Online and Hybrid Learning

Tips for Teaching Online at GVSU

Are you teaching online this semester? If so, check out this checklist to help you prepare and build your course, zero in on student engagement and instructor presence, and overall focus on student success and retention.


  • Complete a self peer review.
    Use the Online Education Council peer review rubric or the Blackboard Exemplary Course Award rubric to review your course. See the “Good Practice Teaching Standards” on the IDeL website.
  • Make course improvements.
    Using the information gleaned from the peer review rubric above, reflect back and ask yourself: what worked last semester, what didn’t, were students confused, are more directions or explanation needed, can you add in more interactivity or active learning through instructional design, do you need some help from the digital studio in bringing in more video with Panopto?
  • Communicate and open your course to students in Blackboard.
    In order to best help your student prepare for the upcoming semester, be sure to communicate with your students before the semester starts and open up your course availability to students.
  • Encourage students to complete readiness checker.
    Take a moment to encourage your students to complete the self-assessment: “Are your ready for online learning?


  • Welcome your students.
    Post an announcement and email your students to welcome them. Let them know who you are, where to begin, etc.
  • Provide a course orientation.
    Some students may be new to online learning, and all of them will be new to your course. Give them some guidance around how your course is designed, create a course overview video, provide tips for success, etc.
  • Connect with your students.
    Provide a way for students to introduce themselves with a FlipGrid video, a discussion board post, a blog post, or other.
  • Monitor your student logins.
    Review the Blackboard Performance Dashboard and check in to make sure that your students are logging into your course! If not, send a personal email and reach out to them.


  • Establish your online presence.
    Be sure that you are visible in your online course. Take note of the times where you send out communication, respond to student’s discussion board posts, etc. Take advantage of the Blackboard Retention Center to review your engagement.



  • Monitor your students.
    Check in and monitor your students using the Blackboard Performance Dashboard, Grade Center, and Retention Center.
  • Maintain instructor presence and communicate regularly.
    Be sure you are continuing to engage in the course to ensure you are electronically “visible” to students. Use discussion board, email, announcements, etc. to keep communication flowing.
  • Offer online office hours.
    Use Blackboard Collaborate to offer students to meet with you live for online office hours. This can help break down the barriers and increase engagement with students.
  • Mid-semester course correction.
    Provide an opportunity for students to give you feedback in mid-semester as to how things are going. Use a Blackboard survey to get feedback from students that may provide you with insights for improvement.
  • Grade and provide feedback.
    Be sure you are providing timely feedback on learning activities, assignments, quizzes, and tests. Students will often submit their assignment and desire immediate feedback. Use the Blackboard Grade Center to provide student feedback, the Blackboard inline grading feature for assignments, etc.



IDeL in eLearning offers a variety of additional tips for teaching online:

Are you teaching online? Please leave a comment with your tips for success!


Designing Quality Courses in Blackboard with Cheryl Kautz

kautzcSit back, relax, and watch as Cheryl Kautz, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU guides you through her CIS 231 course in Blackboard.



As a previous “Blackboard Exemplary Course Award” and “Most Inclusive Classroom Award” recipient, Cheryl focuses on using quality course design methods including key tools in Blackboard such as Blackboard Ally for accessibility (eg. Syllabus, course content etc. includes alternative formats such as audio only), Panopto for video with popup formative quizzes, and tips for improving navigation including using course links to keep students on track and to provide easier navigation.

Highlighted in Cheryl’s course tour are the following design principles in using Blackboard to delivery quality instruction at GVSU.

Streamlined Course Menu

Customizing the course menu provides students with a simple and easy way to navigate the areas of her course. When designing your menu, aim to keep your navigation areas as clean, short and simple as possible. Use headings and dividers to break up the menu into chunks.


Course Links

Course Links assists students with navigating and jumping from section to section in a course site. Using Blackboard Course Links ensures students can easily navigate to other areas of your course quickly.


Checking for Accessibility with Blackboard Ally

Cheryl has dedicated time for inclusive learning by ensuring the content uploaded is accessible with Blackboard Ally. A GREEN indicator indicates that the file has a good rating. Yellow or red indicators appear when a file has low or poor levels of web accessibility.


