Blackboard shmlackboard


There. I’ve said it.


This fall my department has purchased a new, online grammar-practice program that has to be integrated with Blackboard: integrated by each individual adjunct, not by the department or the vendor.

In theory, the program is a good idea. We need a grammar-practice program, and if the new one we’ve got were on paper I would be ecstatic.

But it’s not on paper. It’s online.

And it has to be integrated.

As horrifying as that prospect sounded to my ears, I have, amazingly, managed to integrate the new program with Blackboard completely on my own, sans any instruction or help-desk help whatsoever.

But now that integration has been achieved, I have to deal with Blackboard, a task I’ve avoided for years. I’ve always used a class blog with no log-in; no password; no multiply-nested, counterintuitive pathways to whatever you’re looking for; and easy to find on Google to boot. I could send out a class email with a single, solitary link, and with one click my students were exactly where they needed to be, not on a landing page with a mile-long menu bar in need of perusing.

These days, though, most of my students seem to have gotten used to Blackboard, and would like to see class content on Blackboard.

So Blackboard it is.

Thus far I’ve spent …. is it 2 hours now (?) …. dealing with Blackboard, at the end of which time I have successfully: loaded a picture of myself.

Two hours, one photo.

Photo-loading accomplished, I experienced a ray of hope that help, or at least intelligible guidance, might be available when I came across a page informing me that I can receive in-person Blackboard training here in the town where I live.


But no.

Not fantastic.

The appointment link is broken.

And why not?

Apart from the (broken) link, there’s no other means of reaching the promised live-instruction humans: no email, no phone number, no Chat. So live instruction has turned into yet another issue to troubleshoot. Maybe YouTube will have a video.

Then there are the grammar exercises themselves, which, albeit integrated with Blackboard, continue to reside on their own site.

Which is a labyrinth. Page after page after indecipherable page, with links that aren’t located in obvious places and aren’t labeled with obvious terms.

So yesterday I spent two hours on the phone with the publisher’s tech person.

She was a saint.

By the end I was so frustrated I could hear myself becoming cranky and short, something I try never to be on the phone. Or in person, either, but somehow cranky and short seem worse on the phone with a complete stranger who is only trying to do her job.

The phone connection didn’t help. The tech person could hear me, but I couldn’t hear her, and no amount of polite requesting made it better.

“Could you say that again?”

“Could you say that a little louder?”

“I’m having trouble hearing you, could you talk a little louder, please?”

Which gradually gave way to modal-free eruptions like “I don’t know what you just said.”

Also to modal-free, one-word responses like:

Help-desk person: “Can you hear me better now?”
Me: “No.”

Another problem: half the site’s pages seemed to be named the same thing, so the customer service person and I had recurring episodes of thinking we were looking at the same page when we weren’t.

Throughout all this my interlocutor remained calm, friendly, and encouraging, finally confiding in me that the site is indeed difficult to navigate but gets easier after you do it for a while.

I did pick up one useful bit of information: if I want to build my own test, I can’t use the “Test Builder” function to do it.

Good to know!

Test Builder does not build tests. That I’m going to remember clear as a bell next time I work up enough nerve to attempt a feat of online test-building.

The Test-Builder-doesn’t-build-tests rule reminds me of our old campus password system, which required us to change passwords every 90 days.

When you got to the change-password page, there were 2 options: one that said “Change Password” and another whose legend I forget.

If you clicked on “Change Password,” it locked you out of the system.

I didn’t realize till today, thinking about it, what an oddity that was.

Aside from the obvious illogic of “Change Password” meaning “Lock me out of the system,” why would you have a “Lock me out of the system” feature anyway?

When does anyone want to be locked out of a system?

Do people ever want to be locked out of their car or their house?

Or their office website?

Has Lock myself out of the system ever appeared on anyone’s to-do list, ever?




I wrote this post at least a week ago, thinking I’d edit the next day, then didn’t get to it.

Between then and now I’ve made friends with Blackboard.

It’s a pretty easy site to deal with, as work sites go (and I dealt with a doozy last summer–or with what I took to be a doozy, given my blessedly limited experience of workplace websites.)

Meanwhile the online grammar exercises, which my students are actually doing (!!), need a user manual.

And see:
App shmapp

7 thoughts on “Blackboard shmlackboard

    1. btw, when I said “no one” says “remedial” any more, what I meant was that *I* am not supposed to use the term remedial!

      Not that you or anyone else shouldn’t use the term.

      I’m not sure what term I would use to describe the exercises …. some would definitely be “remedial” in the sense that they cover simple aspects of punctuation that students used to learn in middle school.

      Others are more complicated and get into matters of style and emphasis….


      1. OK, you call it what you have to, and now that you’ve described it as middle school grammar being taught in college, I’ll just think “remedial” in my head.


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