eLearning team attends #miBUG19

d6oxynsxsaapryvOn Friday, May 10, several members of the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team attended the #miBUG Michigan Blackboard Users Group Conference to connect, learn, and share best practices in using Blackboard in teaching and learning.

The conference brought together over 80 faculty, staff, instructional designers, and system administrators from all across the state of Michigan. The event was held at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Held every spring, the agenda included a keynote by Dr. Darcy Hardy entitled “It all Begins (and ends) with Quality”, and 3 breakout sessions. Sponsors for this year’s conference included: Blackboard, Washtenaw Community College, Qwickly, Respondus, ReadSpeaker, and Examity.

Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, captured a few notes on his “EdTech with Eric” blog:



Using Content, Grade Center, and Announcements in Blackboard to Support Student Learning

In 2016, Blackboard engaged in a study “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes” that included data from 70,000 courses from 927 institutions, with 3,374,462 unique learners.

Based on this study of over 3 million learners and 70,000 courses, it was found that 53% of courses were supplemental, meaning content-heavy with low interaction, following by complementary at 24% meaning one-way communication through content, announcements, and gradebook. Additional course archetypes are illustrated in the chart below:


Chart retrieved from: “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes

Additionally, the Blackboard study found:

Courses with the largest amount of student activity take advantage of a diverse set of tools; campuses should identify and investigate these leading courses as sources for best practices and examples that can be adapted by other faculty in their courses.

Blackboard Use at GVSU

At GVSU, the eLearning team was interested in researching how Blackboard is being used by faculty and students. By leveraging the opensource BbStats Blackboard Building Block (which includes a “Latent Class Analysis Report”) by Dr. Szymon Machajewski, it was found that 72% of courses are using Blackboard in Holistic and Complementary ways, whereas 28% of courses fall into the content repository category in the Winter 2019 semester.

19% Holistic

  • 19% or 758 courses at GVSU fall into the Holistic category where 5 more more tools are used per course (eg. content, grade centerannouncements, and possibly assignments, discussions, and/or assessments).

53% Complementary 

  • 53% or 2,082 courses at GVSU are using at least 3 tools per course (eg. content, grade center, and announcements or assignments).

28% Content Repository

  • 28% or 1,088 courses at GVSU are using 2 or less tools pecourse (eg. content and announcements or discussion board). Additionally, there is no use of grade center, assignments, or assessments.
Chart retrieved from: GVSU BbStats Blackboard Building Block, Latent Class Analysis Report
The eLearning team is on mission to support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning. Further, we support the GVSU 2021 Strategic Plan in the use of course management tools such as Blackboard by faculty:

Objective 1.D.2: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching.

We’re here to help!

Interested in learning more about leveraging Blackboard in teaching and learning to support student success at GVSU? Please feel free to contact the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team and be sure to also review: “Teaching with Blackboard” and “Blackboard and 7 Principles of Good Practice”.

  • The “Latent Class Analysis Report” is bundled into BbStats, an opensource Blackboard Building Block by Dr. Szymon Machajewski. The three course design categories were identified by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This software reports how many courses in this system match the latent analysis. Read more about the study in Springer journal TechTrends Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use.

Learning On-the-Go with Blackboard Mobile Apps

In a recent article by Inside Higher Ed, ‘Students Are Using Mobile Even If You Aren’t’, the importance of mobile phones and tablets were highlighted for their role in transforming teaching and learning.

Beyond its function as a classroom tool, mobile technology is the primary conduit for some students’ learning experiences. Broad data on the different permutations of mobile learning are hard to come by. In a 2018 survey by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research of 1,500 exclusively online students, nearly 80 percent said they complete some, if not all, of their course work using a mobile device. More than half of respondents said they access course readings and communicate with professors from their smartphones, and more than 40 percent said they conduct research for reports and access the learning management system on mobile devices.

Further, EDUCAUSE has presented research around the importance of mobile devices to students and their educational experience through the ECAR Study.

In addition to the use of the LMS and online collaboration tools, the importance of mobile access to campus resources was highlighted in the report.  Most notable was the importance of checking grades, content, and accessing the LMS (eg. Blackboard). Checking grades and accessing content via mobile was rated extremely important by students.


