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How I Learned to Stop Resenting Blackboard and Start Using BB Grader

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I’ve never been a fan of Blackboard, the monolithic learning management system that’s the standard at so many schools. I’ve always found it slow, poorly designed, and very awkward to use. Recently, however, my attitude changed (slightly) when a colleague introduced me to BB Grader, a free iPad app for Blackboard designed to make the grading process in Blackboard mobile-friendly.

As an English professor, most of what my students produce for me are essays. I long ago switched to a mostly paper-free classroom — see Mark’s tips for doing so — but didn’t like the annoying little complications that came with having students email their work to me; file names were never right, emails went to the wrong address, subject lines were vague, and a host of other issues somehow always managed to make the process frustrating. Once I started having students submit via Blackboard, those problem went away, but I was left with one downside: I was using Blackboard. Of course, I could batch download all the papers and comment on them electronically in Word (or using something like iAnnotate, which Erin prefers), then upload them again to Blackboard to return them to students. But I found this process to be just as frustrating as using email. I could also just comment directly on the papers through the Blackboard web interface, and I’ve found that method to be tolerable but not great.

However, BB Grader has solved almost everything I don’t like about grading in Blackboard. In fact, this app is so streamlined, so user-friendly,y that I wonder how it could have been produced by the same company that makes the LMS. (Unfortunately, if you have an Android device, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent app.) Here’s a short overview of the app from Blackboard themselves:

Also, check out these links:

Do you use BB Grader? If so, what advice do you have for others who are considering using it? Alternately, if you have a digital-only grading process, what does your workflow look like? Please share in the comments.

[CC-licensed Flickr photo by Michael Scialdone]

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