Defaults are bad

I’ve said it before, but the evidence is clearly stacking up.

Take “Hackgate“, where devious journalists apparently hacked people’s cell phones. How did they do it? No complicated geekiness involved, really. Each cellphone provider programs its phones with a default password. Few people change it. So it’s easy to log in as someone and get their info.

According to Tristan Stewart-Robertson , “Most people wouldn’t think to change the standard manufacturer’s code, such as 9999 or 0000, to protect voicemail, and so it’s usually quite easy to access.”

In other words, leaving your cell phone on its default is bad.

Do you like WordPress? I do. When I set up a new blog, it gives me an “admin” username automatically. But since it does that for everyone, it’s easy to hack into.

So you need to make your own account with a password, make that account an Administrator, then delete the default account. Because default is bad.

As online instructors, we do it with Learning Management Systems. Blackboard says this menu button is for syllabus, so we upload our syllabus there. This button is for discussions, so we create them all there. This one is for quizzes. Now they have one called “Content”. Oh my, that’s helpful.

My class is organized like a syllabus. I need a button for Unit 1, a button for Unit 2. Every time we do a workshop where one of our faculty demonstrates how we’ve adjusted an LMS to make it look like a syllabus, we see light bulbs go on all over the room. We have, over the years, called these workshops things like “Making Blackboard Work for You”, “Redesigning Blackboard”, and “The Interactive Syllabus”. Yesterday our presenters Andrea Petri and Laura Paciorek gave a workshop called “A New Wardrobe for Blackboard: Technical Basics of Instructional Design”. Andrea showed us his class, organized into units, with each unit a page full of links, all in one place for that unit.

We’ve got tutorials, like this one on creating an interactive syllabus in Blackboard by Pilar Hernández . We have a handout showing a logical chapter-based LMS menu. Laura Paciorek made a screencast on how to change the Blackboard menu . And still, the first thing most new instructors do is load their .doc syllabus into the Syllabus or Content area. Sigh.

Not changing the defaults is akin to leaving the light flashing 12:00 on the VCR (you remember VCRs, right?). Next semester we’ll offer another, longer workshop. We’re thinking of something like “Creating Learning Units in Blackboard”.

Because defaults, you know, are bad.

2 thoughts on “Defaults are bad

  1. Lisa – your blog is great! I stumbled upon it while looking for information to present at a professional development workshop about online teaching and it echos everything I have been saying for so long! THANK YOU! It’s great to know there are other people with the same frustrations I have. :o) I will be sharing your blog as a resource in my training.


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