Algonquin College prides itself on being on the cutting edge of technology. Since Blackboard was first introduced at the college more than a decade ago, its leading learning management system completely contradicts and disproves this claim.
Blackboard is used to support learning at Algonquin. It provides students with interactive course space. It aids in timely interaction between students and teachers on multiple campuses worldwide. It also provides tracking and assessment tools.
With a list of benefits associated with the system, it is ironic, that for Algonquin students, it has caused such massive problems with its outages in late October and early November.
But Blackboard’s problems didn’t begin and end there. Pick any year since Blackboard first arrived at the college, and there are documented problems.
But the latest — an “unexpected outage” — occurred on Nov. 1, when Blackboard was down for multiple hours. Students were unable to reach assignments, lesson plans, course slides for that three-hour period.
Before that, there were slow-downs in service, re-boots that resulted in learning and teaching resources lost, and more too numerous to mention. It got so bad, the Vice-President of Academic Claude Brule, felt obliged to issue a video apology last week to the entire college.
With the end of the semester fast approaching, multiple deadlines at stake, this is unacceptable. The college’s Information Technology Services department released college-wide emails notifying students and staff of the unexpected outage. Still, students took to social media to express their frustrations.
In his election platform, Student Association President Egor Evseev included replacing and/or solving Blackboard issues, yet nothing has been done. Evseev, out of desperation, also turned to social media to plead his case. In a recent Facebook post, he said he was working alongside the SA regarding Blackboard improvements, and that improvements are indeed coming.
But one wonders how long it will take. Consider that In the past year, the college has lost millions of dollars with its operations into Saudi Arabia, a failed experiment with no benefit derived to Algonquin or its student body here at home.
While this was going on, where were the efforts and funds to improve a failing Blackboard system? Algonquin students and staff have complained for years about the quality of Blackboard, yet no changes have been made.
Students pay an annual fee of $87.72 toward information technology, including the use of Blackboard, yet are unable to effectively use it. Moreover, students are required to use this system, to locate, complete and submit assignments.
Some programs at the college have switched over to Canvas, a LMS that is reportedly superior to Blackboard. A past study revealed Canvas’ superiority, but, the college decided to keep Blackboard because Canvas was too costly.
And yet millions are tossed into a failed experiment for a campus in the Middle East? For a college that prides itself on cutting-edge technology, we are far behind.
At the same time, with regards to new announcements, why is the college so willing to pump millions of dollars into innovation and entrepreneurship, but can’t afford an effective learning resource?
With all the planned changes, including improved campus food options, C-building reconstruction, indigenous centre and same sex washrooms etc. is there no room for replacing a failed learning system that is causing students anxiety, frustration and possibly damaging their academic prospects?