With Blackboard reaching its 11th year at USC, a team of evaluators has been assembled to assess the benefits and flaws of the program for students and faculty.
As of spring 2010, 78 percent of USC faculty and 86 percent of students had at least one class listed on Blackboard. Fifty-two percent of all USC classes use Blackboard for grading, content or class-wide communication, according to Susan Metros, deputy chief information officer for Technology Enhanced Learning and chair of the Blackboard committee.
Nine different focus groups, made up of students, professors and administrators, plan to evaluate Blackboard using individualized rubrics that suit the needs of each group’s members.
The rubric, Metros said, allows students and faculty to discuss their particular needs in order to improve USC’s learning management system for the better.
Metros said she hopes to work with the library to coordinate the Blackboard system. E-reserves would possibly give students an even greater access to online articles and sources.
Another idea, Metros said, is allowing professors to post content into a general folder that any student in any of their classes can easily access.
“The rubric system is a very unique way to do this,” Metros said.
On the administrative side, Blackboard aims to expand its product so that it would have some features of a social networking group.
In the future it could include ways of tracking activities throughout a student’s time at a university, letting students put together a portfolio to save course work online or allowing advisers and other people within the university to keep online files.
“Even though Blackboard aims to enhance [its] product, we don’t know if USC would go in that direction with them,” said Gene Bickers, vice provost for Undergraduate Programs. “In five years we could also have a completely different learning management system.”
Although the Blackboard system was revamped a few years ago, the program is still due for an evaluation since it has been at USC for 11 years, Metros said.
“What’s convenient for faculty is not always the best choice for students and the other way around,” Bickers said.
Although the university will probably not change the Blackboard system any time soon, Bickers said, the university does need to go through these timely evaluations to adjust its software.
Blackboard originally came into use in 1999 when USC administrators hoped to shift from using different systems for grading, content and communication to one succinct program.
Although there were many options, faculty decided on Blackboard as USC’s core learning management system.
“For the last two years, previous Provost [and now President C.L.] Max Nikias asked faculty to have Blackboard sites in case of emergency,” Metros said. “This provides some semblance of teaching just in case students can not get to campus.”
“Blackboard makes it convenient to have everything for your classes gathered online — you don’t have to keep track of so many papers and it’s great for organizational purposes,” Bickers said. “It’s also an easy way to keep track of grades throughout the semester.”
Students, such as Danya Nourafshan, a junior majoring in psychology, said they appreciated the perks of Blackboard and use it regularly for various purposes.
“It’s great to be able to send class e-mails for questions or concerns and have extra copies of important class documents online,” Nourafshan said.