By Francesca Prestifilippo
Thanks to the modern convenience of online classes, students can now sit at the computer in the convenience of their own homes not worrying about being late to class or accumulating absences that could prevent them from finishing the course altogether. They don’t have to listen to a professor get off topic and ramble about something that happened to them during their college days or panic about giving an oral presentation in front of the class. It sounds easy enough right? It turns out that from my own experience that online classes require much more effort than that; maybe even more than your typical on campus course. And what is even more challenging as well as aggravating now is that this year the college has made the decision to switch from Blackboard to Desire 2 Learn (D2L).
Blackboard has been providing students with online courses since around 2001 and unfortunately has been replaced by a downgraded system known as D2L. Even though it is supposed to be for the purpose of higher education, the new system looks juvenile in its appearance and often has glitches along with other problems that both students and faculty members encounter as the course progresses. Whereas with Blackboard I encountered little to no problems or technical difficulties while using it two semesters ago. Plus Blackboard was just an all around more “user friendly” system. I had never seen anyone post a complaint on Blackboard about anything regarding the site or the course material.
On the other hand, when I took Mass Media and Advertising online using the D2L software last semester I often found myself feeling so overwhelmed and aggravated with this new system that I had even considered dropping the courses.
The professors weren’t having an easier time with it either, for they had to continually apologize for delays in their lesson plans because they would experience trouble getting the information on the website or problems with emails and pretty much everything else that could go wrong ended up happening at one point or another. One of my professors in particular was very unhappy about the switch and many of my classmates were all on the same page. Those first few weeks in particular were especially brutal for the professors as well as the students trying to learn how to navigate through a whole new system and adapt to this change.
So why has the college decided to do this? According to a member of the campus distance education committee, Stephen O’Sullivan, an Ammerman campus philosophy professor, the college made the switch because the original software that provided Blackboard (SUNY Learning Environment) was going away. Plus D2L appealed to the committee as well as the College president; so it seemed to fit the College better.
Ironically though there has been a 20 percent increase in the enrollment of students in online courses. You would think that with so many students disappointed with D2L that there would be a drop in online enrollment due to the comfort and familiarity factor that would be an issue for some students. I guess not all hope is lost though since there has been talk about creating an introduction module that would require students to learn the basic functions of D2L before beginning their online classes. This approach has been suggested in order to make the transition from Blackboard to D2L somewhat easier for students and to make them feel more comfortable about the new learning environment. Also it would act as a deterrent for students who are considering dropping the online course after they have already started it.
Perhaps in the future, if the college decides to make another change such as this one maybe they could conduct a survey involving the students’ satisfaction with the original software before going through with the switch. Until then, I along with other disappointed students will continue to mourn Blackboard and hope for its return. I mean, after all, we are the ones who are paying for these classes.