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

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) has recently revealed the “Key Issues for 2018” [Infographic]. ELI has been conducting a survey since 2011 to discover and identify common trends and KEY ISSUES in highered.


In this post, the ELI KEY issues are presented, along with the role of eLearning and Emerging Technologies as it relates to supporting and responding to each issue.

  1. Academic Transformation and Faculty Development

    The eLearning team at GVSU is focused on both of these as we strive to:

    “Support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning…”

    Instructional technology and new pedagogies are the eLearning team’s focus as we provide creative professional development and a enterprise campus technology resources in an effort to create the next generation of teaching and learning. In fact, eLearning aligns with the GVSU 2021 Strategic Plan in the following areas that support academic transformation and innovative faculty development:

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

    Objective 1.D.2: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching. Baseline: 89% of faculty indicated either daily or weekly use of Blackboard in their teaching according to a GVSU faculty survey conducted winter 2016.

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

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

    Objective 4.D.1: Effective technologies are integrated into every function and structure across the institution.

    For many institutions, training sessions and seminars are often provided to faculty as part of a professional development program. To successfully engage faculty at GVSU, the eLearning team offers a wide array of sessions that focus on best practices in the application of technologies to solve instructional problems. Throughout the 2017 academic year, over 80 training seminars covering a large scope of instructional technology topics were offered to faculty. These seminars are centered on the effective pedagogical integration of technology in teaching.

  2. Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

    Accessibility and UDL continue to be important key issues and the eLearning team supports these initiatives through professional development and shared resources along with collaborative services with the Disability Support Resources department.

    eLearning Web Resource – Universal Design for Learning
    eLearning Web Resource – Accessibility Tips for Online Course Content

  3. Online/Blended Learning and Instructional Design

    Distance education continues to grow at GVSU with a +25% increase in enrollment in online/hybrid classes since 2017.  With nearly 5,000 student enrollments in the Winter 2018 semester, just over 17% of all students are taking at least 1 online or hybrid course.  To support distance education initiatives, eLearning has trained over 250 faculty to teach online/hybrid classes in just 1 year through the Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development and Delivery course.

    As one of the most desired professional development opportunities, the “Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development and Delivery” workshop  is a required training for all faculty that teach an online or a hybrid class at GVSU. As part of this professional development, Blackboard competencies are also required. Faculty must demonstrate basic competency in using the essentials of Blackboard, whereas the Foundations training focuses on best practices in online/hybrid pedagogies.

    All in all, the required Foundations training has led faculty to develop and teach high quality courses at the university. This professional development experience has been created and is delivered entirely through Blackboard, showcasing and modeling best practices, as well as a variety of technology tools that are available to faculty to use in their own teaching. Applications that integrate with Blackboard, include technologies such as: Ensemble, Echo360, Panopto, TechSmith Relay, and a variety of other web services (Padlet, Flipgrid, Vocaroo, etc.).  

    Finally, in order to successfully complete the Foundations training, faculty must create a week of instruction using Blackboard. The week of instruction is peer reviewed using a quality rubric that is based on the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program and Quality Matters.

  4. Privacy and Security

    The key issue in privacy and security is in maintaining the integrity of our enterprise systems while ensuring student privacy. This is also essential when 3rd party technologies are used as part of a course. The eLearning team has created a few tips for instructors who are using external web services and social media with their students and in their courses.

    eLearning Web Resource – Social Media and Third Party Tools in Teaching

  5. Digital and Information Literacies 

    As a liberal arts educational institution, GVSU’s mission is as follows: “Grand Valley State University educates students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies. The university contributes to the enrichment of society through excellent teaching, active scholarship, and public service.”

    Part of this work is the role of critical thinking as it relates to the use of everything digital. The eLearning team supports the equipping of students and the campus community in supporting a variety of enterprise applications as well as the advancement of digital literacies through support and infrastructure. Inclusive education and the support for digital media is most notable in the work of the eLearning Digital Studio. The studio maintains a project list that provides great breadth and depth of leveraging to technology that contributes to dialogue around 21st century literacy skills for students. Further, the eLearning team is hoping to host “design thinking-based”conversations around establishing more support for student-based digital media creation at GVSU.

  6. Open Education

    GVSU has been involved in the open education resources (OER) movement for many years, and most recently has seen a growth in the adoption and use of #OER in teaching and learning. For example, there have been several adoptions of OpenStax textbooks in Chemistry and Mathematics and a new interdisciplinary team lead by the university’s library is helping to coordinate resources and raise awareness.

