Saturday, April 21, 2007

WebCT and Blackboard: Feed me!

Last year, I wondered what the much-touted/much-reviled WebCT and Blackboard merger might mean for faculty who're forced to use them.

Well, the name has changed, but you'll be glad to know that the two are still instructing us in patience and voluntary simplicity by means of repeated frustrations.

In trying to get my online summer course ready (and avoid grading papers), I worked in WebCT/Blackboard this morning. Here's the process: A pop-up box tells me I need something something new Java something. I dutifully try to download it. "Failure to save to directory," it then tells me. I try again. And again. And again. I try the online install and the download install. Same result, whether I'm using my favorite (Firefox) or the Browser of Gates (IE).

Whatever this Java plugin is, the new and not improved WebCT/Blackboard is hungry for it, for it emits a pleading pop-up box every single time I click on a page. I've discovered that I can rack up about 14 pop-up boxes before I have to close them all and start again.

It's a little like trying to type in the midst of a nest of hungry birds.

8 comments:

Professor Zero said...

I hate Blackboard and WebCT. And I can make web pages myself. And one of my students says we could just have a collective blog on Blogger or Wordpress, which have fewer glitches than Blackboard and WebCT. (I also hate Moodle, which is an open source type of Blackboard, that also tries to think for you.)

undine said...

I'm glad to know that about Moodle; people talk about it so enthusiastically that I didn't know it was more of the same. If I didn't have to post grades, I'd go to a wiki or a collective blog in a heartbeat.

The Constructivist said...

I'm liking ANGEL. My U switched over to it last summer and it's been wrking great for me and my students in Japan this (American) academic year....

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I've used Angel, and it's not awful. i was very happy with bbd till the merger, and now I'm getting all these stupid JavaScript errors too, plus my discussions keep disappearing from the gradebook.

undine said...

I haven't seen Angel yet but would settle right now for something I don't hate. I used to like Blackboard better (better than WebCT, at any rate), but the merger seems to have brought out the beast in both of them.

ADM, thanks for the heads-up about the discussions and the gradebook function. I started out by setting up the "this discussion can be graded" function but turned it off after checking the gradebook.

Rent Party said...

Don't use javascript it is dangerous!

Apparently our WebCT, Blackboard, and Moodle (we have all) are not working because the mainframe is not working well and that is the same mainframe where you put up plain old course webpages (which I much prefer to these 'course management systems', they are more flexible and you can do much more, and it takes *less time* to learn HTML so you can make them than it takes to click all of those silly icons) ... well, none of it is working because the mainframe is dying and is unlikely to improve itself. [There are other mainframes which do things the university actually cares about, which are not dying.]

Anyway I gave up for one class and made a WordPress blog, it is *great* and once I tweak the functionality of it, it can do a lot more - especially if I go to the full version of WP available at WordPress.org ...

I'll look at Angel though.

undine said...

I mostly have javascript turned off (I think), but I'm still using WebCT/Blackboard because the students are used to it. Eventually I'll do without it, though.

Dave Lester said...

check out the Scholarpress Courseware plugin for Wordpress to create a blackboard-like interface and site out of your Wordpress blog.

http://scholarpress.net/plugins/