Learning On-the-Go with Blackboard Mobile Apps

In a recent article by Inside Higher Ed, ‘Students Are Using Mobile Even If You Aren’t’, the importance of mobile phones and tablets were highlighted for their role in transforming teaching and learning.

Beyond its function as a classroom tool, mobile technology is the primary conduit for some students’ learning experiences. Broad data on the different permutations of mobile learning are hard to come by. In a 2018 survey by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research of 1,500 exclusively online students, nearly 80 percent said they complete some, if not all, of their course work using a mobile device. More than half of respondents said they access course readings and communicate with professors from their smartphones, and more than 40 percent said they conduct research for reports and access the learning management system on mobile devices.

Further, EDUCAUSE has presented research around the importance of mobile devices to students and their educational experience through the ECAR Study.

In addition to the use of the LMS and online collaboration tools, the importance of mobile access to campus resources was highlighted in the report.  Most notable was the importance of checking grades, content, and accessing the LMS (eg. Blackboard). Checking grades and accessing content via mobile was rated extremely important by students.


Reading this article, along with the ECAR report, generated some interest among the eLearning team in looking at GVSU’s data as it relates to access to the university’s LMS, Blackboard by mobile devices. Here is some of the data from Blackboard mobile app analytics reporting:

  • In the past year there were 2,340 unique logins to Blackboard using mobile apps.


In addition, here is some of the data from our Google analytics reporting enabled on our Blackboard environment:

  • 9% Mobile Users and 1% Tabletimage001
  • 80% of Mobile Traffic is from iOS Devices, followed by 18% Androidimage003

Statistics are gathered based on browser and operating system:

  • Chrome was used by 57% of users
  • The most used operating system was Windows at 57%, followed by Macintosh at 24%

Go mobile and access Blackboard on-the-go!

Blackboard Instructor Mobile App

Blackboard Instructor App Icon

The Blackboard Instructor mobile app is now available for free download in Apple and Google app stores! Manage your courses, send announcements, and connect with students on your phone or tablet. Download Blackboard Instructor:

Download on the App Store iconGet it on Google Play iconGet it from Microsoft icon

Blackboard Student Mobile App

Blackboard App Icon

Access your courses on the go with the Bb Student mobile app! Access grades, course content, and more – right from the Blackboard app on your phone. Available for free download today on iOS, Android, or Windows.

Download on the App Store iconGet it on Google Play iconGet it from Microsoft icon


Leveraging Blackboard and Panopto for Student FERPA Training

Working in collaboration with the Registrar’s Office at GVSU, the eLearning team provided assistance in leveraging Blackboard and Panopto to help save time and to manage FERPA training for student employees and student graders. Previously, the Registrar’s office was conducting periodic face-to-face, group sessions where students received the training, took a quiz and completed a confidentiality form. Now, the entire process is handled completely online, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the training.


In developing the training, first, a short video was created using the Panopto recorder. Using Panopto’s in video quiz feature, a series of questions were embedded into the video to check a student’s understanding and knowledge of FERPA’s rules and regulations. The video was then integrated into a special Blackboard organization as a Panopto assignment. All of the enrolled students are required to watch the video and complete the quiz questions.


After successfully completing the quizzes, students are then given access to a “Confidentiality Agreement and Security Policy” form using Blackboard’s Adaptive Release tool. The Adaptive Release rule was configured so that only those students who achieved a score of 100% on the quizzes could see and access the form. Students are then required to digitally sign the form and submit it as a Blackboard Assignment for final approval.

To further streamline the communication process as to when students watch the video, take the quiz, and submit the confidentiality policy, the Registrar’s office has configured the organization’s Blackboard Notification settings to automatically email the office when the student’s submitted confidentiality form is in need of grading.

The use of Blackboard has enabled the Registrar’s office to more efficiently train and equip students with the required FERPA training, saving staff time and resources, while ensuring compliance.

Learn more about using Panopto to create instructional video and embedded quizzes, or Blackboard’s assignment, adaptive release or notification features by contacting the eLearning team!

Using Blackboard Collaborate for Authentic Practice in Virtual Interviews

As more employers are using virtual interviews as opportunities to screen their applicant pool, it is crucial that students are prepared to interview virtually.

The GVSU Graduate Teacher Certification Program, directed by Dr. Rosemary Cleveland,  regularly uses Blackboard Collaborate to meet on a weekly basis for synchronous class meetings – and also to practice and to experience the “online” interview process.


