For several years, students at USC have been accustomed to logging onto the online educational platform known as Blackboard. However, in a recent update, the university-wide system will be scrapped in favor of a newer, sleeker version called Whiteboard.
The update comes as part of an initiative from the Board of Trustees for the school in an effort to modernize USC technology. Whiteboard will feature some impressive upgrades from the typical user experience including a now three-factor authentication which will involve inputting a username and password on the computer, inputting a code sent to your phone, and drawing a photo-realistic self-portrait to verify your identity in order to log in to the website.
Additionally, for maximized security, all submissions will no longer be accepted via direct upload on the domain, but rather through the US Postal Service, where students will need to mail sealed copies of each of their assignments.
The creators of Whiteboard also hope to facilitate group discussion more efficiently by engaging the students to post on Whiteboard’s own Twitter-style social media platform, to preserve student anonymity on a platform that they are familiar with.
Professors, like English professor Andrea Reyes, appear to be optimistic about the change. “If they only have to write a mere 280 characters, I think I will finally be able to get genuine engagement on even the most mundane discussion topics that I could possibly come up with.”
The school hopes to create a platform that more teachers and students will voluntarily opt out of using Whiteboard to reduce site maintenance costs. The CEO of Whiteboard, Jason O’Connor, explained in a February press conference some of the features they have implemented to reduce site usage.
“Whiteboard guarantees no more than 30% of students can successfully complete an assessment without being logged out, and this is an improvement from Blackboard’s current 70% success rate. This will dissuade a high volume of teachers and students from using the platform and will definitely help keep maintenance costs low,” O’Connor said.
Technology assistants from the IT department at USC have said that they plan to update Whiteboard more frequently than Blackboard.
Information Technology Administrator Robert Buckner explained, “We found Blackboard maintenance just wasn’t inconvenient enough, so with Whiteboard we’ll be expanding the hours to every night between 8 pm and 11:59 pm to maximize student frustration.”
The Whiteboard developers could not be reached for comments on their design choices, but their website states that their mission is ultimately “to take everything that would make a convenient student experience, and create a product that is the exact opposite of that.”