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Student Senate pushes professors to use Blackboard for classes

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 03:04

With only 51 percent of UNH undergraduate courses utilizing Blackboard, Student Senate has passed a resolution that would require professors to use it for every class.

The resolution, which was passed on Sunday, was written by the Academic Student Policy Council in hopes of making Blackboard, as well as the posting of the course syllabus, a requirement for every class. If the college deans and academic faculty implement the resolution, it will go into effect in the fall semester.

The council said that it has received a lot of positive feedback from students but is expecting backlash from professors, especially the older ones. The council said that technically Blackboard is already set up for every class and professors only have to register it.

“It’s really just one quick step,” council member Tim Mitsopoulos said. “As soon as they realize how easy it is they’ll be OK with it.”

The council said that many professors do not like to use Blackboard because they find it hard to use and understand. There are also many professors who use alternative websites to communicate with students and post class information.

The council finds this to be a problem. As stated in the resolution, “the use of unaffiliated course sites by professors is unnecessary, inconvenient, and creates a complicated learning environment for students.”

Professors will also be required to post the course syllabus on Blackboard so that students can have continuous access to it in case they lose their hard copy. Not only will this make it so they can easily look up the class schedule, but most professors also list their contact information at the top of their syllabi. This will make it convenient for when students need to get in touch with their professors or teaching assistants.

Beyond the posting of the syllabus, professors will not have to use Blackboard for anything else if they don’t want to. Students will still be able to access all of its features, though, such as the discussion boards and a list of other classmates’ emails. The council is hoping that having to use Blackboard will encourage professors to use all of its features, such as Tegrity and facilitated testing.

The council said that it hopes professors will realize how simple this will be for them to do.

“The aim is to educate them about how easy it is,” council member Kevin McAleese said.

Another reason the council believes UNH professors should be using Blackboard more is that students are already paying for it. As stated in the resolution, “Blackboard is a service provided to UNH students through the cost of the Student Technology Fee, and therefore it is a resource that should be utilized to its full extent.”

Ellie Richardson, the chair of the council, said she does not understand why UNH would not use something that students have to pay for.

“We’re already paying for it, so why not use it to its full potential?” she said.

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1 comments

Siobhan Senier, English
Fri Apr 19 2013 09:34
As a professor who abandoned Blackboard a couple of years ago, I will admit that I find the interface incredibly clunky, bug-ridden, and user-unfriendly. But if students really want this system, I figure that's my problem, and I'll start using it again. I'm puzzled, though, to hear the Senate calling "the use of unaffiliated course sites" "unnecessary, inconvenient," and "complicated." I can't speak for others, but in my own classes I've started using systems like WordPress partly because they give you some immediately marketable skills. Listing "knows Blackboard" on your resume isn't likely to win you any job interviews; but saying that you know WordPress, Omeka, Zotero, Joomla or other systems just might. It shows that you're comfortable using platforms already in use by many businesses and nonprofits; and, maybe even more important, that you know how to adapt continually to new interfaces. As a teaching goal, too, I want my students to have real-world experience producing real content for the Web, and to reach real audiences. Blackboard's closed environment doesn't let you do that.

Another question students might ask, then, is, "if only half of UNH courses are using Blackboard, why does our cash-strapped university continue to pay for it?" Blackboard is outrageously expensive, and the company that sells it to us is a monopoly, with a history of DOJ investigation to its credit. Now, University IT offices (and university lawyers) like content management systems like Blackboard, because they offer some protection and control over private information, like your grades, and copyrighted course materials. But in these days of fiscal austerity, many universities have dumped Blackboard in favor of cheaper, lower-maintenance systems (Moodle, for instance, is reportedly less than ¼ of the cost, and much friendlier to use).





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