Friday, May 8, 2015

Life in the Pissant Swamp: The Curious Case of the Blackboard Disorder League

Another mystery in the Pissant Swamp is why, every term, a few students have trouble using Blackboard. Blackboard is an online service that allows faculty to put syllabi and assignments online and to grade all assignments online. On the plus side since faculty can put up other grades in Blackboard, students can get their grades as they mount in real time. And students are nothing if not anxious about grades.

One of the downsides to using Blackboard, and there are a few, is that minority of students don't seem to be able to navigate its moderately labyrinthian structure. I put all my assignments for my classes in the content folder of Blackboard. I ask students, and tell them this explicitly in my syllabus, to copy and paste their assignments into the "write submission" box, the big word processing looking box on their left, in Blackboard's assignment drop box. Despite this and despite urging students to go to IT in class and in my syllabus for help if they are having problems doing this--virtually none of them take this advice--a few students still make errors. Instead of putting their assignments in "write submission" they put them in "comments", which are, of course for "comments", or simply "attach" their papers, something I note in the syllabus I do not allow given the problems of compatibility between word processing programmes.

Every so often I wonder why students make these mistakes. Is it haste? Does haste make grade waste? Is it a lack of patience? Do these students not take the time to read the instructions and/or not take the time to look over the Blackboard assignment drop page? Is it an I don't care attitude? Is it laziness? Is it all of the above? I am not sure. Perhaps one of these days I will ask those who make these mistakes why they made them.

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