Professors Push Back on Blackboard

By Brianna Gleghorn

The Blackboard Adoption Survey conducted by Youngstown State University’s Student Government Association shows students want their professors to use Blackboard, but many professors still are apprehensive about using the website.

In the survey, 96.8% of the 401 responses agreed that it would be helpful for all of their classes to post grades and syllabuses onto blackboard. When asked if their educational experience would have improved if Blackboard had been used, 77.3% said yes.

Ernie Barkett, president of SGA, and Caroline Smith, executive vice president of SGA, presented the results and their research to professors in the Academic on Senate March 6. The feedback they received from members of the Academic Senate and professors were negative and against the use of Blackboard.

Some professors have been rejecting the use of Blackboard because grades are given back to the student, so they can calculate the grade themselves or they use their own Learning Management System. Technological issues have also been a problem professors have with Blackboard.

The Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory and the National Survey of Student Engagement data are also in support of Blackboard adoption.

“I think the issue we’re dealing with this perception issue that we stand in front of a faculty senate, that 99% of them, based on the statistics think I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, why are they having the issue,” Barkett said. “But, when you talk to the students themselves, they see that there’s need for improvement, and our graduation rates and retention rate show that, too.”

The inconsistencies in student and professor perception of performance greatly affect abilities for students to learn and professors to teach effectively. Smith said the Noel Levitz Inventory is happening again, and thinks that is one of the avenues through which the SGA can continue pushing for the initiative.

“The surveys have said it time and time again, and they’re probably going to say it again, this time, this is really something we need to work on,” she said.

Photo By Tanner Mondok/The Jambar

The previous Noel Levitz Inventory noted that “from 2013 to 2018, there has been a decrease in the effective teaching practices indicator, which includes the items — students perceiving instructors to clearly explain goals, teaching core sessions in an organized way, using examples or illustrations to explain difficult points, providing feedback on the draft a work in progress and providing prompt and detailed feedback on tests and completed assignments.”

While not all professors are against Blackboard, there is a large push against requiring professors to use it.

“While it might not go through Academic Senate in the way that it has this year because it’s been largely ineffective and not received in the way we wanted it to, I definitely think that we can still push for it by just talking to more professors getting the data out there and kind of maybe doing more footwork in the coming years,” Smith said.

A.J. Sumell, YSU Ohio Education Association Union president and economics professor, uses Blackboard. He said he thinks there is a compromised position in terms of professors who don’t use Blackboard.

“In particular, to me, what students want is not exclusively Blackboard, but they want access to the materials and they want to know where they stand in their class,” he said.

Sumell believes that if professors can use a service other than Blackboard, but still meet those needs then that would be a compromise for both parties.

Guy Harrison, assistant professor of telecommunication studies, doesn’t agree that pushing for more use of Blackboard is the best solution, and he fully supports posting course syllabuses on Blackboard, but he thinks the use of Blackboard for anything else should be up to the professor’s discretion.  

“I think the use of Blackboard for anything else, posting overall course grades and individual assignment grades, should be left up to the instructor’s discretion, mostly because Blackboard isn’t the most user-friendly and because I don’t believe it to be necessary,” he said.

Some professors agree that Blackboard is not “user-friendly.” They also bring about the problem of students who are not academically motivated. Harrison said he feels, along with colleagues, that Blackboard is not the way to address what is a very important issue.

“It’s kind of like the issue of student retention and success is a leak under a kitchen sink, something that must be addressed, but by suggesting Blackboard as a solution, we’re pointing the flashlight at the ceiling instead of under the sink,” he said.

Harrison said students can meet with professors at required office hours if there is a problem or if the student wants to know their status in the class. He said it takes additional time, effort and stress to enter items on Blackboard, partly because of its challenges.

“I think many people will see that explanation as prioritizing what’s best for faculty over doing what’s best for students, but I don’t think those two priorities are mutually exclusive,” he said. “Making things easier for faculty or keeping them simple will improve our ability to better serve our students.”

SGA presented a proposal at the Academic Senate meeting on April 3. More on that meeting can be read in next weeks Jambar.