Top 7 Highlights from 2017 and Looking Forward to 2018

As the 2017 academic year comes to a close, it’s important to look back while also looking forward in pioneering the future into 2018 and beyond.

Recently, Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, shared a few highlights on a blog post on the Blackboard Community web site. The post features the top 7 topics that have bubbled up throughout the year through the work of the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at Grand Valley State University (GVSU).


Read the full blog post via the Blackboard Community.

Here are the top 7 highlights in the post:





5 – #BBWORLD17



2018 and BbEYOND



6 Small Things You Can Do To Have a BIG Impact on Student Learning

This post is brought to you by the Online Education Council, eLearning and Emerging Technologies, University Libraries, the Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center, and the Office of the Provost.

When teaching online and hybrid courses, there are a variety of key strategies that are proven to help students succeed. This blog post highlights 6 tips for success.


6 Small Things that you can do that have a BIG Impact on Student Learning

  1. Ensure students have the appropriate orientation and support to use the technology in your course.

    Be sure to welcome your students and orient them to your course. You can do this via email, announcements, or a brief video.
    Flipgrid can be an effective tool to use as an icebreaker for students to get to know one another and to feel like part of a learning community.To help students assess their preparation on the online/hybrid learning experience, you may wish to assign your students the

    online self-assessment. In an easy-to-find location, provide students direct links to resources such as the Blackboard student support, GVSU IT HelpDesk, and other relevant student support services. 

  2. Publish your syllabus to your Blackboard site and open the course to students a week or two before the semester begins.Research indicates that students benefit when given time to prepare and assess the course expectations ahead of time, so any extra time you give students to assess their readiness for the course and get into the mindset for online or hybrid learning is useful.

    Upload your syllabus to the course before the semester begins and email students an invitation to peruse it. If you are someone who is still building your Blackboard site up to the last minute, consider emailing your syllabus directly to students and letting them know when the course site will be ready for them to explore.


  3. 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. 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.


  4. Establish a simple course menu and use consistent formatting & organization.

    Review your course from the viewpoint of a student. Is information clearly labeled by its function and easy to find? In addition to using consistent formatting and terminology, consider adding features such as Blackboard assignment due dates, guideposts, assignment checklists, multiple representations of essential information (reading assignments listed in the syllabus as well as in a course calendar), and introductory text or audio overviews with each folder/module.
    Will it be crystal clear to students when assignments are due? Which readings are required or optional? How much time should students expect to spend on a quiz or project? Ensuring this information is easy to find and clearly stated will go a long way toward helping students stay on track.

  5. Provide timely feedback on student work.Students need (and want!) to know how they’re doing throughout the semester, so your timely feedback on assignments, discussions, and course activities is essential. And each time you provide feedback to students, you make your presence known–key to making students feel connected to your course and supported in their work.

    As you craft assignments, consider the frequency of and methods by which you’ll provide feedback to students’ work. Try audio recording feedback to students’ writing, or giving formative, brief feedback more frequently during an assignment to encourage students’ reflection and learning.

    Establish a goal of responding to students’ inquiries or activities on Blackboard within 24 hours Monday – Friday, or on Mondays for activities students may complete over the weekend.

  6. Create opportunities for students to develop mastery.

    Discussion threads are a popular component of Blackboard courses, but an online conversation is just one of many ways you can help students demonstrate knowledge or practice skills.
    Think beyond the discussion forum: given your course content, how might you build in multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge or mastery of a skill across a variety of activities? How will you reinforce skills or knowledge learned in one portion of the course in a future activity? What short assignments might you ask students to engage in and post for quick feedback?

Want More Info? Need Help? Try These Resources!

  • Consult with the instructional designers in IDeL for more online/hybrid course design tips and to learn how to increase your teaching, social, cognitive presence through the Community of Inquiry.
  • Access tips, tutorials, and information for effectively using Blackboard.
  • Review the one-stop Faculty Resources for Online Education.
  • Contact the Digital Studio for assistance in creating a welcome video or leveraging interactive media in your courses.
  • Review University Library resources for distance learning.


Learn and Earn a Badge

The eLearning team at GVSU encourages you to come to a seminar, learn a new skill, and then earn a badge!

Officially, the badges initiative at GVSU began in the Fall 2017. This initiative is a collaborative partnership of the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, University Libraries, and eLearning and Emerging Technologies. The first badge awarded at GVSU was the “#EDTECH Summer Teaching Institute” badge that was offered in the summer of 2017.

Digital badges capture and communicate an accomplishment or achievement. Badges also provide a framework in which to document knowledge, skills, and competencies gained through various learning and professional development opportunities.

To reflect the range of faculty professional development programs at Grand Valley, the FacultyBadges@GVSU program issues three unique levels of badges:

  • Bronze for basic achievements wherein faculty become familiar with the essentials of a topic and submit a written reflection
  • Silver for development of proficiencies wherein faculty participate in more extensive learning and submit evidence of implementation
  • Gold for more advanced and integrative activities wherein faculty continue to refine implementation, disseminate findings or exhibit campus leadership around a topic.

