Online and Hybrid Learning

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.



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

Highlights from @GVSUeLearn and the Online Learning Consortium Conference #OLCAccelerate

Kim Kenward, Instructional Designer in IDeL and Eric Kunnen, Associate Director, from  eLearning and Emerging Technologies recently attended the 2017 Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference.

Here are a few highlights from the event:


Here are several other sessions that were captured by Eric Kunnen on his blog from the conference:

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

(Photo credit: Lilly Conferences Facebook page)

@InsideHighered – Survey Highlights Technology Adoption as Moving to Mainstream

“It appears to be moving from the early adopters to the mainstream,” said Rebecca Griffiths, a senior researcher in SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning. “It’s not just the adjuncts who may not have a choice anymore.”

More Teachers – Teaching Online

42% of instructors are now teaching at least 1 online course according to the Inside Higher Ed‘s 2017 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology.

In addition, “increasing experience may be among the factors driving growing confidence in online learning”, in that as faculty begin to have experience teaching at a distance, their experience helps to shape their perspectives as to what is possible and what the benefits of online learning provides students.

Online Enrollment Growth at GVSU

For the Fall 2017 semester, GVSU offered over 300 online/hybrid courses, representing a one-year increase of 17%  (from Fall 2016). Additionally, there has been a 78% increase in online enrollment since 2013. In fact, 17% of all students at GVSU are taking at least 1 online or hybrid course, with 12% of all classes now being offered via distance education. Additionally, in Fall 2017 courses, 173 faculty members taught the 5,318 students enrolled (4,180 unduplicated). 

This growth of online and hybrid enrollment, along with university’s 2021 Strategic Plan objectives 3.D.2 and 3.D.3, which provide a goal of 30% of courses offered in innovative format underscores the importance of support for faculty in the design and delivery of distance education courses.  The instructional designers as part of IDeL in eLearning  provide support that includes facilitating the Foundations training, along with additional ongoing support for course design and development for all faculty teaching in these programs.

Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development and Delivery at GVSU

The Foundations of Online Hybrid Course Development and Delivery training is an intensive workshop offered at least 2-times each semester (6-times/year). Foundations involves significant preparation and set-up for each session. It is offered in Blackboard as either a 2-week hybrid course (meeting in-seat twice) or a 4-week fully online course.  

There is a high response rate to join Foundations and faculty actively participate. The university has a total of 774 faculty members who are certified to teach online and hybrid courses, of which 227 most recently completed the required Foundations training this previous year.

According to the survey: “A strong majority of those who have taught online, 71 percent, say doing so has helped them develop skills and practices that have improved their teaching both online and in person.

More than seven in 10 say online teaching has enabled them to think more critically about how to engage students with content, better use multimedia content and better use the learning management system. Roughly half say they are more comfortable using active learning and project-based learning techniques and better at communicating with students outside class.”

Indeed, the experience of faculty attending Foundations often provides skills, pedagogies, and practices that can be applied to traditional classes. The IDeL team provides support to faculty in the creation of online and hybrid courses and the adoption of technologies to enhance pedagogy.

Enter OER – Open Educational Resources

A campus wide initiative led by the library and supported by eLearning and Emerging Technologies, OER is gaining momentum.

In fact, according to the survey: “More than nine in 10 faculty members and digital learning leaders say textbooks are priced too high. The vast majority of both groups also say instructors should significantly consider price when assigning course readings and should assign more open educational resources.”

And further: “Faculty respondents overwhelmingly (93 percent) said they believed that course materials were too expensive, that instructors should make price a “significant concern” when assigning course readings (82 percent), and that professors should assign more free open educational resources (90 percent).

Learn more about OER at GVSU!

Join an Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Community

Get engaged, get plugged into everything online and hybrid!  The Faculty Teaching and Learning Center provides “Faculty Learning Communities” (FLCs) to bring faculty together to foster a 1-2 semester-long conversations on a topic of mutual interest and to encourage an application of the knowledge gained.

The eLearning team supports Online & Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities through facilitation by IDeL with the purpose of engaging faculty in a variety of innovative teaching practices and topics to enhance teaching and improve student success.

Learn more about Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities at GVSU!

eLearning and Emerging Technologies – We’re Here for You!

The mission of eLearning and Emerging Technologies is to support faculty, contribute to teaching excellence, and to enhance student success through:

According to the article: “A majority of instructors, though, say their institutions provide adequate technical support for developing and teaching online courses.”

Further, a “solid majority, 62 percent, strongly agree (29 percent) or agree (33 percent) with the statement “I fully support the increased use of educational technologies.” Just 8 percent disagree or strongly disagree.”

In short, the eLearning team is here to support YOU as a faculty member in your use of technology to generate new possibilities in teaching and learning.

Contact us! We’re here for you!

What about you? How can we advance student success through technologies while providing flexible learning options to meet students’ needs, while ensuring quality? How can eLearning and Emerging Technologies better support YOU as a faculty member here at GVSU?


GVSU celebrates National Distance Learning Week with Online/Hybrid Teaching Faculty


GVSU will be celebrating National Distance Learning Week (NDLW) from November 6-10, 2017 to recognize the continued growth and value of online and hybrid learning at the university. NDLW is organized by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) and serves to highlight the successes and value of distance education.

To celebrate and to recognize faculty at Grand Valley State University, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team along with the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center (FTLC) have organized a breakfast on Wednesday, November 8!



We know how much work it takes to develop and teach quality online/hybrid courses and we appreciate the work of YOU, the faculty here at GVSU. Join us and allow us to treat you to a breakfast in honor of National Distance Learning Week!

WHAT:  National Distance Learning Week – Faculty Appreciation Breakfast

WHEN: 8:30am – 10:00am on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 (Please stop by anytime. RSVP Required.)

WHERE: University Club – Pew Campus

WHY: For an informal meet, greet, and eat – to appreciate YOU, our online and hybrid teaching faculty.

To ensure we have enough bacon, eggs, coffee, and assorted breakfast items…


This event is sponsored by the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Team and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center.