates an automated notice to both the student and instructor when performance problems begin. With the new edition, Blackboard users will also be able to view the program in several different languages with the Multi-Language Support feature.
Other features include a “What’s New” module that allows students to see changes made by the instructor since their last login on the course Web page, and a new grading system that allows instructors to give partial credit for assignments.
“I think the whole communication component
has definitely improved,” Aitken said. “I think it’s a tool that adapts to what the instructor needs or wants to do with it.”
But its use by professors is still an individual choice, she added. Senior sociology major Twana Moss said she uses Blackboard only when she needs to, adding that it has been a good resource for general information like assignments and syllabuses.
Moss said her use is limited when it comes to features like the Digital Dropbox, which allows students to turn in assignments electronically, and the discussion board, where users can discuss course topics outside of the classroom.
“As a student, I don’t take advantage of what’s there … because I don’t know about it,” she said. For Dr. John Nosek, a computer and information services professor, Blackboard is a portal that can only address the issue of place and time.
“For the most part, functionally, Blackboard is just to store things. And it’s normally stuff that’s static – it doesn’t change much,” he said, comparing the features to ornaments on a Christmas tree.
“[But] it’s still Christmas,” he added.
“[The portal] is still a separate thing that really doesn’t go beyond overcoming the fact that [users] can’t be in the same place at the same time.”
For more than a decade, Nosek has been working with collaboration technology. He traveled to Hong Kong last year to conduct a presentation on the limitations of the Blackboard system to the company’s representatives.
In March, he held a seminar called “Beyond
Blackboard: EnTICE (Environment to Transform Instruction through Collaborative Enhancements)” and presented the opportunities and challenges of using current collaboration technology, including Blackboard.
The problems that need to be addressed with Blackboard are workflow and collaboration,
“It really doesn’t help me with learning [or] with teaching the students anymore,” he said. Nosek has considered implementing SenseMaker, a new Web-based software that allows students to effectively delegate tasks, communicate and monitor their progress electronically. Nosek said he believes systems like this will help with planning, evaluating and communicating
in a classroom and group settings.
Chesney Davis can be reached at email@example.com.