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

Blackboard and 7 Principles of Good Practice


How can Blackboard be leveraged to help meet Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice in higher education? The following blog post highlights a few tips and tools for each of the 7 principles:


1 – Encourages Student/Faculty Contact

Tips: Respond to student e-mail within 24 hours. Facilitate multiple forums of communication with students. Be available electronically and in person, and inform students of availability, office hours, etc.

Recommended Blackboard Tools

  • Email
  • Announcements
  • Discussion Board
  • Live Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Sessions
  • Blackboard Instant Messaging
  • Embedded Video Orientations and Welcome Messages
  • Embedded VoiceThread, Vocaroo, etc.

2 – Encourages Cooperation among Students

Tips: Use online communications tools for groups, collaborative learning, and problem solving. Create electronic opportunities for class discussion of assignments and concepts.

Recommended Blackboard Tools

  • Discussion Board
  • Groups
  • Blackboard Instant Messaging
  • Live Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Sessions
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Journals

3 – Encourages Active Learning

Tips: Leverage live real-time collaboration. Design lessons that use universal design and active learning principles, are hands-on, and facilitate engagement.

Recommended Blackboard Tools

  • Live Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Sessions
  • Discussion Board
  • Journals
  • Blog
  • Wikis
  • External Links
  • Gamification (Kahoot, etc.)

4 – Give Prompt Feedback

Tips: Strive for effective use of e-mail, assignments, gradebook, etc. to give students prompt, constructive and meaningful feedback. Regularly monitor classroom environment (in person and online) to ensure student concerns are addressed and quality timely feedback is provided.

Recommended Blackboard Tools

  • Assessments
  • Assignments
  • SafeAssign
  • Gradebook
  • Discussion Board
  • Email
  • Wikis/Blogs/Journals/Portfolios

5 – Emphasizes Time on Task

Tips: Ensure appropriate amount of time to complete online content and assignments. Refer students toward available resources. Design online experiences that allow for flexibility and universal design principles.

Recommended Blackboard Tools

  • External Links
  • Providing Estimated Times on Activities in Content Areas & Assignments
  • Extend Classroom-based Activities Online
  • Adaptive Release
  • Due Dates/Deadlines/Availability of Content
  • Assignments

6 – Communicates High Expectations

Tips: Provide criteria for evaluating assignments/activities that are clearly articulated. Collaboratively create course expectations with students. Provide samples of excellent, average, and/or poor performance.

Recommended Blackboard Tools

  • State Learning Objective at Beginning of Week or Activity in Content Areas
  • Group Work
  • Provide Examples of Student Work for Assignments
  • Wikis
  • Adaptive Release
  • Use Praise and Model in Discussion Boards to increase Participation
  • Provide Gradebook Feedback
  • Provide Discussion Board Feedback

7 – Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Tips: Leverage different methods of learning through visuals and well-organized narrative.  Establish course tasks requiring analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, with application to real-life situations. Encourage self-reflection and self-evaluation. Assess student learning styles and tailor the educational experience. Facilitate student collaboration and group problem solving. Provide opportunity for empathy for students with different levels of technology literacy using universal design principles. 

Recommended Blackboard Tools

  • Embedding Videos and Digital media
  • Creating Animations
  • Group Work
  • Discussion Board
  • Offering Choice in Assignments/Assessments

Learn more about Blackboard at:

Reach out to the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team… we’re here to help!


Collaborate with Students LIVE – Anytime/Anywhere with Blackboard!

Uses for Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is a real-time video conferencing tool that lets you chat, add files, share applications, and use a virtual whiteboard to interact with students. Collaborate Ultra provides opportunities for:

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

Virtual Office Hours

 Use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra to have your office hours in any location!

 Guest Speakers

Bring in guest speakers from anywhere by sharing a guest link to the session. You can provide a guest link to anyone to allow them to access your Collaborate session.

Group Projects

collaborategroupUse Blackboard Collaborate Ultra to facilitate group work. With Collaborate you can create multiple sessions, one for each group, so each group can have a separate session to meet with other group members. This makes it easier for students to find time to meet for group work, and eliminates the issue of finding a common meeting spot. Students will be able to access these group session rooms whenever they need to, from anywhere. Inside the session group members can share audio, video, and chat.

