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Learning from our students: how do they rate our use of Blackboard?

One of the presenters at Educause 2004 made the observation that today’s learners are tolerating an education system that is not designed to cater for them. Mark Prensky makes the same point when he talks about students ‘playing at school’. At a recent conference in London, Prensky, founder of, issued a strong challenge to the conference audience: we need to provide a curriculum experience which the playstation generation find motivating and credible. We can do this, according to Prensky, by utilising the technology which they find engaging – ie computer games – and developing interactive bite-sized learning activities which will motivate them to learn.

What is clear in this debate is that an increasingly digitally literate/savvy generation have high expectations of technology-supported learning. In a study conducted by Dziuban in 2004 55% of people in the ‘boomer generation’ category said that they were very satisfied with web-supported learning compared to only 26% of the ‘net generation’ ? Why is this? Could it be that the older generation are more easily satisfied with technology as their expectations are lower? For them, being able to use email, do online shopping and banking is nothing short of a miracle and something which they had not grown up to expect. By comparison, students who are building their own websites at 8, using sophisticated authoring tools to develop their creative writing skills and turning to Google rather than the weighty tomes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, are a much more critical audience.

If we are to succeed in implementing Blackboard in our institutions we need to listen closely to what our students are telling us. We can do this in a number of ways:-

  • By closely analysing the course statistics within our Blackboard systems which can provide a rich source of how students are using the system.
  • By conducting student-focus groups to listen to what they want from technology in their studies.
  • By involving students in implementing and supporting Blackboard.

A good example of how we might learn from our students is found in the article ‘ A Student’s View of a CMS’ which appeared in Campus Technology (October, 2004). The student, Ryan Tansey, presents his assessment of how his professors are performing in their deployment of Blackboard and delivers a verdict of 'could do better'. To view the full article click here


Author: Cathy Ellis

23 January 2005

VLE: Blackboard



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