Currently, eLearning offers 7 badges that are available to be earned by faculty at GVSU:


#EDTECH Summer Teaching Institute BadgeeLearning - Foundations BadgeeLearning - Blackboard Essentials BadgeeLearning - Blackboard Grade Center + Assignments

eLearning - Blackboard Tests, Quizzes, and SurveyseLearning - Blackboard CollaborateeLearning - Digital Video: Introduction to Ensemble Video and TechSmith Relay

Learn more about badges on the Faculty Badges web site at GVSU!

E-Learn Magazine features eLearning @GVSU

E-Learn Magazine recently featured eLearning and Emerging Technologies in an article entitled: “How to Teach a Student-centered Class

E-Learn Magazine Screen Shot

The article features interviews from the following:

The following questions are included in the article:

  • What is student success to you?
  • What tools or resources do you use in order to personalize learning?
  • In your experience, what approaches work best to motivate and engage students?
  • How can you predict student success or difficulties? And how to intervene effectively when needed?
  • What would be your advice for instructors, teachers, or coaches who want to start working in a more personalized way? What practices would you recommend?

Here is the full article on E-Learn Magazine


An Openness Initiative

E-Learn is a community openness initiative started by Blackboard. It’s a partnership designed to help educators share insights, perspectives and practices for the purpose of achieving student and institutional success.

Watch eLearning Tips for Teaching Online and More on your Amazon Fire TV

Faculty and staff from Grand Valley State University can now view video content on the GVSU eLearning YouTube channel quickly, conveniently, and easily on an Amazon Fire TV through a brand new app that is available on the Amazon Appstore.


This resource has been made possible through the support and the collaboration of the app author, Dr. Szymon Machajewski, Affiliate Instructor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU.  Additionally, video content and development support was provided by Vince St. Germain, eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialist, the Digital Studio, and Digital Media Developers, Justin Melick and Hunter Bridwell.

Download the GVSU eLearning App on Amazon Appstore

GVSU Online/Hybrid Faculty Celebrate National Distance Learning Week

This Fall, over 5,000 students are participating in over 300 online and hybrid courses at GVSU. This represents a one-year increase of 17% (78% growth since 2013) and 17% of students at the university are taking at least 1 online or hybrid course. Further, the university now has over 700 faculty that are certified to teach an online or hybrid class with over 220 professors completing the Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development and Delivery training just last year!

To celebrate the 170+ faculty that are teaching distance education courses this Fall at GVSU, the university took part in National Distance Learning Week (NDLW) with a special faculty recognition breakfast in the University Club on the downtown Pew Campus.  The breakfast provided an opportunity to come together as faculty and staff to recognize the continued growth and value of online and hybrid learning at the university.

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This event was sponsored by the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team along with the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center (FTLC).

During the breakfast faculty and staff shared experiences and explored new ways to design, develop and teach high quality online/hybrid courses that are focused on enhancing student success, retention, and persistence at GVSU.

eLearning and Emerging Technologies along with the FTLC would like to thank faculty at GVSU for focusing on delivering high-quality online/hybrid courses through teaching excellence!

NDLW is organized by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) and serves to highlight the successes and value of distance education.


Exploring presence online…in Traverse City

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching and Learning held in Traverse City, Michigan. Founded in 1981 at Miami University, the Lilly Conferences have grown into a series of five different conferences held annually across the United States. Each conference offers faculty the opportunity to discuss issues of teaching and learning in a community environment.

Grand Valley was well-represented at this year’s conference with nine different individuals showing posters, facilitating roundtables, or giving presentations. Topics ranged from community-based learning and preservice teacher education to success with group projects and surviving the experience of teaching online.

Entitled “Expertise as Teaching Presence: Online Tools for Interactive Learning Experiences”, my presentation drew upon my experiences as both an instructional designer and adjunct professor in Political Science. In our Foundations of Online/Hybrid Course Development workshop we introduce faculty to the idea of the “Community of Inquiry.” This model helps future hybrid and online faculty focus on what it takes to deliver high quality educational experiences.

One important ingredient is known as “instructor presence.” Research shows that learners benefit when their instructors are involved in their courses in a visible, immediate, and interactive manner. This “presence” can be found in the ways that faculty design their course, deliver content, and interact with students through feedback on assessments.

At the Lilly Conference, I sought to expand on instructor presence by discussing the instructor’s role as subject matter expert. Learners benefit dramatically when their instructors can develop learning experiences that bridge the gap between how experts and novice learners see a given field of knowledge. When faculty don’t meet their students face-to-face on a regular basis—as in an online class—it can be difficult to build those bridges. Common instructional techniques like streaming video can only help so much.

Using examples from my online course about the American Constitution, I demonstrated the use of two free and easy-to-use tools that help faculty create interactive learning experiences. Activities built using Oppia and Twine can engage learners in the type of back and forth exchange that’s easy to have in the classroom but harder to recreate online. The usefulness of such tools, though, rests on faculty identifying common misunderstandings and misperceptions within their field and delivering targeted feedback that purposefully scaffolds the learner’s knowledge and understanding over time.

Slides, links, and a bibliography from my presentation can be found at http://ipsative.com/presentations/lillytc/2017/expertise/

(Photo credit: Lilly Conferences Facebook page)