Learn more about Collaborate Ultra at:

Help Students be Successful with these Gradebook Tips for @Blackboard

One of the most common requests by students at GVSU is for their faculty to use the gradebook so that they can more effectively track their performance and monitor their grades.

The Blackboard gradebook can be set to display LETTER GRADES as well as to inform students of their actual current final grade, even if you use WEIGHTED GRADES!

Here are a few tips for improving your gradebook in Blackboard:

Incorporating your own Grading Schema

Personalize your Grade Center in Blackboard by using Grading Schemas! A Grading Schema matches scores to specific grade displays. With Grading Schemas, you can incorporate your own grading scale into Grade Center and apply it to your students’ total grade. This will keep students updated about how they are doing in the course throughout the semester, in terms of your grading scale. Grading Schemas in Blackboard allows the instructor to edit the default Letter schema and to create their own grading schemas.

schemaEdit the Letter Grade Schema to reflect your own grading scale by following these simple steps!

  1. Go into your Full Grade Center and select Grading Schemas from Manage
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to Letter and select Edit
  3. From here you can edit the Schema to reflect your own Grading Schema


Total Column Displays

Incorporate letters grades into Grade Center by modifying the display of your Total Column! You can even add a second display, displaying your students’ letter grade. Students will then be able to see their total percentage, and what letter grade that corresponds to.

To change the display of your Total Column, follow these steps!

  1. letterGo into your Full Grade Center and find your Total column
  2. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of your Total column and select Edit Column Information
  3. totalScroll down to Primary Display and change the display to any of the options listed
  4. If wanted, you can also add a second display to the column (Note: This second display does not show to students. Students will only be able to see the primary display)
  5. Click Submit

To keep students updated on both their total points earned and Letter grade, a second Total column can be added to Grade Center. To do this you can create a new Total column, and set the primary display to Letter.

  1. mygradesGo into your Full Grade Center and select Total Column from Create Calculated Column.
  2. Name the column (Ex. Final Letter Grade)
  3. Set the primary display to Letter

Your students will now be able to view both Total columns!

Sorting your Full Grade Center

Students in Grade Center can be sorted alphabetically by first or last name, and by grade for each grade center column. This can enable you to sort students from lowest to highest grade to easily see who is behind in your course. To sort your students in Grade Center, follow these steps!

Sort students by name:

  1. Go into your Full Grade Centersortlastname
  2. To sort by Last name: click on Last Name at the top of the column
  3. Click again to sort in the opposite direction
  4. To sort by First name, click on First Name

Sort students by grade:

  1. sortcolumnGo into your Full Grade Center
  2. To sort by grade, click on the name of any column
  3. To sort in the opposite direction, click again

Note: This can be done for any column in Grade Center


Learn more about Blackboard’s Grade Center at:

Blackboard and The Chronicle of Higher Ed underscore the importance of Instructional Design

In a recent report by Blackboard and The Chronicle of Higher Education, the value and importance of instructional design is underscored.

This post highlights a few of the key areas in the report:

Higher education is experiencing an increased demand for instructional designers who have the knowledge and skill set to help faculty members adopt new technologies and strategies in their teaching. The shift is being pushed, in part, by the growth of online learning and developments in technology.

Overall, the use of Instructional Designers in increasing and there is a wide range of technology tools available to support learning.

“Of the faculty respondents who say they teach online courses, nearly all (96 percent) have worked with an instructional designer.”


Chart retrieved from:

The primary responsibility of instructional designers reported was: “Work with faculty to revise or adapt existing courses, lessons, activities, assessments, and learning resources.”


Chart retrieved from:

Instructional designers are more likely than faculty to have used a wide range of technological tools—which is not surprising, as the instructional designers likely designed many more courses or components of courses than the faculty members who work with them.”

The top 5 most common technological tools used in courses include: 1) discussion forums, 2) slide presentation software, 3) audio elements, 4) recorded lectures, 5) video elements.


