2020 Blackboard Exemplary Course Program – Now Accepting Submissions


We know you are awesome!

We know you have a high quality course!

ecp_winnerBlackboard is now accepting submissions through April 1, 2020 for the 2020 Blackboard Exemplary Course Program. The Exemplary Course Program gives awards for high quality courses! Professors Julia VanderMolen, Cheryl Kautz, and Szymon Machajewski from Grand Valley State University have received the award in the past!


VIEW the Blackboard Exemplary Course Video

Submit your course for an Exemplary Award before April 1, 2020

The Exemplary Course Program began in 2000 with the goal of identifying and disseminating best practices for designing high quality courses. The core of the program is the Exemplary Course Rubric, which defines key characteristics of high quality courses within the framework of Course Design, Interaction and Collaboration, Assessment, and Learner Support.

The Exemplary Course Rubric is offered under a Creative Commons license, and we encourage you to reuse and remix it as part of your own discussions on quality course design.




GVSU Accessibility Tool provides Students with Flexible Content Formats

Students at Grand Valley State University can now access course materials in a variety of ways – to best meet their needs!

With Blackboard Ally, content uploaded by faculty is automatically converted and optimized for:

  • Tagged PDF
    Structured PDF for improved use with assistive technology
  • HTML
    For viewing in the browser and on mobile devices
  • ePub
    For reading as an e-book on an iPad and other e-book readers
  • Electronic braille
    BRF version for consumption on electronic braille displays
  • Audio
    MP3 version for listening
  • BeeLine Reader
    Enhanced version for easier and faster on-screen reading

“Accessible content is better content for all students, supporting inclusive education at GVSU.”

Ally scans content and auto-magically converts it to different file types, and in addition, the tool can be used by faculty to help them determine the level of accessibility of the content uploaded into Blackboard.

Without Ally, students who required content to be converted into new formats had to put in a request with GVSU’s Disability Support Resource office. However, now with Ally, students have faster and easier access to alternative formats of their course materials.

“Students can download a course document into an audio version and they can listen to it during their commute to campus or while riding the Laker Line to downtown.”

GVSU and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team strives to provide student centered services such as Blackboard Ally to support teaching and learning.

Learn more about Blackboard Ally at GVSU

Learn more about Alternative File Formats in Blackboard Ally

Department of Classics receives $1,000 Accessibility Competition Student Scholarship Award

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, along with eLearning and Emerging Technologies in Information Technology at Grand Valley State University is proud to announce the winner of the Blackboard Ally – College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Accessibility Competition…

the Department of Classics!

The department of classics staff are pictured holding a large poster check with a total amount of $1,000. The memo of the check is labeled: $1,000 For Student Scholarship.

The Department of Classics was recognized on Tuesday, December 3 in a short ceremony in Lake Huron Hall.

Sherry Barricklow, eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialist in the eLearning and Emerging Technologies group in Information Technology presented the award and the a $1,000 student scholarship check. In attendance also from eLearning was Graduate Assistant, Brandon Thompson, Digital Media Developer Hunter Bridwell, and Associate Director Eric Kunnen.

The Department of Classics increased the accessibility of Blackboard class content by 7% during the competition, benefiting 500 students enrolled in their courses.

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team offers our congratulations on behalf of supporting inclusive education at GVSU!

About the CLAS – $1,000 Student Scholarship Competition

Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and eLearning and Emerging Technologies in Information Technology, CLAS units and faculty will use Blackboard Ally to compete to create the most accessible content in courses to support student success, inclusive education, and universal design for learning principles. 

The unit with the highest percent improvement will receive a one-time $1,000 student scholarship in their name.

Learn more on the competition website.

6 Tips for Teaching Online at GVSU in 2020

Are you an online/hybrid faculty member at GVSU? If so, we have some news for you!


As you look ahead to teaching your online and hybrid courses in 2020, we have prepared the following resources designed to help support you and your students.

6 Tips for Teaching Online and Hybrid Classes in 2020

  1. Consider joining an Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Community to explore best practices and learn from your peers! Learn more on the Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Community web page.

  2. 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 and gradebook colors can be set to trigger alerts for faculty based on student performance.

    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.

  3. Respondus Monitor and LockDown Browser academic integrity tools are available for online exam proctoring. Learn more on the Respondus web page or request access to LockDown Browser and Monitor.

  4. Register for Seminars offered by eLearning and Emerging Technologies on a variety of technologies that can be used in teaching an online/hybrid course. View a list of seminars and register in Sprout.

  5. Encourage students to complete the Online/Hybrid Orientation in Blackboard. All students enrolled in an online or hybrid class are automatically added into a CourseSite in Blackboard entitled: “Online/Hybrid Orientation”. A link to this site is available to students in the “My Courses” module after logging into Blackboard. Students that perform all of the required activities in the orientation are provided with a “Certificate of Completion”.
  6. Have a question or need assistance? Contact an Instructional Designer on the eLearning team:Glenna Decker – Instructional Designer
    4453 Kindschi Hall of Science (KHS) | 616-331-2598

    Matt Roberts – Instructional Designer
    4452 Kindschi Hall of Science (KHS) | 616-331-9085

    Kim Kenward – Instructional Designer
    268C Richard M. DeVos Center (DEV) | 616-331-2131

Best wishes for a wonderful and relaxing break and a successful start to your 2020 semester!

If we can be of further support as you teach your online and hybrid courses, please reach out to the following units at GVSU:

  • eLearning and Emerging Technologies, Online Education Council, University Libraries, the Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center, and the Office of the Provost.
Stay Updated with the Latest Info and News from eLearning


Blackboard by the numbers…

Here is an infographic with a few stats, highlighting the use of Blackboard at GVSU in the Fall 2019 semester:

bbstats-2019_41917149 (1).png

Data in Infographic:

  • Users Logged in past 90 Days
    • 1,394 Faculty, 20,902 Students
  • Assignments Created
    • 14,366
  • Most Simultaneous Logged in Users
    • 17,028
  • Course Sections Available
    • 3,510
  • Logins per Minute
    • 121
  • Content Items Created
    • 238,486
  • Most Email Sent per Hour
    • 18,541
  • Most Assessment Attempts per Hour
    • 2,106
    • 7,710 Quizzes / Tests Created
  • Discussion Forum Created
    • 9,194
  • Total Announcements Posted
    • 39,225
  • Gradebook Columns Created
    • 61,132

Blackboard Ally Tour arrives at GVSU to Raise Awareness of Inclusive Education through Accessibility

The Blackboard Ally Tour arrives at GVSU!

On Thursday, October 24 and Friday, October 25, John Scott, Product Manager on the Blackboard Inc. Ally team visited GVSU to share best practices around accessibility with faculty, staff, and students.

The goal of the visit was to provide the opportunity to engage in conversations around the importance of inclusive education through accessibility. John provided a workshop session to over 20+ attendees, covering the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), the features and capabilities of Blackboard Ally, as well as tips and techniques for improving the accessibility of files.

Missed out on this event? Watch the Universal Design for Learning Faculty Workshop Video!


Here are a few photos from the Ally Tour GVSU visit:

Jeff Sykes, Assistive Technology Coordinator, John Scott, Product Manager Blackboard Ally, Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies

Pictured left to right: Jeff Sykes, GVSU – Assistive Technology Coordinator, John Scott – Blackboard Ally Product Manager, Eric Kunnen – GVSU Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies

Learn more about this event on the eLearning “Blackboard Ally Tour comes to GVSU!” web page.

Building off the “Pathways to Inclusion” case studies (read GVSU’s “Data-driven Strategies for Inclusive Learning“), Blackboard facilitated an Ally 2019 Tour: On the Road to IncluCity event at GVSU to continue accessibility conversations across campuses around the world.

A key area of focus is to share best practices for implementing Universal Design for Learning principles and driving culture change around course accessibility.

“Supporting Diverse Needs through Inclusive Design and Learner Preference”

Accessible content authoring is not only essential for students who use assistive technologies, but it also results in more usable, flexible content that can adapt to diverse student needs and devices. During the workshop, we’ll discuss some of the key terms and research around inclusive learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and the different ways Ally’s alternative formats and instructor feedback help support those learning goals. Participants will then form teams and work on a series of accessibility and UDL challenges, focused around content authoring, content remediation, multimodal literacy, and curriculum design. At the conclusion of the workshop, each participant will leave with one strategy or idea to make their learning environment more inclusive for all their learners.

Product Manager, Blackboard Ally

John Scott is a Product Manager for Blackboard Ally. Prior to joining the Blackboard Ally team, John completed his PhD in Learning Sciences and New Media at the University of California Berkeley, where he designed, taught, and researched online learning courses focused on collaborative learning, multimodal literacy, and Universal Design for Learning. He spent 4 years as a literacy and arts teacher in New York City public schools, earning a Master’s Degree in Special Education, and specializing in technology-mediated literacy and learning. He has published and presented at professional research conferences on digital literacies, networked learning, and global education. He is passionate about working with instructors in adopting new technologies in the classroom through research-backed pedagogy and critical design.

Videoconferencing Connects Campus Community at GVSU

In a recent EdTech Magazine article entitled How Videoconferencing Platforms Help Connect Campus Communities, live audio and video communication tools are explored as key solutions for the campus community, increasing flexibility and convenience.

Real-time videoconferencing solutions are growing in their popularity and use in higher education and in business to help bring students, staff, and faculty together.

At GVSU, we are seeing Collaborate used in a variety of ways, such as: professional development, live lectures and student group facilitation, online office hours, mock interviews, guest speakers, live campus meet ups and meetings, global events, and much more!

Here are a few excerpts: [Read Full Article on EdTech Magazine]

“Initially, these tools were pretty complex, and they presented a lot of challenges for teachers who wanted to try them,” says Eric Kunnen, associate director of e-learning and emerging technologies at Michigan’s Grand Valley State University. “But now I think those barriers are falling by the wayside. We’re seeing solutions that can be launched right from a browser, without extra plug-ins or the need for anything to be installed. Overall, they’re much more robust and significantly easier to use.”

At the same time, Kunnen adds, many universities view videoconferencing as a strategic investment.

“The current generation of students is coming to campus with video being part of their daily life,” he says. “If you’re not doing what you can to connect with them — to offer them that flexibility around how they want to be engaged, and to give them opportunities to learn remotely — I think you’re going to be missing the boat.”

"If they can reduce the need for travel and save people time simply by making videoconferencing an option, that’s something their community is going to appreciate.” Eric Kunnen Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, Grand Valley State University

Similarly, he says, instructors and experts increasingly expect institutions to leverage whatever technologies they can to accommodate hectic schedules.

“A lot of universities are geographically spread out, with campuses all over the place. If they can reduce the need for travel and save people time simply by making videoconferencing an option, that’s something their community is going to appreciate,” says Kunnen.

Finally, live tools are excellent at increasing student engagement and instructor presence. These are key in facilitating a quality online course as they encourage active learning and the Community of Inquiry Framework and the 7 Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.

About Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate™ is a simple, convenient, and reliable online collaborative learning solution. Collaborate delivers a level of engagement that makes learners feel like they’re together in the same room via collaboration and conference tools.

Collaborate provides opportunities for:

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

Learn more about using Blackboard Collaborate for live events and to support teaching and learning at GVSU.