Month: October 2019

Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for Group Assignments

GVSU Nursing faculty Nancy Schoofs and Sue Harrington wanted to try something new in their Professional Nursing course. Instead of dividing their students into groups and having them submit a review of the course readings, they decided to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and have the students record themselves engaged in a group discussion about the text. The results exceeded all of their expectations.

To carry out the discussions, students were divided into small groups and provided access to the Collaborate Ultra course group tool where they could share content and use the whiteboard, as well as create recordings.Blackboard Collaborate Ultra AllowHalf of the students read one course text and the other half read a second. They were then required to discuss a set of questions about each reading during a series of Collaborate Ultra sessions that were recorded throughout the semester. A rubric was used to evaluate their discussions based on the content they covered, their organization, teamwork, delivery and effectiveness.

According to Professor Schoofs and Harrington, their students really embraced the opportunity to discuss, rather then write about, the readings. Most of the students joined the sessions using their own computers and devices, but some chose to meet face-to-face and simply used Collaborate to record their discussion. Both methods worked exceptionally well and the results were both engaging and insightful. Given the opportunity, both Professor Schoofs and Harrington agreed that they would use the Collaborate Ultra course group tool for similar assignments in their future courses.

Blackboard Ally Tour arrives at GVSU to Raise Awareness of Inclusive Education through Accessibility

The Blackboard Ally Tour arrives at GVSU!

On Thursday, October 24 and Friday, October 25, John Scott, Product Manager on the Blackboard Inc. Ally team visited GVSU to share best practices around accessibility with faculty, staff, and students.

The goal of the visit was to provide the opportunity to engage in conversations around the importance of inclusive education through accessibility. John provided a workshop session to over 20+ attendees, covering the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), the features and capabilities of Blackboard Ally, as well as tips and techniques for improving the accessibility of files.

Missed out on this event? Watch the Universal Design for Learning Faculty Workshop Video!


Here are a few photos from the Ally Tour GVSU visit:

Jeff Sykes, Assistive Technology Coordinator, John Scott, Product Manager Blackboard Ally, Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies

Pictured left to right: Jeff Sykes, GVSU – Assistive Technology Coordinator, John Scott – Blackboard Ally Product Manager, Eric Kunnen – GVSU Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies

Learn more about this event on the eLearning “Blackboard Ally Tour comes to GVSU!” web page.

Building off the “Pathways to Inclusion” case studies (read GVSU’s “Data-driven Strategies for Inclusive Learning“), Blackboard facilitated an Ally 2019 Tour: On the Road to IncluCity event at GVSU to continue accessibility conversations across campuses around the world.

A key area of focus is to share best practices for implementing Universal Design for Learning principles and driving culture change around course accessibility.

“Supporting Diverse Needs through Inclusive Design and Learner Preference”

Accessible content authoring is not only essential for students who use assistive technologies, but it also results in more usable, flexible content that can adapt to diverse student needs and devices. During the workshop, we’ll discuss some of the key terms and research around inclusive learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and the different ways Ally’s alternative formats and instructor feedback help support those learning goals. Participants will then form teams and work on a series of accessibility and UDL challenges, focused around content authoring, content remediation, multimodal literacy, and curriculum design. At the conclusion of the workshop, each participant will leave with one strategy or idea to make their learning environment more inclusive for all their learners.

Product Manager, Blackboard Ally

John Scott is a Product Manager for Blackboard Ally. Prior to joining the Blackboard Ally team, John completed his PhD in Learning Sciences and New Media at the University of California Berkeley, where he designed, taught, and researched online learning courses focused on collaborative learning, multimodal literacy, and Universal Design for Learning. He spent 4 years as a literacy and arts teacher in New York City public schools, earning a Master’s Degree in Special Education, and specializing in technology-mediated literacy and learning. He has published and presented at professional research conferences on digital literacies, networked learning, and global education. He is passionate about working with instructors in adopting new technologies in the classroom through research-backed pedagogy and critical design.

eLearning Team attends EDUCAUSE Annual Conference

IMG_5986Eric Kunnen, Sherry Barricklow, and Hunter Bridwell from the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team traveled to Chicago for the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. With over 8,300+ attendees and large exhibit hall, the conference was full of innovative ideas.


Representing Grand Valley State University, Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies delivered a presentation with John Scott, Product Manager, Blackboard Inc. along with the College of Southern Nevada and the University of Kentucky. Their session was entitled: “Leveraging Data-Driven Decision Making to Drive Student Success, Retention, and Accessibility Initiatives

Here are a few posts and notes from Eric Kunnen’s “EdTech with Eric” blog:


Sherry Barricklow, Hunter Bridwell, and Eric Kunnen arrive in Chicago… ready to learn about the latest and greatest in #edtech…

Building Effective Student Learning Communities to Increase Engagement in Online/Hybrid Courses

Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities meet throughout the semester to focus on improving teaching and learning in distance education at Grand Valley State University.

The eLearning team and GVSU faculty gather to form Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities to:

  • Support new and experienced online/hybrid faculty through dialogue and samples
  • Explore best practices associated with online/hybrid teaching and learning
  • Identify emerging technological needs to support online teaching and learning
  • Share collective expertise across disciplines

Recently the focus was on the Community of Inquiry Framework (CoI).  Participants in the Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities spent time discussing and sharing specific examples of how to build “Teaching Presence, Social Presence and Cognitive Presence” in courses.

