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Dr Mike J Smith
Kingston University

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BlackBoard: when submitting a file is..... crap

Mon, 04 Jun 2007

I use the "Assignment" feature on BlackBoard extensively for students to submit material. Not only is there no "physical" copy to print, submit, collect, mark and return, but the student can submit from home and I can collect them from home. Winners all round (and because its digital it means that we can screen it for plagiarism, but thats another story).

This is great when it works. And an absolute pile of **** when it doesn't. The last thing I want to end up doing is finding corrupt files in the middle of marking and then spend days chasing students for coursework. Unfortunately this is something that has happened all year and seems to be caused by large file uploads. Staggeringly, BlackBoard doesn't employ file checksums to ensure that transfers are error free. My rudimentary understanding would suggest that it simply receives the stream of packets and stores this data. This isn't too much of a problem for small files where the likelihood of errors is low. However it is a huge problem for large Word documents and ZIP archives. The latter are a real issue as when the archive becomes corrupt nothing can be accessed. For the classes I have been dealing with, error rates have been running at 10-20% which is simply not good enough. This really is a show stopper and something that urgently needs addressing.

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