Blackboard Satisfaction Survey Results – First Look

As part of the Palomar College Academic Technology department’s efforts to measure success (and thus meet some reporting requirements), we invited the Palomar Faculty who were assigned to available Blackboard courses this term to take a satisfaction survey.

We (like so many others) used SurveyMonkey to conduct the survey, which worked very well.  The invitation went out to 601 faculty members, of which 301 actually responded; I cannot say how happy I am with that sort of survey return rate!  The survey period ended last Friday afternoon, so I’m finally able to sit down and wrestle with the results.  For a first look at those results, I’m going to post publicly the more “aggregate” data; later posts will deal with the results of the (more important, to my mind) open ended questions asked at the end of the survey.

The image describes the detailed results, but the gist of the first question set tells me that although 79.4% of faculty surveyed are satisfied with Blackboard overall, far less are satisfied with the ease of use, with 17.3% being unsatisfied on that issue.

Survey Question 1 data results

Again the details are in the image, but next up was an opinion-style set asking about ease of student login, course material setup,and test setup.  Unsurprisingly,only 30.5% of faculty agreed that tests are easy to set up.  (Frankly I’m amazed that many responded such. I don’t consider the process to be easy, and I teach others how to do it!)  84% of faculty agreed that student login was easy… I’ve no idea how we could make it easier than the current “same as you used to enroll in classes” though.

Survey detailed data results

Finishing out the agree/disagree questions, 68.9% of faculty agreed that Blackboard has improved their communication with students, while 66.2% agreed that Blackboard created new opportunities to teach and learn.  I am thrilled to death by these results.

Detailed survey results

I found the responses given to “how many years have you been using Blackboard at Palomar College” to be interesting, because according to our results we’ve had roughly the same number of faculty start using it across the last five years.  Also we have faculty claiming to have been using Blackboard here at Palomar for longer than Palomar has used Blackboard… but that’s likely just a matter of remembering years wrong.

Detailed survey results

We finished up the objective questions by asking which Blackboard features faculty use.  My take-away from this is that either I have no idea how faculty actually use their Blackboard courses, or that faculty don’t know the proper names of the tools and components in their course sites.  (I’m hoping it’s the latter, because I just cannot believe that only 40.3% of faculty use the Item.)

Detailed survey data

The survey finished with three open questions:

  1. What do you like best about Blackboard?
  2. What do you like least about Blackboard?
  3. If you could, what would you change about Blackboard?

I’ll delve into some of the information from these responses in other posts, but to my mind that’s where the real meat of the useful information will be.

So, looking back on all this data, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share, please notice that prominent box at the bottom of the page to leave comments.

New Year’s Party

Like many folks, I have plans for this New Year’s Eve.  Unlike many, my plans are to stay awake past midnight (staying sober, for obvious reasons) then remotely access the systems and make some changes to the way Palomar’s Blackboard systems run.  (For your sakes, I hope your plans are more festive.)

As of January 1st, here is the state of Palomar’s Blackboard systems:

The Blackboard link at the top of the college home page will take users to our Blackboard 9.1 system which hosts courses for the Spring 2011 term and onwards.

If users need to get back to the old Blackboard 8 system which hosts courses for the Fall 2010 term and prior, they may follow a link on the Bb9.1 gateway page to get back to the old system.  Of course, by January 1st, most students will have lost access to their old course sites already, so this link will mostly be of use to faculty who need to access past semester content.

If you still need to pull your content from an older course and import it into a new Spring 2011 course, you can find instructions on that process in the ATRC News blog post on the subject.

So, should you be a party-goer,have fun,stay safe, and rest assured that by the time you wake on January 1st, 2011, there will be no problems finding the new Blackboard system here at Palomar.

Cry ‘Havoc’

Cry ‘Havoc” and let slip the courses of Summer!

A new semester is upon us, at least those of us who are working over the Summer term.  At this moment there are 830 courses in Palomar’s Summer 2010 term, and many of those will have Blackboard components.  Here are some things to think about, when getting a Blackboard course ready for this new term:

The shells for Summer 2010 courses have been around for about two months now, in accordance with our typical course lifecycle rule of creating the course shell 90 days prior to the start of the semester.  Some faculty have already transferred their materials into those new course shells, but many have not yet.

