EVALUATION OF THE USE OF BLACKBOARD (VERSION 8.0) IN THE TEACHING OF METABOLIC BIOCHEMISTRY TO BIOMEDICAL STUDENTS
Web-based learning tools provide integrated environments of various technologies to support diverse educators and learners needs via the internet. The rapid expansion of the Internet and increasing software capabilities are influencing the strategies of teaching and learning on several levels. The goal of these tools is to support face-to-face teaching and even to deliver entire courses online. The primary motivation for the development of these tools was to make it easier for instructors who may have poor computer literacy to disseminate information by putting materials on the web. Popular commercial software currently used to build a variety of different VLEs for higher education include Blackboard and WebCT. These web-based products provide a generic set of tools that allow instructors upload their class materials, provide and grade assignments, provide goals, syllabus guidelines, remind students of upcoming assessments, provide reminders of due dates for assignments and communication links. The benefit of online teaching is two-way communication: The students can be emailed individually or in groups about administrative matters, they can be reminded about assessments and records of all communications can be kept and recorded; the online management of student records, reports, dates of assignments submitted makes the educational use of technology significantly more convenient.
The virtual classroom allows for real-time interaction between the lecturer and students. It serves as a communication tool and it also provides a forum where questions can be asked and answered. Tutors can participate and provide e-tutorials by agreeing set times in which they will be available to in the chat room to discuss any issues or problems. These tools are significantly under-used and for many staff the sole purpose of the VLE is to just store lecture materials. The emphasis is more on its use in Information Technology (IT) rather than Education Technology (ET). This reinforces the idea that these tools’ primary use is to store materials for access at home or at a later date. This contradicts the purpose of VLEs; it is no advance on lecturing at all. At worst, it assumes and reinforces the transmission model; the transmission of information from teacher to student via a Powerpoint slide show, a published paper or an assignment detail. Information transfer is one-way.
With the recent amalgamation of WebCT and Blackboard, this paper examines the use of Blackboard version 8 in the teaching of a module on Metabolic Biochemistry to second year undergraduate biomedical students.
The effectiveness of the tool is examined; we explore the new features, how they can be used to create significant learning experiences, meeting the pedagogical needs of the student. We examine its multiple uses from the ability to create assignments, assignment dropboxes, the use of the calendar and weblinks and, in particular, animation which can be used as a teaching tool. The facility to have online chat rooms is also examined as an alternative to the tutorial. We also examine the use of the online grading tool and the ability to comment on work which can be returned to the students for editing. In spite all the benefits, the uptake of VLEs is often crippling low. We examine ways to encourage more effective use of Blackboard as a teaching and learning tool to enhance learning.