Students benefit from using Blackboard Ally by accessing alternative file formats such as audio only.


Getting Started

Establish a “Getting Started” content area to help students “get started”. This area of Cheryl’s course provides:

  • links to “Are you ready for online learning at GVSU”
  • encouraging students to upload a Blackboard profile picture for increased engagement
  • an introductory Blackboard blog post for student to student interaction
  • a course link directing students to begin the “week 1 tasks”

Weekly Folders

Each weekly folder uses a consistent design and includes key dates and reminders such as midterm, spring break, final exams, and most importantly the objectives to be covered. The objectives are connected to the learning activities and assessments to inform students clearly about what they are expected to accomplish throughout the week which is good instructional design.


Inside of each weekly folder, students are presented with a “To Do” instruction list, practice assignments, video lectures, discussions, projects, quizzes, audio PowerPoints, and homework help.


Panopto Videos with Quizzes

Cheryl uses Panopto to present video based instruction with quizzes to check for students’ understanding and to provide formative feedback.



eLearning and Emerging Technologies Team offers Course Design and Development Support

As you build courses in Blackboard, please feel free to reach out to the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team for assistance in most effectively leveraging the use of Blackboard in your teaching at GVSU. We’re here to help!

The Changing Landscape of Online Education Report meets eLearning at GVSU


Quality Matters and Eduventures has recently released a report with a variety of perspectives on the changing Thelandscape of online education.

The following charts are from “The Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE)” report and connections to GVSU are highlighted in each section.

See also:

  • “eLearning Team Supports Online Learning Growth at GVSU” – In the Fall 2018 semester, student enrollment in online/hybrid courses has risen to 5,318 which represents a +15% growth, as overall enrollments fell by -1.5%.  17% of all students at GVSU are taking at least 1 online or hybrid course.

The LMS is King

In the following chart, the top 5 technologies have risen to the top as the most important to online learning.

#1 – Learning management system
Blackboard is the university’s enterprise LMS at GVSU.

#2 – Anti-plagiarism
SafeAssign is available in Blackboard at GVSU to assist faculty with plagiarism checking of student assignments.

#3 – Audio/video conferencing
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is GVSU’s enterprise instructional video conferencing system, available to all faculty and students.

#4 – Lecture/video capture and management
Panopto is GVSU’s enterprise video management solution.

#5 – Online assessment and proctoring
Tools like Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor are increasing in use in higher ed.


Learning Analytics is the Next Big Bet

In the following chart, the top 5 emerging technologies have risen to the top as the most important to online learning.

#1 – Adaptive learning
Technologies such as SmartSparrow and Realizeit provide unique learning experiences that are individual and personalized.

#2 – Learning analytics
A growing field of connecting “big data” to actionable efforts, tools like Blackboard Predict bring intelligence to identifying and intervening with students “at risk”.

#3 – Student support dashboards
Focusing on the needs of online learners is key to supporting their retention and success.

#4 – Simulations/game-based
Providing game-based learning experiences and simulations enable active learning in distance education courses.

#5 – Virtual/augmented reality
New immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality provide opportunities to engage with content. The Atomic Object Technology Showcase at GVSU allows faculty and students to explore innovative technologies such as AR, VR, 3D printing, and more!


Asynchronous Discussions Today; Simulations Tomorrow

In the following chart, the top 5 pedagogical techniques are highlighted.

#1 – Asynchronous discussions
#2 – Group projects/activities
#3 – Problem-based learning
#4 – Quizzes
#5 – Research projects

At GVSU, the use of open educational resources (OER) is growing.  In fact, there has been an estimated savings of $480,000+ from the adoption of OpenStax textbooks.  Badging and micro-credentials continues to be offered to faculty for professional development, along with a growing use of badges for credit and non-credit.


Online Learning is Growing

  • Fully online undergraduate students as a percent of total enrollment = 12.5%
  • Fully online graduate students as a percent of total enrollment = 27.5%


Instructional Designers Help Build Better Courses

At GVSU, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team of instructional designers make up the IDeL group. Their mission is to “to develop confident and competent faculty, prepared to teach in blended and fully online learning environments, who are able to integrate technology in a way that is learner-centered and pedagogically sound.”

