eLearning Team celebrates receiving the 2018 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Professional Development

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies (eLearning) team is honored to receive the 2018 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Professional Development!

GVSU’s eLearning team was recognized by President T. Haas at the July 13th Board of Trustees Meeting.


Pictured Left to Right – GVSU President T. Haas with eLearning Team: Kim Kenward, Justin Melick, Glenna Decker, Sherry Barricklow, Colleen Cameron, Eric Kunnen, Hunter Bridwell, Katie Clark (Not pictured: Vince St. Germain and Matt Roberts) – Photo by Elizabeth Lienau


See Also:
GVSU earns National Award for Blackboard Innovation

Blackboard Announces Winners of 2018 Catalyst Awards

Grand Valley State University’s Catalyst Award Story

Every year,  institutions are recognized for their innovative uses of Blackboard through a series of Catalyst Awards. This year, 32 recipients were selected out of 75 submissions across 7 categories. The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team (Eric Kunnen, Katie Clark, Colleen Cameron, Vince St.Germain, Sherry Barricklow, Kim Kenward, Glenna Decker, Matthew Roberts, Justin Melick, and Hunter Bridwell) will be honored alongside other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners during BbWorld 2018, Blackboard’s annual user conference to be held July 16-19 in Orlando.

In short, GVSU’s eLearning team was recognized for their creative suite of innovative professional development support and resources at Grand Valley State University. 

“The eLearning team’s focus is centered on innovation in new pedagogies and the creative use of technologies at the intersection of teaching and learning. By leveraging Blackboard, the eLearning team provides high quality professional development through empowering faculty and students in the creation of the next generation of education.”

As higher education continues on the path of the digital transformation of teaching and learning, the eLearning team collaborates with faculty to apply technology to reflect innovations in pedagogy.  In fact, the eLearning team’s slogan is: “Supporting faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning.”

At the core of the faculty professional development provided by the eLearning team is a specific focus on student success through the GVSU 2021 Strategic Plan, with direct alignment in the areas of inclusive learning and innovative teaching. The eLearning team aligns to the university’s institutional outcome whereby GVSU supports innovative teaching, learning, integrative scholarly and creative activity, and the use of new technologies.

Further, the eLearning team provides the key institutional strategic support for GVSU 2021 Strategic Plan Objective 1.D.2 which states: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching.

As part of the Information Technology Department at Grand Valley State University (GVSU),  eLearning and Emerging Technologies is on mission and is dedicated to supporting faculty, contributing to teaching excellence, and enhancing student success through a unique synergy between the following professional development facets:

This combination of professional development and support resources provides great breadth and depth in the support of faculty and students at GVSU. The work of the eLearning team is further extended through institution-wide partnerships and collaboration, including: the Office of the Provost, Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, Disability Support Resources, and University Libraries.

In summary, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team is highly accomplished, providing a unique blend of innovative professional development programming at GVSU that contributes to teaching excellence and student success.

eLearning provides innovative training methods to create a rich and well organized set of resources for professional development and faculty support. These resources go above and beyond the common help desk support that is typically offered. The ultimate goal is to widely share best practices and innovative pedagogies to inform and to transform teaching at GVSU. The following list is an example of the wide array of support that is provided to faculty at the university:

