6 reasons to hate Blackboard
I've been meaning to write this post for several years, but just keep finding more "features" of Blackboard to hate. (I'm not alone. Type "Blackboard sucks" into Google for even more.)
The "resurrection" of some of these fine "features" in the latest iteration, however, has finally reminded me to memorialize some of these:
1) When you need a notice like this on your log-in screen, it's a hint something is badly amiss (January 2014: BB has now supported Chrome, but it still does some weird things with the "hot spot" quiz questions):
2) It's 2011, ever hear of "drag and drop"? The Blackboard interface is hugely clunky. Let's say you wanted to move an item from a folder to a subfolder. You have to click copy and then, if you've asked to remove it, you have to click the idiot warning about removing something. How about just being able to drag items from one place to another? (January 2014: Still waiting.)
3) It's 2011, ever hear of batch delete? Not in most parts of BB. No, it's click on remove for each individual item, then answer the idiot question, then ... you get the idea. So say you have a class of 20 students and they are submitting labs twice a week to the drop box. Do the math, especially since it often takes at least 30 seconds for BB to execute. That's 20 minutes a week just deleting stuff. (January 2014: BB has improved this in some areas, but still lacks it in some critical areas.)
4) Click, click, click - oops, you forgot a "switch" and so that feature won't operate. Some of the "tools" within BB require multiple "switches" to be thrown in multiple areas before they become available to students. Miss one and ... Compare that to more modern applications - say, about everything else online. If I can set up a blog online with a minimum of intuitive clicks (and those include setting templates, etc., which BB does not allow), why is it so hard for BB to do it? (January 2014: Not really improved. In fact, some of the features are even a bit more inscrutable.)
5) BB quizzes get a special place in Hell. In addition to the drag and drop (not) above, the software has some special "features" that make it difficult if not useless for those of us teaching language-related courses.
- No way to designate capital letters. This is such 1990s technology. Every question should have the option to mark it wrong if the capitalization is not matched. This is a longstanding request that BB seems to be incapable of. (January 2014: Hussah - the latest update now includes this, as well as the ability to use regular expressions for contextual text. But every old pool question has to be updated to this by hand. It should be a master setting that also can be thrown for each pool.)
- No way to expand "fill in blank" boxes to accommodate longer answers, such as retyping short sentences to correct errors. So students are left seeing half (or less) of what they have typed. Not easy to proofread there, bucko. (January 2014: Box has been expanded.)
- Conversion of apostrophes, quotes and ampersands to the "&" code. Put a question in with one of those and it will close correctly - the first time. But gawd help you if you reopen it to make any changes. The system automatically changes the symbols to the HTML code - and if you don't remember to re-edit it, your students will all be marked wrong. See this, for example ("World Series of Poker's" helpfully changed by BB):
|Click to see detail|
6) No ability to prevent cutting and pasting of quiz questions (so, for instance, students can't easily pass them on to others). Yes, there is script available out there. And no, it's not perfect, but it helps. So why doesn't BB just license the script and make it an option check box for the quiz? (January 2014: Still not there that I can see.)
And three bonus reasons:
2) Having a "grade center" that cannot be opened in its own browser tab without giving you errors is stupid. It's 2011, tabbed browsing is the norm, and not allowing that means yet more clicks back and forth to get to other things from the control panel. (It's 2014, and it's still a problem.)
3) Update: Why, I almost forgot my most recent vexation - copying a file to another directory and then being unable to set the order of items because the file you copied has become co-joined with some other item (see photo - notice the two 4's) and everything gets screwed up when you try to reorder one of them. (I finally figured a work-around (emphasis on more work) - copy the item a second time. Then delete the original one you copied. Everything snaps back into place.
(This seems to have been fixed.)
I could probably find more, but this is a good start. It's 2011, but Blackboard is so 2001.
The folks at my school are exceedingly helpful. They raise these issues with BB and on user groups as far as I can tell, but the solutions are few and far between.
January 2014: My major wishes now are
- Still, the drag and drop feature so if you have something in one folder and want to move it to another (for instance if you have weeks of reading set up in the left rail), you can just drag it instead of using that clunky Move or Copy procedure.
- A calendar that lets you enter things like tests and assignments due and generates, if you want, an automatic announcement that you can set for up to five days ahead, just like most of the rest of the world's online calendars do.
- Less inscrutability in formatting a class site. It seems to want to force you into one of the preset formats.