Education 101: Use Blackboard

Joe Pelletier

Handouts should be illegal.

I’m referring, of course, to the papers handed out in classes–not donations to the less fortunate. That would just be evil. But it’s time to get rid of paper handouts.

There is, of course, the consideration of the environment side to the argument. You, Quinnipiac University, have taken great strides in making your campuses more eco-friendly, therefore ridding the classrooms of thousands of sheets of paper would be another notch in your belt.

But there is, more importantly to me, the efficiency factor. I’m more of a virtual paper kind of guy. I prefer my handouts in .doc formats. I can save them where I want or edit, highlight and delete as I please. No physical recycling bin necessary.

How, you ask, can we do such a thing? The answer is almost too obvious. And yet professors and student organizations continue to use extreme amounts of paper to distribute information to the Quinnipiac community.

The Blackboard Web site declares that it is “designed to transform the Internet into a powerful environment for the educational experience.” I certainly would not describe my experience with Blackboard as a powerful environment for learning.

Former QU history professor Jeffrey Bass was the only professor I have had in my time here that fully utilized the virtual classroom. Prior to the semester, he posted an audio clip where he discussed his hopes and expectations for the class. He also posted a slideshow, again before the semester had begun, to break down some of our early readings for the QU201 class.

On the first day of class, we dove right into a discussion.

Bass continued to post readings, slideshows and YouTube videos on Blackboard throughout the semester. We submitted our thesis papers on Blackboard, and engaged in discussion boards. By the time class rolled around, students had honed their arguments on the latest discussion.

Unfortunately, the majority of professors have not taken advantage of Blackboard–some not even activating the class at all. Quinnipiac University (I’m talking to you again), it’s time to break a few egg shells so we can start making some eggs. You know who I’m talking about.

The topic is certainly related to those professors who do not allow laptop computers in class. The rule is simply an ignorant and, frankly, offensive way to hinder learning. Students could have access to almost all information known to mankind, at their fingertips, instantaneously, and you want to take it away because they might be talking to the person next to them on AIM?

To steal a phrase from Sarah Palin, that sort of education is “back-assward.”

The technological opportunities of expanding education to Blackboard and the Internet are limitless. If a professor were unable to be in Hamden for a class, he could create a live stream on one of the many free Web sites that allow anyone to create their own, online TV channel. A professor can provide innumerable primary documents through the school databases, online newspapers archives, and YouTube.

We can change the very way we know education with incredibly few growing pains.

But I’m not asking for a paradigm shift just yet, remember. I just want to rid Quinnipiac University of paper handouts.