Backing away from Blackboard

Nearly everything I have to read for my classes is posted on Blackboard. Whether I print the pages 10 minutes before class or two days before, finding them on the Web site was never a hassle—not until this year.

The new configuration of Blackboard is confusing, as well as redundant, and has interfered with my being able to complete my reading assignments.

When I first navigated to the new Blackboard site, I figured that it could not have been much more difficult than the site was the previous year, I was wrong.

As I logged in, I looked through the various clickable tabs to find the reading assignment for the following day. I clicked on one tab labeled ‘content’ and found nothing, no assignment, no syllabus, no calendar, no hint that I could even possibly have homework. Then I found another tab along the left hand side of the page labeled ‘content.’ Sure enough, as I click on the second tab, a link to my reading assignment pops up.

As relieved as I was to find my homework, I am still confused as to why Blackboard would have two tabs with the same name, for one class.

After I’d printed my article, I went back to Blackboard a few hours later to show another student in my class where to find the reading assignment.  She was having the same trouble as me.

As I went to the infamous ‘content’ tabs, nothing popped up. I began clicking vigorously through all of the possible tabs, portals, files and links that could contain my homework and found nothing.

This happened again with an assignment for a different class that I had already printed out and misplaced, so I was printing it again.

However, upon logging in, the document was nowhere to be found. It seems as though the new Blackboard somehow ‘hides’ the document after it has been printed.

Perhaps it is not hidden, it is just listed under one of the five tabs vaguely labeled ‘content.’

It leaves me wondering what prompted the Blackboard upgrade.

“Blackboard was updated because we’re trying to  keep current  and we get the best support from the vendor if we’re using the latest version,” Joe Indiano, senior director of technology, said.

Last school year, the system seemed to be working just fine. It was very simple and reliable to find, print and re-print assignments for class the next day.

The new configuration of the Web site has really thrown me off balance since school started.

When I began receiving emails stating that Blackboard was essentially getting a makeover, I thought nothing of it. Perhaps there would be a new color background or a change in font—not a total overhaul of where assignments could be found.

I am not the only student who has been confused by the new organization of Blackboard.

“One of my teachers took time out of class to explain how to use the new Blackboard because she had gotten so much training on how to use it,” sophomore Caitlin Monaghan said. “Although I don’t think it’s much different and I can figure it out, I think it’s weird that professors got so much training when all students got was an e-mail.”

The way that documents open through the new Blackboard is also much different.

When students have to open a PowerPoint document, it does not open like it did before the configuration.

“You can’t print PowerPoints like you used to,” Monaghan said. “Last year you could choose to print the document as a handout, but now it opens like a web page. Although it’s more convenient to view it online, it’s not when you want to print it out, like everyone does.”

The new configuration causes confusion and frustration at printing time that leaves some students confused and stressed.

Although I like the idea of a new, fresh, more organized Blackboard page, I think the configurations made for this school year are too organized.

However Indiana said, “some  things that students and faculty were looking for  were in the new version of Blackboard.”

Although it is important for the university to keep up with the demands of students and faculty, I feel as though this new version of Blackboard is more difficult to navigate.

Also, the pages that students and professors see on Blackboard are completely different. So if I can’t find an assignment, I won’t be able to contact my professor and have her walk me through the Web site’s links to find the it.

Instead, I will be forced to contact someone at the help desk and locating my homework should not be so difficult.

Perhaps fewer tabs and options  would make assignments less elusive and make Blackboard more user-friendly.

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