Author: ekunnen

Eric has a passion for, works to lead, support, and coordinate effective uses of technology in teaching and learning. He is an Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Allendale, Michigan. His primary role focuses on collaborating and supporting distance learning initiatives at the university while exploring future trends in emerging technologies in teaching and learning. He also collaborates to research and support academic technologies used in the classroom and in eLearning. Previously, Eric was the Emerging Technologies Coordinator at GVSU and a Director of Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eric has a background in teaching Computer Science and Biology at the secondary level and a Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Educational Technology. I'm on mission to advance teaching and learning through the integration of emerging and innovative instructional technologies... More

Top 7 Highlights from 2017 and Looking Forward to 2018

As the 2017 academic year comes to a close, it’s important to look back while also looking forward in pioneering the future into 2018 and beyond.

Recently, Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, shared a few highlights on a blog post on the Blackboard Community web site. The post features the top 7 topics that have bubbled up throughout the year through the work of the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at Grand Valley State University (GVSU).


Read the full blog post via the Blackboard Community.

Here are the top 7 highlights in the post:





5 – #BBWORLD17



2018 and BbEYOND



6 Small Things You Can Do To Have a BIG Impact on Student Learning

This post is brought to you by the Online Education Council, eLearning and Emerging Technologies, University Libraries, the Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center, and the Office of the Provost.

When teaching online and hybrid courses, there are a variety of key strategies that are proven to help students succeed. This blog post highlights 6 tips for success.


6 Small Things that you can do that have a BIG Impact on Student Learning

  1. Ensure students have the appropriate orientation and support to use the technology in your course.

    Be sure to welcome your students and orient them to your course. You can do this via email, announcements, or a brief video.
    Flipgrid can be an effective tool to use as an icebreaker for students to get to know one another and to feel like part of a learning community.To help students assess their preparation on the online/hybrid learning experience, you may wish to assign your students the

    online self-assessment. In an easy-to-find location, provide students direct links to resources such as the Blackboard student support, GVSU IT HelpDesk, and other relevant student support services. 

  2. Publish your syllabus to your Blackboard site and open the course to students a week or two before the semester begins.Research indicates that students benefit when given time to prepare and assess the course expectations ahead of time, so any extra time you give students to assess their readiness for the course and get into the mindset for online or hybrid learning is useful.

    Upload your syllabus to the course before the semester begins and email students an invitation to peruse it. If you are someone who is still building your Blackboard site up to the last minute, consider emailing your syllabus directly to students and letting them know when the course site will be ready for them to explore.


  3. Focus on student success and retention with Blackboard tools.Maximize student retention by proactively contacting inactive students, students with missing deadlines, or poor performance. The Blackboard Grade Center shows the date of last course access for students. The Retention Center,  Performance Dashboard and Item Statistics provide faculty with information about student activity as well as the ability to monitor students at-risk. Use these tools to determine whether any students in your class are falling behind or neglecting to check Blackboard regularly. Intervene early on, so they get back on track quickly.


  4. Establish a simple course menu and use consistent formatting & organization.

    Review your course from the viewpoint of a student. Is information clearly labeled by its function and easy to find? In addition to using consistent formatting and terminology, consider adding features such as Blackboard assignment due dates, guideposts, assignment checklists, multiple representations of essential information (reading assignments listed in the syllabus as well as in a course calendar), and introductory text or audio overviews with each folder/module.
    Will it be crystal clear to students when assignments are due? Which readings are required or optional? How much time should students expect to spend on a quiz or project? Ensuring this information is easy to find and clearly stated will go a long way toward helping students stay on track.

  5. Provide timely feedback on student work.Students need (and want!) to know how they’re doing throughout the semester, so your timely feedback on assignments, discussions, and course activities is essential. And each time you provide feedback to students, you make your presence known–key to making students feel connected to your course and supported in their work.

    As you craft assignments, consider the frequency of and methods by which you’ll provide feedback to students’ work. Try audio recording feedback to students’ writing, or giving formative, brief feedback more frequently during an assignment to encourage students’ reflection and learning.

    Establish a goal of responding to students’ inquiries or activities on Blackboard within 24 hours Monday – Friday, or on Mondays for activities students may complete over the weekend.

  6. Create opportunities for students to develop mastery.

    Discussion threads are a popular component of Blackboard courses, but an online conversation is just one of many ways you can help students demonstrate knowledge or practice skills.
    Think beyond the discussion forum: given your course content, how might you build in multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge or mastery of a skill across a variety of activities? How will you reinforce skills or knowledge learned in one portion of the course in a future activity? What short assignments might you ask students to engage in and post for quick feedback?

Want More Info? Need Help? Try These Resources!

  • Consult with the instructional designers in IDeL for more online/hybrid course design tips and to learn how to increase your teaching, social, cognitive presence through the Community of Inquiry.
  • Access tips, tutorials, and information for effectively using Blackboard.
  • Review the one-stop Faculty Resources for Online Education.
  • Contact the Digital Studio for assistance in creating a welcome video or leveraging interactive media in your courses.
  • Review University Library resources for distance learning.


Learn and Earn a Badge

The eLearning team at GVSU encourages you to come to a seminar, learn a new skill, and then earn a badge!

Officially, the badges initiative at GVSU began in the Fall 2017. This initiative is a collaborative partnership of the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, University Libraries, and eLearning and Emerging Technologies. The first badge awarded at GVSU was the “#EDTECH Summer Teaching Institute” badge that was offered in the summer of 2017.

Digital badges capture and communicate an accomplishment or achievement. Badges also provide a framework in which to document knowledge, skills, and competencies gained through various learning and professional development opportunities.

