Students seek to make Blackboard ‘more user-friendly’


At some point in their academic careers, most Franciscan University students will use the online academic tool Blackboard.

“To me, Blackboard is an astoundingly powerful tool that simplifies content delivery in many ways,” said Joseph Coyle, eLearning and multimedia specialist.

Students use Blackboard to access professors’ announcements, student email, grades and assignments. However, over the past couple of years, students have reported being unhappy with the accessibility and layout of Blackboard, said senior Monica Recto.

After some of these concerns were voiced in a class taught by Dr. Cory Maloney, who manages Blackboard, a group of students began working on a research project, said Recto and Coyle. This group includes Recto, Giovanni Stroik, Elizabeth Nguyen and Philip Buss.

The goal behind this research was to identify the needs of the student body and to provide the school with a new and improved Blackboard, said Coyle and Recto. A crucial objective was to improve user interface; it has been reported that it is hard to find tabs and important information on the current version of Blackboard because of its cluttered nature, they said.

Advised by Maloney, and headed by Coyle and Recto, the group began researching the existing website and a prototype, said Recto. The general consensus was that Blackboard had lot to offer, but needed to be easier to use, she said.

“It really helps that we ourselves are students because then we also know the users,” said Recto, who has a background in web design.

The goal of the project was to make Blackboard more user-friendly, she said.

Coyle said, “We want to make Blackboard as accessible and as easy-to-use as possible.”

To identify what exactly the student body wanted to be changed, the researchers, aided by students Sarah Kenney and Alicia Summers, issued a survey, said Recto. She said that this survey was carefully crafted to identify clearly what the needs and problems were.

Coyle said, “The survey confirmed my belief that the Blackboard page needs a significant reduction of clutter and an increase in organization.”

About 150 people responded to the survey, 97 percent of whom were actual Blackboard users, said Recto. Many of the answers were affirmative in nature with students praising the website, she said.

However, survey takers also provided constructive criticism, said Recto. One of the main problem areas indicated from the survey was that many students have a difficult time navigating the current edition of the site, she said. Recto said that there are many ways to complete the same function and that overall, the website needs focus.

After reviewing the results of the survey Coyle, Recto and their team, came up with a few different prototypes for what they thought the new Blackboard should look like, she said.

Recto said that for right now they are all putting their ideas together and trying to come up with the best prototype.

Their main goal is to have the information be “accessible, understandable and straightforward,” she said.

Recto asked that if anyone is interested in helping research or has any ideas to email her at [email protected].