My struggles with CMS’s

I teach a face-to-face course, Library Research Methods, in addition to my regular librarian-related responsibilities.  We use Blackboard Learn for our CMS.  Each semester, I change the way I use the CMS, not because I am implementing new and amazing ideas, but because I haven’t figured out the best way to integrate a CMS into a face-to-face course.  My students complain that it is one more space they have to check into, in addition to attending class.  I can’t say I disagree.  It seems extraneous to me, too.  Not only do I have to come up with a face-to-face course, but I also have to come up with a significant chunk of activities to just take place in the CMS.  This is a problem that I comes up each time I am planning the course for the next semester.

Primarily, I use Blackboard as a place to store course materials for them to review later and also a place store the gradebook.  I have required weekly discussion board participation in the past, but this past semester, I dropped that in favor of class presentations and graded class discussions.  It’s a tough balance.

Most of my students are college freshmen, and this is their first time using a CMS.   I have a very difficult time to get students to understand that they need to submit their assignments in Blackboard instead of printing them out and handing them in to me in class.  I understand the confusion.  After all, they see me in class, so why shouldn’t they just hand it in to me there?  I have never cracked down on and forced them to submit their assignments through Blackboard, though several of my coworkers have.

When I taught 100% online courses, it was much easier.  The CMS was the classroom, and everything took place in that space.  There was no confusion over where to go or what should be submitted where. The CMS was just the online classroom, and everyone accepted that.  The place of a CMS in a face-to-face or hybrid course is where I get a little lost.

As a student who has taken more online classes than I can remember, I love what CMS’s have done for online learning.  I don’t think I would be graduating with my second master’s degree if it wasn’t for the advances in online learning.  I live in the middle of nowhere.  A second master’s or (hopefully) a Ph.D would not be possible for me without distance education.


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