Wenzdae Wendling

Learning platforms should be streamlined

January 31, 2023

Almost every day of my college career at UVM, I’ve logged on to Blackboard to check my grades, assignments and class discussion boards. 

Some days, I’ve also logged into Yellowdig, Canvas, Packback or any number of learning sites my professors have decided are better suited for their class.

Starting with the fall 2023 semester, UVM will be switching its learning management system from Blackboard to Brightspace, according to UVM’s LMS Transition page.

As UVM makes this transition, the use of Brightspace should be a requirement instead of a suggestion, as consistent use of learning platforms is necessary to avoid undue stress and confusion for students.

Since 2008, UVM has been using Blackboard as its primary learning management system, according to an Oct. 26, 2021 Vermont Cynic article.

The site is supposed to be used for posting course content and grades and hosting discussion boards, tests and group projects. 

However, despite the extensive number of functions Blackboard can perform, many professors rely on other sites to host some, or all, of their class content, according to UVM’s Center for Teaching & Learning page.

The first time I encountered this phenomenon was in a philosophy class. Our professor told us on the first day of class that we would be using Packback, rather than Blackboard, for our discussion board posts.

I found this interesting, as Blackboard has its own discussion board function. The real surprise came when we were told we would have to pay $29 plus tax to access the alternative platform for the semester.

In another class I took, in lieu of Blackboard, all of the course content was hosted on a completely separate webpage on UVM’s website.

I’ve had many friends share these experiences, and nobody I’ve spoken to has ever been happy when their professors stray off of Blackboard for other options.

Some professors have expressed discontent with Blackboard as a platform, according to the Cynic article. However, having issues with the platform should not be an excuse to pick a different system.

The use of other learning sites and systems might not seem like a big deal. However, if every professor is taking liberties with the learning management sites they use, the results for students are too many open tabs on their computers and constant confusion about where they should go for their information.

For some classes with specific focuses, such as graphic design or engineering courses, the use of different programs like Adobe software, Rhino, or StatCrunch is essential as they provide capabilities that Blackboard does not.

But for many classes, the UVM-selected learning management system offers more than enough to be effective. After all, that’s why it was chosen—as a way to effectively host all of the classes UVM offers.

This transition is an opportunity for UVM to make participation on Brightspace mandatory for professors in order to streamline the learning platforms at use within the University and make it easier for students to access their course information.

Additionally, required use of Brightspace would hopefully be accompanied by more comprehensive training for UVM professors, which might result in less frustration with the site on their end, reducing the chance these professors would feel the need to use other sites.

By mandating the use of Brightspace, UVM can help relieve the financial and mental burden placed on students each semester.

While no learning management system is perfect, any single site will be easier for students than switching between two, three or even four separate websites within a single semester.

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