Blackboard: Learn, Hate, Hack

Blackboard continues to suck. I’m at a new institution, and I have learned that admin regulation of features accounts for only a small amount of Blackboard’s suckage. My current school has foregone some convenient features, but adopted other nifty ones. In the end this just illustrates that Blackboard’s suckitude and lack thereof amounts to installing car mats, electric windows, and an awesome stereo inside a poor-performing but market-dominating car. Blackboard is gobbling up the learning tech market, and now that it’s the big gorilla, it’s defining the industry with its suckage.

Here is why Blackboard continues to suck:

1. Still cannot mass edit exam questions. You can bulk assign points to exam questions, but you cannot bulk randomize answers on multiple choice questions, for example.

2. Still strips formatting such as bold, underscore, italics. This is not merely a cosmetic issue. Emphasizing words like NOT and BEST are immensely helpful to students as they process exam questions.

3. Still Clunky, clunky, clunky. Blackboard runs like an old junkyard car dressed like a fancy sports car. Hell, old junkyard cars are reliable if you fix them up. You cannot fix up Blackboard since it’s proprietary and not open source.

4. Still requires manual, individual settings for exam questions such as randomizing answers, assigning letters (lower case, upper case) to the alternatives, etc. Admittedly, this is logical if a test has multiple formats. There are certain answers that shouldn’t be randomized (such as an “all of the above”). But there has got to be a better way than hand-formatting 50 questions.

5. Still doesn’t erase MS Word code (even though it strips bold and apostrophes, duh). There should be a code stripper such as WordPress offers. Note: There is a format stripper, but it doesn’t strip the sekret super-hidden Word formatting gobbledygook.

6. PLUS NOW, it’s gobbling up the open source LMS world, and when it polyamorously mates with Amazon and Google, it will spawn Skynet.

Enough aggravation….

Here are a couple of hacks and helps:

1. Blackboard Test Generator. Cut and paste a word document, then export a .txt file, then import test questions to Blackboard. Still gotta format, though. This might be a link re-post – but it’s worth repeating.

2. Review the .txt file for question types. The Blackboard Test Generator sometimes does kooky things when it converts questions into the Blackboard format. It will make a multiple choice question read as an ordering question, for instance. Learning and proofing the .txt file for question codes (such as mc for multiple choice and ord for ordered questions), can save lots of confusion after imports.

3. Use ALL CAPS for key words such as “best,” “except,” and “not.” You can find and format these words more easily in Blackboard. It doesn’t hurt to use all caps even on pen and paper tests.

4. Create editing bookmarks by adding numbers or letters to the alternatives/answers.  Students might not need this formatting given the way tests appear on the screen, but it’s easy to lose your place during editing. Use this feature as a bookmark to show your progress and to make sure no questions were skipped.





Bonus link on the massiveness of Blackboard’s suckage.

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