Online Learning Systems and Search

Back when I was a CS undergrad, Blackboard was not very popular yet (at least among the nerdy CS faculty).  Most classes had a class web site involving a tilde, the professor’s username and some quick and dirty HTML.  They were generally extremely simple, concise, and easy to navigate.  Additionally, they were open to the public either out of intention or lack of effort to secure them.  As a result, one could visit the ASU web site and search for a class like CSE 340 and find a collection of class web sites with syllabi, assignments, etc.  This was really useful for getting a feel for a class and/or professor’s style before actually registering for it.  You could read the syllabus and see what material would be covered, whether group work would be involved, how it would be graded, etc.  It was all very nice.

Now, everyone uses Blackboard and all of the course resources are on lockdown (perhaps for the reverse reasons as they were previously public).  You pretty much can’t find anything useful if you search for a class number on the ASU web site, based on my quick testing.  I suppose this is a good thing, because many professors consider such materials part of the intellectual property and don’t want them to be freely available, but I think quite a few wouldn’t mind if prospective enrollees were able to read through the course materials.  Perhaps an opencourseware system is the answer.

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