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.”


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


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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.


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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.


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“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!

GVSU @Blackboard Photo Roster Enhances Personalized Instruction

Based on a project request from faculty involved in the Pew FTLC Strong Start Initiative, a class photo roster feature has been implemented in Blackboard to enhance personal connections between faculty and students.

The Strong Start Initiative, led by Pew FTLC Faculty Fellow Tom Pentecost, focuses faculty attention on best practices for engaging students in first-year undergraduate courses and important aspects of the college experience vital to student success.

The Strong Start Initiative highlighted the importance of making it a priority to learn students’ names and calling them by name as a recommendation for improving student success, along with being more approachable as a faculty member.

Introducing the Blackboard Class Photo Roster…

Beginning in August 2016, each course site in Blackboard included a class photo roster (in the course tools area) that displays the official GVSU ID photographs of enrolled students.

This photo roster application was brought to GVSU through the collaboration of the author, Dr. Szymon Machajewski, Affiliate Instructor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU, and eLearning and Emerging Technologies system analysts Katie Clark and Colleen Cameron.  Katie Clark provided key areas of the implementation, including automation and card ID system integration.

Dr. Machajewski has written many open source Building Blocks, which are plugins for Blackboard Learn.  Some of these plugins include: LoginAs for help desk support, a My Blackboard Amazon Alexa Skill for the Amazon echo, and BbStats that is beneficial to monitor and to track analytics of course design and student activity. A number of universities have adopted the same photo roster tool, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago.  The BbStats module is the second most frequently downloaded software package in the open source Blackboard directory with almost 14,000 downloads.

“Learning student names in a classroom course is important to creating an inclusive learning environment.”

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. The average person is more interested in their own name than in all the other names in the world put together. People love their names so much that they will often donate large amounts of money just to have a building named after themselves. We can make people feel extremely valued and important by remembering their name.” Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People – Open Photo Roster for Blackboard Learn – Learning Student Names

How to Access the Blackboard Class Photo Roster at GVSU

For additional information, along with instructions for accessing the class photo roster, please visit the Photo Roster for Faculty and Photo Roster for Students websites. For additional policy questions, please contact the Registrar’s Office at or 616-331-3327. For support in using this new Blackboard feature, please visit the eLearning and Emerging Technologies website or contact

@GVSU Professors receive @Blackboard Catalyst Award

ECP_WinnerCongratulations to Grand Valley State University’s professors Szymon Machajewski and Cheryl Kautz! These GVSU professors recently earned recognition from education technology company Blackboard Inc. as recipients of the “Exemplary Course Award” through the Blackboard Catalyst Award program. The winners will be 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.



The eLearning and Emerging Technologies department offers our congratulations to Cheryl Kautz and Szymon Machajewski in their hard work to support student success through excellence in course design and teaching!

The Blackboard Catalyst Exemplary Course Award 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 were judged by peers and by experts on the following components:

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

About the Blackboard Catalyst Exemplary Course Award:


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 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

For more information about the 2017 award program, please visit the Blackboard Catalyst Award Community Site.

“Blackboard is proud to recognize this year’s Catalyst Award winners for their commitment to leveraging technology to improve the education experience,” said Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO and President of Blackboard. “We look forward to continuing to work with these educators and institutions to support learner success, and to share best practices widely for the benefit of the education community.”