  • Website Resources – The resources available on provide a rich and robust set of best practices and support resources for faculty. Included in these resources are instructional design theories and research that leads to effective practice such as: Applying the TPACK model to Blackboard, and Applying Blackboard to Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice.
  • eLearning and Emerging Technologies Blog – Highlighting timely events, noteworthy teaching practices, and shining a spotlight on resources is the focus of the eLearning blog.
  • Email and Social Media – Monthly campus wide eLearning Newsletters are leveraged to increase communication with faculty. Twitter and Facebook provide community wide sharing of eLearning trends and the latest updates from the eLearning team.
  • Print – The eLearning team leverages postcards, seminar handouts, and a variety of print materials to further communicate strategies to advance education through technology.
  • TECH BYTES Video – Recently added to the eLearning YouTube channel (and also uniquely available on Fire TV via an Amazon App), video is used to widely share best practices in leveraging Blackboard as well as a variety of instructional technologies to enhance teaching. In fact, eLearning offers 14 “TECH BYTES” videos as well as 10 videos that highlight good practice in teaching online or hybrid courses.
  • eLearning Open Office Hours – GVSU has a geographically spread out campus with the main campus about 20 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids. To provide presence to faculty and to support them where they are located, eLearning offers drop-in assistance at a variety of locations and times. Assistance is available for Blackboard, instructional design, digital media, online/hybrid course development, and instructional technology support.
  • 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.
  • Department Engagement – Through the eLearning team’s staff of instructional designers, digital media developers, and eLearning and instructional technology specialists, a variety of departments are provided with ongoing support. 
  • Faculty Learning Communities – With over 150 faculty enrolled in a Blackboard Organization Site, instructors teaching online or hybrid classes are provided with a wealth of resources, access to meeting minutes, and opportunities to learn about new pedagogies in distance education. The Blackboard Organization has become a growing repository of tips and best practices associated with online instruction and course development.  The Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities are offered in partnership with GVSU’s Faculty Teaching and Learning Center.
  • Academic Advising Blackboard Sites – Through automation, eLearning offers a series of advising organization sites in Blackboard. These efficiently connect faculty advisors and students while providing a home base for helpful resources and opportunities for increased communication for advisors.
  • Certificate of Completion –  With the aid of an opensource “Certificate of Completion” building block by Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, instructors at GVSU have the ability to create and distribute custom certificates that students can proudly post, print or display. This tool has allowed nursing faculty and staff to be more efficient and effective in providing students with achievement verifications.
  • ePortfolios for Faculty – GVSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) is the largest of the university’s colleges. The benefits of using Blackboard for ePortfolio work provides additional opportunities for faculty while encouraging greater adoption of the system for teaching.
  • Class Photo Roster – Based on a project request from faculty involved in the GVSU Faculty Teaching and Learning Center’s “Strong Start Initiative”, a class photo roster feature was implemented in Blackboard to enhance personal connections between faculty and students. The Strong Start Initiative 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. Blackboard’s Class Photo Roster at GVSU assists faculty in learning students’ names, which contributes to improving student success, along with being more approachable as a faculty member.  (Note: This photo roster tool is an opensource Blackboard Building Block by Szymon Machajewski, an affilate faculty member at GVSU.)
  • Special Events – eLearning at GVSU assists in a wide array of campus events including: New Faculty Orientation, establishing a new 2 day #EdTech Summer Teaching Institute, and facilitating the Teaching with Technology Symposium which has been offered for more than 16 years. This yearly event brings together faculty and staff to focus on enhancing teaching and learning through technology. 
  • Rich Faculty Digital Media Support  Sharing and creating content for faculty across the curriculum leads to student success and faculty effectiveness.  At GVSU, faculty do not have to spend time worrying about the technical details, as the Digital Studio comes along side professors to support digital media creation. Faculty focus on their content and the delivery, and the Digital Studio handles the rest. Here is a comprehensive list of a creative set of Digital Studio projects that eLearning has provided as a resource to faculty at GVSU.
  • Leveraging Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for Global Reach at GVSU – Blackboard Collaborate Ultra provides live web conferencing, virtual office hours, guest speakers and more at GVSU. The following examples highlight 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
    • Lunch and Learn Brown Bag Series LIVE from Palestine
    • United Nation’s Youth Virtual Conference LIVE from Africa and Europe
  • Emerging Technologies and the 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.
  • ‘hackGVSU’ hackGVSU was the first hackathon event to be hosted at Grand Valley State University in partnership with Blackboard Inc.

Culminating together, the achievements and support offered through eLearning at GVSU illustrate a rich and structured professional development program that:

  1. focuses on course quality
  2. shares best practices
  3. generates economies of scale
  4. coordinates resources
  5. evaluates to focus on continuous quality improvement

“Blackboard enables GVSU to transform education by empowering faculty to be more effective in their teaching – and students more efficient in their learning.”

Congratulations to the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team!

About Blackboard

Our mission is to partner with the global education community to enable learner and institutional success, leveraging innovative technologies and services. With an unmatched understanding of the world of the learner, the most comprehensive student-success solutions, and the greatest capacity for innovation, Blackboard is education’s partner in change.

About the Blackboard Catalyst Awards

For over a decade, the Blackboard Catalyst Awards have annually recognized and honored innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where millions of teachers and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology.

