Blackboard, Web 2.0 Antithesis

This is one of those rambling entries that hit me while I was driving home. Enjoy. P

Blackboard, the world’s leading course management system has been a part of my life as a university student for the past 5 years. I’ve also been a lurker on the ASU Lists for BBADMIN-L and BLKBRD-L for a couple of years, too. The horror.

With all of the buzz about Web 2.0 and what it is, why don’t we take a look at what Web 2.0 is not.

Blackboard is a nightmare from a user perspective. I liken the Blackboard user experience to the user experience the early incarnations of Napster—users learn way over complicated processes out of necessity. The over complication isn’t on just the student’s side, it’s also on the professor’s side. Due to my limited experience from the instructor’s view, the scope of this entry is going to be limited to the student’s perspective. However, I’ve been hearing war stories for my entire time at MSU inside class and in the office about BB’s absurdity for instructors.

To do a thorough analysis, let’s take a look at a student’s basic tasks:

  • What do I have to do this week?
  • How are my grades?
  • What’s new with the class?
  • What’s new with my groups?

Currently, I have to go through about three or four clicks or even five clicks to figure this out—per class.

I’m in 5 classes this semester. That’s at least fifteen clicks when it should all be in one place.

Did I mention that’s up to five clicks per task, per class?

Four basic tasks. Five classes. Four clicks. One nightmare.

Apparently the brass at Blackboard missed Steve Ballmer’s sweat hurling Developers * 37 speech.

If you don’t empower developers to use your application, ESPECIALLY an enterprise application such as Blackboard, there’s something horribly wrong. Instead of listening to countless feature requests, why not let a bored webdev guy at some podunk university use your API to do it? I’m having a ton of trouble seeing a potential loss in opening an API even after a university shells out a ton of cash to use this app. I’ve found minimal mailings and even less on BB’s site about their API. Do I have to be a member of their secret society to get it?


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5 Responses to Blackboard, Web 2.0 Antithesis

  1. Rewrite blackboard for the win.

  2. tim says:

    We already considered this like two years ago. The problem being with importable/plugin type shit.. premade bb course files that come with books for lazy professors or something.

  3. ANYTHING can be ported! 🙂

  4. tim says:

    That’s a bold statement =)

    If the bb people are behind the data structure for the premade coursework, I would assume its too obfuscated and utterly retarded to even use.

    School Tool, backed by the ubuntu guys (shuttleworth) is a decent start at open source and useful. Yet, it seems more K-12 specific… and its python..

  5. I agree. Three years later, they are doing what you told them too. However, they still suck.

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