Google has recently become much more than just a search tool; it has become an educational platform that some professors are choosing over Blackboard, the traditional option. With new applications such as “Google docs” and “Google Drive,” both professors and students are able to share, upload and save documents and files to the site. Blackboard allows just professors to post assignments, upload documents and readings and post grades.
Professor Tarah Demant uses Blackboard primarily to post readings for her Rhetoric and Composition class, as well as for her Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies classes.
“I use Blackboard to post readings because it has copyright protections, which means that students can get readings more inexpensively, rather than making a course packet,” Demant said. “I don’t use Blackboard for grading or posting assignments; I do assignments hard-copy because I’ve found Blackboard to be unreliable.”
Demant also said that her students and TAs have had trouble accessing Blackboard in the past.
“Students have a hard time navigating it; it works until there’s a problem, but then when there’s a problem, it’s total chaos,” Demant said.
While these are solvable problems,
Demant said there is not a lot of institutional support available when such problems do arise.
While she still prefers hard copy assignments, this semester Demant has been using Google docs to have students submit some of their assignments. She finds it much easier to use.
English professor Bula Maddison readily admits that she isn’t the most technologically savvy, but has learned to navigate Blackboard with help from a coworker.
“Now that I know how to use Blackboard, it seems to do what I want,” Maddison said. “I don’t think it’s very intuitive, and Google, I just don’t use it because I’m not motivated to learn how to use it.”
Teachers incorporate Google apps into classrooms,
students question Blackboard’s reliability
Sophomore Theresa Soares has noticed some professors choosing Google as opposed to Blackboard.
“I have one professor who only uses Google Drive to post readings. That’s the first professor I’ve ever had that uses Google Drive,” Soares said. “Everything that would’ve been posted on Blackboard, she posts on Google Drive.”
Soares feels more confident with Google’s applications because she knows they will work on all her devices and has never experienced problems with them before.
“I prefer Google Drive because I have an Android phone and Google makes Android, so it’s already intertwined,” she said. “I don’t like the Blackboard mobile app. I think it’s kind of clunky and I want to be able to access Blackboard from my cell phone, my tablet, from all my other devices.”
One thing that Demant, Maddison and Soares agree upon is the disorderly layout of the Blackboard site. They feel the site could be more user-friendly and organized. Soares describes Blackboard as a “maze,” and feels like she has to go on a hunt through the site in order to find her readings. She also said that Google Drive is “easier, faster and more user-friendly.”
Maddison wishes there was a way to edit papers while they were in the Blackboard site. She finds herself having to go through multiple steps in order to obtain a submitted paper onto her own hard drive.
Demant feels that the site needs to be simplified. She wants there to be a way for students to download material posted to Blackboard.
“If I were to do it all over again, I’d do it on a Google site, but since I already have the class there, I can just transfer the class over another year and tweak it,” Demant said.
Demant also wishes there was a way for students to access material from classes taken in previous semesters. A reading from a previous class may prove useful in another later class.
Soares agrees that Blackboard requires some changes.
“Blackboard needs to be designed better for students, with the student in mind,” Soares said. “The graphical user interface of the entire application should change, and they need to make it more accessible for mobile devices.”
On the other hand, sophomore Theresia Gottwald likes the services Blackboard has to offer, and finds the site convenient for educational purposes.
“None of my teachers have used Google, and no one has ever suggested using it,” Gottwald said. “I like that Blackboard is a source to go to when we’re not in class, so we can get all the information we would have missed otherwise.”
Gottwald likes the convenience of having assignments and lectures posted on Blackboard. She finds it especially helpful that students are able to access Blackboard on their phones and other devices.
As of now, Mills continues to use Blackboard’s services, but the slow shift to incorporating Google services into the classroom has certainly begun.