The Development, Design, and Pedagogical Implications of Blackboard

The Development, Design, and Pedagogical Implications of Blackboard

Mary-Lynn Chambers (Elizabeth City State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6555-2.ch010
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In the 1980s, during the emergence of the online software called Blackboard, the academic target audience was filled with field independent learners. With the growing success of Blackboard, the availability of the new software broadened and eventually claimed the status as the number one choice of software for online education. With the acceptance of online education as an effective tool for learning, the online classroom demographics began to shift with a growing representation of field-dependent minority students. This shift in demographics also meant a shift in learning styles. This chapter highlights elements regarding the development of Blackboard and the design shift within Blackboard. It also provides practical suggestions that can be incorporated into an online instructor's pedagogy so that the 21st century online class will be more attentive to the needs of the minority, field-dependent students.
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In the 1990s a new venue for learning was emerging that would eventually impact higher education learning worldwide. Online learning was introduced to academia through Cornell University and Yale University where the software was first actualized. Before long, Blackboard Inc. was formed and the software was being marketed to American universities (Bradford, Porciello, Balkon, & Backus, 2007). When the birth of online learning is examined, it is evident that the strides within online learning began in the white community because of the racial status of the creators, it grew in the white community because of the demographics within its target audience (Zipkin, 2009; Leadership, 2012; CourseInfo LLC . . . 2012), and it has the potential to continue to serve a majority white community within the American University system because of the default “white” approach of most of the online instructors (West, Waddoups, and Graham, 2007). This predisposed “white” position within Blackboard was not a racially based decision, but an economically based decision (Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt, 2006).

What began as a business venture has continued to be a business venture for software businesses as well as higher education institutions. Although distance education allows students to participate in higher education without having to attend a campus class, the addition of distance education classes to campus offerings also increased the enrollment at the institutions, which in turn increased the institution’s revenue (Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt, 2006). Thus, the development of this technology has marketing implications that has ultimately had an effect on its design and implementation.

There is also the consideration of who uses this new technology, and history demonstrates that the majority of students enrolled in American universities in the late 20th century were white (Fast facts: enrollment, 2005), and the majority of the instructors who accepted the position to teach the online classes were also white (). Thus, the focal point for implementing this online tool was a white audience, and, logically, the learning styles of this white audience was a natural consideration in order for the product to be marketed effectively.

In order to better understand the development and design process of Blackboard, this chapter will highlight elements within the historical development of Blackboard while demonstrating that the focus of the development was directed toward a generally white audience. It will consider the technological timeline highlighting the development of the emerging technology that enabled Blackboard to manifest itself as a leading software package for American universities. Also, the rhetorical approach taken on the next few pages will address the student’s dependency or independence as a field learner. The data presented in this chapter will confirm that a majority of white students within higher education are field independent learners. Also, this chapter will illustrate how the design of Blackboard as well as the method of implementing Blackboard by the online instructors are both geared toward the field independent learner. Finally, this chapter will address the pedagogical implications for the racially diverse, higher education, college community in the twenty-first century that must approach online pedagogy with the intention of improving the agency of the field dependent students.

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