Students Charles Roberts, Joe Elsen and Kenneth Poczekaj, (pictured in order top to bottom) and GVSU Field Coordinator Diane Elve using Blackboard Collaborate to support virtual interviews.

Using Blackboard Collaborate for Virtual Interviews – How it Works

As students are getting ready to finish their final semester, they are also expected to participate in a virtual interview using Blackboard Collaborate to practice their interviewing skills.  Just like a real in-person interview, students  are expected to dress professionally as though they were formally interviewing for a potential teaching job.

Their web cameras and microphone are also expected to remain “active” during the interview.  Students were coached to avoid distractions, to maintain eye contact, monitor body language and be prepared to answer tough questions.  Their field coordinator led their virtual interview which in some cases also included a former retired principal who was joining virtually.

Here is what students in Field Coordinator Diane Elve’s course have said about using Blackboard Collaborate for virtual interviews:

“I think that the mock interview on Blackboard Collaborate was a worthwhile event. It is quick and easy to setup, and it is also convenient, especially since all people involved in the interview process don’t have to be in the same location at once. While there can be some issues, such as not seeing all aspects of body/facial gestures, I think this is minimal in comparison to the “pros” that Collaborate brings.” – Joe Elsen

“I thought it was a wonderful activity.  Many times we hear what questions may be asked during an interview and we have the opportunity to rehearse these things at home on our own.  This brings more authenticity to learning about interview by having us apply our knowledge to a real-world scenario.  While only a mock interview, all of the feelings and pressures of a real interview can still be seen, felt, and heard.  I feel this application of interviewing practice is a great opportunity to expose students to interviewing strategies and the feedback may really help somebody be prepared for the inevitable interviews to come.” – Ken Poczekaj

About Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate™ is a simple, convenient, and reliable online collaborative learning solution. Collaborate delivers a level of engagement that makes learners feel like they’re together in the same room via collaboration and conference tools.

Collaborate provides opportunities for:

  • Live Class Sessions
  • Online Office Hours
  • Online Guest Speakers
  • Interviews
  • Advising
  • Study Sessions
  • Small Group Projects
  • and more!

Learn more about using Blackboard Collaborate for live events and to support teaching and learning at GVSU.


Higher Education’s 2019 Trend Watch & Top 10 Strategic Technologies

strat_tech_top_of_pageRecently, EDUCAUSE released the Higher Education’s 2019 Trend Watch & Top 10 Strategic Technologies report, indicating what technologies institutions will spend the most time in implementing, planning and tracking in 2019.


According to the report, the Top 10 Strategic Technologies include:

  1. Uses of APIs
  2. Active learning classrooms
  3. Blended data center (on premises and cloud based)
  4. Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning
  5. Open educational resources
  6. Institutional support for accessibility technologies
  7. Technologies for improving analysis of student data
  8. Application performance monitoring
  9. Predictive analytics for student success (institutional level)
  10. Integrated student success planning and advising systems and IT asset management tools (e.g., CMDB) (tie)

Highlighted on this list and connected to work in eLearning are:

Strategic Technology #1 – APIs

  • Through the use of APIs, GVSU’s eLearning team has enabled a wide array of integrations that further extend the capabilities of Blackboard. For example, through a Blackboard Building Block API, faculty an view photos of students in their classes, enhancing the personalization of teaching. This Blackboard Class Photo Roster project was a request through the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center’s Strong Start Initiative.
  • Additional integrations made possible through APIs and Blackboard include: Panopto (video), Blackboard Ally (accessibility), Blackboard Collaborate (videoconferencing),  Top Hat and TurningPoint (student response), NSSE Survey deployment, opensource BbStats analytics and reporting tool, content providers such as CafeScribe, Cengage, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson, opensource Certificate of Completion, DropBox, Qwickly (productivity tool), and more!

Strategic Technology #2 – Active Learning Classrooms

  • Active learning classrooms provide a unique faculty and student experience as the spaces include flexible and movable furniture and technology to support: 1) a student-centered design, 2) enhanced collaboration, 3) increased faculty/student engagement, and 4) improved interaction through dynamic group work and classroom communication. GVSU has established a list of technology enhanced and active learning classrooms throughout the campus to increase opportunities for faculty and students.

Strategic Technology #3 – Blended Data Center

  • Teaching and learning applications at GVSU are a blend of on premise and hosted applications. For example, Blackboard is hosted locally while solutions such as Blackboard Ally, Blackboard Collaborate, Panopto and others are provided as a software as a service, in the “cloud”.

