So, entering grades in Blackboard is really easy. It’s almost just like a spreadsheet—type a number, hit enter. All keyboard, no mouse. A wee bit slower, but a minimal amount of extra trouble, and it will show students their grades, calculate the running weighted total, show the average and median, and generate some nice reports I can print out.

EXCEPT:

To get Blackboard (this appears to be version 8.0) to calculate average and median, I can’t enter grades that way. Grades entered that way will show up in the running weighted total, but aren’t read for the purposes of calculating statistics. WTF kind of design is that? WTF kind of database is running on the backend, that one type of calculation pulls a number but another type of calculation doesn’t? I typed in all the grades for the outline assignment, just like Blackboard says I can, but when I click on Column Statistics for an assignment, it tells me every single outline Needs Grading.

After taking this to EdTech, who had to call a superior for help, it turns out that to get Blackboard to calculate statistics, every time I enter a grade, I have to:

  1. hover over a small box inside a column to bring down a dropdown menu
  2. click Grade Details
  3. click a teeny-weeny button that says View/Modify Attempt
  4. click in a box
  5. enter a grade
  6. hit Submit or Save

REPEAT FOR EACH STUDENT. FOR EACH ASSIGNMENT. There is a Next Student button that will combine steps 1 and 2, but isn’t bright enough, seeing as how I am clearly entering grades, to bypass 3 and 4 and automatically take me to the Enter Grade field. However, I only run into this problem if I actually use Blackboard to collect uploaded files—if I just use it as a spreadsheet, I would be fine. But then what’s the point?

What complete and utter bullshit.

So, I might as well go back to Excel and not bother with Blackboard. Students know their grades—I tell them how to calculate the math themselves, and I can mail-merge a report from Excel to Word easier than I can click through the same series of 5-6 buttons for every single grade, and include the average, if I really want to.

Other annoyances, while I’m at it:

Blackboard makes it pretty easy for students to upload files and me to download them in all one zipped folder. That’s nice. And the download page gives a nice neat list of papers received when, which I print out and use to write the grades on. But that list is in some mysterious order that corresponds to nothing I can figure out (not firstname, lastname, username, or student ID number). So when I transfer the grades from the printed list into Blackboard, I can’t just go down the line, I have to constantly say, “okay, third name on the list, eighteenth name in the gradebook.” Thanks, Blackboard.

Is it really so hard to design something that makes life easier instead of harder?

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