The implementation of Blackboard is progressing steadily. This month, the first series of workshops for teaching staff at the University of Twente gets under way. The support provided to users switching from TeleTOP to Blackboard is also taking shape.
In recent weeks, Blackboard information sessions have been held at every faculty. The sneak preview of the new Electronic Learning Environment on the Blackboard website is attracting an increasing number of visitors. Slowly but surely, Blackboard is becoming a part of everyday life here at the University of Twente.
This process of familiarization receives a major boost this month, when the first workshops for teaching staff are being launched. Each workshop consists of either one morning or afternoon session. The workshops are practical, giving teaching staff the opportunity to start work on setting up their own Blackboard site. The first series of workshops takes place from 18 May to the end of June and is primarily intended for teaching staff who are organizing a course for the first and second quarter of 2009. A second series of workshops will follow in the autumn of 2009.
The support provided to users switching from TeleTOP to Blackboard is also taking shape. This week, an important decision on this issue was taken by the Blackboard steering group. Each faculty will have its own helpdesk team consisting of four or five student assistants. The team members have already been recruited and have been trained to use Blackboard over the past few weeks.
From June, each helpdesk team will initiate contact with all of the faculty's teaching staff to identify the need for support in transferring data. Teaching staff with a heavy course workload in the first quarter can be given assistance in this matter. The same applies to teachers with an extensive TeleTOP site. In addition, the helpdesk will be available from June to answer all questions regarding the use of Blackboard.
The plan is for the helpdesk teams to operate at least until the end of September. After this point, the situation will be assessed to decide whether it is worthwhile to keep the teams operational. If it is decided that this is not the case, full responsibility for the helpdesk will be handed over to the faculty’s Blackboard support provider. Each faculty will have its own support provider for this purpose. The Faculties of Management & Governance and Behavioural Sciences are already using this system and their experiences so far have been positive.
Getting used to the system
The Blackboard pilot projects are already behind us and the evaluation sessions have taken place. Lisette Woud, who was closely involved with the pilot phase, explains “The most important conclusion is that Blackboard is a good system but it takes time to get used to it. Certain functions in TeleTOP were very convenient and familiar. For instance, timetables were the guiding principle in TeleTOP. That’s not the case with Blackboard, in which you can opt for alternative approaches. There are numerous, often smaller differences between TeleTOP and Blackboard. I’m happy to report that Blackboard wins out in the majority of cases. For example, teaching staff themselves will soon be able to add or remove users to their courses and determine which role each individual has in a course (teacher, student, guest, etc.). They can also set the date on which information is released, which is handy when making lecture notes available for example. The discussion forum in Blackboard also offers additional possibilities. And there are more new features that teaching staff find useful. There is a downside to the wealth of extra options that Blackboard offers, in that they also make the system more difficult to learn to work with. Fortunately, the pilot project has given us the input we need to make the design of Blackboard as user-friendly as possible.”
The main aim of the pilot projects was to enable us to make the right choices when it comes to setting up the rest of the system. Solutions have been provided for most of the problem areas highlighted during the pilot phase. We will continue to work on structuring the system in the weeks to come. Tests with the Blackboard server will also be carried out. Teaching staff will be able to start setting up their own Blackboard sites from mid May.