Lovecraftian rant about the horrors of Blackboard

Fortunately, I’ve never had to use Blackboard. The two schools I’ve taught at moved on from Blackboard before I started. One moved to Moodle, which I’ve had great experiences with.

The other moved to Sakai. Which I really don’t like. Moodle seems very dynamic and flexible. Very user friendly. Sakai is frame-based and really clunky for creating an integrated course with easy to follow flow.

I’m told Sakai has fans and was told by the university tech people it’s better. But I don’t know anyone, teacher or students, who like it.

1 Like

part of me feels bad for agreeing with you, since my dad worked for Sun before the Oracle buyout (he was part of the team that made Java 3D) but yeah, modern java is a bloated, insecure, overused crapheap.

1 Like

I actually attended a Blackboard meeting on Thursday. The sound crashed through the whole session. It was a trainwreck.
Not a fan.

Have you seen the percentage of campus laptops with a distinctive glowing fruit adornment? Desktop java is, indeed, a pox on mankind (and really has no place in a ‘web interface’); but it does have the advantage that there is a JVM for approximately every turing-complete thing with sufficent RAM. Other options, less so.


I am oblivious regarding Blackboard, but I can’t read “Lovecraftian rant” without thinking about that lovely StackOverflow bit on parsing HTML with regex (previously on BoingBoing).

And there’s that old Penny Arcade comic; I’m still waiting for the day someone causes a sh*tstorm by trying to inflict that on an oblivious member of the public.

1 Like

Fine then. Most of this stuff could be coded in python easily enough. And python’s fairly portable. Use that instead.
Anyway blackboard is a webapp. Whenever I used it, it was just a java plugin in a browserframe that went back to some server on campus. It should have been written in HTML, Javascript, CSS, some kind of database (take your pick) and perl/python/php/ruby/asp/coldfusion.

There’s no reason to use Java for anything really anymore. There are tons of solutions to replace it, and a number of apps I support at work crash every time a Java update rolls out. Also any time IE gets updated. Also anytime chrome gets updated. Also anytime a new version of the corporate VPN client is pushed out. It’s a godawful mess right now. Our time-keeping system has been broken for a week because of a non-optional java update we can’t block unless we block Java from even using HTTP ports. Which would break the timekeeping applet all over again.


This is why I just build Wordpress-based sites for every class I teach now.


Oh, don’t get me wrong. I completely agree that they should quit pretending and build their ‘webapp’ using actual web technologies. Wrapping a big chunk of java in a thin HTML shell is about as ‘web based’ as putting a win32 executable on your server and claiming that it’s ‘web based’ because users can download it over HTTP.

My point was just that, if somebody is depraved and/or forced enough to use java applets on the desktop, java’s ability to be equally frustrating across all major platforms and some minor ones is a fairly major advantage. Even Flash doesn’t have quite the same breadth, and sucks at least as much if not substantially more.

Using a JVM on the server is substantially more defensible; but is also largely invisible to the poor users.

(At work over here, we have some very expensive-and-fancy-when-they-were-new heating/cooling control systems with java based interfaces. For the moment, carefully maintaining IE6/Java 1.4 is more attractive than shelling out ~30k per unit to have the vendor swap the boards, no software update here, everything burned into hardware; but it hasn’t created warm feelings about java.)

Yeah. Cross-platform frameworks are very important. I’d be delighted if one actually existed and it wasn’t shite. The closest I’ve seen is Python, but that’s really not saying much. There’s so much variation in the executable libraries of the numerous spinoffs of Python that it seems there’s a lot of room for improvement.

As it is, I’m simply astounded that every minor Java patch and update manages to almost completely break backward compatibility with my company’s timekeeping software. It’s a common software too, I’ve used it at every job I’ve worked.

Either Java is just garbage, or the timekeeping software is terribly designed, or both. And I’m pretty sure it’s both.

1 Like

That reminds me of a discussion I once had with a developer about an “improved” interface for my main work program. I pointed out that functions that had once been activated with a single click now required a minimum of three. He replied that three clicks wasn’t “a big deal”.

I said, “It is if it’s something you’re doing a hundred times a day.”

That led to the inevitable reply of, “Well you just need to change what you’re doing.”


I’ve never heard of Blackboard so I googled it and all I got was instances of Blackboard at various education establishments. Seems like a bit of an SEO fuck up there.

Well, for a Lovecraftian bit, there is Charlie Stross’s bit on Perl:

We use Canvas now at the community college network in my city. I quite like it. Or at least what little I’ve used of it thus far.

Oof, yeah. I take classes in Blackboard now (including web development classes) and it is the worst.

Java as in java applets are an affront… .NET is an affront. Java as a back ender server is wonderful. That is all.

You know what’s a wonderful cross platform framework? Html+css+javascript and a webrowser.

The irony here is that for the 3 years I taught in a Blackboard environment, the Java implementation was incredibly buggy on Macs, and the WYSIWIG formatting never worked properly, meaning the school eventually gave up and followed the lead of profs who had been saying to students for quite some time “OK, we won’t count off for APA formatting in your citations for discussion posts.”

(To be really honest, the words “taught” and “school” above should probably be in irony quotes, but that’s another discussion.)

Also, it’s well and good to say “X sucks, you should use Y” but most of us teaching don’t actually get to choose the courseroom software we use. I wish.

Is there any research to show that all this expensive technology is actually better for teaching students than traditional methods?

Can someone post some screenshots of Blackboard? Is it like entering… The Filematrix?

On the other hand, wait stop, we don’t want to open a portal to that dimension.

What about Android. Serious question. I’m thinking of learning some new languages for writing mobile apps, and is certainly seems like Java is one of the two I’ll need to know.