Reading this article, along with the ECAR report, generated some interest among the eLearning team in looking at GVSU’s data as it relates to access to the university’s LMS, Blackboard by mobile devices. Here is some of the data from Blackboard mobile app analytics reporting:

  • In the past year there were 2,340 unique logins to Blackboard using mobile apps.


In addition, here is some of the data from our Google analytics reporting enabled on our Blackboard environment:

  • 9% Mobile Users and 1% Tabletimage001
  • 80% of Mobile Traffic is from iOS Devices, followed by 18% Androidimage003

Statistics are gathered based on browser and operating system:

  • Chrome was used by 57% of users
  • The most used operating system was Windows at 57%, followed by Macintosh at 24%

Go mobile and access Blackboard on-the-go!

Blackboard Instructor Mobile App

Blackboard Instructor App Icon

The Blackboard Instructor mobile app is now available for free download in Apple and Google app stores! Manage your courses, send announcements, and connect with students on your phone or tablet. Download Blackboard Instructor:

Download on the App Store iconGet it on Google Play iconGet it from Microsoft icon

Blackboard Student Mobile App

Blackboard App Icon

Access your courses on the go with the Bb Student mobile app! Access grades, course content, and more – right from the Blackboard app on your phone. Available for free download today on iOS, Android, or Windows.

Download on the App Store iconGet it on Google Play iconGet it from Microsoft icon

Leveraging Blackboard and Panopto for Student FERPA Training

Working in collaboration with the Registrar’s Office at GVSU, the eLearning team provided assistance in leveraging Blackboard and Panopto to help save time and to manage FERPA training for student employees and student graders. Previously, the Registrar’s office was conducting periodic face-to-face, group sessions where students received the training, took a quiz and completed a confidentiality form. Now, the entire process is handled completely online, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the training.


In developing the training, first, a short video was created using the Panopto recorder. Using Panopto’s in video quiz feature, a series of questions were embedded into the video to check a student’s understanding and knowledge of FERPA’s rules and regulations. The video was then integrated into a special Blackboard organization as a Panopto assignment. All of the enrolled students are required to watch the video and complete the quiz questions.


After successfully completing the quizzes, students are then given access to a “Confidentiality Agreement and Security Policy” form using Blackboard’s Adaptive Release tool. The Adaptive Release rule was configured so that only those students who achieved a score of 100% on the quizzes could see and access the form. Students are then required to digitally sign the form and submit it as a Blackboard Assignment for final approval.

To further streamline the communication process as to when students watch the video, take the quiz, and submit the confidentiality policy, the Registrar’s office has configured the organization’s Blackboard Notification settings to automatically email the office when the student’s submitted confidentiality form is in need of grading.

The use of Blackboard has enabled the Registrar’s office to more efficiently train and equip students with the required FERPA training, saving staff time and resources, while ensuring compliance.

Learn more about using Panopto to create instructional video and embedded quizzes, or Blackboard’s assignment, adaptive release or notification features by contacting the eLearning team!

Using Blackboard Collaborate for Authentic Practice in Virtual Interviews

As more employers are using virtual interviews as opportunities to screen their applicant pool, it is crucial that students are prepared to interview virtually.

The GVSU Graduate Teacher Certification Program, directed by Dr. Rosemary Cleveland,  regularly uses Blackboard Collaborate to meet on a weekly basis for synchronous class meetings – and also to practice and to experience the “online” interview process.


Students Charles Roberts, Joe Elsen and Kenneth Poczekaj, (pictured in order top to bottom) and GVSU Field Coordinator Diane Elve using Blackboard Collaborate to support virtual interviews.

Using Blackboard Collaborate for Virtual Interviews – How it Works

As students are getting ready to finish their final semester, they are also expected to participate in a virtual interview using Blackboard Collaborate to practice their interviewing skills.  Just like a real in-person interview, students  are expected to dress professionally as though they were formally interviewing for a potential teaching job.

Their web cameras and microphone are also expected to remain “active” during the interview.  Students were coached to avoid distractions, to maintain eye contact, monitor body language and be prepared to answer tough questions.  Their field coordinator led their virtual interview which in some cases also included a former retired principal who was joining virtually.

