Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

I Hate Blackboard

Lenten thanks, Day 3

I think God for the glorious experience of the All Saints choir and the generosity of its director in allowing me to join and sing along with it. The spectacular voices of the chamber choir, the privilege of being near its extraordinarily talented  members, the fellowship of good friends, and the wonder of learning about music and voice are beyond description.

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If anyone ever asks you to teach an online course using Blackboard’s course management software, RUN! Run away as fast as you can!!! If your chair or dean informs you that your courses will be converted via Blackboard to online or hybrid format, willy-nilly, by way of getting with the current money-grasping trend in higher education, fill out the application for that job at Walmart.

Do not do, my friends, what I have done
In the House of the Sinking Sun…

Whatever you try to do in Blackboard, Blackboard will scotch you, block you, screw you, deconstruct you, make you look like a raving fool. Whom the Blackboard gods would destroy, they first make mad.

Last night I worked yet again to midnight, undoing the latest devastation Blackboard’s peculiarities have inflicted on my online course. Yesterday morning it was up and back to work at 4:00 a.m.; this morning I slept to 6:00 because I doped myself with not one but two Benadryl after I stumbled away from the computer along about 12:15 a.m.

Running up to this course, I spent hours and hours and…nay, not hours: days, yea, days and days and days morphing into weeks preparing illustrated online lectures in a function Blackboard calls “Voice Presentation.” At the end of all that work, what I ended up with was not optimal—far from it!—but at least it was sort of OK. It wasn’t the digitally recorded PowerPoint presentations I’d made—Blackboard won’t hold even a small PowerPoint, much less one with fifteen or twenty slides and a few spoken words explaining them, even though the user manual indicates it will. It apparently doesn’t have enough memory. WhatEVER.

After I’d made these elegant PowerPoint shows, at great expenditure of time and effort, and then learned they could not be uploaded, I had to extract each and every accursed JPEG; save every one of them separately to disk; upload them, one by interminable one, into Blackboard’s faux blog function; and then link the faux blog posts to Blackboard’s Voice Presentation. This took unimaginable numbers of hours, and it entailed my having to record, re-record, re-re-record, and re-re-re-record my 15-minute spiels ad nauseum.

I am so flicking sick of repeating those damn lecturoids I could throw up. But now I get to do them ALL. OVER. AGAIN.

Duplicating the fall course caused Blackboard to kill all the faux blog-to-Voice Presentation links, every bloody one of them. Actually, instead of bringing the links over to the copied faux blogs, it kept the links to the faux blogs from the fall semester’s Blackboard shell. Naturally, the spring students don’t have access to last fall’s course. So when they try to enter the Voice Presentation, they’re informed that they can’t access the course material.

This quirk, of course, was not visible to me at the time I copied over the new course; because I have admin access to all my old courses, the VP’s worked just fine for me. Not until the eve of the first project’s due date did I start getting frantic e-mails…I can’t get in! Blackboard’s Help Desk can’t figure out the problem. Blackboard’s Help Desk can’t help me. Blackboard’s Help Desk says you have to change all the links.

After some thrashing around, I finally figure out—almost by accident—what is causing the problem. I go into the Voice Presentation to try to move the links (about a dozen of them…) to the faux blogs that were copied into the current semester’s BB course. But…oh yes, BUT…in the transition, Blackboard has disappeared that function! Nowhere can I find an option to set the URL. It is GONE.

For Christ’s sake.

Undaunted, I dream up a workaround: Record the lecturoid on a Voice Board, which will give me 20 minutes of recording time. This requires me to pull up the blog with its images on my laptop and then explain the images into the desktop’s microphone while scrolling through them on the laptop.

Better yet (hang onto your hats, fellow eddycators), accessing the resulting pushmi-pullyu requires the students to open two browser tabs, sign into Blackboard in both tabs, run the Voice Board lecturoid in one tab, and, in the other tab, follow along in the blogoid, manually scrolling down the page.

Gaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

Go ahead. YOU try to explain this process to members of a student body whose constituents believe France is our  mortal enemy, Wisconsin is a Rocky Mountain state, Catholics are not Christians, and the word episcopal is pronounced ep-is-COP-al.

Blackboard has two fundamental problems.

First, it’s bloatware. It’s chuckablock full of features that no one uses and that, after a little experience with Blackboard, no one in their right mind would even think of trying to use. This bloatware costs your school money while it occupies server space.

