Over Thanksgiving break, sophomore economics and political science double major Shyanne Massie was working on a research paper about foster children. She has worked with foster children for six years and it has become a passion of hers, however, the research paper was proving to be similar to a paper she had written during a previous semester.
Unable to access her past work on the subject, Massie wondered, ‘Why is there no access to past course material?’
“I had read a particular study a semester ago that would have worked seamlessly, but was not able to find it anymore,” Massie said. “The projects were very similar, and I am sure I will continue to have similar projects in the future, as foster kids are my passion. Having that access to my past work would be very beneficial.”
The preservation of course material on Blackboard was presented as the first resolution of the school year. A resolution expresses an opinion of a person, or group, that can not be voted on because it is not in their jurisdiction.
Haydn Bryan, second-year master’s of economics student, is an assembly member for the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU). Bryan has been on assembly for three years and presented the resolution on Oct. 23.
“One of the biggest aspects of it is there [has]been a lot of students that don’t recognize they will need access to the course materials until it’s too late,” Bryan said.
According to Boise State’s Policy 1020, past coursework is sent to a server and is purged from the server after five years. One topic of conversation between Blackboard and ASBSU is the allotted time students should have access to past course materials, whether is be two, three or even four years.
The main concern brought up by faculty and students working on the reality of the bill is academic integrity. Professors often post quizzes and tests on Blackboard and there is a concern that those materials could be passed around among students.
According to Dehra McFaddan, secretary of academic affairs for ASBSU, there would be a function for professors to choose what they want to be available for students.
“We want anything that we do to allow students to have more of an ability to have access. A couple of different things with that is that most exams and quizzes already close the second after you submit, you’re not able to look at questions and answers,” Bryan said.
A discussion with the Blackboard committee on allowing for the preservation of course materials and the amount of accessibility to students will be held during the spring semester. A test version will be presented to assembly to see what improvements could be made, according to McFaddan.
“We would have to kind of come up with a way that this can be standardized, but also so that way, [professors]can just turn off certain aspects,” McFaddan said. “That’s kind of the process we’re working through now is the academic integrity.”
The availability of past coursework would aid students in future endeavors and give them access to writing samples they may need for future jobs and employers. Students oftentimes are in “survival mode” and focus on what is to come in their courses and do not have time to indulge in the extra readings teachers assign, according to Bryan.
“Especially when I’m talking to students and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, there was this really good reading I had, like, two years ago or three years ago. And it’s really applicable to what you’re learning about right now but it’s almost impossible to find,’” Bryan said. “So this would be nice because you’d be able to pull up the syllabus and look at the syllabus readings right there and you can find them.”
McFaddan and Bryan are looking into how long the course materials should be available to students and whether it should be available for two to four years. A survey is currently being drafted to see what amount of time would be the most beneficial. Assembly is intended to be a representative group of campus and the survey will be administered to them.
“I also feel that we’re paying for this education. So having continuous access to that education even after we’re no longer in that class should be a very big part of who we are as students,” McFaddan said. “Especially for having access to papers again, I know so many students who have told me their laptops have died. They thought it was backed up to their cloud or whatever, and they lost all of their work.”