    In fact, GVSU has been participating with the K-12 community through the #GOOPEN initiative as part of the US Department of Education’s goal to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials to transform teaching and learning. GVSU joined the #GOOPEN initiative in January last year.

    Further, there has been activity across the state for several years, and one recent example is the #MIOERSummit, which brought together faculty across the state with the goal of improving student success through the use and adoption of OER.

    eLearning Resource – Open Educational Resources (OER)

  7. Integrated Planning and Advising

    GVSU IT supports a variety of student information system initiatives across the university. The eLearning team supports retention and student success through the use of Blackboard through automation to make faculty advisors more effective and efficient in communicating with students through the Blackboard Organization Advisor sites.

  8. Learning Analytics

    The opportunities are abound with big data and small data. BIG data, meaning the large scale and mass amounts of data that can inform strategic decisions. Also, SMALL data in the use of course level information about students and their levels of engagement in their courses. Solutions that include early alert, intervention, and the closing of the loop between students > faculty > advisors are becoming powerful tools in the support of student retention.

    Most notable here is “Clicks, Grades, Engagement, and Student Success” whereby, Blackboard has provided research in how successful students are using LMS tools.

    “The most successful students are those who access MyGrades most frequently; students doing poorly do not access their grades. Students who never access their grades are more likely to fail than students who access them at least once.”

    This impacts our campus with opportunities through applications such as Blackboard Predict which provides capabilities to inform campus advisors with students at-risk, and also at the individual instructor level through tools like the Blackboard Retention Center.

  9. Learning Space Design

    As the campus continues to create classroom and in-between spaces for students to informally gather and learn, active learning becomes more important and so too the purposeful design of facilities.

    Active learning classrooms provide a unique faculty and student experience as the spaces include flexible and movable furniture and technology to support: 1) a student-centered design, 2) enhanced collaboration, 3) increased faculty/student engagement, and 4) improved interaction through dynamic group work and classroom communication.

    IT Resource – Technology Enhanced and Active Learning Classrooms

  10. Emerging Technologies – Technology Showcase

    As part of the eLearning team’s work, the latest emerging technologies are a focus of the Atomic Object Technology Showcase. The mission of the showcase is to provide faculty, staff, and students with an immersive and engaging environment to: interact, discover, learn, and share how innovative emerging technologies can enhance teaching and improve student learning at GVSU. With over 40 emerging technology exhibits that include virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D printing, the showcase is an outstanding and very unique example of education, technology, and innovation.

    While being a spotlight for campus tours, visitors, and also a destination for a variety of classes at GVSU, the showcase also engages with partnerships across the campus. For example, in a unique partnership with the GVSU Art Gallery, the showcase provided an innovative virtual reality experience at the opening reception which was held on January 15, 2018. To celebrate the grand opening of “Ebb & Flow: Explorations in Painting” with art by artist Herbert Murrie, participants were able to create their own painting in a 3D virtual reality experience using Tilt Brush by Google.

    A GVSU campus wide beacon of emerging #edtech, the Technology Showcase has had over 53,000 visitors since 2015, hosting a variety of colleges and university visitors, including most notably the President of the country of Palau who brought with him the United States Secret Service!

    eLearning Resource – Technology Showcase as Engaging Space with Emerging Technologies

  11. Competency-based Education/New Methods of Assessment

    New Methods of Assessment – Open Badges
    eLearning facilitated the implementation of open badges for faculty professional development.  In fact, the first badge awarded at GVSU was eLearning’s “#EdTech Summer Teaching Institute” badge. Further, 7 badges are currently offered by eLearning, including 4 Blackboard badges, a digital media badge, an #EdTech Summer Teaching Institute badge, and a badge for the successful completion of Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development and Delivery.

What about you? What are some other key issues or trends that resonate and that bubble up in importance on our campuses?


eLearning at the Occupational Science and Therapy Hybrid Faculty Retreat

The eLearning team at GVSU recently participated in an Occupational Science and Therapy (OST) Retreat that was held on Saturday, February 24 at the University Club, on the downtown DeVos Campus.

Glenna Decker, Matt Roberts, Kim Kenward, Sherry Barricklow, Hunter Bridwell, and Eric Kunnen provided learning experiences for hybrid faculty teaching in OST.

