I've discussed some of my objections to Blackboard and reconsidered some of my objections. Now that it's fresh in my mind about what good I'd like to see from a Learning Management System (i.e. the app space that Blackboard is monopolizing) I'll attempt a partial (unordered) list of features I'd like to see:
- The awareness that instructors may actually teach more than one section of the same course. This semester, I actually taught 4 sections each of two different classes, though all were partially or fully online. Even so, the classes do roll over to the next term.
- See aforementioned- when classes roll over to the next term, why isn't there a decent way to update due dates? I go by Week 1, Week 2... to Week 16. Can't this awareness be made part of the course? I'm not alone in breaking the semester down into week numbers. Or, making the users do this manually is the result of weaksauce programmers...
- The ability to store/share a grading rubric as part of assignments. The way this would go down: Per assignment, I'd like the option to share the list of criteria I'd use to grade, and the points allocated to each. When I actually grade the thing, I'd like the option to show the student how many points per item I've given. Though instead of asking why they got the grade they did, they'd probably ask why they got the score they did for each grading point... let me think this one through a little more.
- The ability to store content more finely grained than a single file. I just don't get how a LMS doesn't store finely grained content (i.e. microcontent) for recall. I hate the orientation of punitive assessments- why not just make the browsing of content interactive, and take a real test at the end? Yes there are ungraded tests, but no mechanism to halt progress until a satisfactory level of completion is achieved. Yes, it's probably the SCORM stuff, but I really don't want to invest the time to develop that without a clear indication that those features are actually supported.
- A grading mechanism that links to course content sections.
- What I really want are decent course authoring tools, not a file input box to tell BB where to grab files to upload to the server. This goes hand-in-hand with breaking down assignments into blocks. Granted, the idea of "Content Object" that forms the second and third letter of the SCORM acronym is a bit controversial, but the entire concept isn't invalid, just the extremes that the fine people of the DOD like to push it.
- Instruction and education aren't start opposites- I think of education as a partial superset of instruction. Make part of Blackboard amenable to some form of rote learning. It really does have its place for the kind of courses that gravitate towards Blackboard. I never had a PhD class that actually bothered with Blackboard at all, but the undergrad courses live by it.