Painful Interview yesterday with WannaBe Course Designer

CROSS-LISTING, is a great idea for institutions, for SISs, but not for Blackboard Vista. Its management in this product sucks. To be fair, I should say our evaluation of Sakai and ANGEL did not reveal any such feature at all. (Plus, they have no out-of-the-box integration with SunGard Banner – but that could be going away in the Blackboard NG product, and if it does, puts ANGEL and Sakai back in the running for many institutions.)

So… yesterday I met with this Instructor. He teaches 4 sections of a Management course that are CROSS-LISTED (as so many classes at ND are) with the Business Administration course.

He has 4 colleagues who altogether teach an average of 11 of these CROSS-LISTED sections each semester.

For a long time now they’ve been collaborating at the course level so that the content, assignments, assessments and delivery between their sections are not just coordinated, but mostly identical. They’ve been using institutional file space for this collaboration, which, throughout the years has gotten more and more elaborate, such that what they’ve been trying to do with the file system is akin to a course management system.

So this Instructor, the New Kid on the Block who’s used Concourse (Bb Vista) before and knows its power, makes an appointment with me. He knows about the Course Designer role (rather than just his individvual SIS-integration assigned Section Instructor, Designer roles) and he’s willing to ‘take the bullet’ for the team by building the content and dispersing it out to others sections.

Without extensive testing, I cannot recommend he use templates, because I don’t know which of his content will in fact be propagated (GradeBook columns, for instance? Grade Form rubric?) So, I start working with him on the Copy Content from Section feature which is visible to him here at Notre Dame only through the Course Designer role (we have default section content assigned to sections upon import). [For what it’s worth, the permissions for using templates would be just as complicated as what you read below].

Here’s what we together discover:

I cannot give him any combination of Roles in Vista which will let him do what he wants to do, or any piece of it.

He can’t Copy Content to the appropriate parent section because he has no visibility into it (and neither do I without guessing from his individual enrollments which section number matches). [Administrative Sever Setting: Do not repeat course and section information on the My Blackboard page presented to all. It’s redundant. Oh, and by the way, that means the CROSS-LISTED section number does not appear when inside the section].

He would have to have Course Designer privileges on 11 different “course” level “CROSS-LISTED SECTION GROUPS” in order to cover all those. His My Blackboard page would have the non-differentiating label of “CROSS-LISTED SECTION GROUP.” [Unless of course I change the Server Admin setting so that everyone else sees a redundant listing like ‘SP08-ARHI-20200-ARHI-20200-01’ -which would be stupid).


But desperaton leads to creativity… we have a “SuperSection” utility and some Perl scripts on the back end that I could use to break each one of the Banner-created CROSSLISTS, and then recreate all 22 sections as a single SuperSection (ie, CROSSLIST) and this Brave Instructor could build the content in a single container (where all the other newbie Instructors could potentially muck about with it unless I manually remove their Section Designer role).

One thought on “Painful Interview yesterday with WannaBe Course Designer

  1. As you know, we the ICGORLDI process as a starting point and have heavily modified it. One of the questions was what to do with cross-listed sections. I think we are naming them something somewhat intelligible.
    Back at Valdosta State prior to the feature even existing, we didn’t have many so it was just creating a section with a name having all the affected sections and enrolling the faculty and students.
    I think the way we did it before the feature came available was cleaner, easier, and understandable. Ironically, I sat in on the meeting where other campus administrators in Georgia told WebCT creating this had to be the highest priority. They didn’t understand the questions from the architect which resulted in the mess we have today.
    Maybe if Blackboard brings it back in Bb10, then they design it from the ground up and in close collaboration with you and other to make something decent.

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