The Undergraduate Student Government discussed the Honor Committee and the Committee on Discipline applicant selection process and the possible replacement of Blackboard during its weekly meeting on Sunday, March 31.
Deployed at the University in 1997, Blackboard acts as a learning management system (LMS) to integrate communication tools, distribute copyrighted material, and store sensitive information.
According to Director of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu and Assistant Dean of the College James Alexander (Alec) Dun, with Blackboard now no longer being updated, the University wants to take the opportunity to re-evaluate its choice of LMS and to ask for feedback from faculty and students.
“[Blackboard] is not serving as the academic touchstone that it could be for students,” Dun said.
Dun further remarked that past surveys have shown that faculty want better discussion boards, more collaborative tools, and an improved online gradebook.
To compensate for deficiencies in Blackboard, faculty have often resorted to third-party tools like Piazza or Campuswire. As a result, the University is now investigating three possible options: Blackboard Learn Ultra, Canvas, and Brightspace.
Dun said that evaluation and planning would continue for the next year and that there would be a gradual transition to the selected LMS platform in 2021 and 2022.
“We hope to have by the end of the summer narrowed the field quite considerably,” Dun said.
After Dun and Graves-Bayazitoglu solicited feedback, U-Councilor Rachel Hazan ’21 suggested that the brand-new LMS platform integrate and streamline the various Blackboard folders and subheadings such as “Course Materials” and “Assignments.”
Graves-Bayazitoglu agreed that the new LMS system will centralize such course information.
“You [will be able to] go into your calendar and whatever you’re enrolled in should auto-populate in your calendar in terms of your exams and assignments,” Graves-Bayazitoglu said.
Vice President Chitra Parikh ’21 recommended that changes be made to the discussion board format.
“There’s really no way to have a continuous conversation [on Blackboard],” Parikh said. “If you [can] scroll down and see everyone’s posts, it’s easier to comment instead of having to click on [individual posts].”
Following the LMS presentation, Academics Committee Chair Olivia Ott ’20 announced that the Committee on Discipline and the Honor Committee would be working together to select new student committee members.
According to Ott, the applications will be released tomorrow, and selections will occur during the last week of April.
U-Councilor Matthew Bomparola ’21 raised concerns about the timing of USG meetings and its effect upon the viability of athletes who have weekend conferences running for an elected position. Parikh promised to look into alternative times, provided more athletes win positions in the Spring elections.
Additionally, Senate members discussed possible outreach to and collaborative projects with the Graduate Student Government, including cooperating to secure more family-friendly housing and helping to develop mentorship opportunities between undergraduate and graduate students.
The Senate meeting was held in Lewis Library 138 at 8 p.m.