OPINION: Dear WSU, can we please stop using Blackboard?


As I finish up my first year at WSU, I find myself reflecting on my academic experience. There are things that I think WSU could improve to make life a little easier for students.  

I spent two years at Butler Community College, and while this school is vastly different, there is one thing that I definitely enjoyed more at Butler — using Canvas for our classes instead of Blackboard.

I want to clarify that I am by no means an expert at critiquing technology. Still, as a student, I have a lot to say about why Blackboard is not the best option for WSU to use.

I am not the only one that feels this way. With a simple Google search, I found that college students and professors around the country feel the same as I do. 

According to Inside Higher Ed, Emporia State University switched to Canvas in 2015 because of the straightforward interface. Cornell University did the same in 2018, after trying out the top three learning management systems and determining that Canvas was the one that students and faculty preferred.

My main problem with Blackboard is how difficult it is to find the things you are looking for. With Canvas’s simplistic design, it allows for easy use. 

For example, on Canvas, students can turn in assignments directly from their saved documents on Google Drive and other similar platforms. With Blackboard, you have to download every single assignment to turn it, which takes up unnecessary space on my computer.

When looking at documents that professors upload as course materials, seven times out of 10, you will have to download that document to your computer instead of opening it up in Blackboard only. Every time that I have to do this, I get slightly irritated.

When I was at Butler, I rarely had problems finding things within Canvas. This year, I ended up missing a midterm for one of my classes, and I assign some of that blame to Blackboard for not making it easier to find things.

The app for Blackboard has also been terrible recently. Since the beginning of the Spring semester, it re-routes me to the web login, making it impossible to look at Blackboard on my phone. It doesn’t load right on a mobile device.

Blackboard doesn’t work well with devices other than computers. In the digital world we live in, I think that is an essential tool for both students and faculty to have.

Even when I do get a notification on my phone for Blackboard and click on it, it never takes me to the assignment the notification was about. The app is almost entirely worthless if it can’t do those simple things.

A feature that I enjoyed with Canvas was the ability to enter in possible grades for assignments to see how it would affect my overall grade. Having that feature brought me peace of mind that was invaluable.

Blackboard also doesn’t allow for meaningful discussion posts, in my experience. The way that Canvas is set up allows me to look at multiple answers at once instead of clicking on each individual thread from each student.

I can’t imagine that Blackboard is easy to use from the professor’s side, either. Due to the crazy year, we are having, professors are forced to use Blackboard for most of their course content in a way that they didn’t have to before. I know that professors are trying their best to use it just as we are.

All of these issues are things that could be easily fixed or changed to make Blackboard easier to use for everyone. 

We need technology that can keep adapting and growing with us.