ETOM Meet Up features GVSU’s Lightboard

The Educational Technology Organization of Michigan (ETOM) conducts monthly “meet ups” when are live webinars focused on a variety of topics centered on distance learning and instructional technology.

On Thursday, January 17, Justin Melick, digital media developer, presented and shared GVSU’s experiences with building and using lightboards to enhance teaching and learning.

Justin brought the idea for a lightboard to GVSU and built the first one back in 2015. Since then over 30 instructors have taken advantage of the lightboard in in their online, hybrid, and in person courses. To date, there have been over 500 videos created by faculty at GVSU!

Here is professor Becky Bergakker talking about the benefits of using lightboards in her courses.


Lightboards are available on the Allendale Campus in the Kindschi Hall of Science (KHS), downtown in the College of Health Sciences (CHS) and coming soon to the Seidman College of Business (SCB).


Using Blackboard Goals to Monitor Curriculum and for Accreditation

A feature in Blackboard called Goals is available at GVSU. This capability allows faculty and departments to collect information for accreditation or other purposes as to how programs and curriculum aligns with course goals.

Faculty can align course content and assessments (eg. discussion forums and threads, blogs, journals, tests and individual questions, assignments, and Grade Center columns) to one or multiple goals.

Reports can then be run that display how students are performing in alignment with the associated course or department goals.


This post is by Dr. Szymon Machajewski from the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU who has used the Blackboard Goals feature in his CIS150 – Introduction to Computing Course.



Many reasons cause departments to seek continuous quality improvement in program and course curricula.  In the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU, there is a need to effectively support accreditation requirements as well as to focus on the improvement of the student experience.  To this end, the department designed an assessment plan that involves all faculty around the following claims:

  1. We know what we do
  2. We do it well
  3. We can prove it

A number of assessment tools can be used in collecting data and evidence in the improvement program such as:

  • Senior exit survey
  • Focus Groups
  • Internship supervisor survey
  • Comprehensive exit exam (standardized or local)
  • Student portfolios evaluated by committee
  • Faculty self-reflection about each course
  • External evaluators of student performance
  • Performance criteria within each course

As part of the program faculty collect samples of student work.  This may include making copies of each assignment and exam with representation for student high, average, and low performance.  The criteria for student performance should be measurable, defined by observable behavior, and identifying a specific standard (or minimum standard).

The Blackboard Goals feature allows instructors to mark assessments or content in Blackboard Learn courses as performance criteria to reach a curriculum goal.  While the curriculum goal does not have to be the same as a course learning objective, they often overlap.  In turn, Blackboard Learn collects student scores and compares them to set target performance level and average range.  This helps in identifying students who meet expectations or are outside of them.

The resulting Blackboard course performance report summarizes how students met the expected performance criteria against one or more set goals.  The course itself can be archived or copied to retain assessment artifacts and assignment samples.  The report is granular enough to provide a breakdown of academic performance per student on each assessment and curriculum goal.



Overall, the Goals feature in Blackboard Learn is a very useful tool for collecting academic data and including it in a larger, final report submitted for each course, which includes faculty reflections, student evaluation samples, assessment of previous adjustments, and proposed changes for the future.

Interested in learning more about using Blackboard Goals at GVSU? Please feel free to contact the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team.

Designing Quality Courses in Blackboard with Cheryl Kautz

kautzcSit back, relax, and watch as Cheryl Kautz, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU guides you through her CIS 231 course in Blackboard.



As a previous “Blackboard Exemplary Course Award” and “Most Inclusive Classroom Award” recipient, Cheryl focuses on using quality course design methods including key tools in Blackboard such as Blackboard Ally for accessibility (eg. Syllabus, course content etc. includes alternative formats such as audio only), Panopto for video with popup formative quizzes, and tips for improving navigation including using course links to keep students on track and to provide easier navigation.

Highlighted in Cheryl’s course tour are the following design principles in using Blackboard to delivery quality instruction at GVSU.

