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Discussion Board Posts and Copying Courses

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Jason Blanchard posted on 24 Apr 2013 3:55 PM

When copying a course, why does Blackboard retain posts at the "Thread" level? When linking to a discussion board, the Blackboard UI dumps student users at this "thread" level, so it's almost always full of student content rather than course content.

I understand this copying process changes the user name of the post author to "anonymous," but the body of the posts or attachments could contain student-identifying information like user names or real names. This seems like a big security hole and potential FERPA lawsuit waiting to happen.

Removing discussion threads should be a default action when copying courses or at *least* an option in bulk delete.

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Jason,

There have been a wide variety of different behaviors with course copy and discussion boards over the years, including copying everything (including porter names) and copying nothing but empty forums.  When only empty forums were copied, it required instructors to re-create any thread structure they may have set up for students to respond to. 

The current behavior is a compromise, copying only the initial post in each thread so that the thread structure can be preserved for those instructors who pre-populate their forums with threads/questions that the students are supposed to respond to.  It also allows for graded threads to be included in the copy.

In SP12 (released today: https://blackboard.secure.force.com/btbb_articleview?id=kA470000000KyykCAC), the choice of including anonymised starter posts for each thread or just the empty forums is an option in the course copy process.

Mike

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Thanks for the reply, Mike.

That option in SP12 is a huge improvement considering how much time we spend trying to avoid that security hole. It seems to me like the default UI encourages students to post at the thread level, so I'm glad this use case is being included through the lifespan of a course.

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At our school we have worked with faculty as Mike mentioned over the years.  Our current recommendation when working with faculty is to ensure that there is a starter post for the thread with a prompt for the students. Either the instructions or a specific post to reply to with questions. One of the nice features in SP9 is that instructors can change the anonymous post that was copied to their name rather than re-creating the starter post for the thread.  This is nice for faculty that share content and course templates for uniformity in our online courses.

Sincerely,

Eric

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Jason,

You will want to double-check the SP12 behavior.  I was looking at the pre-release Beta version we had at my school (part of the beta program), but I don't see anything in the release notes that came out today about that being part of the production version of SP12, and I haven't installed the production release on my test server yet.

It's really up tor instructors whether they allow students to create new threads or require them to respond to existing threads, but you're right that the option to allow them to create new threads is checked by default when setting up a forum.

Mike

 

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Right, so any hack-around like the one mentioned above is... well... a hack-around and a terrible UX. This is basically saying that instructors need to take extra steps to uphold a best practice that has implications for security and student privacy.

That fact that this functionality does not currently exist and may or may not exist in the near future is unacceptable in my opinion, especially when a convention is upheld in one aspect (where do students post by default?) but not in another (which student data is removed during a course copy by default?).

I also know enough about web app development to know that this isn't a terribly difficult feature request, which makes it extra frustrating to have to wait between service packs for this to maybe, possibly be fixed at some point in the not-too distant but not exactly sure when future ;)

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Jason,

The best place to give Blackboard input and feedback on changes you'd recommend for the product is the enhancement request form at https://www.blackboard.com/Contact-Us/Feedback/Suggest-Product-Enhancements/For-Learn.aspx

Mike

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Thanks, yeah, I put in a ticket there about a year ago noting this issue. Haven't gotten any kind of useful response :/

A Blackboard person on Twitter directed me over here, so I figured I'd give this a shot.

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The SP12 release definitely includes this fix for import, export and course copy materials. We'll update the release notes if that was missed.

Both uses of discussion forums are considered pedagogically valid - the one Eric describes earlier in this thread where the instructor provides guidance at the start of each thread, and the one favored by Jason where the forum is an empty container for students to fill - so our course reuse solution for forums needs to accommodate both modes.

Certainly the behavior prior to the SP12 fix was incorrectly favoring one model over the other, and it's true that the SP12 solution still puts the choice in the instructor's hands about which kind of course reuse best supports what they are trying to do with forums. There are some potential future enhancements we could consider to make this experience more frictionless for instructors, but we still need to support both usage models for forums.

SP12 also includes additional options when creating a course group that uses the discussions tool, to allow the instructor to determine whether they will manage forum creation in the group themselves before students can start contributing, or whether they will allow students to create forums on their own.

SP12 also includes functionality inside the discussions tool to allow an instructor to "take over" any previously anonymous posts all at once, and update the author value for those posts.

Hope this helps, definitely keep the suggestions coming! 

 

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