“Pimp my Blackboard”

Weadack, P. (2014) “Pimp my Blackboard”. In: 2014 Irish Symposium on Game-Based-Learning, CORK INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY /// BISHOPSTOWN CAMPUS, CORK // 06 JUNE 2014, CIT, Cork, Ireland.


Abstract: I use Blackboard to upload accounting theory PowerPoints and Excel exercises for my students. A digital depository many of my students only access before a class test or the August repeats. I post announcements regularly but usually accompany them with texts alerting students to log in and check. I am an advocate of VLEs but have always found Blackboard lacking in terms of user-friendliness, reliability and contemporaneity, thus my grudging unkempt participation – until I took a Technology Enhanced Learning course (LIN/IADT) where the main assessable deliverable was a Blackboard module. Finally I would design a module properly – and experiment with Gamification attributes – and (in theory) pimp the user experience. I wanted to give it a palpable narrative and flow, with the quest being “getting to the assessment” – but along the way meeting some minor obstacles: quizzes, theory sprites, which increase in difficulty and emulate “levelling up”. The first quiz is a first class treasure hunt where students have to click into every nook of the Blackboard module and find words, dates, items – in other words familiar themselves with the module – actually read. Feedback is built in to the quizzes and assessments and hyperlinks are positioned to bring the student back to the beginning or the place yet to master. Whether students are collaborating or competing with each other as they eye up each other’s Blackboard screen or working separately from home they can connect, share and post on the discussion boards linked to assessments or the twitter feed. The challenge was to achieve as much of this as possible using clunky, dated …. Blackboard. This thirty minute workshop will appeal to anyone who shares the sentiments above – it will begin with a demonstration and walk-through of the Blackboard module, followed by participants (max 8) logging on and exploring themselves. Quick tour: the entry point of the site (aka on-boarding) is set to Dashboard, position zero. The theme is connectivity: Calendar/Announcements/Twitterfeed/Forum. One page naturally leads and links to the next – a short animation about the course entitled “10 Steps to Success in Accounting 3”, followed by Assessment. The brief is on the face of the Blackboard page, giving the impression that Blackboard is not just somewhere for hoarding things, a simple collection of links – but a living tableau of the course – this format also works well in the Blackboard App. Quizzes are divided into different levels of difficulty to encourage students to level up and if they wish, they can listen to some ambient white noise while doing so. At the point of assessment submission there is a “last minute” checklist of important criteria. There are other pages and interactions – and the course ends with a feedback survey and links to onward study. The project was an opportunity to explore some of the gadgetry of Blackboard and pimp it with some Gamification mechanics – which resulted in better pedagogical design. But more importantly, building it was engaging, addictive, fun! (sound familiar?)

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