Topics that were shared included:

  • Introductio, to the Community of Inquiry Framework
  • ‘Bored-Free’ Discussions and Strategies beyond the Discussion Board
  • Good Practices in Facilitating Group Work Online
  • Virtual Advising, Office Hours, Guest Speakers, Interviews, Meetings etc. with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
  • eLearning and Emerging Technologies #EdTech Resources and Support
  • Emerging Technologies in the Atomic Object Technology Showcase
  • Quality Benchmarks and Student Orientation / Readiness
  • Creating Quality Online Courses with:
    • Online/Hybrid Peer Review Rubric
    • Blackboard Exemplary Course Award Rubric
  • Using Blackboard/Word/PowerPoint to Create Accessible Materials

Materials were provided to faculty through a Blackboard organization site:


Blackboard Collaborate Ultra provides Global Collaboration at GVSU

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra provides live web conferencing, virtual office hours, guest speakers and more at GVSU. This post highlights a few of the unique ways that the university is leveraging the use of live videoconferencing applications that are integrated into Blackboard.

Physical Therapy LIVE from Iraq

In a recent Physical Therapy class at Grand Valley State University, Collaborate Ultra was used to connect current students with a graduate of GVSU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program who now lives and works in Kurdistan, Iraq as a trainer and clinical instructor for physiotherapists and other rehab professionals in developing countries. Over the course of two class sessions students were able to speak and interact with a D.P.T specialist on a variety of topics including global health, modern pain science and trauma-focused physical therapy. This was an extraordinary opportunity that would not have been possible without the use of Collaborate Ultra.

PT Screen Shot

Physical Therapy LIVE from Kurdistan, Iraq

Lunch and Learn Brown Bag Series LIVE from Palestine

In another Collaborate Ultra event, GVSU’s School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration used Collaborate Ultra to showcase the research of alumni in their Nonprofit Management and Leadership master’s degree program during their Lunch & Learn Brown Bag series. One presenter from Palestine presented on the topic, “Does the Work of Disability NGOs Seeking Decent Work for Persons With Disability Impact Public Employment Policies in Palestine?” Local participants were given the ability to ask questions and fully interact with the presenter during the live Collaborate Ultra session.

United Nation’s Youth Virtual Conference LIVE from Africa and Europe

YVC Screen Shot

Youth Virtual Conference

One other event of interest is the annual Youth Virtual Conference that is held in conjunction with GVSU and the United Nation’s global network of Regional Centre’s of Expertise. Using Collaborate Ultra, RCEs from three different continents join together to present on, discuss and challenge one another on a variety of Sustainability issues. Since the first conference in in 2013, the event has extended to other regions including Africa and Europe.


Contact eLearning to learn more about Blackboard Collaborate Ultra at GVSU!


Submit YOUR Course and Participate in the @Blackboard Exemplary Course Program

Blackboard recently featured a quality course program in a post entitled: “The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program: What’s in it for You?

In short, the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program recognizes faculty and course designers from schools, colleges and universities around the world who develop exciting and innovative courses that represent the very best in technology and learning.

The award highlights technologically rich, engaging, well designed, and pedagogically sound courses that showcase best practices for the user community. Submissions are judged by peers and by experts on the following components through an Exemplary Course Program Rubric:

  • course design;
  • interaction and collaboration;
  • assessment; and
  • learner support

Faculty and instructional designers can:

  1. Submit their courses for self-review
  2. Submit their courses for peer-review
  3. Volunteer to review courses

The following video spotlight features the exemplary course program and includes a segment by GVSU Affiliate Instructor, Szymon Machajewski, from the School of Computing and Information Systems.


Last year, Grand Valley State University’s professors Szymon Machajewski and Cheryl Kautz, earned recognition from education technology company Blackboard Inc. as recipients of the “Exemplary Course Award” through the Blackboard Catalyst Award program. The winners were recognized during the BbWorld 2017 conference to be held July 25-27 in New Orleans.


Szymon Machajewski, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU received a 2017 Blackboard Exemplary Course Award for his CIS 150 – Introduction to Computing Course.  The award also recognized Brad Brege, CIS150 course coordinator, as a course collaborator and contributor.


Cheryl Kautz, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU received a 2017 Blackboard Exemplary Course Award for her CIS 238 – Internet Media and Programming Course.



About the Blackboard Exemplary Course Award – This award recognizes faculty and course designers who develop exciting and innovative courses that represent the very best in technology and learning.