Second, it is hideously difficult to use because its functions are unlike those in any other program and because it is utterly unintuitive. In some cases, to do the same action in more than one part of the program requires you to engage a different set of commands. So, not only are these commands unlike anything you run into in, say, Microsoft or Apple programs, they’re unlike what you run into within the program itself. To learn to use the program takes a long time, a lot of effort and study. Schools that subscribe to it have to provide endless hours of seminars and workshops to train faculty in it, and then….

Yes. And THEN. When you finally have it almost mastered, Blackboard “upgrades” and changes the whole god da^^ned thing around!

Now you get to start all over again. Even experienced users have to start almost from zero and relearn it from the ground up. And what did you get with the so-called upgrade? More bells and whistles that you would never use even if you thought they wouldn’t screw you up. Which is to say more bloatware!

If I’d had any clue I would be wasting so many unpaid hours and subjected to such outrageous levels of frustration, I would never have agreed to put this course online. Yes, teaching online obviates your having to drive out to campus and stand in front of a section for three hours each week. But a full semester’s 48 hours of face time is as nothing compared to the uncountable number of hours I’ve wasted, and continue to waste, on Blackboard.


Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.

9 Comments

  1. Your ad is from Univ of Phoenix!

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  3. That’s why I vastly prefer the alternative (and FREE!) substitutes for Blackboard:

    Moodles
    Edmodo (really neat!)

    Both are simpler and easier to administer.

  4. We just switched to the new and improved version of Blackboard, and I can’t believe how crappy it is. Also, there is no support. Period. I used the quiz function in the old Blackboard CE 8 extensively. Under the new Blackboard, you can’t transfer the questions from the CE 8 version to Blackboard 9.1. That’s would be the equivalent of Microsoft inventing a new and improved Power Point that won’t read the older Power Point files…

    BLOATWARE! I’ve never heard that term before, but it is SO APPROPRIATE.

    Good luck to you, and I hate Blackboard, too.

  5. @ Mike: It got better after I wrote this post.

    Along about mid-semester, Firefox and IE issued upgrades. Students and faculty blithely clicked “Update” when they saw the familiar pop-up asking if you want to improve your browser’s security by upgrading.

    Blackboard is not compatible with Firefox 4 or IE 9. If you upgraded, you can’t get into Blackboard.

    So, everybody who did upgrade either had to download Chrome or Safari, or they had to forget using Blackboard. Oh…well, they had another option: they could get in their cars and drive to the campus to use the terminals in the schools computer commons. Kinda defeats the purpose of an online course, eh?

    My school announced that the fix would not come until the next upgrade, which, we were told, wasn’t supposed to happen until next fall.

  6. Blackboard is awful from the student’s perspective too. My school offers various ways to earn credit, and blackboard is used for only one of those ways. I took three classes via blackboard this semester and it was a total mistake. The only way I will ever take another class via blackboard is if there is no other way to earn the credit.

  7. Oh how right you are. I came on line to search for a “I Hate Blackboard” website and found this article. I have just typed into a ridiculous dialogue box (of course won’t let me do any formating) a carefully worded, thoughout summary of a long discussion with a student that I want to make sure is recorded so that both of us know what was said and what wasn’t. Went to click the Save and Submit button. And….. “there was an error in posting this entry”. AHHHHHHHHHHH – all lost. And of course, if you take the other back up way – type out your text in Word, and then copy and paste, Blackboard goes crazy and inserts countless line spacing, won’t except alternative formating or fonts, puts things in Font 4 so that no-one can read it. Put your materials on a FREE Google Site. You can easily edit and create fine presentations; widgets allow you to do all sorts of things like surveys easily and intuitively. I have now converted two of my three courses over, and I have never never had any down time. My students are very happy. I am now in the process of converting my third. I agree with every comment you make about Blackboard, and I am glad to hear that others are enduring as well, as we were always told that the problems were not with Blackboard but with our particular application of Blackboard; we were the trouble.

    • LOL!!!!! God, how familiar it all sounds!!!! Check out the latest ode to Blackboard on my other side, Adjunctorium.

      You also can build your own CMS on WordPress. We now have one for Eng. 102, Eng. 235, and (dormant until next fall) Eng. 101. No one needs a gigantic agglomeration of bloatware to mount a course online. It can easily be done with a blog platform and an e-mail address. If you want to pay a nominal amount, you can buy a domain name (say, Eng101withProfBlatsky.com), mount a proprietary blog on Bluehost, and get yourself an email address associated with the blog’s name (such as Blatsky@Eng101withProfBlatsky.com).

      This strategy will quickly drop your frustration level to zero.

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