The Voice: Spring 2003
Blackboard expands classroom doors
By: Andrew De Jong
Dordt College classrooms are much bigger these days. Thanks to Blackboard, an online
service that Dordt College subscribes to, students can enter a classroom whenever they
sit down in front of a computer.
According to Dee Kramer, Dordts Blackboard administrator, Blackboard helps enhance classroom learning
by giving students access to course materials 24/7. Blackboard was first available to
students and faculty in the fall of 2000. Not all professors currently use
Blackboard, but as Kramer points out, it is being used more and more
frequently. Currently, fifty Dordt College professors use Blackboard for 112 courses.
The professors who do use it claim that Blackboard is a valuable resource
for their classes. With Blackboard, they can post announcements and assignments online, give
students access to additional information by incorporating links to related websites, post grades,
or create an opportunity for online discussion.
Some professors have found ways to tailor the technology to meet the unique
needs of their classes. The foreign language department, for example, uses Blackboard to
upload language tapes that the students can access from any computer.
Susan Van Geest, professor of art, appreciates Blackboard because she and her students
can post images of art online. In her art history class, Van Geest
puts slides online for her students to access and memorize at any time.
Students can also put their own art on Blackboard to be seen and
responded to by their peers.
Students in Math 212, Discrete Structures, dont have an option of whether to
use Blackboard. Their textbook, which is written by their professor, Dr. Calvin Jongsma,
is posted online. Students have the option of reading it online or printing
it out as they need it. Considering that most mathematics texts cost nearly
$100, students are finding it a good option.
But the class that has used Blackboard the most may be English Professor
Dave Schelhaass Poetry Writing class. Students post their poems on Blackboard, and Schelhaas
responds to them.
The participation so far has been very enthusiastic, he says. I cant keep
up with the poems.
Students, too, appreciate the ability to access course materials at any time. According
to Kramer, the feature that seems to be appreciated the most is the
online grade book.
She says, I have found in talking to students that they really like
to access their grades online. It is also helpful for the shy student
who doesnt like to talk during class.
Denise VerBeek, a junior who uses Blackboard in two of her classes, appreciates
the opportunity Blackboard gives her to interact with students and teacher outside the
It is interesting to see what other people have to say, she observes.
It works really well and the benefit is that we get more peoples
responses to our work.