In the feedback to one of my modules on Internet Technology, my students suggested that I create a glossary of all the technical terms and prototocols that are mentioned in the course. As you can imagine, for a topic as rich in jargon as the Internet, this will be a lot of work. I have made a start using the Blackboard glossary tool but I am quickly running up against its limitations. In order of annoyance (most annoying first) these are:
- No HTML formatting is allowed in the glossary definition field. It’s plain text only! (Maybe this is an admin setting because the editing field looks standard enough.) There’s only a spell checker, which is useful, but not compelling!
- You can’t create cross references. For example when talking about network applications, it would be nice to link to the glossary terms for example protocols.
- You can’t link to external sources which have more explanation, e.g. to Wikipedia, the IETF or WWW Consortium.
- Students can’t contribute by editing existing glossary entries or creating new glossary terms of their own.
- You can’t have aliases or synonyms.
- Glossaries can’t be shared across Blackboard course sites (except by export and import).
- Upload and download is limited to Excel text-only format.
I have considered other alternatives.
- For example, to tackle items 1 through 6 a Wiki might be a good way to go (and might actually have some pedagogic benefit) but I’d have to add the alphabetical navigation, gathering, and sorting of terms manually.
- The open source content management system Drupal has a feature that should make it easy to create a glossary (Drupal calls this feature a taxonomy) but that would require quite a lot more configuration work than the application seems to warrant.
- There may be other web applications that are designed for creating glossaries either as on-line subscription services or as installable PHP applications (but I couldn’t find any on Google).
However, any of these alternative would require an external-to-Blackboard solution, and though I’m not averse to that, I’d prefer for this application at least to have a glossary that’s linked to the course menu. There’s no way in Blackboard (that I know of) that allows a link to an external site to be added to a course menu, so for now, I’m continuing with the glossary tool with a view to perhaps exporting it into some other solution later.I’d be interested in hearing from you if you’ve tackled this issue yourself and have any tips, experiences, work-arounds or other advice to share.
Chris Jobling January 14th, 2009
Posted In: blackboard