Streamlined Course Menu

Customizing the course menu provides students with a simple and easy way to navigate the areas of her course. When designing your menu, aim to keep your navigation areas as clean, short and simple as possible. Use headings and dividers to break up the menu into chunks.


Course Links

Course Links assists students with navigating and jumping from section to section in a course site. Using Blackboard Course Links ensures students can easily navigate to other areas of your course quickly.


Checking for Accessibility with Blackboard Ally

Cheryl has dedicated time for inclusive learning by ensuring the content uploaded is accessible with Blackboard Ally. A GREEN indicator indicates that the file has a good rating. Yellow or red indicators appear when a file has low or poor levels of web accessibility.


Students benefit from using Blackboard Ally by accessing alternative file formats such as audio only.


Getting Started

Establish a “Getting Started” content area to help students “get started”. This area of Cheryl’s course provides:

  • links to “Are you ready for online learning at GVSU”
  • encouraging students to upload a Blackboard profile picture for increased engagement
  • an introductory Blackboard blog post for student to student interaction
  • a course link directing students to begin the “week 1 tasks”

Weekly Folders

Each weekly folder uses a consistent design and includes key dates and reminders such as midterm, spring break, final exams, and most importantly the objectives to be covered. The objectives are connected to the learning activities and assessments to inform students clearly about what they are expected to accomplish throughout the week which is good instructional design.


Inside of each weekly folder, students are presented with a “To Do” instruction list, practice assignments, video lectures, discussions, projects, quizzes, audio PowerPoints, and homework help.


Panopto Videos with Quizzes

Cheryl uses Panopto to present video based instruction with quizzes to check for students’ understanding and to provide formative feedback.



eLearning and Emerging Technologies Team offers Course Design and Development Support

As you build courses in Blackboard, please feel free to reach out to the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team for assistance in most effectively leveraging the use of Blackboard in your teaching at GVSU. We’re here to help!

How to use Blackboard Analytics to Support your Students at GVSU

You have probably heard about “BIG DATA“. Here we make the case for the value of “small data” and provide 3 ways you can access data in your Blackboard course to improve student success.

Big data is about gathering large amounts of data to reveal insights through analysis. Small data, on the other hand, can provide just enough data in order that action can be taken based on the evaluation of information at hand.

In education, data can lead administrators and faculty to improve student success and retention through “learning analytics”.

“Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.”

– The Predictive Learning Analytics Revolution: Leveraging Learning Data for Student Success via EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research

While Blackboard provides products such as “Blackboard Predict” to monitor students at risk and to connect advisors to students for early intervention, there are tools available in every course at GVSU enabling faculty to receive “early alerts” and to take action through small nudges given to students.

Blackboard Retention Center pictured on Laptop

The key benefit of accessing data and taking advantage of learning analytics is to take action based on the insights provided. Using the insights, faculty can provide communication nudges to students to encourage them to keep going, give them a kudos or thumbs up for a job well done, or offer advice to those that may need an extra level of learner support.

Here are 3 ways you can leverage data in your Blackboard course to improve student success and retention at GVSU:

#1 – Use the Blackboard Retention Center to discover and to monitor students “at risk”.

Found in every course, under the “Evaluation” menu in the “Course Management” panel, the Retention Center provides faculty with the ability to monitor students, and their levels of performance regarding:

  • missed deadlines – provides faculty with students who have missed an assignment due date
  • grade alerts – provides faculty with information about students who are performing 25% below the class average
  • activity alerts – provides faculty with a list of students whose activity is 20% below the course average
  • access alerts – provides faculty with the last course access of students

Further, the instructor themselves can receive assessment, interaction and collaboration insights through their own activities in the course.

Blackboard Retention Center Screen Capture Showing Students Currently at Risk

Blackboard Retention Center Screen

Blackboard Retention Center Screen Capture showing

Learn more about using the Retention Center to monitor students at risk.

#2 – Use the Performance Dashboard to become aware of students activity at-a-glance.

