By Thomas Gillen
Halfway through the spring semester, Blackboard, the internet based course system that many professors use to post assignments and announcements, is still undergoing maintenance issues that were present last semester and previous semesters. While the site is designed to help students stay up to date with assignments, view their grades, and take quizzes, the constant maintenance issues hurt the site’s overall purpose. Over the last three years, seven announcements have been posted on Blackboard that informed students and professors of the site’s unavailability, in addition to maintenance updates not posted on the site. These announcements can be viewed on Blackboard by clicking on the “Announcements” tab on the “My LIU” page. These issues range from general maintenance to login errors to a temporary service interruption that took place both during and after the end of the semester.
While students are advised to check Blackboard every day to stay up to date on their classes, sophomore broadcasting major Andrew Frank stated that he will only check the site if a professor utilizes it and talks about it in class. “Overall, I feel that the site does its job well but it’s more so on the professors who [are] not keeping it updated. There are certain subjects where a professor will constantly update the page and overload it with assignments and then there are other subjects where it will be ignored for the whole semester.” Sophomore game design major Joseph Migliara echoes Frank’s statements, stating that Blackboard “consists of extra information the professor might go over but it really depends on the course and who is teaching it.”
Migliara, Frank, and junior broadcasting major Paul Evans each stated that they check Blackboard three or four times a week. They each stated that they have had multiple instances where they needed to check Blackboard in order to complete an assignment or check grades and were unable to do so. “One time I needed to check Blackboard to download some review papers but I couldn’t access the site. I don’t know if I was the only student who couldn’t access it or if the whole system was down; there was no scheduled maintenance update,” Frank said. Evans stated that there is a clear separation between the students who access and don’t access Blackboard. “The students who check Blackboard on a regular basis usually graduate on time while the students who go through the entire semester without checking it don’t graduate,” he said.
When asked what improvements he would like to see made to Blackboard, Migliara stated that he would like to see the app have more of a purpose. “I’d like to get a notification on my phone whenever there is a maintenance update or one of my professors posts something new on the class page.”
Students and professors have had a mixed reaction to Blackboard since it launched on campus and those reactions are still present today. The Pioneer has previously reported about this in 2011 and 2014. Jon-Paul McCaffrey, the Assistant Director of the Information Technology Resource Center, did not address the Pioneer’s inquiries about the disruptions, but instead directed the Pioneer to the main IT department in the library. Representatives in the main IT department stated that no one was available to respond to questions at this time about service outages or maintenance updates on Blackboard this semester.