Chart retrieved from:

Unfortunately, only 23% of survey respondents indicated that: “Faculty on my campus use technology in ways that improve student learning”.  Here in eLearning and Emerging Technologies, we are on mission to support faulty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning. The IDeL team is squarely focused on supporting faculty in using technology that improves student learning.


Chart retrieved from:

“Instructional designers have the potential to help faculty members use new research-based methods of learning in their courses and to figure out how to best incorporate new technologies that are changing the ways society learns, interacts, communicates, and does business.”

Reach out to eLearning and Emerging Technologies and our Instructional Design for eLearning team… we’re here to help!

Online and hybrid learning grows 17% at GVSU

Grand Valley State University provides flexible learning options to meet students’ needs through online and hybrid courses.

Students at GVSU take a blend of face to face and online/hybrid classes with some students residing in other states and even overseas. Learning online is growing nationally as well, with over 5.8 million students taking at least 1 online course (which amounts to more than 1 in 4 students) according to the Babson Survey Research Group.

“The trend of increasing distance education enrollments in the face of declining overall higher ed enrollments suggests an important shift in the American higher education landscape, with contemporary learners leaning in to online options,” said Kathleen S. Ives, chief executive officer and executive director of the Online Learning Consortium. “The majority of academic leaders recognize this and understand online learning is critical to their institutions’ long-term strategy.”

Enrollment Grows by 17% (Fall 2017)

Online and hybrid enrollment expanded this year by 17% (from 2016) to include over 5,318 enrollments in online and hybrid classes at GVSU.

Enrollment in online and hybrid courses has grown by 78% since 2013.

In addition, 17% of all students at the university are enrolled in at least 1 online or hybrid class.

The online/hybrid courses were taught by 173 faculty in 177 unique courses, representing 12% of the classes at the university.

The growth in enrollment has continued over the past several years. As the following chart reveals, the university is providing increased options for students to access education through online and hybrid courses.


The 2021 GVSU Strategic Plan

As indicated in the Babson survey above, eLearning (online/hybrid) is critical to an institutions long-term strategy.  In fact, the 2016-2021 GVSU Strategic Plan includes a priority statement for expanding the number of courses offered in the online and hybrid format.

Strategic Priority 3: Ensure the alignment of institutional structures and functions.

Institutional outcome D: Grand Valley supports innovative teaching, learning, integrative scholarly and creative activity, and the use of new technologies.

Objective 3.D.2: At least 30% of undergraduate courses are offered in innovative approaches and formats, such as hybrid, online and competency-oriented. Baseline for undergraduate courses for Fall 2014 is 6%.

Objective 3.D.3: At least 30% of graduate courses are offered in innovative approaches and such as hybrid, online and competency-oriented. Baseline for graduate courses for Fall 2014 is 25%.

GVSU Values Connected to Online and Hybrid Courses

  • Inclusiveness/Access – Incorporating multiple voices and experiences by valuing identities, perspectives, and backgrounds.  Strengthening and expanding possibilities through technology to increase accessibility and remove barriers.Online and hybrid courses remove barriers and provide access to flexible educational opportunities for those students that are unable to attend class in traditional formats and schedules.
  • Innovation – Encourage and appreciate innovative application of new ideas, technologies, and teaching and learning principles and methods.Online and hybrid courses offer innovative opportunities for unique pedagogical approaches to learning through the advancements of technology.

eLearning and Emerging Technologies Provides Faculty Support

With the growth in eLearning nationally and locally at the university, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team is here to provide support to faculty at GVSU that are interested in creating and/or teaching an online or hybrid course.  Faculty learn how to prepare, design, and teach an online or hybrid course through a Foundations of Online/Hybrid Course Development workshop which is facilitated by 3 instructional designers in the IDeL group.

In addition, digital media and technology support is provided by a digital media developer, 2 eLearning and instructional technology specialists, and 2 system analysts that work with the university’s Blackboard learning management system.  Blackboard support for faculty is provided by the eLearning team including 2 graduate assistants through seminars, email, phone, and office consultations.  Online readiness for students, along with a variety of student services are also offered by the university, including the GVSU IT HelpDesk.


How can the GVSU eLearning team help YOU? Please contact us and let us know!