A Path of Self-Discovery – Self-Help Support Tools For Blackboard Users

Author’s Note:  This post was originally written in September 2010 for the Blackboard Buds Blog.  That blog and podcast features Vicki Badgley and myself discussing Blackboard tools and Ed Tech topics.

Before we begin there is no need to lay down on a couch and regress back to your childhood.  We won’t be venturing into that area of self-discovery.  What I want to share with you are the many resources available to those who don’t have (or don’t have enough) support staff to help them know everything about Blackboard.  I’m sure you are reading this and many of your faculty on your campus see you as a Blackboard Guru (I have a turbin from a faculty member to prove it.), but many times you can just be plain stumped.  These great tools allow you to learn about current issues with Blackboard, network with other administrators and/or faculty using the same system as you, and provide resources to educate your faculty and students on using the tools within your learning management system.

First there is the Blackboard KnowledgeBase (aka Blackboard KB) which requires a Behind the Blackboard login.  Many a Blackboard administrator can remember the days where little information was disseminated from the company and most had to rely on the network of contacts (see the listservs below) to find out if other Blackboard administrators had the same or similar issues.  Blackboard KB provides users with a location to find current issues, known bugs, and workarounds to known issues.  It also provides performance guides to fine tune your Blackboard instance.  As of this writing there still are a few things to be improved, like a lackluster search tool, issues with accessing links that have been pasted into emails, and some navigational issues.  Many users hope that the Blackboard Support team will develop and improve the Blackboard KB as another location for communication with administrators.

The next method has become a tried and true method for administrators of any and every Blackboard LMS created or acquired.   The listservs have given a connection between many administrators (and a few Blackboard support folks as well).  There are three different listservs that are used greatly (I welcome any suggestions for others in the comments section).

BBADMIN-L – This listserv is hosted by Arizona State University and deals with mainly technical administrator issues.  Over 1500 subscribers are a part of this listserv.

BLKBRD-L – This listserv is also hosted by Arizona State University.  It’s nearly 2300 subscribers discuss issues mostly for course (or GUI) administrators along with faculty.

ANGEL-L – Angel admins have the same opportunity with this listserv hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University. It’s over 1100 subscribers deal many with administrator issues with the learning management system.

Most of the self-support issues that we’ve talked about so far have dealt with administrative or technical support.  We, however, can’t neglect the need for self support items for institution faculty and students.   Blackboard has developed the On Demand Learning Center.   The site is great, but many users don’t know about it.  I blame the way it is displayed within Blackboard Learn. Which doesn’t accurately describe the great tools that are available on the website. The site includes videos to instruct students and faculty on how to use the system and even offers articles and checklists for faculty. One item that seems to be missing from the website is information about the Angel Learning system. Hopefully Blackboard will start to develop Angel videos and articles for that system as the integration continues between the two sectors.

I hope that this post gives you resources to assist you or others at your institution.