Blackboard Update Opens Debates Over Usefulness


The latest update to Blackboard has incurred technical issues for numerous users. In early January, students opened Blackboard to a whole new layout that has raised questions over the functionality and design of the update.

An email was sent from the Office of Technology on Dec. 18, 2019, regarding the update. The email stated, “that a system update will occur during winter break and that this new update feature has a sleek, modern look and feel, and will save you time with simpler workflows and easier access to important information.” 

The update will include the Ultra Base Navigation, which is a navigation menu that will live outside that will include the calendar, messages, courses and more. This was to provide quick and easy access to information that students are continually checking.  

“We are still using the same Blackboard Learn platform that the University has always used,” said Samantha Kinser, senior academic technologist. The Blackboard system is now set to automatic updates every month. 

“Each month, application updates will be delivered without any downtime,” said Kinser. “Updates may introduce new features and will fix any occurring known issues. Moving to the cloud (SaaS) has allowed Lewis University to begin developing a roadmap to Blackboard Ultra: a truly new look to the user interface designed to be intuitive and easy to use.” 

When entering the updated Blackboard, students will see a new layout to the site. On the left sidebar, there are applications like courses, calendar, grades, tools and others. On the institution page, it shares the updates and helpful links for students. 

In a survey done by The Flyer, students gave critical feedback over the usefulness of the changes. Some liked the way the new layout. It had a modern style that was cleaner and more user-friendly through the use of tiles, which are more compatible with touch screens. But, others were not fans of this new version. Students didn’t like the way classes are sorted claiming the system is hard to navigate. Some say that they get lost easily, and it’s harder to operate the new Blackboard. Furthermore, a few expressed that when opening courses, the left sidebar, showing the content of the class disappears when the page is first launched. There were many issues and, therefore, many complaints. 

Some expressed that the email notification is not helpful, while others don’t even receive them. The emails only send a small notification of what classes and what professors named the newly added content. In the old Blackboard, if a professor had an update or announcement, it would be sent out like an email with all the information, but this Blackboard fails to do that. Also, it does not notify students when work is graded. 

Some students called for a return to the old Blackboard, or at least for better organization with courses, like bringing back the pulldown menu, better notifications and the old color-coding system with grades. Others just explained that people hate changes and that everyone just needs to get used to the new layout and this update might help in the long run. 

There were a few students that stated that they wanted to be able to personalize Blackboard to how they want it to be set up or the way courses are laid out. It seems that the main problem people are having with the new Blackboard update is how the courses are shown and with that, some are having trouble accessing their grades

But overall students seem to like the way it looks but not the functions of the website. Not everyone is happy with this change, but giving feedback can help advocte for a change, whether it is returning back to the older version or making more changes.

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