May 19th, 2010 | sramsay
Really. All of it. I think Blackboard is one of the most poorly designed systems ever built for the Web, and I’m rarely challenged on that opinion. Problem is, even the good ones (Moodle, Sakai) suck.
But why do they suck?
In general, these systems are too heavy, too buggy, require way too much administration, and suffer from the most extreme form of featuritis imaginable. They try to be all things to all people while pursuing desktop metaphors that remain awkward on the Web. They commit the abominable freshman mistake of thinking that since “teachers are used to paper gradebooks” we should have e-GradeBooks ™ that work just like the paper ones. They can’t decide whether the electronic classroom should be like a social network, or a room, or like Twitter (and so they end up being like 4Chan). Students hate it, teachers hate it, administrators hate it. It’s a bloody disaster.
I propose that we discuss — and if possible sketch out — some solutions to this morass. Maybe that involves coming up with some very thin portal software that hooks up existing services. Maybe we design a highly minimalist courseware system as a foil to systems like Blackboard. Maybe we design a few of them for different kinds of teaching situations (large Chem lecture, small grad seminar, etc.). Maybe we develop highly nuanced arguments for why “courseware,” as such, shouldn’t exist.
Now, we want to be clear about what’s not working with these systems, but this can very quickly descend into an angry mob of people eager to vent about Blackboard. Perhaps we can think about limiting or constraining that discussion (using some clever mechanism) so that we can get it all out on the table without getting overwhelmed. Whatever we do, I’d like to get some concrete suggestions and even schematic designs for Courseware That Does Not Suck.