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



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.



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: