Oh, if only it were that easy! I had to laugh when I saw a sign at Whole Foods this weekend promising “Brain Power” by the bottle, as if smarts were so easy to supplement. Maybe only the mentally deficient would be gullible enough to believe that brains can be bought?
Right now I think I could use an industrial-sized container of Mega-Brain as I continue to face the online teaching learning curve I described last week. On Saturday afternoon, it took me about 45 minutes to figure out how to post to Blackboard version 8 a quiz that would have taken me about 5 minutes to post on Blackboard version 6. Why in the name of industrial-sized bottles of Brain Power would the developers who “upgraded” Blackboard think the proper default availability for tests should be “unavailable,” especially in a repeat course in which quizzes had already been created and deployed? Today I’ve experienced deja vu all over again as I tried to accomplish the simple task of downloading student papers from my two sections of College Composition. In Blackboard 6, that would have involved going into my online grade-book, clicking on each student’s ungraded assignment, saving the accompanying file attachment, and being done. Downloading an entire class worth of assignments would take 5-10 minutes, tops.
This afternoon, it took me another 45 minutes or so simply to find the portion of the Blackboard manual devoted to “Assignment download,” which is, astonishingly, not mentioned in the manual’s Table of Contents. Judging from the Table of Contents, instructors “Create” assignments and then “Input grades,” but they never actually download the papers that students submit. One bit of Manual copy helpfully noted that assignments submitted by students via assignment links are accessible to instructors via the “Grade Center”…but there was no indication of how instructors might “access” these file attachments within the mystifying Grade Center, nor any link to the portion of the Manual that actually explains that part of the process. I guess if I had enough Brain Power, I’d be able to grade student papers without reading them, or I’d be able to know telepathically where in the mighty Manual an answer to a perfectly reasonable question might be found.
Only after searching for the term “Assignment” did I find a hidden page telling me how to download assignments from my Grade Center, which is easy enough to do once you know how to do it (although I would have never intuitively “guessed” the process). Happily, this version of Blackboard makes it easy for instructors to download multiple assignments all at once; unhappily, these assignments are saved with default names that do not make it easy to list files alphabetically in their target directory (unless, of course, you set up your grade-book to alphabetize students by first name…and who does that?)
So now that I’ve spent at least an hour and a half this weekend and today pounding my head against the mental wall called “teaching an old dog new tricks,” I think I might need a bottle or two of Brain Power. At least, though, I still have the intellectual acumen to realize the importance of proofreading (or at least spell-checking) a flyer advertising one’s handyman services, especially if red-letter highlighting will only draw attention to your slips in spelling.