Based on the CHLOE report, instructional designers encourage faculty to include more:

  • student-to-student interaction in the course design
  • consistent use of online tools



Learn more about “The Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE)

A Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology via Inside Higher Ed meets eLearning at GVSU

Inside Higher Ed recently released a report based on a survey of faculty attitudes on technology.


Here are a few noteworthy highlights:

  • 75% of faculty support increased use of educational technologies
  • More than two-thirds (70%) support increased use of open  educational resources (OER).
  • 25% of professors said they had worked with an instructional designer on online or blended course, and 45% said they had received professional development about course design
  • Instructors who had taught online were likelier than their peers (44% versus 9%) to say they had worked with a designer.
    • The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at GVSU provides faculty with instructional design through the IDeL team.
  • Challenges to online effectiveness include: concerns for “at risk” students learning online, maintaining academic integrity, and engaging students in rigor.

…professors who have taught online view online more favorably

  • 44% of college faculty members having taught at least 1 online course
    • At GVSU, 288 faculty are teaching online or hybrid courses per year.


  • 75% of instructors who’ve taught online said doing so helped “develop pedagogical skills and practices that have improved” their teaching:
    • Think more critically about ways to engage students with content (68%)
    • Make better use of multimedia content such as video and audio (65%)
    • Use LMS better (61%)
    • Experiment more and make changes to try to improve their students’ learning  experiences (60%)
  • Accessibility
    • 2 of 3 professors say their institution offers training in making course materials compliant with ADA


Learn more about the Inside Higher Ed “A Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology

eLearning Team Supports Online Learning Growth at GVSU

Online and hybrid learning is growing rapidly at GVSU – and the eLearning team is here to support and equip faculty with instructional design, instructional technology, and digital media development assistance.

See also:

  • “Online Education Ascends” – Number and proportion of college and university students taking classes online grew +6.4% in 2017, as overall enrollments fell by -.4%. A third of all students now take at least one online course. 

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team provides support to faculty at GVSU. Pictured left to right: Vince St. Germain, Matt Roberts, Justin Melick, Colleen Cameron, Sherry Barricklow, Kim Kenward, Katie Clark, Glenna Decker, and Eric Kunnen. (Not pictured: Hunter Bridwell)

As part of the Information Technology Department, eLearning and Emerging Technologies provides a wide array of services and resources designed to facilitate the support of faculty teaching hybrid and online classes as well as to assist faculty in delivering innovative classroom based instruction.

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team is dedicated to supporting facultycontributing to teaching excellence, and enhancing student success through:


A Growing Demand in Online Learning

In the Fall 2018 semester, student enrollment in online/hybrid courses has risen to 5,318 which represents a 15% growth since Fall 2017.  Looking back to the Fall 2017 semester, GVSU offered over 300 online/hybrid courses, (177 unduplicated), representing a one-year increase of 17%  (from Fall 2016), and significantly, a 78% increase in online enrollment since 2013. In fact, as of the Fall 2018 semester, 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.

17% of all students at GVSU (5,318 enrollments) are taking at least 1 online or hybrid course.

Additionally, in the summer 2018 semester, online/hybrid courses contributed to a 4% growth in overall enrollment, with 42% of all enrollment offered as distance education. During the summer, there were nearly 4,000 students in total enrollment, which represented a 10% increase in online/hybrid enrollment since the summer 2017 semester.

High Touch and High Tech

On Friday, August 24, 2018, GVSU President Haas provided the campus with an inspiring lecture for the opening semester faculty/staff address. Focusing on the topics of stewardship, leadership, and innovation, the address also highlighted flexible learning options that meet students’ needs, including online learning while also mentioning the importance of high touch practices through high tech methods.