To reflect the range of faculty professional development programs at Grand Valley, the FacultyBadges@GVSU program issues three unique levels of badges:

  • Bronze for basic achievements wherein faculty become familiar with the essentials of a topic and submit a written reflection
  • Silver for development of proficiencies wherein faculty participate in more extensive learning and submit evidence of implementation
  • Gold for more advanced and integrative activities wherein faculty continue to refine implementation, disseminate findings or exhibit campus leadership around a topic.

Currently, eLearning offers 7 badges that are available to be earned by faculty at GVSU:


#EDTECH Summer Teaching Institute BadgeeLearning - Foundations BadgeeLearning - Blackboard Essentials BadgeeLearning - Blackboard Grade Center + Assignments

eLearning - Blackboard Tests, Quizzes, and SurveyseLearning - Blackboard CollaborateeLearning - Digital Video: Introduction to Ensemble Video and TechSmith Relay

Learn more about badges on the Faculty Badges web site at GVSU!

E-Learn Magazine features eLearning @GVSU

E-Learn Magazine recently featured eLearning and Emerging Technologies in an article entitled: “How to Teach a Student-centered Class

E-Learn Magazine Screen Shot

The article features interviews from the following:

The following questions are included in the article:

  • What is student success to you?
  • What tools or resources do you use in order to personalize learning?
  • In your experience, what approaches work best to motivate and engage students?
  • How can you predict student success or difficulties? And how to intervene effectively when needed?
  • What would be your advice for instructors, teachers, or coaches who want to start working in a more personalized way? What practices would you recommend?

Here is the full article on E-Learn Magazine


An Openness Initiative

E-Learn is a community openness initiative started by Blackboard. It’s a partnership designed to help educators share insights, perspectives and practices for the purpose of achieving student and institutional success.

Faculty and Student Blackboard Survey Highlights – Fall 2017

Last year, as part of a Statistics 319 class with Professor Gabrosek, 2 students worked with the eLearning team to gather feedback and suggestions from faculty and students about how the Blackboard environment can be enhanced at Grand Valley State University. This work resulted in a survey that was created and administered in the Winter 2016 semester.

This year, another survey was administered in the Fall 2017 semester and the number of students and faculty that completed the survey in a 2 week time period were 3,243 and 341 respectively.

This post highlights the results from the survey:


As shown above, 44% of faculty that responded to the survey indicated that they use Blackboard every day with 78% using the system at least 5 days per week.

Based on GVSU’s participation in the 2015 EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) Study of Faculty and Students and Information Technology report, this number was also reflective with 47% of GVSU respondents indicating a daily use of Blackboard.


90% of students surveyed indicate that they access Blackboard more than 5 days per week. For comparison, in the 2015 EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) Study of Faculty and Students and Information Technology report, 94% of GVSU students indicated that they used Blackboard in at least 1 course with 54% responding that Blackboard was used in all of their courses.


71% of the faculty surveyed indicate that they have used Blackboard for more than 5 years with 8% indicating that they have used the system less than a year.


When asked about ease-of-use for uploading a syllabus and adding faculty contact information, 83% of faculty indicate that using the system is easy or very easy to use.


When asked what features are used most frequently, 94% of faculty indicate using announcements and content, followed by 88% using the grade center and 87% using email.

These data also are reflected in the “Baseline Faculty Survey” as part of the 2021 GVSU Strategic Plan where: Announcements were mentioned being used at 85%, content at 82%, and the gradebook as well as email was used at 78% as the top tools used in Blackboard.

As indicated in the following chart, students echo the largest use of tools by faculty, including: announcements, content, grades, and assignments.


When asked about what features or tools that students wish their instructors would make more use of, 55% indicated more use of grades as the highest response.


When faculty where asking about emerging or new technologies that would be most helpful, eTextbooks, interactive video, OER, games, and simulations were the in the top 5.


Students were asked about what emerging or new technologies that they would like to see adopted. Online office hours, lecture capture, eTextbooks, live lectures and interactive video were in the top 5.


92% of students indicated that it would improve their learning experience if more instructors used Bb to deliver course materials, grades, and announcements. With 95% of students indicated that using Blackboard provided a better learning experience.



The eLearning team will continue to evaluate the student and faculty responses to the surveys throughout the year, with a special focus on open-ended feedback that has been provided – with the goal to enhance the Blackboard environment at GVSU to best meet the needs of students and faculty and to support student success.

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team would like to thank Professor Gabrosek and the STA 319 students for their work with our team in helping to develop the Blackboard faculty and student surveys.



Watch eLearning Tips for Teaching Online and More on your Amazon Fire TV

Faculty and staff from Grand Valley State University can now view video content on the GVSU eLearning YouTube channel quickly, conveniently, and easily on an Amazon Fire TV through a brand new app that is available on the Amazon Appstore.


This resource has been made possible through the support and the collaboration of the app author, Dr. Szymon Machajewski, Affiliate Instructor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU.  Additionally, video content and development support was provided by Vince St. Germain, eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialist, the Digital Studio, and Digital Media Developers, Justin Melick and Hunter Bridwell.

Download the GVSU eLearning App on Amazon Appstore

Highlights from @GVSUeLearn and the Online Learning Consortium Conference #OLCAccelerate

Kim Kenward, Instructional Designer in IDeL and Eric Kunnen, Associate Director, from  eLearning and Emerging Technologies recently attended the 2017 Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference.

Here are a few highlights from the event:


Here are several other sessions that were captured by Eric Kunnen on his blog from the conference: