KSC Instructional Technology


Web pages, Blackboard and the Liaison Team

The Instructional Technology Liaison Team is hosting a TechBreak on Wendnesday, Feb. 22 in SCI 129 from 12 to 1 so faculty and adjuncts can stop by and ask about developing a Web page on the academic server.

There are 32 faculty members who have already taken advantage of what the academic server can offer. Journalism Professor Mark Timney said he has a Web page because it’s a way to reach prospective students and teach current students.

“I have a web page on KSC’s academic server for two reasons: 1) I want to allow students, prospective students, the parents of prospective students and high school guidance counselors to learn more about me and the journalism program at KSC; and 2) I want to model what an ‘e-portfolio’ looks like for my students. I believe faculty web pages not only help students get to know and appreciate faculty better, they also serve as a marketing tool for the college. It’s important for people to see the quality of KSC faculty and discover what we have accomplished. As for modeling an e-portfolio, it’s important because I know my students, if not most KSC students, will need to create e-portfolios to launch or advance their careers. My web page shows one of the many ways it can be done.”

Web pages are far from the only service that the Instructional Technology Liaison Team can help faculty and adjuncts with. Over the holiday break Sciences liaison Wendy Petschik led a series of workshops on how to use functions available in Blackboard.

Tracy Mendham, and adjunct professor who teaches ENG 101, learned how to help her students avoid some end of semester anticipation by using the grade book function in the Blackboard software suite.

It wasn’t her first Blackboard experience, and Mendham said she likes the challenge of learning more about the software.

“I don’t mind making mistakes,” she said.

Mendham started using the academic tool at another university to keep copies of class handouts online. This way, she said, she doesn’t have to carry a pile of handouts to every class for students who might lose the paper. Posting handouts, the class syllabus and course assignments online helps to cut down on the amount of e-mail she receives too because students don’t have to send her requests for the material.

Getting students to use Blackboard is relatively easy because they are interested in using the technology that’s available to them, Mendham said. But she does need to take some class time to introduce her students to the site.

Students are far from the only people who need some time to get used to using Blackboard. Petschik said it seems that once students get used to using Blackboard they start expecting professors to use it.

Faculty members who are unfamiliar with the service often say they find the software too cumbersome to use, according to Petschik.

Building faculty confidence and demonstrating that the software is an effective tool is one of her greatest Blackboard challenges. Workshops and TechBreaks are one way to reach faculty, and she is also developing a Web site dedicated to Blackboard functions and instruction.

Simple tasks, such as posting course materials online, is a great way to get started, Petschik said.

Now that Mendham has mastered some of the basics, she said she is ready to try and take her classes even more into the online realm by using the Blackboard communications tools, such as Virtual Classroom and discussion boards.

As for the hesitation that some people have for trying out the software, Mendham sticks by the old maxim ‘how do you know you don’t like it if you don’t try it’?

“I think most people would be surprised at how easily they can navigate (Blackboard) once they give it a try,” she said.

Improving Blackboard depends on your input. Tell us what you like about Blackboard or what needs improvement. Encourage you peers to experiment with the software, or let us know why you’re hesitant to use it. Go ahead, click on that comment button, we want to hear from you.


Thanks to all who attended the first Instructional Technology Brown Bag discussion with Larry Welkowitz. It was great to see all of the technology faithful there, as well as those who had vaild concerns about privacy and the often sub-standard quality of content on personal blogs.
Jenny Darrow, the leader of the Instructional Technology liaison team, had this to say about the topic:

"I think that some of the criticisms about blogs or podcasts are generated by misinformation. Do a Google search on “blog definition” - notice that they often refer to personal journals or diaries. No wonder educators are turned off! But look at how blogs are used now: student reflections, political commentary, .com businesses are even using them for marketing purposes! As Larry said in his brown bag lecture, blogs and podcasts are blurring the way we get information."

Here’s an interesting article that touches on the evolution of blogs.
Educational Blogging by Stephen Downes: http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0450.asp

We'd love to hear what you think about the subject. Click on the comment link at the end of this forum entry and let your opinion be known.