Here is what students in Field Coordinator Diane Elve’s course have said about using Blackboard Collaborate for virtual interviews:

“I think that the mock interview on Blackboard Collaborate was a worthwhile event. It is quick and easy to setup, and it is also convenient, especially since all people involved in the interview process don’t have to be in the same location at once. While there can be some issues, such as not seeing all aspects of body/facial gestures, I think this is minimal in comparison to the “pros” that Collaborate brings.” – Joe Elsen

“I thought it was a wonderful activity.  Many times we hear what questions may be asked during an interview and we have the opportunity to rehearse these things at home on our own.  This brings more authenticity to learning about interview by having us apply our knowledge to a real-world scenario.  While only a mock interview, all of the feelings and pressures of a real interview can still be seen, felt, and heard.  I feel this application of interviewing practice is a great opportunity to expose students to interviewing strategies and the feedback may really help somebody be prepared for the inevitable interviews to come.” – Ken Poczekaj

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.


ELI Key Issues in Teaching and Learning

keyissues2019ELIRecently, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative released the 2019 “Key Issues in Teaching and Learning“.

Each year, ELI surveys the higher education community to determine key issues and opportunities in postsecondary teaching and learning. These key issues serve as the framework, or focal points, for our discussions and programming throughout the coming year.

More than 1,400 community members voted, and the following were identified as the 2019 Key Issues.

This blog post captures the highlights from the ELI’s 2019 Key Issues with alignment and connection to the work of the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at GVSU.


1 – Faculty Development & Engagement

ELI1The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at GVSU is on mission to engage with faculty and to “Support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning…”

Innovation in teaching and learning happens when technology is creatively applied to craft active learning techniques that help students most efficiently achieve learning objectives.

The following facets of the eLearning team provide effective faculty development at GVSU:

From a professional development perspective, the eLearning team offers: consultations and coaching, on demand support, seminars and workshops, a teaching and technology podcast, tips for teaching with technology, faculty learning communities, video “TECHBytes”, and a “Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium” that has been held for 18 years.

2 – Online & Blending Learning

ELI2Distance education continues to grow at GVSU with a +25% increase in enrollment in online/hybrid classes since 2017.  With over 5,000 student enrollments in the Fall 2018 semester, just over 17% of all students are taking at least 1 online or hybrid course.

To support distance education initiatives, eLearning and Emerging Technologies has trained over 250 faculty to teach online/hybrid classes in the past 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.

As faculty begin to engage with online and blended learning, and construct courses to serve remote learners, the skills and techniques learned also provide extensive benefits to on-campus students as well.

3 – Instructional & Learning Experience Design

ELI3Through the IDeL group of instructional designers, the eLearning team facilitates faculty learning communities on the topic of online teaching and learning, enhancing the skills of faculty. The instructional designers have also established TIP (theory into practice) sheets, offering guidance to faculty in the use of student feedback to help shape and improve teaching.

The eLearning team also hosts regular weekly open office hours to connect directly with faculty, enabling opportunities to focus on learning experience design by leveraging technology.

Finally, each year, the eLearning team organizes the Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium to provide a venue to showcase unique innovative pedagogical approaches based on peer experience in delivering high quality courses.

4 – Digital & Information Literacy

ELI4GVSU has established opportunities for students to build literacy and fluency as it relates to the use of everything digital. The eLearning team supports equipping the digital literacy of students and the campus community by offering a variety of enterprise applications and services.

The eLearning Digital Studio maintains a vast project list that provides great breadth and depth of leveraging to technology that contributes to dialogue around 21st century literacy skills for students.

Virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, and a wide array of other emerging technologies are provided to students through the Atomic Object Technology Showcase.

Further, the eLearning team is looking into the future by working collaboratively to establish more support for student-based digital media creation at GVSU through a potential “Digital Media Center“.

5 – Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

ELI5Diversity, equity, and inclusion is “built-in to the DNA” at GVSU through the university’s vision:  “GVSU demonstrates its commitment to providing an inclusive learning environment where all students can explore new directions, find their niches, and develop skills for life and productive careers.”

