Online class platform alternative to Blackboard
June 3, 2021 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Title says it all. School wants me to use Blackboard to teach summer class, but I really don't like using it. The admin interface gives me hives, and there is no easy way to add content and preview it, etc. I used Edmodo before and liked it better, but it lacks a "wiki" element for evergreen content, and the way assignments are submitted is confusing to students. Is there web-based platform like Edmodo that is slightly more feature rich but is as easy to use? (and easy on the eyes? Blackboard even looks boring and uninspiring.) Thanks!
posted by archivist to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: I really liked Canvas once I figured out how to use it effectively. It’s flexible and powerful and I only have small hives after a year of use. A lot of the teachers I used it with this year found the learning curve steep, but it’s worth investigating with a free account. Adding content is easy and they’ve finally got a student view available in almost all scenarios. You can make the home page (or other pages) as pretty as you like. I have not used other LMS systems, however, so I can’t help you with comparisons.

If your campus is mostly a Blackboard campus, another thing to consider is students being more comfortable with a LMS they already know.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:49 PM on June 3, 2021 [4 favorites]


My campus switched from Blackboard to BrightSpace. It's differently complicated. Grading is easier. Quiz creation is worse.

The layout is very locked down, and it's very hard to make anything look different from WordPress early templates.

They seem to find ways to make simple things take twice as many non intuitive steps.

I would never use this, if I had a choice.
posted by answergrape at 8:58 PM on June 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


another thing to consider is students being more comfortable with a LMS they already know.

Yeah, you don't get to pick your LMS I'm afraid. I'm very grateful I don't have to use Blackboard anymore, but it's not impossible, and if that's what the school uses, that's what you should use.
posted by coffeecat at 9:34 PM on June 3, 2021 [9 favorites]


My campus uses Canvas, and I'm pretty happy with it. However, I think you should stick with Blackboard for the same reasons others have mentioned.

Get in touch with the online or distance education teaching support at your campus. Find out what resources are available to support students and faculty with using Blackboard. A few examples from my campus are a self-paced Canvas orientation for incoming students, templates to help faculty get started with building a course, and purchasing extra phone and web support for technical issues so students can get help 24/7.

Ask the online teaching support to create a practice/sandbox course for you in Blackboard. Practice courses aren't tied to a real class and have no students. You'll be able to play around in the practice course and preview materials without worrying that students will access content before it's ready. You can copy any finished resources into your actual class.

There may be third-party tools or apps that integrate with Blackboard to add features you want. Tell your course design dreams to your online teaching support. They might have a solution for you!
posted by bones to dark emeralds at 1:19 AM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: >>Yeah, you don't get to pick your LMS I'm afraid.

In this case, I do otherwise would not be asking.
posted by archivist at 2:22 AM on June 4, 2021


>>Yeah, you don't get to pick your LMS I'm afraid.
>>>In this case, I do otherwise would not be asking.


So, to be clear - you're going to install, admin, and self-host your own LMS? You've got the funds, time, and resources for all that? Or does your institution give you multiple options to choose from and they'll host / maintain / admin it for you?

Also, you're expecting your students, who will all be using Blackboard in their other classes, to suddenly have to switch to and learn a completely different LMS for your one class? That is the thing that would make this a no go from my perspective. This isn't about making it easy on you, it's about your students having a consistent experience throughout their school activities.

Since you're asking, Canvas has an open source version that might be useful. As a student it's easy enough to navigate and learn, although it has quirks like the rest of them.
posted by ralan at 4:55 AM on June 4, 2021 [4 favorites]


Response by poster: >>So, to be clear - you're going to install, admin, and self-host your own LMS? You've got the funds, time, and resources for all that? Or does your institution give you multiple options to choose from and they'll host / maintain / admin it for you?

Also, you're expecting your students, who will all be using Blackboard in their other classes, to suddenly have to switch to and learn a completely different LMS for your one class? That is the thing that would make this a no go from my perspective. This isn't about making it easy on you, it's about your students having a consistent experience throughout their school activities.



To be clear, no I am not doing any of that. Please see the original question. I am looking for something like Edmodo. Its browser/web based, not a full LMS requiring IT infrastructure.
posted by archivist at 6:24 AM on June 4, 2021


Best answer: I know this doesn't exactly answer your question, but I've met professors who have taught entirely online using Slack or Discord and Zoom sessions. Assignments are submitted via email. The benefit is that it's a platform students may already know or would be helpful for them to know for the workplace. The main drawback is that admin may be hesitant, especially if they want to enter a classroom to download assignments for assessment purposes.

Also, while I've never used Google Classroom before, but maybe that could offer a better interface than Blackboard?
posted by cardamom at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2021


I mean, my students got thrown off if anything about my Blackboard (and then Canvas) course was arranged differently than most other professors. So depending on how tech savvy your students are, I still say you're better off working with Blackboard. Yes, it's ugly, but it's usable. You also say the school wants you to use it - if students complain to the chair that you're not using Blackboard, will the chair support your choice?
posted by coffeecat at 8:01 AM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Additional information: This is a virtual class using Zoom. I have the option of not using Blackboard - for example, I used another platform called Edmodo in past. The main issue is my google-fu fail in finding other browser/web platforms like Edmodo. Appreciate the suggestions so far!
posted by archivist at 8:07 AM on June 4, 2021


I know nothing, but qlmommy works in instructional design. She helps professors design courses for online learning and is a big fan of canvas.
posted by qldaddy at 9:06 AM on June 4, 2021



Title says it all. School wants me to use Blackboard to teach summer class, but I really don't like using it.


Will you be teaching again for this school? During the academic year? If so,FYI, there will come a point where you can't choose your LMS. This applies to tenured faculty at private SLACs and public institutions, two of the "freest" sets of people i know in academe, so it likely applies to you.

If this is so, and If blackboard is what the school is using, and school is a long-term contract with them (as is likely), you're best off learning it.
posted by lalochezia at 11:34 AM on June 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


We got rid of using Blackboard, and considered canvas and moodle and ended up with a custom website that leverages zoom and alchemer for surveys.

I built out and maintain that custom website. I would suggest that your organization is offering you 'flexibility' in your LMS choice because they don't actually want to support or train you. An ed organization in the US needs to ensure that the courses are accessible, universally available across devices and fair, and if your choices don't clear that threshold is that going to be their problem or yours?

I would aim for minimum viable of no LMS, just zoom links and survey links and lots of reminders and every message ends with an offer for alternative accommodations. I would set up every single zoom meeting for the whole semester, and put up placeholder quizes as well, and send those links all out at the start, and then reminder messages for every session.
posted by zenon at 11:36 AM on June 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


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