Usability Issues #3: Why I Hate Blackboard

12 Nov

I hate Blackboard with a fiery passion.

As a TA, I have been subject to Blackboard and it’s…qualms…on the server/client side. As a student, I just generally hate the layout and how clunky it operates. This post is going to focus on one of my more obvious problems, from both sides.

As a student in 512, I need to submit files. Lots of files. I remember when I was 18-20 years old in Computer Engineering, and I had to upload gobs of MATLAB and C++ code, and the servers were so slow and poorly designed that trying to upload files was a nightmare.

The first violation: Java Plugins.

Isn’t there supposed to be some prompt that Java gives when you need to get a new plugin? That aside, the problem lies within a few things:

What is this?

What do the second and third items denote? When I think of ‘repository’. I think of either a library or somewhere to store waste, which have relatively contradictory meanings. What is this?! Not only is it unclear what ‘Repository’ and ‘Template Manager (which makes me think of mockups, thumbnails, or drafts of some sort)’ denote, but when I click on them, it gives me empty folders. Are these supposed to have items in them, or should I be populating it with my own items? This confuses me on multiple levels.

Of interest in terms of the violation, is the ‘My Computer’ tab. Earlier, I made mention of Java plugins; if your plugin is not up to date, the ‘My Computer’ tab will not show. However, nothing on Blackboard informs you of such-it’s just removed. For an hour, I was smashing my head on a table trying to understand why I couldn’t upload files for class from my home computer, and effectively freaking out because it was GROUP WORK that I was trying to upload. Couldn’t an icon with a small red ‘X’ at least alert me more that something is wrong? As a matter of fact, an image of the computer with a small red ‘x’ and alt text that reads ‘You need to update your Java to use this option.’ would be perfect. I don’t like smashing my head on things-I don’t need to make my brain any more loose than what it is.

Second Violation: Commenting on uploads.

Ok, I have my files uploaded (finally), and am ready to submit. I’ll leave a small abstract to inform the professor of what this is.

Which one do I post my abstract to? They’re both labeled as comments. Why is this happening to me?! Begin the second spaz session. I sat on my couch, curious as to which one I was supposed to leave the explanation in. I decided to do both, just in case.

What I was then met with, was a post of me informing the professor of what I was doing-then repeating myself. Why would I need to leave a forum post on something I just uploaded and explained? This doesn’t seem logical.

Violation three: Student grades.

On the TA side of the spectrum, I’ve spent almost half a semester trying to figure out why my students couldn’t see their grades. I was under the distinct impression that Blackboard, being a server controlled ‘learning system’ would automatically assume that you wanted to post grades for your students to see. Why aren’t you letting my students see the grades I post for them? I can understand this being a legitimate claim; I want to know how I’m doing in my classes, too. Not to say that I expect things to be constantly up to date-we all have our own lives outside of class-but at least some acknowledgement that my grades are at least being monitored by someone beside me-particularly the instructor!

After some more digging around and pulling of hair, I came across this gem.
I think they're purposely trying to make me annoyed. And it's working. Again, isn’t Blackboard advertised as a LEARNING SYSTEM? Why isn’t this already incorporated? I suppose I could see some reasoning for why you don’t want your students to see their grades, but at minimum the default should be checked. I actually had to go in and check this one tiny box to allow my students to determine if they were passing or failing. From what I understood one of the main purposes of Blackboard was utilizing it’s ability to store sensitive information, such as grades, and display them to an assigned user. Why would I have to essentially ‘verify’ that I want my students to know how they’re doing in my class? The only box under student tools that makes sense to me to require an on/off switch is My Progress-mostly because of the fact that it’s redundant.

Violation 4: General Annoyance

This is the last little bit I have to say: if I’m no longer in a class, be it because I passed or fail, why do I have to hide the links to the class? Why isn’t it automatically removed upon my completion (or lack thereof) of the class? I haven't been in 256 for 3 years. But just in case I need to check my grade again...

That professor isn’t even here anymore. Is there really no way to clear the system of courses that are completed? I’m pretty sure the server would be much happier with some space freed up. Not to mention: the front page as a result has glaring red text to inform you every time you log in that you have ‘hidden links.’

I really, strongly dislike Blackboard.

-Vanessa B!


Posted by on November 12, 2010 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Usability Issues #3: Why I Hate Blackboard

  1. bleavenworth

    November 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I’ve always had the sense that nobody quite knows how to use Blackboard. I’ve lost count of how many times a classmate mentions some fatal issue they are having, and the professor more or less just shrugs their shoulders. Someone should conduct usability studies on Blackboard!

  2. Mihaela

    November 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Wow, you stopped at four?! 🙂

  3. msvanessab

    November 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    All things considered, I stopped at 4 because:

    a) those were the four things that immediately irritated me(I was actually working in Blackboard while writing this post, and all of these things happened at some point or another).
    b) in the interest of not having a blog post that was over 3000 words with 20 images, I assumed I should cut myself short. :p

  4. narayun

    November 25, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Feel the same way, I do not understand why our university would spend thousands and thousands of dollars on this product that most people despise. Many professors gets so fed up by it they just don’t use it.


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