Blackboard Learn gets a more “Modern” Look and Feel

I enrolled in an online statistics course this spring – it’s part of a graduate business certificate I began last year.

The institution and instructor will remain unnamed, but it is one of the ugliest and most confusing course designs I have seen in low-these-many-years of online teaching and learning. The background color selected for the homepage is a bright green and the heading is scarlet ( I hope I’m preaching to the choir here), so… just say “no”.

The menu includes every possible tool and feature – none of which are linked to anything. These need to be hidden from the student view to help them better understand where and how to begin. I could go on, and if the instructor offers the opportunity to submit a course survey, I will.

This begs the question, how much license as course designers/developers should we take in regards to the LMS interface? Is it really a matter of personal preference or should we be more concerned with students being able to interact with course content, media, and tools such as the grade book, discussion postings, assignments tool, etc.?

I have seen course developers spend enormous amounts of time configuring their homepage – using stylesheets, javascript, customizing the HTML to get things exactly how they want them. One of the problems with investing all that time and energy has to do with portability. When your LMS changes their interface, you will have to either redo all that work, or more than likely, trash it.

I like what Blackboard is doing with their next upgrade. The fact that you can modify the elements, yet leave the navigation and layout to the system. If you need to change the look and feel, you will adopt a new “design theme” (i.e. stylesheet). Its going to pose some frustration for a few – especially those who have invested so much into their custom look and feel. On the other hand, it has GOT to be an improvement for this statistics class!

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