If you have material in a previous course that you want to also have in the new course, you have two options:  the Copy Course tool, or to do a Course Export and then a Course Import.  There are pros and cons to each technique.

The Copy Course tool has to be initiated from the course with the content, typically this is the older course.  You would tell the Copy Course tool which of your courses is the destination, and check the boxes for what you want to copy over.  However, if you try to copy the Settings for your course (which includes the style of course menu and banner in the Announcements area) you may receive an error.

If you opt for an Export and Import, you would first go into the older course and use the Course Export tool to create an export file,then save the file onto your computer.  You would next go into the new,empty course, and use the Import Package tool to pull the contents of your export file into the new course.  However, if your course contains more than 250 Mb of data, you will be unable to import the file contents.

Regardless of which method, or neither, that you use for porting over materials, there are a couple other things to be sure to do in your new course site.  Particularly, post an Announcement to start off the semester right.  (And, please, make it a new announcement rather than doing a Modify of an old one.  Announcements have the original date posted on them, and it really looks bad to see a June 2010 class start with a January 2006 post.)  Also, of course, none of your students will be able to get into the course site until you have manually made it available to them.

In the Control Panel, under Settings, is the Course Availability control.  It’s a simple Yes/No radio button control, but until and unless an instructor switches things from the default “No” position, students are unable to see any of the contents of the course site.  Some faculty make their course sites available to students well in advance of the start of semester, and use Blackboard as a tool to prepare students to show up at the first class session actually ready to work; others will wait until right at, or even after, the start of the semester before making the course available.  Whichever way you choose, just remember to make the course available before telling your students to go there – our tech support phone rings quite a lot when that step is forgotten.

So, there you have it.  Summer is here, and if you’re not enjoying a nice vacation it is time to be sure your Blackboard course is ready!

Walking the Campus

Today I took a walk around the San Marcos campus; this is fairly unusual for me, as I don’t get out of the office much.  Few people were around, as it’s just after the end of an academic year.  I suspect the staff on campus outnumbered the students, although I was asked for directions from one student during my wandering.

I walked past many classrooms, the Student Union, and – of course – the construction going on nearly smack in the middle of campus.  The shells of two buildings were crawling with construction workers, all busily accomplishing things that no one will notice later unless they don’t do their jobs right.

The whole campus put me in mind of how Blackboard has been implemented at Palomar:  Much of the campus is the same now as it was when I first came to Palomar years ago, and the old familiar brickwork that I’m used to is even being added to the new construction to keep a similar look and feel.  However, unlike when I first started here, there are now numerous building with elevator shafts; there was a time when only the LL building had elevators.  On an invisible level, there is wireless Internet access across a good bit of campus now, as well as wired network access in pretty much every room.  When I came on-board here the computer lab in the Library had four computers with modems for dial-up Internet service.  As much as things have stayed the same on campus,they’ve really changed,too.

Blackboard was first introduced on campus over a decade ago, and comparing what it looked like back then with what it is now, there are a lot of similarities still.  The Control Panel is nearly unchanged in appearance, even if the functions have shifted a bit; some courses use the buttons styles and Content Area names that were standard (required, actually) back a dozen years ago; there are even a few syllabi that list the old address for our Blackboard system that hasn’t worked since mid-2005.  But like the changes to campus buildings, some new construction on the Blackboard front will change the way courses can be conducted online.  With the advent of the new version of Blackboard which will be in effect starting Spring 2011, things like the Control Panel screen and the button-based course menu are going away.  The Digital Dropbox tool (which I’ve railed against for several years now) will be gone.  And it’s entirely possible that students and faculty will be using the Blackboard system without real computers.

Although Palomar isn’t going to change the version of Blackboard we use until the Spring 2011 term, we are enabling the Blackboard Mobile Learn tool in mid-June, so that users may begin reading and posting to Blackboard courses using iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys, and Android devices.  (This makes me a bit sad, as I’m a Windows Mobile user and am left out in the cold with this app, at least for the moment.)

I guess, if there’s any moral to this rambling post, it’s this:  Change is coming to Palomar’s Blackboard system; if I do my job properly in constructing the new system, things will go smoothly; but even with all these changes, many things will stay the same, work the same, and the service you should expect out of us should only get better.