The eLearning team focuses on supporting inclusive education through accessibility and UDL by equipping faculty. Blackboard Ally was adopted and put into production at GVSU in the summer of 2018 to:  generate awareness, build capacity, and increase institutional oversight of accessibility.

In addition, Panopto was implemented to provide video caption capability for faculty who are using instructional video content in their teaching. Both Ally and Panopto support the principles of inclusive education through accessibility and UDL.

6 – Competency and New Methods of Assessment

ELI6eLearning facilitated the implementation of open badges for faculty professional development in partnership with the Faculty Teaching and Learning Center and University Libraries at GVSU.  In fact, the first badge awarded at GVSU was eLearning and Emerging Technologies’s “#EdTech Summer Teaching Institute” badge. Further, 7 badges are currently offered by eLearning, including 4 Blackboard badges, a digital media badge, and a badge for the successful completion of Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development and Delivery.

GVSU also offers a variety of credit and non-credit student badges such as mobile computing, data analytics, and cybersecurity.

7 – Learning Analytics

ELI7Taking advantage of “big” data and “small” data through analytics offers many opportunities.

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 that provide student insights empower faculty and advisors with unique capabilities in the support of early alert to improve student retention.

Applications such as Starfish Retention Solutions and Blackboard Predict provide capabilities to inform faculty and advisors with students at-risk through early alert, and also at the individual instructor level through in course tools such as the Blackboard Retention Center.

Notable also is “Clicks, Grades, Engagement, and Student Success” whereby, Blackboard has provided research in how successful students are using learning management system tools based on learning analytics.

“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.”

8 – Open Education

ELI8GVSU 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 K-12 #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. At GVSU, students have saved over $480,000 in textbook costs, with 3000+ course sections each semester that require no paper textbook.

9 – Evaluating Instructional & Learning Innovations


Gathering data to inform decision making enables measurement and supports continuous quality improvement.

The eLearning team has used surveys to gather improvement recommendations for the Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Design and Development course, Blackboard, and also the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research survey of faculty and students and their attitudes and use of technology in education.

10 – Academic Transformation


The eLearning team aligns with GVSU’s 2021 Strategic Plan in the following areas that support academic transformation and innovative faculty development and strategic academic transformation:

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 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.

As part of the eLearning team’s work toward academic transformation, 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: interactdiscoverlearn, 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 and makerspace, the showcase is an outstanding and very unique example of education, technology, and innovation.

See also: “EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative ‘2018 Key Issues’ Meet the Initiatives in eLearning at GVSU


Congratulations to GVSU’s Teaching with Technology Award Recipients!

Each year since 2004, the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center selects faculty at GVSU to receive a variety of teaching awards. These awards were presented during the 2019 Faculty Awards Convocation, held on February 12 where faculty are publicly recognized for their teaching, service, and scholarship.

The Pew Teaching with Technology Award was established to recognize faculty who use technology in innovative ways.  This year, the FTLC recognized Julia VanderMolen and Julie White as recipients.

The eLearning team offers a hearty kudos and congratulations to Julia and Julie!  

Julia_VanderMolenJulia VanderMolen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Public Health
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2013

While integrating educational technology into teaching public health, Julia VanderMolen incorporates TED-Ed assignments that require students to research, present, dig deeper, inquire, and discuss. Other tools include Brainshark (for recording lectures), Lightboard technology, and Google Drive. Colleagues and students recognize the thoughtful implementation of technology coupled with sound pedagogical strategies to create excellent learning environments. VanderMolen also has successfully published on the following topics: assistive technology, disabilities as they pertain to public health issues, interprofessional education, and teaching and learning.


Julie White, M.A.
Senior Affiliate of Writing
Joined Grand Valley State University in 2002

The hallmarks of Julie White’s success in integrating technology with her teaching are her openness to innovation and her collaborative spirit. By partnering with Grand Valley librarians, she introduces new ways for students to use technology. Additionally, by using Google Sheets to provide feedback on student writing and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for office hours, she gives students opportunities not only to learn new tools, but also ways they can use the tools in their professional lives . As a testament to the success of this strategy, one of her student’s essays was chosen for publication in WRT 150: A Guide to Student Writing .

C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S  !  !  !