Problem Identification

The problem identification phase of the assignment was again carried out both independently by each member of team and collectively, using a number of methods such as personal reviews, user studies and online reviews of the current Blackboard Learn system. Google sites and Realtimeboard were used to collate and store our findings and to provide a collaborative space to work.


This stage of the process allowed us to identify key problems for users when using the Blackboard Learn system, so that we could later focus our attention on one specific problem. Again due to the time constraints of the project it was not possible to carry out extensive user research and we were forced instead to rely on feedback from other course members, our personal experiences, online reviews and where possible user observations.

The online collaboration tool Realtimeboard allowed us create a user experience map for Blackboard Learn where we could catalogue and categorise user  quotes and observations of the Blackboard Learn system. These could then be grouped into user pain points which allowed us derive a set of goals for the team to focus on (Nodder, 2017).

From this we identified five problem areas, confidence, learnability. navigation, calendar and email functionality. We eventually decided to opt for the email functionality as our problem domain, as we felt it may be possible to address certain calendar issues via an email prototype, such as scheduling. The email problem domain also lent it self to possibly be being used for the basis of an over all redesign which would address other issues such as confidence and learnability.

User Experience Map
User Experience Map

Problem One

Blackboard Learn does not make it easy for its users to learn and remember how to use it, it adopts a pedagogic modality but neglects to provide the needed descriptive text to teach users how to use it (Cooper et al., 2014).  This can be seen through the following symptoms:

  • Too many options to choose from with no descriptive text
  • Too many levels of information to click through
  • Inconsistent functionality

User Reviews:

  • “I believe Blackboard has become a bit bloated over its years on the market and can be less intuitive than some of the newer LMS options” Score 3 out of 5. (g2crowd, 2017)
  • “Things that the user needs to do are buried down a few layers and are not intuitive to find.” – Score 3 out of 10. (Trust Radius, 2017)
  • “The Grade Center is clunky and not intuitive. Faculty complain most about this feature.”
    – Score 3 out of 10. (Trust Radius, 2017)

Problem Two

Users feel like they are not in control while using this software. This can been seen through the following symptoms:

  • Missed submissions due to technical errors
  • Lack of feedback after completed actions
  • Inconsistent functionality

User Reviews:

  • “Frequently get errors when sometimes handing in assignments or uploading documents.”  – Score 3 out of 5. (g2crowd, 2017)
  • “Blackboard has a lot of room for improvement in terms of notifications.”  – Score 3 out of 5. (g2crowd, 2017)
  • “Make sure that you try all the layers to see if you can really accomplish the goals you set out initially to tackle.”  – Score 3 out of 5. (g2crowd, 2017)

Problem Three

Ideally Students should have easy access to important dates at a glance.This can been seen through the following symptoms:

  • The calendar is not easily accessible from anywhere in the site, requires users to navigate to the calendar
  • Calendar system fails to inform students easily of events.
  • It only highlights key dates when in full view mode There is no way to see the next most important date easily

User Reviews:

  • “It took me a few days to work out I could access the calendar form the top right, as I had assumed this was to do with my personal details” – (User observation)
  • “I would have expected the calendar to be a constant feature, like a widget or something.” – (User observation)
  • “When I access the calendar it fills the whole screen it. No navigation to other sections “ – (User observation)

Problem Four

Navigation should be consistent and clear across the system. A framework made up of the designers model, the system image and the users model should allow the user carry out activities the way the designer has intended it. If this is not the case the user will arrive at an incorrect understanding of the system. (Preece et al., 2014)
Key pieces of navigation are only available from the home page, such as the tools menu
Navigation that is consistent across the site is labelled unclearly or in some cases not at all.This can been seen through the following symptoms:

  • Navigation duplicates itself at time causing confusion
  • Students must continually return the homepage
  • Some navigation items are either broken or preform no action

User Reviews:

  • “I find the site difficult to navigate and I feel I’m missing sections”
  • “Menus seems to disappear and I have to return to the main page to find what I want”
  • “I was a bit confused and surprised to find the navigation options under my username”

Problem Five:

Sending messages to tutors or other students should be easy and quick to do with clear visibility of when a message has arrived. This can been seen through the following symptoms:

  • Accessing email requires the student to navigate through a serious of options, first the student must select the course, then the user group and then gets an option to to create the email.
  • Upon selecting a course a new navigational menu is added to right of the page which has nothing to to do with the task of sending an email
  • The user is presented with numerous options for the types of groups to send the email to , the second and third and last options result in error messages, which begs the question why show them as it adds to the already rising level of frustration.
  • After selecting a group the student is presented with a poorly laid out email creation screen, which has an arbitrary width set on it and an over abundance of options such as formatting & preview mode. The formatting options seemed better suited to an actual document editing tool and a lot of the options such as you tube or anchor did not see to work or launched further windows with even more unnecessary functionality
  • The student is also informed they have already made a mistake even though they haven’t done anything as the system tells them there is an invalid email selected?
  • The email creation tool also breaks with established norms, instead of “send” it uses “submit”, there is no way to add recipients beyond that which has been selected, and the submit and cancel buttons become fixed navigation if the user moves them out of view.

User Reviews:

  • “I found it confusing having to select the course first, I felt I had selected something else besides email ”
  • “Menus seems to disappear and I have to return to the main page to find what I want”
  • “I was a bit confused and surprised to find the navigation options under my username”




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