Counterpoint: Blackboard is fine, move on

| Staff Writer

So, Blackboard is pretty decent. Look, it’s so friendly—the homepage tab is titled “Welcome, Sean.” Thank you, Blackboard. I do feel welcome. And look, it has all of my courses right in one place. Blackboard knows me. Blackboard is my friend. When I type the letter “b” in the address bar, Chrome knows that I want bb.wustl.edu, because it knows the special relationship that Blackboard and I have.

It’s not always a good relationship. It’s irritating when the site goes down, but that only happens in brief stints a maximum of two or three times a semester. Far worse than the outages is the fact that the number of notifications next to your name on the top right corner never goes away, even when you check your notifications. Considering how high-strung the student body is, I could see that being a problem. But these are obviously fairly minor aspects of the overall system, and in the grand scheme of things Blackboard is aggressively decent.

Although it’s no Silicon Valley-quality design, the user interface is solid. It’s pretty intuitive to use and navigate, and the fact that most or all of your classes are all in the same system means that every course page has more or less the same setup. The “Assignments” tab is the same for my linguistics class as it is for my public policy class, which, at least for me, helps when the stupor of Olin Library at 2 a.m. slowly chips away at my sanity. And if you really don’t like the default settings for the home page, for instance, you can just click “Personalize Page” and make it all yours.

Blackboard makes studying easier, at least logistically. Practice tests, homework and lecture slides are all in the same place, easily accessible if a question makes you want to revisit class notes. When professors send these documents out via email or on their own websites, it’s just more of a hassle to find and download them than it would be to get them from Blackboard.

Anyone who’s ever taken a calculus class here knows that a professor’s or department’s own website can be far uglier and less organized than Blackboard. The Calculus 3 website that I used last semester looks like it could’ve been made by a high school student on his third day learning HTML in 1998.

We could always get a similar Blackboard-style program, but online ratings of “learning management systems” are essentially indifferent between Blackboard and other programs like Moodle and Canvas. Thus, scrapping Blackboard for a different system would result in just as much student angst and probably fewer professors willing to learn a new system, making it more likely that we have to use course websites from the 90s.

We all know and love Blackboard, even when we don’t love it. It’s not the perfect system, but it’s extremely decent. The merits of a consolidated site speak for themselves, and this one is as good as any. Blackboard: you already use it, so you might as well keep using it.