Research has uncovered huge demand for the online learning resource, Blackboard. More than 12,000 Kingston students and staff now regularly log on to the web-based system and regard it as a vital component of coursework.
The ongoing Widening Access and Success research project has been comparing undergraduates’ use of Blackboard in different Faculties. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline Gipps said one of the most interesting findings was that students tended to use Blackboard to complement traditional teaching methods, rather than to replace them. “We expected them to say they found Blackboard helpful for revising and for catching up on classes they had missed,” Professor Gipps said. “In fact, it turns out that almost 40 per cent read notes on Blackboard as part of their preparation before classes and then also attend the lectures concerned.”
The system is also likely to prove an increasingly valuable resource for assessment. Other research carried out as part of the First Year Experience Project had indicated that exams could put undue pressure on students in their first semester, Professor Gipps said. That had prompted the University to try to find ways to provide more online testing through Blackboard. “Previous experience has taught us that, using this method, first year students perform better than in a formal setting,” Professor Gipps said. Such a system was also likely to have the advantage of freeing up staff time.
Almost 80 per cent of course modules are available on Blackboard. Head of the Educational Technology Unit Dr Tim Linsey said there were also many excellent examples of Blackboard materials being developed to support learning across the University. “These include imaginative use of video, audio, quizzes, bulletin boards and chatrooms. Our plan is to develop this type of innovation across all courses,” he said.
Head of Academic ICT Services Dr Demetra Katsifli said the University was now investing significantly in its information and communication technology infrastructure to support Blackboard’s growth.