Blackboard is focused on highlighting client successes and raising awareness throughout the educational industry by celebrating client achievements and milestones. Our community centers on educators and administrators who are passionate about using technology in education and collaborating on best practices. The Blackboard Catalyst Awards are an opportunity to celebrate these accomplishments and help raise standard for the entire community.

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards include 8 categories this year:

  • Blackboard Catalyst Award for Leading Change
  • Blackboard Catalyst Award for Community Engagement
  • Blackboard Catalyst Award for Teaching & Learning
  • Blackboard Catalyst Award for Inclusive Education
  • Blackboard Catalyst Award for Optimizing Student Experience
  • Blackboard Catalyst Award for Training & Professional Development
  • Blackboard Catalyst Award for Student Success

For more information on the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, please visit the client awards website.


Faculty Panel highlights best practices in Teaching Online and Hybrid Classes @GVSU

IMG_8634Moderated by instructional designer, Kim Kenward, a panel of online and hybrid faculty talk about best practices in teaching at GVSU. Panelists (pictured from left to right) include: Jeffrey Rothstein, Lissa Brunan, Raymond Higbea, Maureen Wolverton, and Kerry Mohney.

Question 1:   What are three things you wish you had known before you began teaching online or in hybrid format? What do you wish you could change about your online or hybrid teaching, and why?

  • Jeffrey Rothstein – Seek out support from eLearning! 20% of students seem to enroll online because they think it may be easier? Many drop and many simply stop doing anything. Now he includes a video with course expectations in first week. Students can be ‘scared’ at their faculty. If the students don’t know you, haven’t heard you joking around, or don’t really ‘see’ you, they may take your assignment feedback incorrectly or not fully engage in the course. One strategy is to include more personal video content to connect with your students. You need to humanize your course! Students can carry on discussions that are complex by themselves. Teaching online has transformed my teaching and I would lean more toward flipped classroom experiences in my face to face classes.
  • Kerry Mohney – Be a little cautious about too many resources to include in your course. While it’s easy to link students to resources don’t “muck up your course” and keep it clear and easy to navigate.
  • Raymond Higbea – Don’t me too enamored by the tool, but focus on the “end” and begin with the end in mind. What are the students going to need to learn.
  • Lissa Brunan – The eLearning team is here and is amazing, they have great events too that you can attend to learn from other colleagues. Attend them! Expand your resources.
  • Maureen Wolverton – Building your support network is helpful. Reach out to those that can help you. I believe being an online instructor is a better approach vs dipping in as a hybrid. Also, it’s important to prepare and build as much course as possible at the beginning.

Question 2:  Best practice indicates that the instructor’s presence and participation create a more lively class — one that greatly increases student engagement and completion of the course. What are some techniques, tools and/or advice you can share with our audience on how you create instructor presence in your hybrid/online courses.

  • Lissa Brunan – Humanize your course to start with, such as “Flipgrid“. This makes it really easy and you can also model your video responses. I know my students more through these videos, it puts a “face” on the students because of the heavy nature of text. I really like Remind, a text based system to announce to students what is coming up this week. Remind was a good way to “remind” students and keep them notified. A much quicker way to share information and allow student to connect with the instructor.
  • Jeffrey Rothstein – I’m starting to use Monday morning videos to review last week and introduce the upcoming week. Rubrics are also helpful and attaching audio files into my grading has increase my instructor presence. I am also cutting down the email and setting up Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for 1 to 1 virtual office hours.
  • Kerry Mohney – Collaborate was also helpful for midterm reviews. For classes that use textbook content in their course, it is valuable for students to know where to look for feedback. External content resources can create confusion for where the feedback is available.
  • Maureen Wolverton – Important for students to receive meaningful feedback. Clear, timely, and positive feedback goes a long way. I also share student handouts as reminders for where to find feedback.

Question 3:  Building community among students is equally important to the success of a hybrid/online course.  What suggestions do you have for building community with your online students?

