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Annoyances with Blackboard

Every instructor using a course management system / learning management system (CMS/LMS) ends up discovering the various annoyances unique to the system. Some have more annoyances than others, which is one reason I prefer Moodle but still have plenty of "kind suggestions" for the developers. I also like that if you do spot a problem with Moodle, you can participate in fixing the weakness or error.

Then, there is Blackboard. It isn't one or two annoyances. It seems there's one annoyance after another when I try to deal with Blackboard. The hosted Blackboard Learn system we use at my university seems to be one challenge after another. I don't know why, but it is more annoying than the previous versions of Blackboard and its other products I have used as an instructor.

Tonight's list of complaints is incomplete, a mere hint of my frustrations.

1) Editing announcements, discussion threads, and other content is inconsistent. I've tried editing the HTML directly, but after you save the content the "helpful" BB system alters your code. Paragraphs and breaks are changed, magically, into "div" tags with improper spacing. The paragraphs you carefully crafted? Gone. Other HTML tags are also changed. Why? BB supposedly supports HTML, so why "fix" my code?

2) The "Journal" mode doesn't include the same editor as other editing windows. Yet, clearly it stores some code because when students cut-n-paste text from other sources, I can tell. I'd like to have access to HTML in the journals.

3) I want to upload dozens of files for students to download. This files are sample essays. This would be "easy" (at least easier) if our server supported WebDAV and allowed students to access the folders remotely, but even that would be a challenge for students. So, I'm stuck uploading files to a folder, creating a "folder item" for students, and then creating links one at a time to the files I uploaded. I could upload one compressed (".zip") file for every dozen or so samples, but students only need to choose a few files.

The last of these annoyances is the biggest. If any reader of this blog knows how I can upload an entire directory of files and allows students access to these with minimal effort, I'd appreciate it. My method is working, but why should I have to create links to every file? The link method presents screen of fields, none of which I need.

Online education is always more work than traditional classroom instruction. Sadly, even when we aren't fighting the technology, the cumbersome designs of CMS/LMS platforms requires that we spend extra time to do basic tasks.

I actually miss the old Blackboard WebCT/WebVista platforms because I knew their quirks and how to work around them.


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