My opposition to Blackboard has been pretty well established over the years that I’ve kept this blog. I have advocated for free and open course management tools such as WordPress, Wikispaces, Ning (when it was good), Mightybell, Weebly, and other sites and services. These past two week, however, I have been taking my first Blackboard seminar at the university, with the explicit purpose of getting certified to teach online and hybrid courses. I admit I have not been inside Blackboard in a long, long time, and it seems like the number of tools it offers instructors has expanded, and expanded, and expanded. Suffice to say that if can do it on the web, you can probably do it in a less cool, more complicated way inside of Blackboard. This means recording audio, uploading large video files, chatting with users in real-time, and organizing content. It’s not all bad.

Still, there the high cost of the institutional license. And the closed nature of the system, with no contact from the real web. And the way Blackboard institutionalizes classroom discussions into exercises in teacher-pleasing. I don’t mind creating a course inside of Blackboard (either hybrid on entirely online), but I’m not sure it would ever be my first choice.

One interesting new player in the learning management system market is Google Classroom, which is available (free) for users of Google Education Apps, the suite of Google tools that includes Google Drive. GVSU uses Google Apps, so I have access to Google Classroom. I’ve been playing around with it for the last few days.

One of the chief faults of Blackboard is its unnecessary complexity, but Google Classroom is dead simple. Maybe too simple. Really, there is only one main interface/page, where students view the “stream” that has been posted by the administrator, and maybe other students, but I haven’t figured this out yet. Posts can include video, attached documents, or Google Drive items such as forms or spreadsheets. Classroom interfaces with the Google Drive of the administrator, who can decide whether to let students edit or just view the document. That’s about it–no gradebook, dedicated discussion board, or anything. Anyone else out there using it?