Blackboard: a resource for teachers

Blackboards are not what they used to be. Instead of the literal “blackboards” that, paired with fingernails, can produce some spine-tingling chills, “Blackboard” has an entirely new definition on campus. The Internet resource for teachers and students called Blackboard has changed the way communication is utilized in and out of the classroom.

“We’ve come a long way from my early days of teaching when all our handouts were run-off’ of those messy, hand-cranked mimeograph machines with the purple ink,” said English Professor Louise Dekreon-Watsjold. “Each class began with the bizarre ritual of passing out the slightly damp, purple-inked copies, which the students would promptly put up to their noses to smell the ink. Some of them believed that they could actually get high off the ink fumes. All they really got were purple noses. It was a more innocent time.”

Those days are gone, and in it’s place, a digital environment.

“I use Blackboard for all my classes,” said Professor Diane Hirshberg UAA Professor. “I always post my syllabus, any course readings that are not either in textbooks or web-based, all assignments, and other materials needed for classes.”

Many teachers have allowed Blackboard to replace paper homework and have even taken it further.

“When appropriate, I use the wiki and blog functions – it depends on the course, and assignments,” said Hirshberg.

Not all professors, however, use Blackboard.

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“The real reason I don’t use Blackboard is that I prefer to keep in touch with my students one on one via e-mails and phone conversations,” said English Professor Clay Nunnally. “Also, I suppose I am getting more and more resistant to learning new things and new teaching techniques.”

Aside from Blackboard, the Internet has given birth to an array of resources for teaching.

“I do not use Blackboard – I have all my courses – syllabi, lecture, Power Points, assignments and reading materials – on my own Internet Web site,” said journalism Professor red bradley. “I use it all the time, but I wish the students would. I post all sorts of items on the site, but have found that the students fail to review it on a regular basis, nor do they read the e-mails that are sent through the system.”

Hirshberg has used an open source “learning management system” called Moodle.

“I have used Moodle only a little bit- I think that could be useful as well, but more training would be needed,” said Hirshberg. “My guess is there are other online course packages that would work as well or better, but I haven’t used them. I have taught distance education using “Elluminate,” (another e-learning system) and that works well too but I still rely on Blackboard as the primary repository for course materials for those classes as well.”

But even with other options, it is understandable that professors have mixed feelings.

“I love Blackboard.  I use it for every class.  It’s the best way to communicate with students, post assignments, and provide additional readings in classes.  It’s easy for professors and for students,” said journalism Professor Ron McGee.

“I’d like a bit more flexibility in designing the look and feel of my Blackboard site, but otherwise, I have no complaints about it. I have been surprised, however, when I’ve had students who are reluctant to use it,” said Hirshberg.