With features that mimic those of the popular social media site Facebook, Fresno State’s new Blackboard system showcases a completely redesigned interface with more educational tools intended to make learning easier.
Instructional designer Mary Bennett of Fresno State’s Technology Innovations for Learning and Teaching, also known as TILT, said Blackboard 9.1 was designed to be more of a social tool that will give students a way to connect and collaborate with their classmates. Bennett said the new program does not sync with or link to Facebook, but it’s designed to give students a smoother start to the semester.
“The whole idea is for them to create an academic persona,” Bennett said. “It’s not that it’s exactly the same as their Facebook. They can connect their Facebook profile image and “about me” information, but that doesn’t mean that users can click on someone’s [Blackboard] profile and see their Facebook page.”
Peter Vang, a student assistant in the Blackboard Resource Center, said along with the new social media aspect, another feature is the site’s updated calendar.
“It gives you all the due dates of your classes,” Vang said. “Whatever is due in your classes, it will be displayed on that calendar.”
Vang said the new site also has a notification feature similar to Facebook’s.
“What that does is it gives you any notifications from all your classes,” Vang said. “If a content item has been added to any of your courses, that notification will appear on your notification toolbar.”
The drawback to this, Vang said, occurs when courses aren’t on Blackboard and can’t sync with the calendar.
Fresno State criminology major Emily Eide said, in her opinion, the new Blackboard is a little busy.
“There are too many windows that come up with each class,” Eide said. “If I click on a course only needing to see if there’s a new announcement, there are six other boxes that come up as well.
“I don’t need notifications of ‘to do,’ ‘my tasks,’ ‘what’s new,’ ‘alerts’ and ‘needs attention’ taking up room.”
Eide said she uses a planner to keep track of her assignments, but can see how the new system would help some people, especially incoming freshmen who are getting used to college life.
“It might help new students and students who need help staying organized,” Eide said. “I’m willing to ignore the aspects I don’t need if it will help other students.”
For students having trouble figuring out the new Blackboard, Bennett said she recommends completing the online student orientation.
She said more than 1,000 students currently enrolled in the orientation, and said students have a chance to win money if they take the survey.
“If they enroll and finish by next Friday, they can win $50,” Bennett said. “But it allows students to go through every single one of the Blackboard tools and practice using them.”
Bennett said her biggest hope is that the new system helps students keep up with their assignments.
“They can see any new posts, and they can see their grades,” Bennett said. “Any time something new is added to the class, it’s all in one view.
“I think that’s the coolest part of it.”