So far, in these posts, I have mostly discussed tech tools or Blackboard features that I like, think are useful, and use with various frequency.

In this post, I want to turn the tables and talk about the tools and features I don’t like, the tools I don’t use, either because I think they impede what I am trying to do in class (whether “class” is face-to-face, hybrid, or fully online), or because I have not (yet) found a satisfactory way to use them.

Disclaimer: I am a control freak.

Discussion boards

I know I’m not the only one in my program not using discussion boards. They are simply not useful to me. More than that, they hurt more than they help. And I will concede that I have yet to find a use for them that meet the objectives of my courses, within the larger theme of teaching students to think sociologically. I have tried, but there are far better tools to accomplish what I need to do in class.

I have no problem having discussion in my face-to-face class, but that is because I use that as part of interactive lecturing and I can keep things from deviating into a non-sociological direction, something I found more difficult to do virtually.

Side note: I have taken several classes for faculty at COD and they included discussion boards. Everyone in the class did the obligatory introduction post. But after that, the discussion boards look like this:

So, it’s not like I was the only one with no use for the discussion boards. I know some people swear by them and they’re mentioned a lot in the literature, they don’t do anything for me.

Peer and self-assessment

This is one I would like to use but have not yet found the proper setup for it. It has not helped that the Blackboard setup for peer and self-assessment is not super intuitive and I have run into really bad issues when I tried to use this feature before.

I have also been weary of conflicts between students. I remember taking a MOOC (back when MOOCs were a thing) and being super annoyed when I got dinged in peer grading with no explanation. You might argue that this can be offset with a strict, objective rubric but if you have a strict, objective rubric, why use peer assessment?

Remote or virtual group work

I use group work in my face-to-face classes. However, to offset scheduling issues and the eternal free rider problem, I usually use group work in class, not out of class. That way, I can ensure everyone contributes to the group’s work, and group members do not have to struggle (and spend time) figuring out how to schedule their group sessions outside of class. This also spares me the unpleasantness of having to deal with group conflict.

There is another wrinkle: my face-to-face sections are 16-week sessions. My online sections are mostly in 8-week sessions. Those of us who teach 8-week sessions know there is not one minute to spare. There is especially no time to spare into arranging groups virtually and for students to figure out how to set themselves up in a functional fashion while managing the other demands of the course.

I don’t think any of these things are inherently bad tools. Again, it is more like either the demands of an 8-week class don’t align well with some of those. It is also that I need to think more about I could possibly use at least some of those in a productive fashion (I’m a really slow thinker). I know they work well for a lot of people. In our line of work, there is no one-size-fit-all.

As always, thanks for reading.