Guest post by Brian Morgan, Assistant Professor, Integrated Science and Technology Department, Marshall University, and a member of the Ask Dr. C program, a free question and answer service for Blackboard Users.
There have been hundreds of articles published in the last few years on creating a “green” learning environment. If you are trying to do everything you can to help in this effort, you should consider using Blackboard to assist in reducing the paper in your classroom and office. I’ll cover a number of techniques, which involve using Blackboard Learn to go green, below.
Encouraging Faculty to Do More Online
Even with technology as prominent as it is today, some faculty still feel trepidation when offering any part of their courses online. Many still do not understand that online environments, such as Blackboard, are secure and that no one is truly going to steal their intellectual property. At Marshall University, the Information Technology department has created the MUOnline Design Center, staffed with instructional technologists and designers, to assist faculty in converting their materials to a digital format. These individuals also work with faculty to encourage new techniques in online teaching and the development of materials for the digital age.
Many instructors like to give quick quizzes to ensure their students have read since the last class meeting, understand the material, etc. Typically a 15 week, semester-based course can meet up to 45 times. What if an instructor teaches four sections with 25 students enrolled in each section and gives 30 quizzes in a semester? Per semester, that amounts to 3000 sheets (6 reams) of paper. Using the Blackboard Assessment tool in the place of paper can be every bit as, and even more, effective than paper-based quizzes. The assessment tool can be deployed easily each class meeting and give students instant feedback on their assessment, something that is not easily done with paper-based quizzes. This approach can save immeasurable resources over time.
In addition to assessments, the same can be said about assignments. Even though I teach in both a traditional and online environment, in either case, I require students to submit all of their work through the Blackboard Assignment tool, no matter the assignment. It cuts down on paper and, while I like to think that I am a very organized person, I am only organized as long as I have everything in my lap, on my computer! Not accepting paper for student submissions helps me stay organized.
Requiring students to submit assignments via the Assignment tool allows me to use Microsoft Word’s comments feature to annotate a student’s submission before returning the document to them. This allows a quick turnaround in providing feedback for students, cuts down on paper, and provides a permanent record of the remarks given to students. Students do not have to wait for the next class meeting to get their comments back and start studying or revising their assignments.
File Storage/Decluttering your Desktop and Life
I know several faculty members on my campus who actually have file cabinets full of student files, class notes, and old exam papers in their offices. Using Blackboard’s toolset can help an instructor organize and declutter their office, making them more efficient in future courses. Routinely, I return to previous sections of Blackboard courses I have taught to retrieve files that I have stored online. I can then refer to annotations, past assignments, notes, and more. Storing all of them within Blackboard makes sense, in part because institutions typically, or should (!), make routine backups of your course materials on their server.
How do you use Blackboard, and other technologies, to cut down on paper and declutter your office?