“We must be responsible to the changing needs of our students… on how we deliver education. Online learning and that becomes more vital to our students… we will not lose our high touch practices as we smartly utilize high tech methods.” – President Haas

GVSU 2021 Strategic Connection

Distance education is connected to the following GVSU strategies with special focus on Objectives 3.D.2 and 3.D.3:

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. Baseline: 89% of faculty indicated either daily or weekly use of Blackboard in their teaching according to a GVSU faculty survey conducted winter 2016.

Objective 1.D.3: At least 60% of faculty members use state-of-the art instructional methods in their teaching. Baseline: 47% of faculty members use state-of-the-art instructional methods in their teaching according to a GVSU faculty survey conducted winter 2016. Additional Information Source: Education Center for Analysis and Research preliminary data is being collected for 2014-15, available June 2015.


  • The eLearning team provides support for innovative teaching methods, including the advancement and use of Blackboard.


Strategic Priority Area 2: Further develop exceptional personnel.

Institutional outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 2.E.1: At least 75% of faculty and 75% of staff participate in professional development to expand, enhance or extend their competencies and capabilities within the context of the responsibilities of their positions. Baseline for faculty will be determined via Digital Measures in summer 2015. Baseline for Fall 2014 for staff is 50-55%.


  • The eLearning Team provides the facilitation and training of faculty through a variety of seminars, including the Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development and Delivery course.


Strategic Priority 3: Ensure the alignment of institutional structures and functions.

Institutional outcome D: Grand Valley supports innovative teaching, learning, integrative scholarly and creative activity, and the use of new technologies.

Objective 3.D.2: At least 30% of undergraduate courses are offered in innovative approaches and formats, such as hybrid, online and competency-oriented. Baseline for undergraduate courses for Fall 2014 is 6%.

Objective 3.D.3: At least 30% of graduate courses are offered in innovative approaches and such as hybrid, online and competency-oriented. Baseline for graduate courses for Fall 2014 is 25%.


  • Key to the advancement of online and hybrid courses, instructional designers in eLearning provide the point of contact for faculty in their work to design distance education courses as well as to facilitate a quality learning experience for students.


The eLearning Team is Here to Help!

If you are new to online learning or a seasoned veteran, the eLearning team is here to help! We provide consultations, faculty learning communities, coaching, and guidance to faculty. Please reach out and connect with us today!


2018 Students’ Use of Technology Research Study via EDUCAUSE

Each year, EDUCAUSE conducts research on students and their use of technology through the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR). GVSU has participated in this survey in the past. (See this post from 2015: ECAR Study of Students and Technology at GVSU)

This year, the ECAR study included 130 institutions and responses were collected from nearly 65,000 students. The goal of this study is to monitor trends and to determine technology usage patterns among students.

Here are few highlights:

1 – More than 75% of Students indicate that an LMS (Blackboard) was used for Most or All of their Courses

“LMS use remains prevalent across higher education institutions, with continued high rates of use and student satisfaction. Three-quarters of all students reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with their institution’s LMS, and more than three-quarters of students reported their LMS was used for most or all of their courses. This likely reflects satisfaction primarily with the functional aspects of their institution’s LMS.

Consistent and widespread use of the LMS and ensured access to it in public institutions can benefit students. Even the basic functions of the LMS, such as posting grades, have been found to contribute to a student’s academic performance; access to grades allows for real-time monitoring of their course progress and the ability to make mid-course adjustments as needed. And the convenience of the LMS offers off-campus students much needed flexibility in contacting instructors and classmates, accessing course content, or taking quizzes.” 1

GVSU uses Blackboard to support the delivery of content, provide live communication capabilities, and enable grading feedback in teaching and learning.

2 – Laptops are the most important Device for Students


“Continue providing students with access to the basic technologies
that are most important to their academic success. The maintenance of
desktop computer labs, laptop and tablet rental programs, and negotiated
discounts for personal academic devices enable nearly all students to have
access to the technologies they need to succeed. Avoid the creation of a new
digital divide by making bleeding-edge technologies such as AR and VR
headsets and 3D printers and scanners equally and publicly available to all
students in venues such as makerspaces and libraries.” 1

GVSU provides unique bleeding-edge technologies in the Atomic Object Technology Showcase.

