Blackboard replaces Prometheus system

The University is in the process of replacing its web-based learning system, Prometheus, with one that offers students a wider variety of online features and options.

The new system, Blackboard, will completely replace Prometheus by June. Both programs will be accessible this year while GW phases out Prometheus, and professors can use either system for their online coursework this year.

Blackboard allows students to take exams, hand in papers and participate in chats online, among other amenities. It is also integrated with the Banner student information system, used by students to register for classes, view transcripts and check administrative holds.

Under the Prometheus system, students were required to add a class with a course code and password created by the professor. However, adding the Banner interface to Blackboard automatically gives a student access to course information after registering for a class.

Students now have one password for the systems.

“Overall, students and faculty are interested in the flexibilities and conveniences that Blackboard offers,” said Bill Koffenberger, director of GW’s Center for Instructional Development.

Although Prometheus had similar capabilities in assignment accessibility, Vice President for Academic Affairs Craig Linebaugh called Blackboard’s testing options “more robust than what Prometheus offered.”

Blackboard adds several test types to the capabilities offered by Prometheus, including multiple choice, fill in the blank and matching. Test results are calculated by the system immediately.

With Blackboard, students can also submit assignments electronically using a “Digital Drop Box,” which accepts Microsoft Word documents and Power Point presentations.

Blackboard and Prometheus were developed in 1997 at Cornell University and GW, respectively. By January 2002, Cornell’s Blackboard – with a significantly wider user base – bought Prometheus and slowly began its removal from the University.

Before the system was sold, Blackboard attracted about 2,200 clients, while Prometheus only had 65. Koffenberger said he could not disclose the price for which the University sold Prometheus, but he said the sale will benefit the GW community.

“With Blackboard’s large installation, there is a lot more flexibility in terms of how they are going to meet higher education needs,” Koffenberger said. “We will see both innovation that we and other schools need, and that combination of requests and requirements will be very beneficial to all.”

Although Prometheus was sold over a year ago, faculty and students continue to use it for their classes.

“The decision was made by the administration. (It was) based on an interest in keeping the educational process as streamlined and smooth as possible to run both systems … for the remaining school year, so that faculty (who) were not comfortable (using Blackboard) could continue using the Prometheus system,” Koffenberger said.

Students questioned look forward to using Blackboard.

“I like Blackboard better because you don’t have to use a separate password to sign on,” sophomore Jessica Rios said. “It’s the same as your (e-mail account) so it’s easier to remember.

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