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So many reasons, so little blog

Johndan has a post today titled "Why I Hate Blackboard," wherein he details his struggle with nigh-unusable "OK/Download" menus that Blackboard offers. I'm sure that there are sites out there that do nothing but complain about good old BB, but until I find them, allow me to offer my #1 pet peeve about the system which is standard at SU.

I taught on BB this summer, against my better judgment, and had much the same experience that Johndan did. The painstaking, multiple acknowledgement process by which any change (no matter how small) drove me positively insane. It's a perfect example of what's wrong with one-size-fits-all software.

My particular tick, though, lasted a good 6-7 weeks into the 12-week session. I wanted my students to swap drafts, respond to each others' writing, etc., but for some reason, several people in the course would post their work, it would appear on our course bulletin boards, and then be impossible to download.

The solution was simple. Every OS that I know of allows users to use spaces in file names. Upload it to the web however, and when someone else tries to access the file, it stops reading the title after the first space. Basic HTML: no spaces in file names. However, none of my students, and I would estimate some 95% of the instructors in our program, have no way of knowing this. Maybe it's changed, but at the time, there was nothing in the Help menus or FAQs to solve the problem, and the tech people in charge of the system had no clue.

And the results? Students couldn't access each other's writing. Often, I had to ask students to resubmit their work to me over email (i.e., circumvent the system). I looked like a twit who couldn't exercise any sort of control over my virtual classroom. And Syracuse locked themselves into perpetual upgrades and thousands of dollars per year in fees for a system that desperately needs a usability overhaul. Lucky us.


More reason to use the alternatives. For simple file swapping, like you describe, Daniel Anderson at UNC put together a real easy to use ftp system (without needing the ftp programs).

Dilger is going to build something at WIU this summer too.

I am starting to treat the blog format as an alternative for all this kind of thing. Even long posts can be handled as "continue reading" posts. We uploaded docs and the whole nine yards.

Is there anything the blog *can't* do?