Let me start by saying that when I first started teaching online for the university, the only LMS they offered was Blackboard, I hated it because it wasn’t as intuitive or user-friendly as Moodle. I was exposed to Moodle when I was taking courses online for the Tesol Certificate on teaching online. That was in in 2005 fast forward 15 years later I have come to appreciate Blackboard as it has evolved as much as I have. The thing I like the most is the structure it offers because I have found that while teaching online, students need structure and predictability. They also don’t like spending too much time looking for things in different spots and in all sorts of different folders. If you send students on a treasure hunt looking for the homework, readings, and videos for the whole semester they because extremely frustrated and angry. It that was very stressful for me and my students, so I began experimenting with all sorts of different tool that were in Blackboard and outside of Blackboard. Today I will talk about the tools that I like and don’t like on Blackboard.
Tools I like:
- The “Lesson Plan” tool, as it helps create a structured course because I can keep all of the information the students need for the week in one folder. In this tool I am able to include links, assignment dropboxes, connect to a specific blog and/or discussion thread, etc.
- The “My Messages” is another good tool because it keeps all of the students’ messages in one place and nothing ever gets lost.
- The “Announcement” tool allows me to send one message to all of my students at once straight to their email which so convenient when I need to quickly respond to everyone or let them know about something that is going on without having to log out and log into another website.
- The “Blog”, this tool is great since it allows students to reflect on what is going on and they can also read and respond to each other.
- The Sign-up sheet, I use this tool to have students’ sign-up for their group assignment. The feature I like the most is that it allows students to choose the group they want to be in.
- The reports tool is amazing because it allows me to see where my students have gone in the course and if they did the work, they say they did. I know it sounds like big brother, but it comes in handy when you have a dispute with a student.
- “SafeAssign” is another great tool that Blackboard created to detect if a student has plagiarized or not. It takes out the guesswork. The other thing that is nice about this tool is that it so easy to add it to an assignment and it does the work for me.
- The “Survey” tool is one that I had not used a lot in the last, but it came handy this semester because my students were so used to seeing me in class and we were able to come to a decision quickly, but once we met remotely it was easier to use the survey to make decisions since it allowed students to think and vote. In many, they felt better because it gave them power in the decisions I made, and it helped them feel included like when we were in class.
- “Blackboard Collaborate Ultra” allows me to connect live with my students without making the student learn new anything new or login to anything to a new website. I especially like this tool because I can use it for my virtual office hours and my students can pop in and out to ask me questions.
- The “assignment dropbox” is another great tool because it allows me to see the student’s paper and even correct it without having to download it on my computer. I also get to see when the paper was submitted which also helps a lot when there is a dispute with a student.
Tools I don’t like:
- I don’t like the inline corrections of the written assignment. I love the idea of it, but it is very difficult to use. I tried it on my computer with my mouse and there is no way you can draw with it. So, then I tried using my iPad with an apple pencil and it worked but not as well as other software. It is very difficult to do inline correction on a paper with multiple errors like the writing of an ESL student.
- “Data Management” is a cool tool if you know how to use, but If you make a mistake with the dates, it will throw the whole course off as far as the dates go and then I will have to enter all of the dates and time manually.
- “Rubrics”, that tool is difficult to use well at least the way I want to use it. Personally, I like to use it so my students can peer review each other’s writing. From what my students told me they can’t access the rubric before I post their grade so I cannot use it the I want to.
- The “Test” tool that imports and exports a test is also a good tool but difficult and cumbersome to use.
So, there you have it. As you can see there are more things to love in Blackboard than not. What has your experience has been with Blackboard?
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