3 – Accessibility remains a Concern


“Overall, our data suggest that IT accessibility is an issue for many college students with both physical and learning disabilities. According to these students, institutions have a lot of room for improvement. Awareness may be especially challenging for the largest public DR institutions given the sheer number of students they serve, but resources to accommodate may be an issue.

To increase institutional awareness and provide better support to students with
disabilities, we recommend the following:

  • Be a collaborative partner in testing and implementing assistive/accessible technologies and the principles of universal design for learning.
  • Provide professional development to IT staff via accessibility workshops,conferences, and training; develop campus IT accessibility policies related to the development, procurement, and implementation of products.
  • Encourage the cultivation of an “accessible mind-set” across all campus stakeholders to better understand the needs of students with disabilities.
  • Offer training for faculty on implementing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and other universal/inclusive instructional practices.
  • Educate faculty on the inequitable impacts and potential legal implications that bans on in-class use of personal devices can have on students with disabilities.
  • And stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Stop banning laptops.” 1

GVSU supports the use of Blackboard Ally (and Panopto for video captions) to provide accessibility awareness and to establish a pathway to inclusion.

4 – 62% of Students Favor Online and Hybrid Courses over Face to Face


“Expand student awareness of the benefits, expectations, and demands of
blended learning environments. Students should receive consistent and
clear information from multiple campus sources so that they can make
well-informed decisions about the learning environments that are best
suited to their own learning and lives. Expose students to blended learning
early in their college careers and provide faculty who lack blended learning
experience with professional development and opportunities to teach in
these environments.” 1

GVSU offers instructional design support and assistance to faculty through IDeL (Instructional Design for eLearning).

5 – 67% of Students indicate that their Instructors use Technology to Enhance Learning, Engage Students, and Encourage use of Online Collaboration


“Eliminate classroom bans of student devices important to their success. Although devices that can connect to the internet have the potential to distract students during class, many students—especially women, students of color, students with disabilities, first-generation students, students who are independent (with or without dependents of their own), and students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds—find these devices significantly more important to their academic success than do their counterparts. Classroom device bans have the potential to indiscriminately undermine students who may disproportionately rely on them, creating unnecessary (and possibly illegal) obstacles for those who may need them the most.” 1

GVSU offers support for the use of a wide array of instructional technologies such as (Blackboard, Panopto, Lightboards, etc.) through the eLearning team.

Access the full report, view an infographic, and learn more about the 2018 Students and Technology Research Study on the EDUCAUSE website.

[1] Galanek, Joseph D., Dana C. Gierdowski, and D. Christopher Brooks. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018.  Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2018. Retrieved from:

Advancing Teaching and Learning in Traverse City

Thanks to a run of good luck with presentation proposals, I’ve had the privilege of attending the Traverse City Lilly Conference for several years now. Even though this time the winds blew harder and the first snowflakes of the season were in the air, Traverse City in October remains a great time to reflect on the art and science of teaching.

My presentation this year was titled “Alone at the Table Together: Hospitality, Community, and Online Education.” In this talk I tried to bring together some very different things. One part of the conversation was about the design choices we make in building online classes as well as the “big picture” pedagogical choices we make about designing our classes themselves. The other part of the conversation was about how we conceptualize what education and teaching really mean. I presented a way to think about teaching that focuses on the idea of hospitality and welcoming students into a shared exploration of the world. From this perspective, many decisions about how to design online courses actually end up communicating that students aren’t really welcome in our virtual educational spaces.

Several of the other sessions I attended focused on helping prepare faculty to do a better job teaching online. Staff from Wayne State University’s Office for Teaching and Learning led a session in which participants discussed how their institutions train faculty to teach hybrid and online classes. Before the session ended, the presenters gathered contact information to help continue the conversation beyond the conference. In a similar session, an instructional designer from Central Michigan University talked about the services his university offers to faculty through a cohort-based model of training faculty.

Founded in 1981 at Miami University, the Lilly Conferences have grown into a series of seven different conferences and events held annually across the world. Each conference offers faculty the opportunity to discuss issues of teaching and learning in a community environment. For more information, please see