Found in every course, under the “Evaluation” menu in the “Course Management” panel, the Performance Dashboard provides faculty with the ability to monitor students, and their levels of performance regarding:

  • last course access – provides faculty with the last date the students have accessed the course
  • review status – provides faculty with which students have marked items as “reviewed”
  • adaptive release – provides faculty with a view as to how students are progressing through a course using adaptive release
  • discussion board posts – provides faculty with the students’ activity in the discussion board

Learn more about using the Performance Dashboard to monitor students.

#3 – Use Item Tracking for monitoring students as they interact with content.

Found in every course as faculty upload or create content, the ability to turn on “Statistics Tracking” provides a report as to which students have accessed the information. The report includes the user activity to date, day of the week and hour of the day.

Learn more about using the Statistics Reports to monitor students.

Top 8 Posts from 2018

At GVSU, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team is here to support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning. Our team is dedicated to supporting faculty, contributing to teaching excellence, and enhancing student success through:

  • exemplary instructional design
  • effective application and integration of instructional technologies
  • interactive digital media development
  • administration and enhancement of the university’s enterprise learning management system (Blackboard)
  • deployment of innovative emerging technologies


Reflecting back on 2018, we would like to recognize and celebrate the work of faculty at GVSU in their efforts to advance education through the application of technology in teaching.

Here are the top 8 posts from the eLearning blog in the year 2018:

1 – 7 Things you didn’t know that Blackboard can do!

2 – GVSU selects Blackboard Ally to Support Inclusive Education

3 – First ever hackGVSU ‘Hackathon’ brings Innovative Ideas to Enhance Blackboard at GVSU

4 – Applying the Blackboard LMS to TPACK

5 – Teaching with the Lightboard at GVSU

6 – EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative “2018 Key Issues” meet the Initiatives in eLearning at GVSU

7– eLearning Team celebrates receiving the 2018 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Professional Development

8 – GVSU selects Panopto to Increase Accessibility and Enhance Teaching with Video

Data-Driven Strategies for Inclusive Learning with Blackboard Ally

Blackboard Ally’s Community User Group site is chuck full of helpful information for colleges and universities looking to learn how Ally supports inclusive education.

One of the highlights of this site are community stories which showcase a variety of use cases of “Ally in Action“. Stories have been shared by the University of Derby, California State University Chico, California State University Fresno, Tacoma Community College, Technical College System of Georgia, and recently our own Grand Valley State University!

Read the GVSU Blackboard Ally Community Story
“Data-driven Strategies for Inclusive Learning”


Blackboard Ally supports Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Education at GVSU

GVSU’s use of Blackboard Ally supports diversity, equity, and inclusive education.

Recently the GV Forum featured a highlight of Ally as the university works to increase the accessibility of course content in Blackboard.


Here is the article as highlighted by GV Forum:

Blackboard Ally supports inclusive education

More than 218,000 digital content items from more than 3,700 courses have been scanned by Blackboard Ally since the software was made available in June to students, faculty and staff members.

Blackboard Ally scans files uploaded into courses and evaluates the level of accessibility of content by displaying colored “dials” (red, yellow and green). These indicators provide awareness and insight and are only visible to instructors. The goal is to work to improve the accessibility of the files to turn the dials to green, which provides benefits for the learning needs of all students.

Eric Kunnen, associate director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, said more accessible content means students have more usable, readable learning materials as well as high-quality alternative formats of content that work better on mobile devices.

“After Ally automatically scans course content, an indicator is displayed that estimates the level of accessibility of the file and a score is provided,” Kunnen said. “The system then provides on screen guidance to help make the file more accessible.”

So far, more than 464 files have been fixed by 138 faculty members in 146 courses.

Kunnen said Ally supports student success through universal design for learning principles and by building capacity to respond to increased federal and legal requirements for accessibility.

“Ally not only provides benefits to students with disabilities, but it also supports the university’s work in recognizing the importance of accessibility as part of our pathway to inclusive education whereby we support the diverse physical and cognitive needs of all of our students,” he said.

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team offers support to faculty members using Blackboard Ally and has created a webpage with more information,

Learn more about how you can use Blackboard Ally to support diversity, equity, and inclusive education at Grand Valley State University…