Using Content, Grade Center, and Announcements in Blackboard to Support Student Learning

In 2016, Blackboard engaged in a study “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes” that included data from 70,000 courses from 927 institutions, with 3,374,462 unique learners.

Based on this study of over 3 million learners and 70,000 courses, it was found that 53% of courses were supplemental, meaning content-heavy with low interaction, following by complementary at 24% meaning one-way communication through content, announcements, and gradebook. Additional course archetypes are illustrated in the chart below:

archetypes.jpg

Chart retrieved from: “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes

Additionally, the Blackboard study found:

Courses with the largest amount of student activity take advantage of a diverse set of tools; campuses should identify and investigate these leading courses as sources for best practices and examples that can be adapted by other faculty in their courses.


Blackboard Use at GVSU

At GVSU, the eLearning team was interested in researching how Blackboard is being used by faculty and students. By leveraging the opensource BbStats Blackboard Building Block (which includes a “Latent Class Analysis Report”) by Dr. Szymon Machajewski, it was found that 72% of courses are using Blackboard in Holistic and Complementary ways, whereas 28% of courses fall into the content repository category in the Winter 2019 semester.

19% Holistic

  • 19% or 758 courses at GVSU fall into the Holistic category where 5 more more tools are used per course (eg. content, grade centerannouncements, and possibly assignments, discussions, and/or assessments).

53% Complementary 

  • 53% or 2,082 courses at GVSU are using at least 3 tools per course (eg. content, grade center, and announcements or assignments).

28% Content Repository

  • 28% or 1,088 courses at GVSU are using 2 or less tools pecourse (eg. content and announcements or discussion board). Additionally, there is no use of grade center, assignments, or assessments.
latencyuseofBb_W2019.jpg
Chart retrieved from: GVSU BbStats Blackboard Building Block, Latent Class Analysis Report
The eLearning team is on mission to support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning. Further, we support the GVSU 2021 Strategic Plan in the use of course management tools such as Blackboard by faculty:

Objective 1.D.2: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching.

We’re here to help!

Interested in learning more about leveraging Blackboard in teaching and learning to support student success at GVSU? Please feel free to contact the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team and be sure to also review: “Teaching with Blackboard” and “Blackboard and 7 Principles of Good Practice”.


  • The “Latent Class Analysis Report” is bundled into BbStats, an opensource Blackboard Building Block by Dr. Szymon Machajewski. The three course design categories were identified by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This software reports how many courses in this system match the latent analysis. Read more about the study in Springer journal TechTrends Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use.
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