In “Top Ten Mistakes for Academic Web Design, ” Paula Petrik claims that course ware authoring sites, such as Blackboard, are indeed one of these mistakes. She says that these sites can be hard to use and can “seduce faculty into bad Web and pedagogical design.” Petrik’s examples include the unnecessary discussion boards, fragmented course aspects, and inability to see the overall course. She further questions the advantages and disadvantages that we (teachers? students?) get from using “‘courses in a box.'” (

I have heard more than one college professor complain about the usability of Blackboard. They either use other online programs, such as e-grader, to post grades, or they create and design their own class websites. Some professors even rely on just email to communicate syllabi, study guides, and course announcements. Some teaching assistants and professors setup class pages on social media sites, like Facebook.

I, as a student, like Blackboard. It is a valuable resource that I can use to access all of the classes at once, download pertinent information, and communicate with my fellow classmates and professor. I have used the discussion boards on Blackboard to post assignments and comment on other students’ assignments in more than one class. I have not found it difficult to use.

However, I have not used Blackboard as a professor. I cannot comment on its usability from that perspective.

Do you (as a student or teacher) like or dislike Blackboard? Is it and other courseware sites poorly designed? How would you improve Blackboard?


5 thoughts on “Blackboard?

  1. I have been a student for six years now and have been using blackboard for four of them I think. I would consider myself pretty old school and I am not a huge fan of blackboard. I don’t think it is easy to navigate and it is definitely not attractive. I agree that in some cases it does add to the class and the ability to communicate (okay probably in most cases) but I often miss doing everything class related face to face not through email or discussion boards or using hard copies of syllabi or class presentations or discussion questions. Maybe I am simply nostalgic for a seemingly simpler time, although I am sure many would argue the web and specifically blackboard makes things simpler today. I believe that a site more accessible than blackboard might transform my view but for now I can’t say I am Blackboard’s biggest fan.

  2. I appreciate what you are saying in this post: Blackboard is utilitarian and it serves a clear purpose for students and teachers. But I’ll totally admit to being a critic.
    I will say that I’ve used other resources that are similar Blackboard (Canvas, most recently) and have found the functionality (as both a teacher and student) far surpasses the capabilities of Blackboard. In general, Canvas follows much of the advice we read about for today’s class – it’s clear, organized, and easy to navigate. The best example I can give in comparing the two is the first page you open with blackboard – mine is covered with competing boxes: announcements, a calendar, a pane that encourages me to create a myMason profile. Canvas handled the organization of this “newsfeed” like twitter/facebook. I’ve got all my navigation tools in a pane on the right, with announcements/due dates/messages in a single pane in the center. It’s clean and less overwhelming (and uses an interface that I’m used to).
    Having said all that, if I had to choose between Blackboard and life without Blackboard (or any other interface) – I’ll stick with what I can get!

  3. I am in agreement with Jannelle– Canvas is much easier to use. It’s interesting to think that one of the resources utilized the most by academics, potentially, is so clunky and difficult to use. One would think that they would try to “pretty it up” a little for the sake of the users.

  4. Sara- I am definitely in the pro-blackboard camp. I used it as a high school teacher for 5 years and even taught in-service training classes on how to properly manage blackboard. My only complaint with using it is the number of key strokes needed to maintain multiple classes. This is a time consuming process even with the built in “short cuts” in the program. The one comment criticizing the the opening page of blackboard is correct for an administrator who does not know how to manage what is displayed on their blackboard site. There is a simple way to choose what is displayed on the opening page of an individual blackboard site. If a blackboard site is cluttered, the administrator probably kept the default settings in place and didn’t take the time to modify it for their particular needs.

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