Improve Student Success and Save Time with @Blackboard Rubrics

Rubrics are extremely valuable in helping to align faculty assignment expectations with student performance. In other words, rubrics help to communicate faculty expectations for an assignment and help make grading much more clear to students.

Blackboard provides a robust, effective, and easy to use rubric tool that is built-in. Once created, students can view the assignment criteria and faculty can quickly and efficiently, click-to-score their students’ assignments. Further, faculty can provide personal feedback for each student using the rubric tool.

To learn more about creating rubrics in Blackboard, head on over to the GVSU eLearning Help page.


Blackboard > Update to Inline Grading for Assignments

The Inline Grading view for Blackboard Assignments has been a convenient way to grade student submissions directly in the browser. Behind the scenes, that has used an online solution from a system called “Crocodoc” to display the submission within the browser. Unfortunately, acquired Crocodoc in 2013, and is now discontinuing the service as of January 15, 2018.

Fortunately, Blackboard has updated the inline grading service to leverage the New Box View API. It offers several improvements over Crocodoc, including improved rendering fidelity and expanded support for new file types. While there are a few differences between the two services, the new Box View will still provide a simple and convenient way to view and annotate on student Assignment submissions. In addition, existing student work in Crocodoc will be migrated to the new Box View, and will continue to be available.

comparison of crocodoc with new box view

New Features

The new Box View supports a wider variety of file types, including image, video, and audio files, which can be viewed or played in the browser, instead of downloading them. It also includes the ability to print student submissions from the browser.

Features Lost

Unfortunately, some features are not available in the New Box View, because Box has not included them in their API.

  • Annotation Types: Box View only includes point-based or highlighting-based comments. You cannot add drawing annotations or strike-through text, as you could in Crocodoc.
  • Download AnnotationsYou can download the student’s original file, but there is no way to download the file with the annotations included.

Blackboard has been working with Box to request that these features be added, and Box has been receptive to the feedback. You can view the suggestions and vote on their priority on the Blackboard Idea Exchange.

How Does the New Box View Work?

The New Box View is very similar to Crocodoc. To add a point-based comment, click on the text bubble in the toolbar.

click the text bubble in the toolbar and type your comment, then click post

To highlight text and add a comment, click and drag to select the text, then click either the highlight or comment icon.

select the text and then click the text bubble to add a comment

eLearning Help

To learn more about using the new Box view of inline grading, please visit the “New Box View Grading” tip sheet.

The content of this post was shared with permission from Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

Faculty and Student Blackboard Survey Highlights – Fall 2017

Last year, as part of a Statistics 319 class with Professor Gabrosek, 2 students worked with the eLearning team to gather feedback and suggestions from faculty and students about how the Blackboard environment can be enhanced at Grand Valley State University. This work resulted in a survey that was created and administered in the Winter 2016 semester.

This year, another survey was administered in the Fall 2017 semester and the number of students and faculty that completed the survey in a 2 week time period were 3,243 and 341 respectively.

This post highlights the results from the survey:


As shown above, 44% of faculty that responded to the survey indicated that they use Blackboard every day with 78% using the system at least 5 days per week.

Based on GVSU’s participation in the 2015 EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) Study of Faculty and Students and Information Technology report, this number was also reflective with 47% of GVSU respondents indicating a daily use of Blackboard.


90% of students surveyed indicate that they access Blackboard more than 5 days per week. For comparison, in the 2015 EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) Study of Faculty and Students and Information Technology report, 94% of GVSU students indicated that they used Blackboard in at least 1 course with 54% responding that Blackboard was used in all of their courses.


71% of the faculty surveyed indicate that they have used Blackboard for more than 5 years with 8% indicating that they have used the system less than a year.


When asked about ease-of-use for uploading a syllabus and adding faculty contact information, 83% of faculty indicate that using the system is easy or very easy to use.


When asked what features are used most frequently, 94% of faculty indicate using announcements and content, followed by 88% using the grade center and 87% using email.