Congratulations again to GVSU faculty Szymon Machajewski and Cheryl Kautz, along with all of the 2017 award winners:

  • Hawaii Pacific University: Dr. Han Nee Chong
  • Algonquin College, Ontario, Canada: Dr. Albert Dudley
  • Grand Valley State University, Michigan: Cheryl Kautz
  • Grand Valley State University, Michigan: Szymon Machajewski
  • Columbia Southern University, Alabama: Jacqueline Pica and Dr. Christine Whitaker
  • Ohio University: Kyle Rosenberger
  • Kent State University, Ohio: Dr. John Staley

Shape the Future of Education at hackGVSU!

Join us on Saturday, April 14 from 9am to 6pm!

Grand Valley State University is hosting its first-ever hackGVSU event. Inspired by other college hackathons (like hackPSU, we’re inviting students and staff from area high schools, colleges, and universities to come to Grand Valley and envision how technology can shape the future of education.

The focus for this year’s event is Blackboard’s learning management system. Participants can attend training sessions lead by Blackboard employees and then work together in teams to build projects that extend Blackboard’s capabilities.

We’re planning a full day of food, beverages, and prizes for the best projects. Individuals of all experience levels are welcome, from experienced coders to first time hackers. If you know of anyone that might be interested in attending, they can find details at:



Faculty at GVSU leverage Blackboard for Professional e-Portfolios

This post by Sherry Barricklow, eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialist, in eLearning and Emerging Technologies.

GVSU Faculty use Blackboard for their Professional Portfolio

Grand Valley State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is the largest of university’s colleges. This college supports more than 50 bachelor degrees (and a growing number of advanced degrees) in the natural and mathematical sciences, the fine arts and humanities, and the social sciences.

The CLAS Personnel Committee is now encouraging faculty seeking career advancement to use Blackboard for their supporting materials and for the unit materials. CLAS has been encouraging the use of this system over the last nine years.

Blackboard Organization Sites as ePortfolios

Each faculty going up for review is given a Blackboard organization with the following suggested categories and are asked to attach a PDF to each of the items:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Personal Statement
  • Faculty Activity Reports, Faculty Activity Plans, and Salary Recommendations
  • Teaching – Supporting Materials
    • Faculty are asked to attach a single pdf file, per course taught, with all teaching supporting documents combined within the pdf.
  • Scholarly/Creative Activity – Supporting Materials
  • Service – Supporting Materials
  • End of Semester Student Evaluations


The faculty have six months to construct their portfolios. At the end of the six months, instructor rights are taken away and the department’s tenure track faculty are given read access to evaluate the candidate.

The Department has a folder for each candidate to add review materials that consists of the following:

  • Unit Recommendation Report
  • Departmental Personnel Standards
  • Unit Vote
  • Unit Meeting Agenda
  • Unit Meeting Minutes
  • Additional Unit Materials (optional)

Benefits of Blackboard Portfolios

The benefits have been immense!

  • Blackboard allows the faculty to gather their course materials for review.
  • Reviewers no longer have to sit with boxes of materials to evaluate a colleague.
  • With the suggested organization, it is easy to find the candidates’ materials.
  • Faculty may keep their portfolio for the next round of reviews.

Once the departmental process has been concluded, the department’s members are removed and the Deans views committee is added. Finally, another benefit is that department personnel do not have to transport boxes and boxes of materials to the Deans office!


Blackboard Achievements, Badges, and quick-and-easy Certificates

Blackboard’s Achievements tool allows instructors and course designers to develop criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both badges and certificates.  In short, faculty can use achievements to create opportunities for students to earn recognition for their work, while students can see which badges and certificates they have earned and what is required to receive additional recognition. achievement_flow

While the built-in achievements capability is helpful, Blackboard Building Blocks provide colleges and universities with the ability to extend the functionality of the system. With the aid of an opensource “Certificate of Completion” building block by Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, instructors at GVSU now have the ability to create and distribute custom certificates that students can proudly post, print or display.

Colleen Cameron, a GVSU Blackboard Administrator, modified the opensource building block so that a blank template could easily be used to add content specific certification details, that when printed, included the students name and date of completion. These new custom certificates will allow students to better showcase the skills and knowledge they’ve achieved, while saving time for GVSU faculty and staff.


If you are interested in learning more about Blackboard Achievements tool and the “Certificate of Completion” capability, check out these instructions, or contact the eLearning team!

Blog post authored by: Vince St. Germain, eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialist