Blackboard troubles students

The learning platform, Blackboard, is used by YSU students. Photo by Elizabeth Coss / The Jambar

By Shianna Gibbons

Just weeks into the fall 2022 semester, Youngstown State University students are experiencing a range of problems with Blackboard. 

Blackboard is an online learning platform allowing access to course notes, PowerPoints, assignments, syllabi and more. Some courses are asynchronous and rely entirely on Blackboard.

Taryn Hobbs, a sophomore majoring in exercise science, cannot upload any assignments for her medical terminology class.

“[Blackboard] is telling me there’s a failed submission,” Hobbs said. “I’m emailing my teacher my work so it can get graded.”

Hobbs said her problem with Blackboard is more challenging because her class is asynchronous. Hobbs sought help from the IT department but was told the problem was not on her end of Blackboard. 

“When I contacted my teacher, they said it was on my side, but it’s not,” Hobbs said. “[IT] said it’s possibly on the instructor side because of how they upload their curriculum.” 

Other students have complained that Blackboard will not load, or crash when attempting to upload an assignment or take an exam. Simon Bartlett, an undecided freshman, said Blackboard typically works until he needs it to.

“When I need Blackboard in class, it comes up blank when I click on course content. Thirty minutes later, it’ll be better,” Bartlett said. “It’s way too inconsistent to be the main thing we do our work on.” 

On July 1,  Kent State University retired Blackboard and switched to Canvas for its online learning system. However, YSU is not looking to change the learning platform anytime soon, according to the Associate Director of Information Technology, Sharyn Zembower.

“We are moving towards having all the faculty and courses taught on Blackboard Ultra,” Zembower said. 

According to Zembower, this is a future goal YSU is working toward, but there is no specific timeframe for when YSU will be just Blackboard Ultra. She believes this will help resolve some issues students experience, but she also has some tips for students experiencing Blackboard problems.

Zembower said when helping students with Blackboard, she first look for what browser students are using. Zembower said this usually resolves problems where Blackboard does not load or assignments fail to submit.

“We always recommend Google Chrome or Firefox. Edge and Safari have some known bugs that Blackboard is aware of,” Zembower said. 

If assignments continue to fail to submit or not show up, Zembower said it might be because of how the document was saved. If the document is in OneDrive, students should click “Browse Cloud Service” rather than “Browse Local Files.”

“Otherwise, they would have to download the document from their OneDrive, save to desktop and then upload it for ‘Browse Local Files,’” Zembower said. 

The next possible solution could be checking the Wi-Fi or Internet connection. Students on campus should not use guest Wi-Fi and instead should connect to the appropriate network. Zembower said if students are home, moving closer to the modem, checking wifi strength and how many devices are connected could improve the Blackboard experience.

Zembower said sometimes the problems are more complex. Students should go to the IT Service Desk if the problem persists.

“There’s a lot of different things that come into play. Is it a laptop? Is it a tablet? Are they using the Blackboard app? There is a lot of different [factors], so I would just have [students] stop at the service desk,” she said.

For Blackboard or other technology-related issues, visit the IT service desk in Kilcawley Center or go to the service desk’s page on YSU’s website.