  • Raymond Higbea – Team-based learning helps students build a community of learning as each student has a role to play. They receive participation score. An online quiz is used for the facts and discussion is used for exploring topics which allows the students to connect with each other. Some groups in fact, created a team name and bought matching t-shirts! I usually create random groups, but I do try to mix up the genders and also a mix of student experience/expertise.
  • Lissa Brunan – Start with a social contract. What are the expectations of behaviors. Mentimeter is used to create a list of 10 key words collectively. A poster is made and the students “signed” it to set the stage of what is expected. Google docs is used for ease of collaborating and having discussions on documents and spreadsheets. Students are expected to comment on each other’s posts. Google Sites is also used to easily build a website and they can keep this after the class. Groups can create a site together.
  • Kerry Mohney – Students in my program are cohort based and because of this the students have a “family” for 2 years!
  • Maureen Wolverton – Students have concerns about schedules, so when forming groups I pay attention to who is submitting their assignments first and group these students together as they tend to have similar work schedules.

Question 4:  Workload and time management issues are extremely important factors for both the instructor and the student.  What suggestions and tips can you share in regards to workload and time management while developing and teaching an online/hybrid course?

  • Maureen Wolverton – Communicating on the front end is important and also setting healthy boundaries for you and the students. Let students know your availability and be responsive to students as they may have a question that stops them in their tracks before they can complete an assignment. Have your students complete the online readiness quiz and have them share their results with you. Ask the students how they are using time management to overcome challenges with learning online. Mid-semester checkins too are helpful.
  • Raymond Higbea – Share an estimated time for completing assignments, this helps students manage their workload. Quizzes are used for readings, pre-class, so that material is mastered before content discussion.
  • Lissa Brunan – Communication can be like a “husband and wife” 🙂 so using Flipgrid, existing students created tips for other incoming students. This helps for “peers” to inform students of what the expectations are, it’s not just the instructor telling you to do it. Students have found a lot of benefit by listening to suggestions from other students.
  • Kerry Mohney – It is helpful for students to know their instructor is there. Take the time during the day to respond to students.
  • Jeffrey Rothstein – One tip is to schedule the assignments and due dates so that students are online working when the professor is available. For example, I shifted due dates from Sunday to Friday, so that students would be working during the week and not so much on the weekend, because I am not available as much on weekends. Be responsive to your email and answer students questions as promptly as you can. If your assignments are due on the weekend, that’s when they will need help. Vocaroo is a helpful tool that can give voice feedback and also with Panopto you can pull up visuals for feedback for students. Panopto can give you information about who is watching and how long they are viewing the video. I have emailed students too if I noticed they were not watching the video. Prep time for online courses takes more initial work (compared to traditional courses) but what is beneficial as it allows me to spend more time with responding to students.
  • Maureen Wolverton – Be as crystal clear as possible with course notifications, when thing are due, and assignment instructions!

Question 5:  What are some common technical issues or concerns your online/hybrid students have struggled with?  How do you handle those technical issues?

  • Kerry Mohney – It is important for students to know how to get technical help. Suggest to students what browsers are used, especially if there is external content from textbook publishers. Check over your gradebook to be sure your grading columns are correct and the total is correct or students will have a lot of questions. Make sure students know where to find their assignment feedback. Medical imaging can take up a lot of space, so you may need to adjust file sizes as needed. Another tip, maybe not technical, is to ensure your navigation is clear for students. Be sure to check your links to resources also.
  • Raymond Higbea – Clearing browser cache can help resolve a large number of problems. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra worked well with students overseas but a student from India had a problem connecting, as it depends on the students’ connection. A strong signal and a good microphone are key.
  • Maureen Wolverton – Suggest to have students learn about where to get help and make sure the students are using the “correct” browsers.
  • Lissa Brunan – Instructions are key. Suggest to use video when possible instead of typing everything out for instructions instead. It helps speed them along and helps them to visualization. Recommend with videos, don’t put dates in there or other things that may change… so you can reuse it!!! For students that turn it an assignments early, I will check on the assignment and allow them to resubmit it. For students to know you are on their side is super helpful in helping to contribute to student success.

Question 6:  What questions does the audience have for our panelists?

