Looks like I found a rant train to ride for a couple of weeks.
Now we have to call the criminals from Blackboard to the table. Don’t think the sobriquet is unearned, the developers and designers of this torture device would make Torquemada proud.
As much as principals and school administrators lose their patience with teachers trying to incorporate educational technology into their teaching, the process is made all the more difficult by corporate behemoths who don’t care a tinker’s cuss for the struggling user.
Case in point, look at this page from a Blackboard page that allows the teacher (in theory) to upload a voice announcement:
“If you wish to edit this Voice Announcement, do not use the MODIFY button.”
Hmmm let’s think here. If we want to edit something we should not use a button with a word that mean edit, like the word “modify”, we should use the button with a word that means delete, like the “remove” button. Do you think you would ever find such junk on YouTube?
Case #2 – The Simple Page
This is a page from the AP European History course I’m teaching this year with Virtual High School. Teachers use pages like this to provide content and explain assignments to students. These pages are the lowest common denominator of the course, it’s where all the action is. Everything I give to students is contained in some part by these pages.
Take a look at the toolbar. Can you see any button that will allow you to enlarge this edit box? I’ve been looking at it for more than ten months and I haven’t found it. Allow me to recycle a joke I’ve been using just as long as I’ve been dealing with this – trying to design a decent web page in Blackboard is like trying to hold marching band practice in a closet.
We know we can’t compete with the design of professional web pages and we don’t expect Dreamweaver, but online teachers have to crafts pages that are at least engaging. In leaving the classroom, online teachers lose their voice, personality and body language. Images, colors, font and flair are all we have. Yet Blackboard gives us this microscopic petri dish to work in. I can’t believe that any of their employees have ever actually used their product to teach.
Case #3 – The Second Click
Here’s another gem. If you want to pull of a list of students, wait, I’m sorry users (more developeresque flotsam that has yet to be corrected), then you get a neat little window:
My guess is that almost every teacher will choose “list all” because most classes have less than thirty students and it doesn’t make sense to take time to type in a search. However, Blackboard wants to make sure you really want to “list all” so this is what it gives you after the click:
I just clicked “list all” and Blackboard really wants to know for sure whether I want to “list all”. If I’m teaching a freshman section of history to 250 students at a big university, what makes you think I don’t know that listing all might take a couple seconds more? Why would Blackboard force us to ask twice for something every single time we look for it? This isn’t a verification of the deletion of a file, this is just a roadblock.
After finding these roadbocks every day, I’d rather ride the rant train.