Couldn’t attend the Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Community meetings? Don’t worry, we have you covered! Here is a recording of the October 17, 2019 Pew Campus Learning Community session, facilitated by Kim Kenward, Instructional Designer in IDeL group in eLearning and Emerging Technologies:

Pew Campus Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Community Recording


Additional Resources

Videoconferencing Connects Campus Community at GVSU

In a recent EdTech Magazine article entitled How Videoconferencing Platforms Help Connect Campus Communities, live audio and video communication tools are explored as key solutions for the campus community, increasing flexibility and convenience.

Real-time videoconferencing solutions are growing in their popularity and use in higher education and in business to help bring students, staff, and faculty together.

At GVSU, we are seeing Collaborate used in a variety of ways, such as: professional development, live lectures and student group facilitation, online office hours, mock interviews, guest speakers, live campus meet ups and meetings, global events, and much more!

Here are a few excerpts: [Read Full Article on EdTech Magazine]

“Initially, these tools were pretty complex, and they presented a lot of challenges for teachers who wanted to try them,” says Eric Kunnen, associate director of e-learning and emerging technologies at Michigan’s Grand Valley State University. “But now I think those barriers are falling by the wayside. We’re seeing solutions that can be launched right from a browser, without extra plug-ins or the need for anything to be installed. Overall, they’re much more robust and significantly easier to use.”

At the same time, Kunnen adds, many universities view videoconferencing as a strategic investment.

“The current generation of students is coming to campus with video being part of their daily life,” he says. “If you’re not doing what you can to connect with them — to offer them that flexibility around how they want to be engaged, and to give them opportunities to learn remotely — I think you’re going to be missing the boat.”

"If they can reduce the need for travel and save people time simply by making videoconferencing an option, that’s something their community is going to appreciate.” Eric Kunnen Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, Grand Valley State University

Similarly, he says, instructors and experts increasingly expect institutions to leverage whatever technologies they can to accommodate hectic schedules.

“A lot of universities are geographically spread out, with campuses all over the place. If they can reduce the need for travel and save people time simply by making videoconferencing an option, that’s something their community is going to appreciate,” says Kunnen.

Finally, live tools are excellent at increasing student engagement and instructor presence. These are key in facilitating a quality online course as they encourage active learning and the Community of Inquiry Framework and the 7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.

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.

Grand Valley Lanthorn article places spotlight on $1,000 Accessibility Competition

Blackboard Ally logo is picture with a gold trophy on a green background. The trophy has a white star in the middle.A recent article by Audrey Whitaker, a staff reporter for the Grand Valley Lanthorn, highlights an accessibility competition sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies department in Information Technology at GVSU.

The eLearning team is excited about the opportunities that will be brought by this competition – to increase accessibility and students’ learning!

Image Description: “I hope it teaches everyone that if you’re willing to change just a little with the opportunities that technology brings, it can make big differences for lots of students” - GVSU Dean Antczak

Here are a few recent stats from Blackboard Ally at GVSU.

Fall 2019 Semester (as of October 7):

  • 3,649 Blackboard courses include content
  • 193,051 content items have been analyzed by Blackboard Ally
  • 64% is the current overall accessibility “With Ally” score, indicating improvements made through Ally’s alternative formats and instructor intervention, this is a 2% increase since Fall 2018
  • The top 3 institutional accessibility concerns include: Contrast (31,887), Missing Headers (29,944), Alternative Descriptions (26,554)
  • The most severe accessibility concern is Non-OCRed Documents (11,468)
  • There are 319 files (436 F18) that have been fixed in August/September by faculty
  • There have been 11,564 total alternative file downloads (9,093 F18) from 1,883 courses (1,450 F18)
  • The most popular alternative format is PDF, followed by HTML, OCRed PDF, ePub, Audio

Overall, since August 1, 2018 (to date), 945 files have been fixed in 305 courses. In addition, there have been 24,000+ alternative file format downloads from over 4,000 courses.

Access tips, tutorials, and information for effectively using Blackboard and creating accessible content with Ally at Grand Valley State University.

GVSU offers Virtual Reality space for Faculty and Students

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in education may seem simply like a tool for the student of the future, however, it is very much the here-and-now at Grand Valley State University!

Visit the Atomic Object Technology Showcase to experience mixed reality in person!

hunter_vr.jpgVR and AR have the reputation of being something “high tech” and often very expensive with high-end headsets and controllers and while we have those tools in the Technology Showcase it isn’t necessarily required for an effective educational experience.

A simple smart phone, a Google Cardboard headset, and a Merge Cube can be a handy and cheap teaching tool for some faculty. There are plenty of apps on a variety of subjects offering some educational value, however often they aren’t very helpful beyond basic information on a subject, and lean on the technology itself as a gimmick for appeal. They’ve been simply something cool and new to try.

Unsatisfied with what is available we, in eLearning and the Atomic Object Technology Showcase, created a small team to work with faculty on developing ideas for their subjects and courses to help them instruct and students learn. Within VR and AR possibilities are vast and we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what we are capable of. Whether 360 degree photographs or video, seeing objects and tools in augmented reality, or having a wholistic immersive virtual reality experience, we have the technology to develop and create new ways for students to learn.

“I am excited to be working with the showcase and student assistants, to engage with faculty and discover how virtual reality can enhance teaching and learning. If you are a faculty member at GVSU with an idea, let’s talk!” – Digital Media Developer, Hunter Bridwell

hunter_bridwell.jpgThis post by Hunter Bridwell, Digital Media Developer, eLearning and Emerging Technologies. Hunter is a Digital Media Developer at Grand Valley State University. He works with faculty and staff to assist, facilitate, and create digital content for courses and instruction. Leveraging his skills and expertise in photography, video capture, and a variety of other media, Hunter strives to create potent and effective content.