  • On student lectures, do you record them live? Panel responds with pre-recorded. Most “lecture” videos are not longer than 12 minutes and there are other resources that go into direct instruction. A good strategy is to: read, watch, and discuss to synthesize ideas. Good discussion board prompts are important for building a good conversations and to build community.
  • Suggestion for office hours. These are super important for students. These are when great communications can occur. Consider making it an obligation for students to meet online. Use Blackboard Collaborate Utlra for joining with students online. Strategically use virtual office hours, and remind students, as an option for those times when students are busy working on projects or there is an expectation of need.
  • Feedback? How can this be done with electronic assignments? Vocaroo and Panopto provide audio and video feedback, it helps with building instructor presence also. “Feedback banks” are helpful too for providing common feedback for students and then personalize it. Rubrics are also important so that students know what is expected on the assignments.


eLearning attends MiBUG – Michigan @Blackboard Users Spring Conference


Photo by Jason Kane, Instructional Designer, Schoolcraft College

On Friday, May 18, Vince St. Germain, Hunter Bridwell, and Sherry Barricklow attended the 2018 Michigan Blackboard Users Group Spring Conference (MiBUG) which was held on the campus of Central Michigan University.

This event brought together 90+ faculty and staff from 18 institutions – all focused on learning and collaborating to improve education with @Blackboard. In addition to the keynote, 10 sessions were offered on a variety of topics including: online science labs, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra features and tips, and building a success course development model with Quality Matters. For a complete list session descriptions check out the MiBUG Keynote and Breakout Session Descriptions.

Keynote Presentation

Widening Perspective, Shifting Focus: Adapting to Generation Next

Chad Kainz; Principal Strategist, Strategy and Transformation Services at Blackboard, Inc.

Eighteen years into the 21st century and we now accept that today’s students are different. Like their consumer and social interactions, students expect their educational experiences to be personal, streamlined, and on-demand. To a learner of today, the once sharp divide between face-to-face and virtual learning seems arcane in a world of consumer-defined seamless digital and physical interaction. And with careers being measured in sprints rather than lifetimes, the demand for lifelong learning is crafting new hybrid educational generations (and expectations) out of the old. In short, the 18-24-year-old “traditional” one-and-done learner of the last century is a fond memory.

Arguably, a college or university’s digital learning environment and its surrounding technology ecosystem establishes a student’s field-of-view regarding their experience, and enables (or inhibits) access and engagement. In his keynote, Chad will explore Blackboard’s research into the attitudes and expectations of five generations of learners, share his perspective on rethinking the student experience, and provide ideas for incorporating Generation Next thinking to create a more responsive campus digital learning environment.

[Keynote Slides]

Vince St. Germain captured the following notes from the keynote session:

Student expectations shift and change with each generation

Today, students favor experiences that are personal, streamlined and on-demand

What do we know about today’s students/learners

  • 5 generations of learners
    • 21% Gen X
    • 69% Gen Y / Millenial
    • 10% Gen Z
  • Majority are working
  • Majority are renting
  • Majority are single
  • Seek opinions of others/public opinion

Decision making attributes:

  • Affordability
  • Program attributes
  • Location
  • Career placement

What do you need to succeed:

  • Advising and support
  • Financial aid
  • Distance learning

George Mason Student Experience Redesign Project


  • Know your students
  • Think holistically
  • Act on your capability

What does it mean to support today’s student? Shape a unique experience that’s built around your institution and serves every generation of learner.

Closing Blackboard Panel

At the closing of the event, a panel of Blackboard staff provided a Q&A session for attendees.


In addition, Tim Atkin, Chief Client Officer (Blackboard, Inc.) presented a session entitled: “Improved Client Experience:  Understanding, Commitment, Communication


About the Michigan Blackboard Users Group

mibuglogoThe Michigan Blackboard User Group (MiBUG) is a user group for educational institutions throughout the state to network and share teaching and learning best practices.

Learn more about miBUG on the Blackboard Community site.

‘Spring Fling Seminars’ Encourage Innovative Ideas for Teaching

Join us for FREE learning and FREE lunch this May!
The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team has prepared 26 sessions focused on innovative technologies that can be leveraged in teaching to support student success and retention.



Join us and your colleagues to reimagine education through the application of #edtech in teaching and learning!

Spring Fling Seminar Calendar

Supporting Student Success and Retention via eLearning at GVSU

commencement_fall2017-1943Student success is a strategic area of focus at GVSU. With the rising costs of higher education, and the value of employability after graduation, student retention plays a key role in our vision and mission. eLearning and Emerging Technologies supports student success through a variety of technologies and faculty support.

