While I have been using and maintaining a Moodle system for several years in my building, I am currently investigating switching to a Blackboard system for several reasons including: reducing our bandwidth use to make space for other initiatives, ease of maintenance, ease of teacher use, etc.

Anyone out there using Blackboard in their schools? How well has it integrated with your student management systems? How do teachers like/dislike/utilize the system? Besides cost, any reason I should or should not continue investigating a Blackboard system?

Tags: Blackboard, classroom, learning, management, online, systems

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I don't work in a school, but I work with several schools to implement a hybrid approach to teaching algebra I. We use blackboard with this project, from the state license for the product. It might be worthwhile investigating whether there is a state license that you can somehow use either for a few classes or as an experiment to see if you like it. I personally prefer moodle, but for teachers who aren't very tech savvy they like blackboard because they are more familiar with it from their own university experience. The only thing I can say for usage is the students are pretty non-commital to it either way. They tend to be pretty savvy users and think blackboard is a little click happy to get somewhere. My teachers don't like the fact that the gradebook is not user friendly and many choose not to use it because they have better apps somewhere else. I hate teachers having to use multiple tools, too much of a deterrent to use.

Hope that is what you are looking for.

Roland
Saw that you are involved in creating hybrid Algebra I courses in conjuction with BBoard. I was just asked yesterday if I would be interested in doing one next spring for one of my computer classes. Would you be willing to share some of your insight and experiences to date? I have use a web site for the last 10 years in my teaching experience, and have been trained to administrate bboard on a group level. I'd just like to hear what other people have experienced and any land mines to avoid....
If you are going for usability, I would go with Digication instead of Blackboard. They also have a really cool e-portfolio system that comes with that I made good use of.

It's at www.digication.com. If you talk to Jeff Yan, tell him Michael Staton sent you.
Blackboard's K-12 offering is typically a hosted service - although you can pay less and host it on your own servers. By outsourcing the hosting, I assume that will open up our limited data bandwidth for other communications and the new wireless Internet access we're implementing.
We use Angel, which is very similar to Blackboard. It is somewhat cost friendly. It costs us about $1 a student signed up. I enjoy the communication and access students have to material at all times. We are currently creating classes for students that need credit recovery, using Angel as our backbone to it. That will start in the fall.

I will say it took a while for students and teachers to get used to it. But I am now starting to implement it much more in my classroom.
What were the biggest issues for teachers? I've been happily using Moodle for several years in my own classes, but as I've worked to encourage more teachers to try it as an add-on to their classes, they've expressed some frustration. In having them "play" with both Moodle and Bb, they seem to feel that Bb is more user-friendly for them, but in general I have a less tech-savvy staff...but we're working on it!!

Does the Angel system allow parent logons to check student grade progress, etc?
Mostly it was just a lack of computer knowledge. Those that have worked with me on using the features caught on and are doing fine. The one thing I would mention that if there are too many people using the assessment feature at the same time it can slow it down. I have done some reviewing quizzes on it and there were minor problems. But it was just a review, not a big deal.

I do not think parents can have a separate login, but we give them access to their student's username and password, so they can check whenever they want to.
Digication is also hosted. Way cheaper than blackboard, more usable. Plus e-portfolios. I do not lie. I have used blackboard plenty and it kind of sucks. Check out www.digication.com and let me know what you think.
The website is a little vague on specific features, but I did sign up to look at a demo. From the website, I can't tell if it interfaces with SIS, has gradebook features, parent login for student grades, etc. Just not enough information without looking at it to know if it would meet our needs.
Why not consider moving to a hosted Moodle installation instead? That would take care of your storage/bandwidth issues. There are numerous hosting companies that specialize in hosting it at very reasonable cost.

As far as the "ease of teacher use" issue goes, we've been using Moodle for over two years and haven't had any complaints about it being too difficult to use. In fact, with each version things get easier. Granted it is in part due to our familiarity with Moodle as well. Switching to BB would mean re-training your staff. I think the key support in the form of PD, and someone familiar with the software who holds workshops or brief trainings to address specific topics. There are now several good Moodle books, too.

Unless there is something that you can't do in Moodle that is worth the expense of Blackboard (and I can't think of anything) I'd stay with Moodle. I simply couldn't justify spending additional funds on Blackboard when Moodle does such a great job at a fraction of the price.
I use blackboard extensively with my ecology class. It took several days to set it up since my classes did not have enough text books so I got permission to use segments from the book and but it into the course documents. Our school district pays for it. Once it was all set up it was extremely easy to manage. I could update quickly and could monitor the number of times the site and;/or specific page was viewed.d

I like it the discussion board (even though you have to monitor it closely with high school students to ensure no inappropriate comments). Students who usually sit back and not discuss in class like this feature and will be willing to share more.

I also use the digital dropbox to cut down on paper being sent back and forth. It also cuts down on duplication since students can download extra copies for themseleves of handouts, etc. I put my syllabus on the course documents so that it is always there. It is a great tool to use during parent/teacher conferences because it shows the date and time students submitted work (or didn't).

Denise Scribner

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