Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I were brainstorming about workshops to offer next fall to the VCU faculty, and we began to take apart our normal offerings of the various “tools” associated with instructional technology. Jeff began to draw on the whiteboard (yes…we still go low tech at times….) and laid out the following visualization of how our institution uses our learning management system (Blackboard):
As validated by the ECAR study over the past four years, students by and large want faculty to use course management systems like Blackboard because of the access and convenience it gives them to course content, assignments, and grades. Faculty likewise appreciate the convenience that it gives them to post materials and communicate with students.
Our challenge is that while a majority of faculty “use” Blackboard, they are not necessarily using it for learning. As a course management system, the focus has been on management – posting material, collecting homework, posting grades. Many faculty are missing a wonderful opportunity to use a course management system as a tool that facilitates learning.
When we in faculty development focus on tools such as Blackboard, we run the risk of reinforcing this faculty and student desire to develop a portal for access and convenience. Focusing on the set-up of Blackboard tends to focus one on design features (course layout, organization, navigation, etc) and on the indirect support features to learning, such as gradebooks, assignments, and loading of course material.
Our focus recently has been more to see Blackboard as a place in which to jump off into social media. As Mike Wesch noted in a recent presentation, students are interested in learning but not necessarily interested in school or classes. One way to change that perception is to give the students their voice and give them responsibility for their own learning. Web 2.0 provides some rich environments for this to occur and the use of Web 2.0 apps links nicely with Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. We have been exploring the use of social bookmarking within classes, blogging, and collaborative writing through Google Docs and wikis. There is no reason NOT to use the access and convenience afforded by the course management system, but one should not stop there.
I would be interested in comments from others on what you are doing to move both faculty and students beyond access and convenience to uses that support active learning.