A post I read on the CUNY Senate-Forum listserv (from which I seem, suddenly, to be banned–maybe not inexplicably–but that’s another story) made me think about how Blackboard is good for some things…and how there are some other things that for which it’s definitely not good. Or not as good as the alternatives.
In that post, my colleague George Otte gave a very cogent and accurate defense against the uninformed charges that Blackboard hurts academic freedom (the administrative access to courses could allow “spying” on what instructors are doing) and promotes undesirable conformity (because of the uniform interface). I was glad he was so clear on that.
But he also mentioned, briefly, that he thought that Bboard could handle any of the tasks and purposes of electronic portfolios. The only problem with that is that Bboard (especially now that we’re on this centrally-controlled CUNY server) is distinctly a closed system. Students can do portfolios within Bboard, but they’re not accessible to anyone outside the course. So using them for a permanent resource, or for assessment by anyone other than the professor for that course, becomes impossible.
I had this discussion last year, on the subject of blogs, with a different colleague. I was of the opinion that Bboard could really do anything that a blog could do, accomplishing all the same goals, but she pointed out–and easily persuaded me–that the public nature of blogs was an essential feature, and one that Bboard can never offer.
This is why I’m using the CourseForum for portfolios (rather than Bboard) and why I’m using Xanga (rather than Bboard) for blogs.
Of course, Bboard still does Discussion Boards reasonably well–so I’ll certainly use it for that, and for the standard course management and course information tasks, it does offer an exceptionally user-friendly and simple interface.