6 responses to “Blackboard Connect: Exposed (Part 5)”

  1. Katrina W

    Hi Bryan,

    This is such an interesting series – thanks for sharing your experience! I’m in Cindy’s camp. I can’t believe I’m saying something positive about the CMS/LMS industry, because those of us who work with them daily generally really dislike them to begin with. However, these tools have provided a means for instructors (who may not necessarily have any teacher training whatsoever, let alone training for teaching online or with digital tools, a task that is being asked of an ever-increasing number of faculty these days) to easily organize course content for students in a way that is easy to scale up and in a way that maintains some level of consistency from semester to semester, year to year, etc.

    That said, one thing that is really lacking is the analytics that these systems provide. From my experience, beyond click logs and login tracking, the average CMS/LMS isn’t really doing too much for us, which is sad. I believe the data collection potential allowed by these tools offers a real opportunity for both students and instructors to learn about patterns of behavior and effectiveness of content. From an instructor’s perspective, being able to see what students are looking at helps them make better decisions about the usefulness of specific resources that have been provided in the course. Here is an example: I will often check access records of students for specific pages within an online course, and if I see that one page is getting TONS of clicks compared to the rest, that’s a flag to me. I’ll look at that page and try to figure out a reason why it’s being accessed so frequently. Depending on what that page of content contains, I may consider moving it to a more readily-available place, or adding additional resources about that topic to help students understand it better. For me, it’s less about “who’s doing what” online and more about “how is my CONTENT performing online?”

    From the student’s perspective, it’s my personal belief that they should have access to their own data records. After all, it can help you make decisions about your learning behaviors as well, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be available anyway. Who is it hurting?

    I can totally empathize with your position that grading students based on their patterns of access is not necessarily the best way to go about assessing learning, as well as your concern about the ethics behind WHY data is collected and HOW it is used. (I can also say that I disagree with participation grades in general – every student “participates” in a course in their own way, and just because one student’s method of participating doesn’t align with someone else’s belief about what “acceptable participation” looks like doesn’t necessarily mean that student isn’t learning. But that’s a discussion for another day.) All companies that collect data about aspects of their users’ lives (FitBit, Amazon, Google/Android, Apple, etc…) should be concerned about ethical use of that data, and you might be happy to know that it is a conversation that is lively and heated in the community.

    Best of luck in your endeavor! I’ll be following along!

  2. Clint Lalonde

    Hi Bryan,

    Really interesting series and account. I am curious if you ever got a copy of the records you requested?


  3. Cindy Underhill

    Thanks for taking on such a complex issue that allows us to ride along as you claim ownership over your data (as it exists in the lms)! I can’t believe that I am about to defend the LMS (actually, I’m not), but I’d like to suggest a broader view of its purpose. The University is (as you allude to) legally bound – via our privacy laws: to offer online spaces for course activities that protect students’personal information . The “surveillance” aspect is an unfortunate side effect and is often lumped together under the more socially acceptable term “learning analytics”. There are many unanswered questions about learning analytics and how they could, should, would be best employed to better inform what we do to help students learn – but in the end – students benefit by being as well informed as possible so they can clearly exercise the right to choose how, when and by whom their data is collected and for what purposes. There’s alot riding on the checking of the “agree” button!

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