Blackboard Technologies: A Vehicle to Promote Student Motivation and Learning in Physics

  • Teresa L Larkin
  • Sarah Irvine Belson


The Blackboard Learning System?, a Webbased server software system, is widely used on many college and university campuses today. This paper explores the use of the Blackboard system as a teaching and learning tool. Particular emphasis is placed on the online chat feature available through the Blackboard interface. During the fall 2002 pilot semester, students enrolled in an introductory physics course for non-majors at American University made extensive use of live, interactive, online chats through Blackboard technologies to complete homework and other assignments. The optional chats were peer-led and instructor-moderated. The instructor utilized a Socratic dialogue approach to help promote deeper understanding of key topics and concepts. To address, in part, the question of whether deeper understanding was achieved for students who participated in the chats, results from the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), a widely used multiple-choice, survey-type instrument to assess student understanding of basic mechanics concepts in physics, was used. Preand post-test gains are compared for active participants in the online chats as well as for the class as a whole to help ascertain student potential gains in understanding of mechanics concepts. Students? overall course grades are also used to assist in a comparison between learning gains for participants and non-participants in the online chats. In addition, links to student learning styles are explored to determine whether learning style could be a potential factor in terms of active participation in the online discussions. Highlights of student perceptions regarding the use of Blackboard technologies, particularly the online chats, are shared.