Blackboard Learn is of the devil. THE DEVIL.

Today’s first I-Hate-Blackboard experience: Availability Follies

I have a merged course in BbL. Although about 65 students are enrolled, I have 105 in Blackboard, and they (plus more) will all be there for the rest of the semester, because apparently it’s very difficult to remove them or something. So my gradebook has a pretty poor signal-to-noise ratio.

I’ve been assuming that about 65 of those students were my true enrollees and the rest were irrelevant to the course. The fact that 30 of the students have the course listed as “unavailable” in the gradebook seemed to bear that out. Now I find out that some of the students for whom the course shell  is not available are actually enrolled in the course and blocked from participating. I got a helpful email from the online learning tech folks showing me how to make the course available for those students. Here’s the process:

  1. Go to Users & Groups
  2. Choose Users
  3. Find the students whose availability is set (for reasons I still don’t understand) to “No”.
    • Note 1: the list, in my case, must be repaginated to display everyone at once–with a predictable increase in page load times–because BbL is incapable of remembering which page of the list I was on, otherwise).
    • Note 2: No, of course you can’t just sort the list by the “availability” column and put all the “No” users at the top. That would be crazy.
  4. One by one, for each name:
    1. Hover by the name so the little “options” button appears
    2. Click the button
    3. Select the option to change availability
    4. Wait for the new screen (a full screen takeover, not a pop-up) to appear
    5. Mouse to, and click, the availability selector drop-down
    6. Select “Yes” and click
    7. Mouse to the other side of the screen and click <submit>
    8. Repeat 30 times
  5. No, you can’t do this to multiple users at once–why would you even ask that?

Continue reading Blackboard Learn is of the devil. THE DEVIL.

Tech Hell: MiKTex, TeXnicCenter, & Sumatra

I spent most of today stuck in tech hell trying to launch myself into the LaTeX world while using Windows 7 64-bit (instead of Linux). I couldn’t get TeXnicCenter to compile/build PDFs (or was it Sumatra, the PDF application?). I got the dreaded “cannot execute command” error from… somewhere.

I tried a LOT of stuff.

So here’s what finally worked:

1. Install MiKTeX 32-bit (I don’t know if this was important, but I wanted to keep all the apps 32-bit). Note: I had to go to the package manager and get the beamer class installed, because that’s what I want to use.

2. During the above install, choose “YES” for downloading packages on the fly. I think this was one of my fundamental problems: the compiler got stuck because a font wasn’t installed or (as it turns out) installable at runtime.

3. Install Sumatra PDF reader.

4. Install TeXnicCenter 32-bit. Note: after I pointed the installer to the MiKTeX binary directory, the installer intelligently set all the options in the output profiles that there are so many detailed web posts about. I guess the newer version (2.0 beta 1?) has that stuff all figured out. Nice.

5. Change the executables of the previous two programs to run with administrator rights and run in compatibility mode for Windows XP SP3.

And that’s all… I hope. I think it’s up and running now, but I really can’t make myself believe (as a few people online seem to) that it’s actually *easier* to use LaTeX with the beamer class than a WYSIWYG editor like PowerPoint. I think the elitism has gone to their brains. LaTeX has lots of advantages, but ease of use ain’t one of them, when you’re trying to make lecture slides.

 

EDIT: I think the problems above were as I finally conceptualized them, and limited to those areas. I installed the software on my laptop and it went very smoothly. But Beamer is still a slow, ponderous behemoth monster to use for creating slides, compared to PowerPoint or whatever the OpenOffice/LibreOffice option is.