Building a Case for Some Fast Path Principal Implementations

For a while now I’ve had this idea about providing new ways to improve time on task. This is more of a usability concept than anything, but from the perspective of performance, I’m specifically talking about providing a mechanism to shorten the critical path and reduce the time and effort a user spends performing a task in the system. So the idea is nothing spectacular, but it happens to be something that just doesn’t exist in the system. It’s something I would like for PerfEng to model and prototype so that it could conceivably be brought into the product in a future release.

What’s My Big Idea

Over the years the thing I’ve learned more so about Blackboard than anything is that while the system is intended to improve the learning and livilihood of students, it’s really a system designed from the perspective of teachers and instructional designers. What we seem to do real well is provide a solid canvas for structuring and organizing content. In fact, there are several fast paths for authoring or manipulating context such as:

  • Edit Model
  • Context Menus for Constructing Content and Other Artifacts

Where I see an opportunity is to provide fast path capabilities for teachers to assess content interactions, content contributions and even user activity by students and/or class participants. Imagine I’m a teacher and I’m stepping through my course. I decide to go into one of my discussion forums and threads to monitor participation, or quite possibly reply to a thread. I’m presented with a screen below with a list of participants in the class. Most are students, maybe my TA or even my own posts are listed as well.


Now, I’m given a mechanism to perform other operations associated with the user because I have a drop-down context menu next to their name, or I’m able to roll-over their name and hovering window is presented (either is possible). The menu/window allows me fast path views directly associated with the user. For example, I roll-over Amina Brook’s name and a context menu gives me the ability to do some of the following operations:

  • Drill into Amina’s Personalized View of the Grade Center
  • Send Amina a message
  • Review unread messages from Amina
  • See a 360 view of Amina’s activity
  • Look at Amina’s Course Map
  • Drill into Amina’s Discussion Posts for the Course
  • See other tools (maybe from B2’s) that present data from Amina

The possibilities are endless. The idea centers around giving teachers the ability to quickly access the content that has the most relevent purpose that moment. I maybe working on Amina’s end of year comments (another interesting feature) to send to her or if she’s in K-12 to her parents. I’m trying desperately to get a more wholistic view of Amina’s performance and contributions to the course. In this case, I need a fast way to aggregate data, as well as drill into areas of the application to inspect participation.


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