Blackboard update, app fail to satisfy student expectations
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 23:02
Blackboard has become a staple in the lives of students and teachers alike. Both on the surface and underneath, Blackboard underwent quite a transformation last year.
While most changes were for the better, some alienated its user base.
Unlike many other class organization systems, Blackboard’s learning curve is relatively short; most students are able to find their way about within their first few visits to the site.
The student homepage remains the same. Its background can be changed if the user wants to customize the traditional landscape. With just a click of the mouse on “Personalize Page” the user already has many templates laid out before them.
Removing the widgets from one’s homepage requires nothing more than a click in the upper left hand corner of each box,
Most students fail to take advantage of the extra modules that can be added via a simple click to the upper left hand, selecting “Add Module.” From here students can enjoy even further customization and shortcuts such as linking to McGraw-Hill Connect.
Blackboard’s redesign grants basic users an easy-to-use interface while allowing more experienced users to customize as they see fit.
The “courses” module shines as the star of the Blackboard system. Teachers allocate what items show up on the left navigation menu of their class.
Blackboard’s engineers saw fit to simplify the process to avoid further confusing some of the less tech savvy teachers.
Ability to access nearly every piece of class information from one’s browser gives students a leg up on class work, marrying both function and accessibility.
The “My Grades” tab has proved itself to be a magnificent tool for students to keep track of their own work as well as making the lives of teachers easier. Overall the “courses” module simplifies the lives of students and teachers alike.
Simply put, this update didn’t change anything. Many problems that have hindered Blackboard from versions before Service Pack 10 have yet to be addressed.
The smartphone app fares no better. While a desktop provides your Blackboard homepage with everything neatly in place, the mobile app only gives a list.
Furthermore, the user is forced to toothpick their way into menu options as the selection area on the phone is about the size of a pinhead.
To top this all off, the app was difficult to use before Blackboard’s big upgrade last year. Nown with seemingly no changes, Blackboard has moved the app from free to paid.
For such a widespread service that managed to secure many high profile universities, Blackboard has done a poor job integrating other services into their own. They have been kind enough to provide modules for both tasks and calendar.
What Blackboard seemingly fails to understand is that they are not the premier service in either of these.
Undoubtedly, some users may take advantage of these options but I have yet to witness this. To truly become the best in the academic software game Blackboard must learn to integrate with existing services.
Instead of teachers crafting syllabi at the beginning of the semesters that end up lost among the numerous papers in a class folder, Blackboard needs to step up to the plate and allow syllabi to be uploaded direct to their calendar. From here, integration with the mobile app would make it far and beyond the best option in class managing software.
Blackboard does its job extremely well, but it has much room for improvement. In such a niche market with so few competitors, Blackboard certainly needs not innovate a great deal to keep its place at the top; however, it certainly would be nice to see some forward progress.
Integration of services will be key in future markets and hopefully Blackboard will grasp this concept soon.
Imagine opening your calendar application on your phone and seeing your assignments for the next day right there.
It would be fantastic if the task module matured into a great tool. Users should be able to mark assignments as completed, order them by importance, and sync them between all of their devices.
Blackboard holds its place in a student’s life, not for any great features, but for lack of competition.
In our world, less is more and Blackboard for all its faults has grasped this. Here’s to hoping the next iteration of software brings some much-needed innovation.