My responsibility is to guide faculty in our move from Blackboard CE 8 to Blackboard Learn 9.1.
Our online courses make extensive use of the Discussion tool, but I've encountered a disturbing issue. Please set me on the right path if I've misunderstood. It's almost a deal killer!
The issue is whether students can see a forum's description (that is, the instructions for posts) when they are composing either an original forum post or replying to another forum post.
In my investigation, it appears students can see the description (instructions) only when they are looking at the Discussion Board, but that during the creation of an individual post they CANNOT see the instructions!
Is this true? If so, what is the thinking behind this? Other communication tools, such as the blog and wiki (I think) do have a link to instructions so students are guided in their posts. Why not discussions?
If I've correctly described the situation, one could of course post the instructions as the first post, but then (a) the first post is NOT carried over when the course is copied (I have 30 discussions and instructions would have to be hand-posted every semester!) and (b) if I didn't want students simply replying to the original post, but forming their own new threads, students couldn't see the first post anyway.
HELP! I need to guide faculty in the use of the discussion tool and I'm at a loss. Most discussion questions have extensive instructions and students NEED to see them.
Also, since the instructions are not visible, students (and faculty) using any of the Blackboard Mobile apps can't see the instructions there either. If I'm a student using Bb Mobile and I need to post to the "Kant" discussion forum, how can I determine what the instructions for my post are?
I can't believe students are unable to see the instructions for forums as they're creating posts. Please set me right!
Faculty Coordinator, Distance Learning
I believe your research is accurate. I can't speak for Blackboard, but I think the lack of information is a carry over from their early days when discussions couldn't be graded directly.
A few suggestions for you. 1. Provide a link in each discussion forum that has the directions and can be downloaded or opened with the instructions or 2. Carefully consider your discussions and determine if a a discussion forum is the best or if another tool might be better. For example, could students blog and have students respond, could students just post a journal response, could students work on the answer together as a wiki?
Where I work we do not put a lot of value in discussions. Every week of every course has discussions but we consider them to be simply input activities. They are asked some questions that they respond to without doing research. Each week we then ask them to do real research and thoroughly review the material through a paper (output activity). Discussions are never worth more than 15% of the overall grade in the course and are mostly used to correct incorrect thinking and to determine attendance.
Obviously none of this gets to the fact that the discussion tool doesn't display instructions, but it does give you some ideas to suggest to your faculty about how to use discussions effectively.
Thanks for the response!
Discussion is central in many of our online courses. Since we are coming from the CE 8 world, with gradable discussions, I was heartened to see that they are gradable at both the forum and thread levels, but dismayed that students could not see the instructions as they were composing their posts. (They can in CE 8.)
Does anyone know why this was not implemented in Bb Learn 9.1? Is showing the instructors while students compose their posts on a bug fix list somewhere?
I sense I'm missing something here since no one else seems to be bothered by the issue.
As for you questions on the Bug list. I didn't review a complete bug list, but I don't see it fixed on the 9 SP3 list, but it doesn't mean it wasn't fixed with SP2.
I can personally tell you why I don't care that the feature is not there. 1. We host all our information in other documents that students can download and review. This allows a student to see everything all at once and not have to click between every tool to see instructions. Because of this we don't post any instructions with the tools and instead simply post references back to the larger documents. 2. I am not concerned for the mobile aspect because I think the mobile aspect is really bugging and new. I am confident that Blackboard will make the appropriate upgrade and in a reasonable time.
I should say that I spent the last 5 years hating Blackboard (I had been using Webct 4.1 and then Angel 7.2 and 7.3) before moving to a new school and using Blackboard 6.2, 6.3, 7.3 and 8.0. Since Blackboard bought Angel and put Chasen in charge I have done almost a 180. Yes, 9.1 still has bugs, but it is so much better than 8.0 and I have seen a lot of the bugs already fixed since we moved to 9.1 in July. We are moving to 9.3 at the end of the month and I assume it will be even better!
I think the reason many people aren't necessarily bothered by instructions not being visible within the forum is that they've never been visible in any of the earlier Blackboard (non-CE/Vista) versions, either. Instructors who include directions or descriptions for a forum expect students to read those before they click on the link to go into the forum.
Thanks for the clarification. I've not used the "legacy" Blackboard.
But if things stand as they are, that means for our faculty hundreds (if not thousands) of learning modules will have to be reconfigured to add in the discussion instructions.
Can anyone say whether a "fix" is planned shortly?
I haven't seen any mention of such a "fix". Truthfully, since it's not a bug or even a change in behavior (based on earlier Blackboard versions), I doubt that it's even on the Blackboard developers' radar as something to consider.
If displaying the forum description from within the forum is something you'd like to see Blackboard add to a future version, the simplest way to indicate this is to submit an enhancement request through Blackboard's online form at http://www.blackboard.com/Company/Feedback/Suggest-Product-Enhancements/For-Learn.aspx
I'm extremely disappointed if, as you say, making instructions visible to students while they're composing discussion posts is hardly on the radar.
I've submitted a suggestion through the link you've provided (thank you!) but hope that the issue will be addressed sooner rather than later.
Really, it hasn't ever come up with any of our instructors in the 10 years that I've been using Blackboard, which is why I say that I suspect it's hardly on the radar.
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