Blackboard Supports Student Retention

For faculty there are many opportunities to leverage Blackboard to help support student success. Here are some capabilities:

  • Gradebook and Assignment Tools – Provides faculty with the ability to post grades and timely assessment/assignment/journal feedback. Interactive rubrics provide students with assignment grading criteria.
  • Student Photo Roster – Faculty can more effectively and efficiently learn students’ names and personalize instruction.
  • Retention Center and Performance Dashboard – Enables faculty to monitor frequency of logins of students, participation in discussions, and grades. This includes last login/date access to the course.
  • Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – Real-time and live office hours for students unable to attend class or office hours. Helps build rapport and increases communication and instructor-student engagement.
  • Surveys – Used by faculty to gather information about the students’ experience in the course such as a mid-term “how is this course going” survey.
  • Announcements, Emails, and Discussion Board – Used to create an online learning community and open up communication.
  • Content – Benefits to students to provide easy access to course materials, even potentially before the class begins. Provides access to link students to open educational resources (OER) and no-cost or low cost resources.
  • Panopto – Ability to record and post lectures or instructional content and easily embed digital media into Blackboard.
  • Blackboard Ally – Helps faculty ensure accessibility of course materials while also supporting universal design for learning (UDL).

eLearning and Emerging Technologies Supports Student Retention

  • Consultations, Seminars and Drop-Ins – The eLearning team provides opportunities to work with faculty to build up their skills in best using technology effectively and efficiently. Including pedagogical support for flipped classroom design and other instructional models.
  • Foundations of Online/Hybrid Course Development – Providing support and training to faculty about how to best design and deliver an online/hybrid course.
  • FTLC Faculty Learning Communities – eLearning instructional designers help facilitate 3 faculty learning communities on topics such as student engagement, quality online courses, and more.
  • Blackboard Support –  Support is offered to faculty in collaboration with the IT HelpDesk.
  • Embedded Librarians – All liaison librarians have been certified through the Foundations course and they have been enrolled in over 200 Blackboard courses providing direct student support.
  • Digital Studio – Providing faculty with engaging multimedia and digital resources such as the Lightboard, and tools such as Panopto.
  • Technology Showcase – Enables faculty to evaluate emerging technologies that can be leveraged to transform teaching and learning.
  • GA’s – Graduate Assistants work to support faculty and students the team in responding to 1,800 faculty technical support needs related to Blackboard and other technologies.
  • Web Resources – eLearning offers a series of support pages to provide information to faculty regarding how best to leverage educational technologies.
  • Student Support – In addition to the IT HelpDesk, our GA’s and eLearning team provides tech support to students.  This includes some class visitations and student orientations.

New Initiatives Supporting Student Retention

  • OER – Open Education Resources Initiative is working to provide options for student textbook affordability.  OpenStax has been adopted by CHM115 and 116 saving nearly $150,000 for students in textbook fees.
  • Attendance and Learning Analytics – Research and evaluation of a new products and solutions such as Qwickly Attendance and Blackboard called Predict which provides student dashboards and predictors of success that can be used by advisors and faculty.
  • Accessibility and UDL – eLearning is implementing a new product from Blackboard called Ally which provides a dashboard view of the number of accessible courses and realtime auto-conversion of documents into accessible formats. In addition, Panopto is being implemented to support enterprise video. This solution enables faculty to auto-caption and edit their captions for digital video resources used in their classes.

Benchmarking & Research Supporting Student Retention

  • ECAR Study – GVSU participated in the 2015 Educause Center for Analysis and Research Student and Faculty Technology Survey.  These results have been shared and have been used in strategic planning and for seminar planning.
  • Blackboard Survey – Working with Susan Mendoza and John Grabrosek, eLearning worked with students from STA 319 in the development, deployment, and evaluation of results from a student and faculty survey around how we can improve and enhance the Blackboard environment.

Learn more and connect with the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at Grand Valley State University

First ever hackGVSU ‘Hackathon’ brings innovative ideas to enhance Blackboard at GVSU

hackgvsubannerOn Saturday, April 14, 40+ students, faculty, and staff gathered together at GVSU’s first ever ‘hackathon’ event. hackGVSU was sponsored by Blackboard Inc. and supported by Matt Roberts, Eric Kunnen, Katie Clark, Colleen Cameron, and Hunter Bridwell from the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team along with Szymon Machajewski, CIS Affiliate Professor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems.

The ultimate goal of the hackGVSU event was to rethink education with the creation and coding of new ideas to enhance student success

This day long event provided attendees with hands-on learning, coding, and creation… all centered on the development of innovative technology to enhance teaching.

