Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Baaaad Design: Think About Your Users

Baaaad. And I don't mean good. It's common to use the Blackboard system as a course aid and I've used it many times in past years. So I wasn't reluctant or wary in the least to get in there this morning and load some content for my new students. 

First I should say I had to click five or six times into my class list, in order to ask our IT people to build me a site last week. This semester I have 66 students in four sections. Don't ask me why they can't be listed together but they're not. This isn't Blackboard's fault, it's my school's but here's what I get after my first longish series of clicks. 

Oh there's that class list click. Easy. Just one choice out of about 20. Right. So here's how my four "sections" present on the screen:

Now, to write a note to my students I have to click on a little button near each imaginary "section" and then click "list." Then I click "send email," or as I did last week, "request to create Blackboard site." No biggie. I guess. If you like clicking. 

So this morning, even though our IT department promised they would notify me when my site was ready (they didn't) my blackboard site "popped up" after I felt, or clicked my way through the dark to find it. Kind of like the underground moat last week at the Louvre. Rocky and dank. 

Here's what the "home" page on Blackboard looks like:

Home sweet home. OK I can make my way through it, click and clack my documents onto the site, log off, go back into my class list and click five times to let students know their syllabus and introductory essay are ready on Blackboard. 

But wait. All the way on the lower left of the "window" (window in quotes because it's more of a dungeon), the "properties" click. Since I didn't take that clickable opportunity I neglected to make my Blackboard site available to the students. 

About a dozen emails from students and a dozen emails back to them, I call our IT department. They didn't design this nonsense. They just get paid to help us work around it. All fixed up and "available" I click into the group email and  let my students know they can now get into Blackboard. 

More trouble. Students still can't get in. I phone into IT again. This time it's not a six minute wait. The professors are all probably photocopying their syllabi and readings to hand out in lecture. How much hassle are you willing to put up with to save a tree? Or maybe they just killed themselves. 

The nice young person on the other line tells me my Blackboard site is open to 16  students, I guess when they "built" the site for me they forgot the other three "sections." OK. Easy to fix. Here at 3:30 PM all's well that ends well. I started at 6:30 this morning but PhD time isn't that expensive at our school so no problem. 

Design. A problem. When you design stuff, whether it's a spatula or a backpack or an imaging system, think about how your customers will use it. If it's Blackboard you shouldn't have to hear the chalk screech every word you write. 

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