Here in Quebec, the CEGEPs and Universities have their own educational platforms which turns out to be excellent tools for teachers. My goal this week was to explore and see if there could be one for High school students. I found one quite interesting, Blackboard Learn. It is used by several universities, one of them being Boston University.
From a teacher point of view, the overall website is a bit more complicated since you have access to more options than students. However, it is still very easy and straightforward. You are not sure about whether or not you’re going to like it? No problem, just use the free trial powered by CourseSites. From there you can have a complete view of the website and its mechanics.
The first time you will sign up, you will be asked to create a course right away so you can get started. When it opens up, you click on your name and you will see every courses you have created. Choose one and edit it. From there, you can add posts to which the students will respond, create test, tools and even groups if you are interested in making team work. Grading is easy, and you can have access to the class’s result and see where the students are at. But before teaching, you need students! You can do so by going in “Users and Groups” and then “Users”. You will find the tab “Invite” and then “Students”. You simply have to make sure everyone has an email, but nowadays it is not a big problem.
From the students point of view, they have access to all the courses they are enrolled in. They choose one of them and can notice the updates the teacher has recently made. They also have notifications, which help to avoid lateness or forgotten homework! They can also go and read the content the teacher has put online, so the following class they will be ready to practice their knowledge, or review the material they have seen in the previous class in order to complete their homework or test. It keeps them more involve and improve their learning process.
This teaching tool is easy of access. Both teachers and students can have access to it from their computers, tablets and smartphones. It is even possible to teach from your computer to students of another country! On the other hand, if some people still have a hard time using the website, there is always the “Blackboard Learn: On Demand Tutorials” channel available on Youtube, which covers the website from A to Z
“The biggest advantage is that Blackboard Learn, the company’s main product, is constantly updated; for example, just before the start of the semester, Blackboard released the expanded profile update, which allows students to connect with other students in their classes through Facebook and Twitter if the student wants to do so,” said Anderson, Director of Online Learning.
As mentioned by Joseph Harris, in a classroom where Blackboard Learn is used, teachers are no longer experts who transfer their knowledge to the student, but rather a guide that helps them through their knowledge of the second language. They do so by providing them useful tools and giving them the appropriate time and place to learn, since the students do their homework at home. Finally, a classroom management tool such as Blackboard Learn enhance the students’ participation caused by the continuous seek of feedback form the teachers.