THIS is the Last in my series of Bb 9.1 blog posts
Sorry I have not posted in awhile. After attending Bb World in July I came home to a family emergency, and have struggled to keep up. Well grades are turned in.
So here is a summary of my thoughts on Bb 9.1
First of all here are the tools I used
Test (for final exam)
Add a Textbook
Notifications using Connect
Content area, folder, item
Weighted Column for Letter Grade and Grading Schema
Those are the main tools.
So Here is what I like
I received several unsolicited comments from students who love the notifications. Last night I had no sooner graded a final project that a student emailed me and thanked me for the comments, and said they really liked the notifications. She had signed up to receive notifications of new grades. I know several students did. I have a survey of some data on notifications. I am afraid not many students took advantage of them for this semester. The demographics of my class is such that many of them are non traditional students.
I would like to know who signed up for notifications so that if I send out an announcement it tells me who it went too. That is an idea.
I Bb 9.1 there is email and messages. Messages are more like the email tool in Bb Vista. I used Email this semester. It worked well a I liked that it told me who was going to get the email messagee. Because this was a pilot I relied on students to enter their contact info, so it did not come from the SIS. I created a video for the students on how to do this. Only a few did not enter their email address, so when I sent email, some students did not get it. That is their fault.
Some students who have used Vista could not figure out where to receive emails, not understanding there was a difference in this email tool as sending email externally as others.
Creating assignments is easy and straight forward. What I miss is the assignment tool where there is a collection of assignments you can easily access. When I accidently deleted my content area from my class, I deleted all my assignments. Deleting content should never delete assignments. At least you should get a warning that you are about to delete assignments. I think there would be merit in having an assingment tool, or if you create an assignment there is a common place like the discussion tool where you can make it available to students to go find. I really like being able to put an assignment pretty much anywhere I want too.
I found grading assignments much easier than in Vista especially with the grade and next button, plus the blind review. I would like to see the date they were submitted appear, and something to show me if it was late. There is still room for much improvement here as it is very clicky to get from the gradecenter to a submitted paper. Too many clicks Blackboard. Lets rehash this one out.
Once I figured out the Content Area, Content folder, Create and ITem metephor, I found creating content in Bb 9.1 very easy to do.
Although the VTBE is much better than in Bb Vista, I found it very buggy in safari and Firefox on a Mac. Many times I could not get the cursor to take focus where I clicked, and had troubles getting fonts and styles I chose to stick.
It is headed in the right direction but the VTBE is a key area for faculty creating content.
Another thing I would like to see is the ability to create Template type HTML pages using the VTBE, and to add simple CSS styles to the menu and page. That way if you are creating a weekly module page, once you have it created, you could simply save it as a template page you could use for all your other modules. This would save time and energy. This would be a bonus to faculty.
Add a Textbook.
I still do not get why this feature is a button at the top and not in the the same area as add an Item is. I wanted to build a syllabus and use the add a textbook there but could not. This is a cool tool.
I did not use the mashup tool in my class as videos were on an internal podcast server, but I played with it and it is really cool. Hope to see more.
Would like to see the google docs be a native integration. I think there is a building block someone built but I have not played with it at all.
Tests and Surveys
I only created one of each, but I struggled in creating them. I had to extend the date of the quiz but really could not see how to do it. When I went to the settings my old due date that had passed was not even there. So I was concerned that setting a new due date would really work.
I loved the grading of quizzes. That was excellent and very easy to do. I had a mix of multiple choice and essay questions. Grading Essays was simple and easy. Much cleaner than Vista.
Discussions were easy to use and set up. But management and reading or following the thread was a pain. Too many options? I am not sure, I need to think this one through. Students used them a lot.
Big improvement over Bb Vista. Easy to grade any cell by clicking on it. Nice feature. Like the weighted column although it took me some time to figure out how to use one for the final total, and then apply a grading schema too it. Setting up a schema was easier than Bb Vista. It appears you could set up several schemas and then assign as needed.
I needed a grading rubric for my final project, but understand they are not available now but possibly on the road map.
The HOME PAGE
I am still struggling as to what to put for the home page. I started out with the modules page. I really liked that from an instructor perspective as I could easily get a quick overview of what was going on in my class. Later in early June when I deleted my content I put up the Announcement page to let students know what was going on. That threw some students off, as it appears they were using the modules page for navigation and their sole navigation to content. Even though there was a menu with Course Content on it.
Perhaps what might be the best is a mashup home page.
Some modules to say what is due, what is new etc. That may be the best type of home page. I still need to figure this all out.
This is the “WOW” for Bb. Students will eat this up. I used it to keep up on discussions, create some announcements etc. Only missing grading for a faculty member and it is a killer app.
So my semester was a success even though I was thrown some crazy events over the course. I had 34 students in a class on a new system I had a couple of weeks to learn.
If Bb Vista was given a B then Bb 9.1 is a B+
Definetly headed in the right direction, but still a bit hard to learn and figure out both by faculty and students.
I find it easier for a faculty member to create their own content using the VTBE. need to improve reuse of that content in the same and other courses. This is beyond the content system.
One final note. At Bb World I found out my blog was being followed by a lot of people. I had no idea of how wide spread it was. I wish I had posted more, but for someone like me who does not blog, well this was a great start. Thanks to all who have supported me with my teaching efforts.
Robert Wagner the associate provost and Executive Director of Distance Education who encouraged me throughout this pilot.
34 students from around the country and 1 outside the US, who were willing to go along for this ride.
Neal Legler, Scott Allen, Jon Desha who kept the system going, answered questions, and added the Wimba, and Connect Powerlinks
The Connect ed folks for the use of the notification system for this pilot.
Many others at Bb who followed this blog and who are looking to improve the product.
FInal Statement. After using Bb 9.1 I never want to have to teach in Vista again.