Tag Archives: blackboard

May 7, 2012, 8:58 pm

How the technology works in Calculus 2

Today we started the spring term, 6-week Calculus 2 class that I’ve been writing about for the last few days. We had a good time today, getting comfortable with each other and doing some review of the basics of the definite integral. Before we get too far into the term, I wanted to outline the technology infrastructure of the course.

For a long time, I’d used the learning management system (LMS) of my institution as the basic technology for the course, and everything else kind of fit around the LMS. At GVSU the default LMS is Blackboard. But I decided after used Blackboard this past year that we have irreconcilable differences. I don’t ask much from my LMS; I mainly use it to archive files, provide a link to a central calendar, post grades, and to make announcements. I don’t need all the dozens of other features Blackboard offers, and the profusion of features in Blackboard tends to…

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January 7, 2010, 7:11 am

Spreadsheets vs. online gradebooks

One of the things my students like the most about learning managment systems (LMS’s) such as Blackboard, Angel, or Moodle (I’ve used all of these at some point in my career) is the online gradebook feature. I enter their grades online, and students can check in on the web at any time and see their grades and get the info. These things are useful to be sure. But I’ve been wondering if they are the best implement for managing grades. I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t be better to simply hand back graded work and then have students keep their grades on their own using a simple spreadsheet. Some reasons why I think this way:

  1. Spreadsheets have functionality. I can enter, view, and edit grades in an online gradebook; students can view them; but nobody can perform any meaningful analysis on the data that have been entered. The gradebook is just a two-dimensional list. But of course in a…

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May 9, 2009, 7:52 am

Shall we call it Blackangel? Or Angelboard?

The two biggest players in the learning management system world, Blackboard and Angel, will soon be one company, since Blackboard has purchased Angel Learning, Inc. for $95 million.  From a superficial reading of the press release, it appears that Blackboard thinks of itself as having a more technologically innovative product, whereas Angel has a better track record with customers — and Blackboard has the money to pull off the purchase.

I can’t verify any of those claims, but I can say that we switched from Blackboard to Angel at my college a few years ago due to a general dissatisfaction with the quality of the product compared to the price we were paying. I don’t recall Blackboard as being particularly innovative, although admittedly that was 4-5 years ago. Angel has not been much of an improvement, and I’ve blogged before about the maddening UI design decisions that Angel has made….

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June 19, 2008, 7:39 am

Higher education and Web 2.0

Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University notes in this blog posting that there is an emerging cultural conflict between the world of higher education and the world of Web 2.0:

[T]he challenge is this – when learners have been accustomed to very facilitative, usable, personalisable and adaptive tools both for learning and socialising, why will they accept standardised, unintuitive, clumsy and out of date tools in formal education they are paying for? It won’t be a dramatic revolution (students accept lower physical accommodation standards when they leave home for university after all), but instead there will be a quiet migration. The monolithic LMSs will be deserted, digital tumbleweed blowing down their forums. Students will abandon these in favour of their tools, the back channel will grow and it will be constituted from content and communication technologies that don’t require a…

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June 3, 2008, 11:49 am

Summer calculus tidbits

So I started my summer calculus class yesterday, which meets three nights a week from 5:30-7:45 PM and consists almost entirely of commuter students. I haven’t taught an evening class since graduate school, nor have I taught a class of non-resident students in nearly as long. Noteworthy thoughts (well, I’m noting them whether they are noteworthy or not): 

  • I like teaching evening classes. There’s a kind of “after-hours” vibe to such classes that makes the atmosphere more intimate and relaxed. 
  • I like teaching commuter students. Some of these folks are commuting in from nearly an hour away, which means it’s costing some of them between $5 and $10 per class meeting in travel expenses. Many of them have day jobs which consume all their time between 8:00 and 5:00. In other words, the resources that are normally available to students in luxuriant abundance — time to study, time and…

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October 11, 2007, 5:11 am

Questions for the audience about course management systems

I’m pretty busy right now with writing, administering, and grading midterms — so blogging is light for a day or so more. However, given the recent posts and traffic about course management systems, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind answer a few questions down in the comments area. 

  1. Teachers: What do you need a course management system to do? What functionality do you consider essential?
  2. Teachers: What are the best ways for a course management system to help make your job of managing a course easy?  
  3. Students: Same questions as #1 and #2. 
  4. Current CMS software users: What are the three features of your CMS that are the most essential? If you could change three things about the way your CMS works, what would they be and what would you rather have? 

October 4, 2007, 8:04 am

How to make email complicated, Angel style

Here’s a little mini-tour through one of the many reasons why Angel, and other course management systems, drive me crazy and basically beg for me not to use them. This has to do with a simple and common course management task: Sending an email to all students in a class.

First of all, if you were using a basic email client to do this task, sending an email would be a matter of creating a distribution list for the students in the class — a one-time startup task — and then the following:

  1. Type the name of the list in the To: blank. (Most email clients have an auto-complete feature that doesn’t even require you complete the full name of the recipient.)
  2. Type in the subject and text of the email.
  3. Hit “Send”.

Three steps, each of which is easy and intuitive.

If you want to do this in Angel, on the other hand, it becomes a seven-step task, which is really nine tasks — each of which,…

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