Blackboard CourseSites- A Critical Review

I’m taking a closer look at Blackboard CourseSites to explore the assessment capabilities of this course management system (CMS). What is it capable of and what are its limitations? Which features might not traditionally be associated with assessment that could be leveraged in new ways?

Features of BlackboardUse for Assessment
Blackboard Collaborate
Host live sessions with students and collaborate in real-time.
Share whiteboard
Share video
Share screen
This would be useful for group presentations or oral exams. It allows participants to engage with the whiteboard and show their thinking, share their work, and be visible to the rest of the class. 

Limitations: Breakout rooms or small group sessions difficult without starting individual meeting sessions.
Attendance
Keep record of which students are attending courses.
Where participation is an essential quality, it could be used to identify who has been present. For example, participation in a group discussion, attending a Collaborate session, keeping track of attendance in hybrid synchronous sessions, etc.
Groups
Assign students to small groups; can also be used to differentiate assignments and tests by group.
This definitely promotes differentiation between groups of students. Different assignments and tests can be sent to each one; therefore, a teacher can create personalized material for individuals or small groups.
Announcements
Send a message to the whole course.
Could be used to send an alert to all students for a timed activity.
Limitations- can only send alerts to whole course.
Books and Tools
Link to campus resources such as the library or digital textbooks.
Useful for assessments that require access to journal articles or when an instructor wants to share a particular resource for the duration of the course. It wouldn’t likely be used as an assessment on its own, but could definitely be used as a resource for reports, essays, debates, presentations, etc.
MS Teams Meeting
Link to MS Teams Meetings to schedule meetings.
Includes similar features to Blackboard Collaborate. This would be useful for group presentations or oral exams. It allows participants to engage with the whiteboard and show their thinking, share their work, and be visible to the rest of the class.  
Create Content
Create course content and organize it
Add text
Insert video
Link
Insert math formula
Upload local content
The content feature is robust and allows options to upload photos, videos, add links to digital content, attach files, and more. For assessment, this allows an instructor to curate resources and information to use in the assignment.
Test
Create test questions, assign tests, and establish secure testing conditions.
Add question pool
Add calculated formula question
Add essay question
Add fill in the blank question
Add matching question 
Add multiple choice question
Add true/false question
Add textAdd local file 
There are a lot of options for assessment and it could be used for formative and summative assessments.
Assessment security- lockdown browser
Establish secure testing conditions with third-party software that prevents a student from accessing other content while online during an exam.
Provides secure testing environment which is more useful for high-stakes testing.
SafeAssign- Originality Report
Analyzes student work to check for plagiarism.
Adds an additional layer of security for written assignments.
Grading
Allows teachers to grade in various formats. Grades can be recorded as points, percentages, or letter grades.
Show correct answers
Anonymous Grading
2 graders per student
Add grading rubric
Align with goals
Assign to group
Add time limit
Randomize questions
Randomize answers
Collect submissions offline
Allow class conversations
Attempts allowed
There are flexible grading options in Blackboard CourseSites. It supports file uploads as well, so student could create in other programs and upload. It could be used as a formative assessment by allowing multiple attempts.  
Calendar
Schedule office hours, course deadlines, assignments, and tests.
 Would help students keep track of assessments.
Discussion Forum
Set topics for discussion.
Allows for peer feedback. Discussion forums can also be shared with small groups of users to foster conversations between smaller groups of people. This would be especially helpful for peer editing or for facilitating collaboration.
Gradebook
View student grade records.
 Keep a record of scores on assessments.
Messages
Send private messages to students.
 Offer individual feedback.
Course Analytics
View analytics reports and data trends.
Question Analysis
SCORM Reports
Shows statistics for test questions. Could be used as a survey or poll to see what content needs remediation.
Portfolios
Archive work samples across courses and years to create a portfolio which can be shared with others.
An excellent feature for gathering artifacts across years or a whole program. It’s limited to being shared with other Blackboard users. 
Limitations- doesn’t give options for formatting and artifacts must come from other Blackboard courses, so it’s limited in what can be presented.
JournalAn instructor can assign journal entries. These could be used for self- assessment and reflection on the learning process.
Limitations: These can’t be integrated with grading features, so if an instructor wanted to assign points for reflections, it would need to be done manually.

What’s Missing?

After looking at the diverse and extensive assessment options in Blackboard CourseSites, it seems as though self-assessment options are quite limited. The only feature that would lend itself well to this is the Journal

Terms and Conditions & Privacy Policy

The Blackboard CourseSites privacy policy seemed consistent with other for-profit companies that benefit from sharing data with other vendors. The policy states that they share personal information with vendors that provide services and conduct marketing to promote products aimed at staff of current and potential clients; however, they do not use or disclose student information for behavioral targeting of advertisements to students.

In compliance with FERPA, COPPA, and HIPPA, Blackboard does not knowingly collect personal information from students under 13.

The type and amount of information collected depends on the type of user. For instructors and other website users, personal information is collected directly during sign up. Information is also collected indirectly through cookies including: device type, IP address, operating system, browser, and location. Additionally, if the user signs in through third-parties, it will collect additional information through Google Analytics and Facebook Business. Blackboard may use public posts and tweets to promote institution visibility.

When Blackboard offers services on behalf of an institution, they are governed by the policies of the institution. Because Blackboard offers products that assist in day-to-day operations of institutions, Blackboard will also collect info about account info, contact details, application, enrollment, financial aid status, responses to quizzes, surveys, discussions, audio and video recordings if submitted, and payment data.

Implications for Using Blackboard CourseSites for Assessment

Knowing that Blackboard collects so much information and across so many facets of life, I’d be hesitant to use this platform in K-12 education. A lot of this data collection comes from the desire for ease of access and a robust system that can handle classroom needs, student services, billing, advancement, and other aspects of university settings. For adult learners, I don’t think this is a major concern, but teaching digital citizenship, even in university, should be a part of orientation for every course. Knowing the implications of Sign-In with Google or Facebook could be acknowledged before courses begin. Additionally, I would be hesitant to use this platform for courses on topics of a sensitive nature- anything where expressing one’s honest opinion could present negative consequences- A course on the Tian’an’men Square uprising of 1989 delivered to students in Mainland China, for example. The risk would not be worth the benefits gained from such a comprehensive platform.

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