I've been racing to finish getting my Understanding Vietnam course ready for its wholly online launch in a week. I have thirteen students signed up, which is a good number, I think. As I have mentioned here before, the university is using the Blackboard "learning system" for its new online courses & while I am now familiar enough with the software that getting around inside it is no longer a problem, I continue to have philosophical & pedagogical problems with the system. It is proprietary, which in my view sucks. Software improves when it has a community of developers, as in the open source model. But the main problem is that Blackboard consists of a set of pre-defined categories that presume the developers know what the educational dynamic is about. This causes what I'd call a registration problem -- you know, when the various layers of a printed image don't quite match up, leaving blurry edges of weird colors. I'd rather have a blank sheet, something much more like a blog. Now, given what I've just written, this is ironic: I'm using weekly Powerpoint slide shows in place of lectures for this course. (I would have liked to use something like Demo Builder, which I played around with & which creates svn / Flash files, but the learning curve & the fact that I'm working on an ancient laptop* made this too big of an undertaking for this first all-online version of the course.) I feel very comfortable in Powerpoint, actually. I try to follow Tufte's rules, but given that the course is completely online, I'm using more text than I would if the slides were coming up behind me as I lectured in a classroom. Powerpoint, in user look & feel is closer to blogging than Blackboard. (He chuckles ruefully.) _____________________ *The university is getting me a new machine, but the funds don't become available until July 1st, about two-thirds of the way through my summer course & way too late for this development phase in any case.