Strategic Technology #4 – Incorporation of Mobile Devices in Teaching and Learning

  • Mobile learning is an area of increasing importance as more and more of our day to day lives on and off campus reside on portable devices.
  • GVSU’s eLearning team has facilitated a wide array of sessions highlighting the value of mobile, including:
    • Blackboard Mobile Learning Solutions
    • Blackboard: Create Mobile-Friendly Courses
    • iPad 101: Beyond the Basics
    • iPad 102: Mobile Teaching and Learning
  • Blackboard includes a mobile app for students (Blackboard app) and for faculty (Blackboard Instructor).

Strategic Technology #5 – Open Educational Resources

  • GVSU has been involved in the open education resources (OER) movement for many years, and most recently has seen a growth in the adoption and use of #OER in teaching and learning. For example, there have been several adoptions of OpenStax textbooks in Chemistry and Mathematics, while an interdisciplinary team lead by the university’s library is helping to coordinate resources and raise awareness.
  • At GVSU, students have saved over $480,000 in textbook costs, with 3000+ course sections each semester that require no paper textbook.

Strategic Technology #6 – Institutional Support for Accessibility Technologies

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion is “built-in to the DNA” at GVSU through the university’s vision:  “GVSU demonstrates its commitment to providing an inclusive learning environment where all students can explore new directions, find their niches, and develop skills for life and productive careers.”
  • The eLearning team focuses on supporting inclusive education through accessibility and UDL by equipping faculty. Blackboard Ally was adopted and put into production at GVSU in the summer of 2018 to:  generate awareness, build capacity, and increase institutional oversight of accessibility.
  • In addition, Panopto was implemented to provide video caption capability for faculty who are using instructional video content in their teaching. Both Ally and Panopto support the principles of inclusive education through accessibility and UDL.

EXTRA CREDIT: Strategic Technology #9 – Predictive Analytics for Student Success

  • While not at the institutional level, such as a solution like Starfish, all faculty at GVSU have access to 2 tools in Blackboard to leverage and analyze data to improve student success. The Performance Dashboard and Retention Center can equip faculty with insights as to how students are performing in their classes, while enabling communication channels with advisors, counselors, or student success coaches.

Learn more about the EDUCAUSE Higher Education’s 2019 Trend Watch & Top 10 Strategic Technologies.

Active Learning at GVSU – Collaboration from the Ground Up


GVSU was recently featured in EdTech Magazine in an article entitled: “Active-Learning Buildings Showcase New Teaching Philosophies“. The article highlights the importance of active learning spaces on campuses that: encourage collaboration and exploration by design; infuse technology deliberately; and ultimately facilitate student success.

“That active-learning classrooms are catching on in higher ed really isn’t a surprise,” says Eric Kunnen, associate director of e-learning and emerging technologies at Michigan’s Grand Valley State University.

“To me, though, the next step is going to be when universities start designing buildings to be collaborative from the ground up.” He believes that, eventually, these environments will be critical not only to attracting students, but also to facilitating students’ success.

“When you build a space devoted to active learning that infuses technology and deliberately encourages collaboration and exploration, you’re creating a kind of academic beacon on a hill,” Kunnen says. “You’re telling students and faculty to think differently about what’s possible, and that this physical facility is there to support them.”

At GVSU, there are currently a variety of “Technology Enhanced and Active Learning Classrooms“, with more in planning as renovation and new building construction is envisioned.

In brief, active learning classrooms provide a unique faculty and student experience as the spaces include flexible and movable furniture and technology to support:

  1. a student-centered design
  2. enhanced collaboration
  3. increased faculty/student engagement
  4. improved interaction through dynamic group work and classroom communication

Introducing the Active Learning Building at GVSU – Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons


Photos retrieved from steelcase.com “A Student’s Story on Active Learning

Finally, the one of the best examples of an active learning building is the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons. Steelcase featured a story “A Student’s Story on Active Learning” that illustrates the value of an “ecosystem of spaces” supporting diverse learning settings.

Emerging Technologies in the Atomic Object Technology Showcase

In addition, the eLearning team is focusing on the intersection between education, technology, and innovation through the Atomic Object Technology Showcase which is located on the Atrium level of the Mary Idema Pew Library.


EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Conference Features Session on Inclusive Education through Accessibility

This year, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Annual Meeting offered nearly 150 breakout sessions, featured keynotes, posters, and even an “extended reality” (virtual and augmented reality) experience lab.

Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, from Grand Valley State University and Heidi Pettyjohn, Executive Director for Accessibility, from the University of Cincinnati presented a poster entitled: “Strategies to Establish Pathways for Inclusive Education”, focusing on the topics of inclusive education, accessibility, and universal design for learning (UDL).

Heidi Pettyjohn, Executive Director for Accessibility, University of Cincinnati and Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, Grand Valley State University pictured, presenting a poster at the ELI Conference.

Heidi Pettyjohn (left), Executive Director for Accessibility, from the University of Cincinnati and Eric Kunnen (right), Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, from Grand Valley State University present a poster at the ELI Annual Meeting

Notes from the following sessions are available on the #EdTech with Eric blog under the #ELI2019 tag:

  • #ELI2019 – EDUCAUSE Horizon Report
  • #ELI2019 – Improving Student Success Analytics with Multiple Data Sources
  • #ELI2019 – Presentation Pair: Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning
  • #ELI2019 – Use Them or Lose Them: Digital Devices for Student Engagement
  • #ELI2019 – App Smackdown! A Battle Royal of Education Technology
  • #ELI2019 – Poster Sessions
  • #ELI2019 – Demonstrations: Extended Reality in Higher Education
  • #ELI2019 – Presentation Pair: Learning Horizons
  • #ELI2019 – How Higher Ed Can Cultivate Students to Lead the Future We Want to Live In
  • #ELI2019 – On Innovation, Extended Reality, and Digital Transformation
  • #ELI2019 – Strategies to Establish Pathways for Inclusive Education

About ELI

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) is a community of higher education institutions and organizations committed to advancing learning through information technology innovation. The ELI Annual Meeting provides an opportunity for those interested in learning principles and practices, all dimensions of student success, and innovation in post-secondary learning to explore, network, and share.

EDUCAUSE’s Top 10 IT Issues and the Student Genome Project

Recently, EDUCAUSE released the Top 10 IT Issues (shown in figure below) which when viewed in similar themes, comprise “The Student Genome Project“:

  • Empowered Students: In the drive to improve student outcomes, institutional leaders are increasingly focused on individual students: their life circumstances and their entire academic journey. Leaders are relying on analytics and technology to make progress in retention, persistence, and other student outcomes.

  • Trusted Data: This is the foundational work of the Student Genome Project, where the “sequencing” is taking place. Institutional leaders are collecting, securing, integrating, organizing, standardizing, and safeguarding data and preparing the institution to use data meaningfully and ethically.

  • 21st-Century Business Strategies: Institutional leaders are addressing today’s funding challenges and preparing for tomorrow’s more competitive ecosystem. With technology embedded into teaching and learning, research, and business operations, it must be embedded into the overall institutional strategy and business model as well.


Retrieved from “Top 10 IT Issues, 2019: The Student Genome Project” at EDUCAUSE.edu

Trusted Data and 21st-Century Business Strategies are key – and technology powers the solutions that are critical to success to achieve the vision and mission of higher education – that is, to zero in on “student success, persistence, and retention”.

By leveraging technology we can begin to “focus on the student as a person rather than a persona”. Ultimately it is about ensuring a high-quality and connected academic experience that makes a positive difference to students.

Empowering Students should be not be new to us as educations. “Student-centered” learning has been part of the vocabulary for most institutions for many years.

We have the ability to help accelerate student success by:

  • Working across the institution to “drive and achieve student success initiatives”.
  • Understanding and advancing the use of technology to “optimize the student experience”.
  • Implementing personalized learning whenever and wherever possible.
  • Creating individualized, predictive analytics that inform our work so that we can  target support for students “at risk” – during the semester, not after. Therefore data much be actionable.
  • Ensuring students are “not a number” rather that they are people with a variety of experiences, concerns, and needs. As reinforced in the EDUCAUSE article, “What helps one student succeed may not help another student succeed.”

“Student success is what higher education is all about.”

Applications such as Starfish Retention Solutions can provide unique opportunities in monitoring students and flagging potential behaviors that my need attention. Once a flag is raised, indicated a potential “at risk” situation, a human can intervene, offering a variety of support resources and services to help ensure that student’s success.

In eLearning at GVSU, we are on mission to “Supporting faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning…” and in turn, the technologies we support provide the opportunity for students to be empowered. After all, learning and achievement is a responsibility for institutions, but also a uniquely individual-based experience.

What about you? What are your takeaways from EDUCAUSE’s “Top 10 IT Issues and the Student Genome Project“?