The focus for this year’s event was Blackboard’s learning management system and the ideas submitted for the hackathon provided opportunities for REST API integration as well as HTML coding for enhancing the Blackboard portal.

Participants attended training sessions lead by Szymon Machajewski and Scott Hurrey,  Blackboard Code Poet and Senior Technical Writer responsible for the Developer Community.


Matt Roberts, Instructional Designer, GVSU opening the first ever hackGVSU hackathon event.


Szymon Machajewski, Affiliate Professor, GVSU talking about custom HTML modules in the Blackboard portal.


Scott Hurrey, Blackboard Inc., providing training and information for hackGVSU participants about REST APIs.

Photo Gallery [View More Photos on GVSU’s eLearning and Emerging Technologies Facebook Page]

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes were awarded for HTML and REST API categories and 14 teams worked together to create unique and innovative apps that integrate with the Blackboard learning management system. All entries for hackGVSU are available on Devpost. Projects were scored according to the following rubric:


Judges for the competition were:

  • Scott Hurrey, Blackboard Inc,
  • Matt Roberts, Instructional Designer, IDeL, eLearning and Emerging Technologies
  • Katie Clark, Systems Analyst, eLearning and Emerging Technologies
  • Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies

Congratulations to the winners of hackGVSU 2018!!!

HTML Category:

API Category:

Additional articles and information about hackGVSU:

GVSU’s eLearning and Emerging Technologies team would like to thank our event sponsor, Blackboard Inc. for their support for hackGVSU!




Laker Bot says: “Thank you for attending hackGVSU!”


GVSU selects Blackboard Ally to Support Inclusive Education

eLearning and Emerging Technologies at GVSU is pleased to announce the addition of a new enterprise accessibility software solution called Blackboard Ally to support the university’s work in providing inclusive education through accessibility. Ally will be available to all 1,800 faculty and 25,000 students at GVSU beginning at the start of the summer semester.

allyBlackboard Ally is an innovative and revolutionary solution that focuses on making digital course content more accessible. It enables faculty to effectively and efficiently deliver course content to students that adheres to Universal Design Principles as well as being more accessible.

Through integration with GVSU’s Blackboard learning management system, Ally automatically scans course content that has been uploaded by faculty. A report is provided to faculty as well as guidance to resolve common accessibility issues. In addition, Ally automatically creates alternative files types for students, including: Enhanced Version, HTML Version, Audio Version, Electronic Braille, and ePub.

“GVSU is committed inclusive education, and I am focused on ensuring my courses are accessible” said Cheryl Kautz, Affiliate Instructor in the School of Computing and Information Systems and 1st Place Award Winner of the Most Inclusive Classrooms in the United States, “Blackboard Ally will help me ensure that my courses are as accessible as possible for my students, save me time, and most importantly help faculty at GVSU to focus on improving student success.”

Ally Benefits

  • Increases capacity to support faculty in building accessible content and correcting files already in their Blackboard courses.
  • Assists in the creation of high quality levels of accessibility through content in Blackboard through the real-time conversion of files (Enhanced Version, HTML Version, Audio Version, Electronic Braille, and ePub) uploaded into Blackboard without any faculty intervention or extra work.
  • Provides additional ADA Section 508 due diligence and good faith effort of evaluating content that has been uploaded by faculty into Blackboard.
  • Supports requests for an institutional dashboard view for the level of accessibility of all courses in Blackboard at GVSU.
  • Responds to student needs for accessible versions of content without the extra overhead of development time for our existing staff or faculty.
  • Builds capacity to respond to increased federal and legal requirements for accessibility at GVSU.

Grand Valley State University selected Blackboard Ally after evaluating the capabilities and reviewing the benefits to students and to faculty. In short, Ally increases accessibility of course content while saving faculty time, allowing more focus on connecting and communicating with students, rather than managing technology.

GVSU Strategic Connection

Blackboard Ally supports GVSU’s 2021 Strategic Plan in the following areas:

Strategic Priority Area 1: Actively engage learners at all levels.

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.

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

Objective 3.B.1: All systems and policies ensure inclusiveness and accessibility.

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.

Learn more about Blackboard Ally at Blackboard Inc. and access more information about Ally at GVSU’s eLearning and Emerging Technologies Blackboard Ally for Faculty support page.