Blackboard: A Class Act

This contribution is actually a repost of material from last June, where it was originally a contribution to the ATRC podcast for my segment called “Blackboard Feature of the Week”.  The fact that eight months later I can still remember some of the details from this segment lead me to believe that it might be worth a revisit…  plus, it’s a long weekend so I ran out of week to record something.

Rather than dwell on specific tools in Blackboard, this time I’d like to draw comparisons between several of the options in Blackboard and actual in-classroom functions. If you’re struggling to figure out what Blackboard can do for you, perhaps this will help.

In class it’s useful to get a feel for which students are attending regularly. Most of the time this is done anecdotally by recognizing the students; in Blackboard you can stop by the Performance Dashboard and easily see the last time a student has accessed the course site.

In the classroom, if something out of the ordinary is about to happen, or if something that’s been on the schedule for a while is about to be due, you might write a note on the chalkboard. With the truly important things, you may even want to “DNE” it, so other classes do not erase it. Clearly this is the Announcement tool in Blackboard, even down to the Make Permanent function to “DNE” your information.

The most obvious comparison between Blackboard and classroom functions is with handouts. If you would have material photocopied and passed out in class, you could have it posted as an item in Blackboard. A slightly overlooked option is how Blackboard items also replicate demonstration objects that you might bring into the classroom. If you want your students to see an Asiatic mask,or a monkey skull,or a topographic map of North America, these things could also be displayed in Blackboard. Possibly shooting a digital picture of the item would work, but there are more freely available resources of complexity available online than you might think; perhaps someone has a 3-D model of that monkey skull, probably some governmental department has the maps you need available. If you’re not sure how to get started finding such resources, that’s a pretty legitimate reason to call on Academic Technology for help.

If you do objective tests in class, you likely have your students use a Scantron. If you just can’t limit yourself to “pick A-E for each question” testing, you may have to manually grade objective tests by hand, which is never a fun exercise. Blackboard’s testing module excels at automatically and immediately scoring objective test questions, and may have more question choices than you’d ever believe. Up to twenty possible answers per multiple choice question, matching, ordering, multiple answer, fill in the blank, and even “Where’s Waldo” style Hotspot questions where the student answers by clicking a specific spot on an image are all easily set up in a Blackboard test.

If you ever use blue books, you may want to try instead having students type up their work and submit it via a Blackboard assignment. Imagine never needing to decipher student penmanship again… And if your concern is over limiting the time in which the students are working, just have the papers typed up in a monitored environment, either by bringing the whole class into a computer lab for that class session, or by having laptops rolled out to your classroom for students to use during the class session. Of course a fully online class would just want to assume all writing assignments are open book anyway, but an on-campus class would not need to.

If your students are ever invited to talk about class material during class sessions, then using the Blackboard Discussion Board could be a good idea. Just set up a forum, possibly seed it with some questions, then tell the students to “talk amongst yourselves.” Just because students post to the forum doesn’t make it uncontrolled; there are options to have moderated discussions, and you could even allow some trusted students to moderate in your place. If you just want to facilitate student discussion without making it a normal part of class, just set up a forum and let students know they can post there for any extra things they wish to discuss.

Do you show PowerPoint Presentations in the classroom? Do you lecture? Likely you do, and Blackboard has a variety of ways to make this material available to students. Use the Elluminate tool to have a live presentation online with your students, and record that so the student who missed can at least see what went on. Or, record a solo session, where you run through your presentation similar to what you might do in a lecture hall, then let the students watch that recording and post questions to a discussion board. Even if you already have all your material available in a written format, you could still make little audio snippets using the Wimba Voice Tools to accompany the written material, verbally drawing student attention to the most vital material or correcting the common misperceptions that your experience in the classroom tells you at least someone will have.

With the tools in Blackboard it is possible to replicate many of the features of a classroom environment over the Internet. However, it is even more possible to closely tie Blackboard features into an on-campus class, and offer a richness to the flow of a semester that could help your students to succeed. If there’s something you are doing in the classroom, and you’re interested in seeing if you can develop an online aid or equivalent, give us in Academic Technology a call ( or X2862) and we’ll see if we can work something out together.