~ sustaining a quality education ~ 

A Note for the Blackboard
Help-with-a-capital-“H” Desk

I wish I could be a computer wiz. I also wish I could be a chess champion and an Olympic diver, but I’ll leave all these wishes to my daydreams. At this point in my life, I figure I’ll do what I know and leave the rest to the pros.

I’d like to take some FPD blog space to recognize some pros on campus: the Blackboard Help Desk. I don’t know what I’d do without them. When I send them an email, they respond in hours. If I’m in a moment of near-panic (post-panic, as the case may be) and have to call, even their outgoing voicemail message—“You have reached the Blackboard Help Desk…” brings me calm. This is rare for a recorded message.

The best part of this Help-with-a-capital-“H” is its availability. Sometimes I’ll be stuck clicking something over and over to no avail—banging my head against the Blackboard, you might say—and want to call. But wait, I say to myself, it’s Sunday! No one is on campus now! I look up their webpage and see someone is there. Wait, it’s lunch hour… no problem. Wait, it’s almost eleven at night… no problem. Wait, it’s eight in the morning—OK, no one is there, but just wait a half-hour. Someone will pick up the phone at 8:31 am (yes, I’ve called at 8:31 am before—and 10:50 pm). I’ll tell her or him my problem, and without fail they figure it out.

Better still, they’re there for my students. Even though I put the Help Desk contact information in my syllabus, my online students always email me when they’re having troubles with Blackboard. I don’t fault them for it; as their teacher I expect to be the first point of contact with any difficulty they have. I confess I can be little help, however. I try to troubleshoot the problem with what technical know-how I have, but then I always write, “If that doesn’t work, call the Blackboard Help Desk (734-477-8724). Write me back if the problem persists.”

I never hear back. No news is good news.

Thanks, Blackboard Help Desk. You’re like the computer wizards I wish I were. I suppose you all play speed-chess and can do reverse 2 ½ somersault pike dives, too.

Brian Goedde
English and Writing Department
Washtenaw Community College

4 Responses to guest blog – Brian Goedde

  • John Samford

    See the following image of Blackboard reporting a “successful failure”–
    https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1BU5rIHp45y3nhW7kVjQuz689e18Yh3ppMbijjYoFjbA/edit?usp=sharing

  • John Samford

    I think the fact that we have to have a Blackboard help desk on campus indicates the quality of the product. We don’t have to have a Google sites/drive/calendar/email help desk. Those products work.

    Sure, the Help desk is good at their job: they’ve had a lot of practice having to deal with a program which routinely gives problems (to me, at least!)

  • Mark

    Quite a nice post! I have gone over to Google Sites, though only halfway: if it’s something I gotta create myself (grade sheet, discussion forum), then I return to Blackboard. If it’s my own writing and I dare not let a website mess with the formatting, then I hop over to the Site. (Whether it’s Google or not, in the day-to-day naming of the thing, doesn’t matter: it’s just the course website. This somehow cuts down on the advertising one has to do when referring to what’s relevant in the class right now.)

    But anyway, when it’s time for a reader response, there’s no way I’m putting the time into creating a form in Drive, entering my question and type of response required (multiple choice, sentences or paragraphs), and then embedding this thing into my site. It’s not difficult, but you know, I’ve already got the forum up in Blackboard; I’m not going the extra technological mile. When I want to keep the paragraph breaks of all my course announcements and assignment descriptions (and comments about PDF attachments) pristine–basically, when I know I’ll be returning to my message perhaps obsessively to edit, edit, edit–then Google is it! (For a website to allow so much quick editing and arranging is unprecedented–so far as I know. As a Blackboard user and general blogger, for months I was on the brink of belching the eulogy for the half-inch margin and death-rattling for anything crazier than a hanging indent when suddenly, I clicked on “Sites.” The rest isn’t even history. It’s perpetually edited and reformatted to fit the reader’s screen!)

    *Disclaimer: None of the above is to promote or demote either academic service, but to satisfy a need for ranting about teacher-related technology. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do. Thanks, Brian, for stirring me up!

  • Jared Slayton

    No speed chess here, but thanks for the kind words Brian!