NEW College, a sixth form college in the north of England, has a student population of 1600 16-18 yr old students. It offers a large range of A levels and resit GCSEs in some 40+ subjects. Due to the funding mechanisms in sixth form colleges, all lessons are taught in guided learning sessions in the presence of a lecturer. Blackboard has been used at the college since 2002, primarily as part of a blended learning program.
I joined NEW College in 2002, where I studied several AS and A levels, together with an AVCE ICT Full award which was delivered full time in a computer suite, and I therefore had contact with Blackboard from a student perspective on a daily basis throughout my college career. The first thing that struck me as a very positive feature of Blackboard was the reliability of the system. In the two years that I used it there were only a handful of occasions when we couldn’t gain access to the system. I also found that the interface for Blackboard was very easy to use, even when I had no initial experience of VLEs and what they offer. I found I was using Blackboard almost everyday in college, and regularly accessed Course Documents and the Digital Drop Box from home at weekends.
As an ICT student comfortable with the use of IT, I probably used a wider variety of tools than the average student. The Course Documents area was used by the lecturers as the main source for all handouts and coursework, and I quickly became accustomed to having course materials on tap. The Digital Drop Box was invaluable to me both as a way of getting work home or to getting it to an instructor. We used the assessment features frequently to help consolidate learning and as a method of revision. I found this extremely helpful during our examined units as I could access the revision material and tests from home. Live links were always available in the External Links section which considerably reduced the amount of time I had to spend researching for specific information on the web.
Access to the my grades allowed me to monitor my progress – AVCE course results are compiled from individual unit results, and Blackboard was able to provide me with calculated provisional grades and monitored my progress very effectively.
Obviously there were some omissions and I didn’t use all of Blackboards features. The classroom delivery techniques operating in the college meant I rarely needed to use Discussion Groups or the Virtual Classroom. Changing personal details was not allowed (abuses by students put a stop to that early on!). The College had an internal e-mail system which ran through Outlook and I found this easier to use than going through Blackboard.
Overall I found it an extremely useful addition to my learning program and feel that it significantly contributed to my success in AVCE ICT.