Why, Blackboard, why?


Our institution (as I suspect do many others) has a love/hate relationship with Blackboard. Two years ago we had almost no engagement, now we have over 75% of courses using it to some degree to support student learning. Tutors have begun to love it a bit more, students have begun hating it a bit less. And just when it’s starting to get better the management announce a review of the university’s online learning provision which could well end in a move to Moodle.

Life, as they say, is never easy.

But the looming review of Blackboard has obliged me to consider the available technologies for supporting student learning, and I found myself asking the question ‘why hasn’t Blackboard embraced social learning’? Having participated in the recent change11 MOOC, and as a regular participant in Jane Hart’s excellent Social Learning community it is clearly evident that undergraduate students are researching, obtaining and sharing information in a way that has changed significantly in even the last 2 – 3 years. To me, incorporating a social element into any online learning experience appears to be a no-brainer, so why isn’t Blackboard evolving to incorporate such features as activity streams to facilitate communication and information-sharing on a university course?

To add insult to injury I recently discovered that their Facebook Sync application is no longer supported. Why? I can only assume one of the following is true:

  1. They are so removed from their user base that they genuinely have no idea of the importance of social learning
  2. They genuinely believe that social learning is a fad that will pass and the one-way transmission of information between student and tutor will soon make a comeback
  3. They are so enormously wealthy that they genuinely don’t care about the changing nature of online learning 

So in addition to managing a Blackboard upgrade I’m now faced with the prospect of investigating the potential for a WordPress/Buddypress VLE to enable tutors and students to explore more collaborative ways of learning.

It’s not as if I had any plans for the summer anyway…

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