These data also are reflected in the “Baseline Faculty Survey” as part of the 2021 GVSU Strategic Plan where: Announcements were mentioned being used at 85%, content at 82%, and the gradebook as well as email was used at 78% as the top tools used in Blackboard.

As indicated in the following chart, students echo the largest use of tools by faculty, including: announcements, content, grades, and assignments.


When asked about what features or tools that students wish their instructors would make more use of, 55% indicated more use of grades as the highest response.


When faculty where asking about emerging or new technologies that would be most helpful, eTextbooks, interactive video, OER, games, and simulations were the in the top 5.


Students were asked about what emerging or new technologies that they would like to see adopted. Online office hours, lecture capture, eTextbooks, live lectures and interactive video were in the top 5.


92% of students indicated that it would improve their learning experience if more instructors used Bb to deliver course materials, grades, and announcements. With 95% of students indicated that using Blackboard provided a better learning experience.



The eLearning team will continue to evaluate the student and faculty responses to the surveys throughout the year, with a special focus on open-ended feedback that has been provided – with the goal to enhance the Blackboard environment at GVSU to best meet the needs of students and faculty and to support student success.

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team would like to thank Professor Gabrosek and the STA 319 students for their work with our team in helping to develop the Blackboard faculty and student surveys.




Highlights from #BbWorld16



Each year, Blackboard users from all over the world come to BbWORLD (main conference) and DEVCON (developers conference) which is a national conference that is focused on using educational technologies in teaching and learning that contribute to student success. This year sessions were also streaming live via BbWORLDLive.

Over 2,000 educators, administrators, and #edtechies from over 30 countries attended the conference this year. There were over 200 client sessions offered at the event that shared best practices, while Bb corporate sessions focused on the next generation of tools and services that help meet the needs of students, faculty, and institutions. The exhibit hall featured a wide array of vendors with technology that integrate with Blackboard.

bbworld16_gvsuteamThe conference was held from July 12-14 in Las Vegas, NV and 5 faculty and staff from Grand Valley State University (pictured from left to right Katie Clark, Eric Kunnen, Cheryl Kautz, Sherry Barricklow, and Szymon Machajewski) attended the event to present and to pick up the latest and greatest of everything Blackboard.

In addition to major announcements, such as new partnerships with IBM and Amazon, here are a few highlights from the conference that were captured by the GVSU eLearning and Emerging Technologies team:

  • GVSU faculty members received their awards for “Most Inclusive Classrooms in the United States” in a session at the conference entitled: “Celebrating Inclusive Classrooms“.  Cheryl Kautz, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems at GVSU and Szymon Machajewski, Affiliate Instructor, in the School of Computing and Information Systems each received a certificate and recognition for their accomplishment.

    Session Abstract: Building an inclusive classroom means anticipating the diverse needs of students in the classroom and ensuring your pedagogy, content, and classroom technology can easily adapt to meet the needs of every student. In support of Global Accessibility Awareness day 2016 the Blackboard team ran a contest to find the most inclusive classrooms in the United States. We were looking for teachers who went the extra mile to ensure their classrooms were set up for inclusion and enabled students of all abilities to succeed. We’re excited to provide the winners, Cheryl Kautz and Szymon Machajewski from Grand Valley State University with the opportunity to share their stories during this rocket session.

    Here is a video of Szymon and Cheryl receiving their awards at the conference:

  • Katie Clark presented at BbWorld DEVCON which is Blackboard’s developer conference in a session entitled: “Making it Simple: Automate Blackboard Administration using SIS Integrationbbworld16_KatieClark.jpgSession Abstract: GVSU has been using a SIS Integration for several years, and has developed ways to simplify user engagement opportunities. The university creates courses, users, and enrollments with SIS, but have started populating the hierarchy with courses and users based on Banner enrollments. It also uses data from Banner to create Academic Advising sites for individual advisors with their advisees enrolled. This integration enables the university to create organizations for academic units with students enrollments based on the applicable major or minor.
  • Szymon Machajewski and Eric Kunnen presented in a session at DEVCON with the University of Illinois at Chicago in a session entitled: “Open Source Analytics for Growing Adoption of Blackboard Learn using BbStatsimg_0204Session Abstract: BbStats has been a leading OSCELOT project for about seven years. The analytics tool reports on Blackboard Learn system health and usage and provides valuable information about activity and use patterns. This session will dive deeper into the tools and reports needed to increase adoption.This session highlighted the use of the free open source Blackboard Building Block called BbStats, written by Szymon Machajewski. The session was facilitated by Szymon who is an affiliate instructor at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and serves at a Blackboard system administrator at UIC.Szymon Machajewski also presented in 2 additional sessions entitled: “Help! I need Somebody” (Blackboard Student Services & Managed Hosting) and “Using the ITIL Framework to Drive True Technology Adoption”.

  • Session highlights were also captured in the following blog posts by Eric Kunnen:

More information about this conference can be found on the BbWorld16 website and via social #bbworld16 tag.  Next year, the event will be held in New Orleans from July 25-27.



7 Things You Didn’t Know that Blackboard Can Do!

Blackboard isn’t just a place to upload your syllabus, in fact, there are many benefits of using the system to better engage with students, increase communication, provide 24×7 access to course materials, collect assignments, and promptly post student assessment feedback and grades!

Here are 7 things you didn’t know that Blackboard can do!

1. Class Photo Roster

The Class Photo Roster is an effective way to more quickly learn students names, increase engagement, and to better personalize instruction. In just a few clicks, faculty can access the official student ID photographs of enrolled students.


Learn more about the photo roster on the Blackboard Class Photo Roster Tip Sheet.

2. Retention Center and Performance Dashboard

The Retention Center provides an easy way for you to discover which students in your course are at risk. Based on preconfigured rules and rules you create, students’ engagement and participation are visually displayed, quickly alerting you to potential risk. From the Retention Center, you can contact the most at-risk students immediately and flag those you want to monitor closely. As you observe their progress and send emails, you can also keep track of this correspondence and make notes about each student right in the Retention Center.


For more information on how to use Bb’s Retention Center Watch a Tutorial.

The Performance Dashboard provides you with a view into all types of user activity in your course. All users enrolled in your course are listed, including instructors, students, teaching assistants, graders, observers, and guests, with pertinent information about each user’s progress, last course access, discussion board participation, and activity. The numbers provided in the Review Status column of the Performance Dashboard indicate the number of items that a student has marked as Reviewed and provides an at-this-moment view of the item availability and a student’s progress on reviewing items.


For more information on how to use Bb’s Performance Dashboard Watch a Tutorial.

3. Review Status and Adaptive Release

The Review Status tool allows instructors to track user review of specific content items. After an instructor turns on the tool for an item, students track their progress. A Needs Review button appears with enabled items. After reviewing the item, a student selects this button to mark it Reviewed. If the Review Status tool is turned off, all data is saved.

To learn how to make the review status tool available in your courses see How to Manage Tools.

Adaptive Release controls the release of content to users based on a set of rules you create. The rules may be related to availability, date and time, individual users and user groups (such as course Groups), scores or attempts on any Grade center item, or review status of another item in the course. An Adaptive Release rule consists of a set of criteria that defines the visibility of a content item to users. Criteria are the parts that make up the rule. For example, date and membership are two types of different criteria. Each content item may have multiple rules, and each rule may consist of multiple criteria. To view an item, a user must meet all of the requirements of the rule. This means that if a rule has multiple criteria, the user must meet all criteria before the item is available.

For more information on best practices see Approaches to Adaptive Release.

4. Date Management

Use the date management tool to easily adjust all content and tool dates in your course. Accessed on the Control Panel in the Course Tools section, you can choose to adjust dates automatically or individually from one convenient location. You can adjust dates according to the course start date. The Current Start Date displays the date that the course is currently set to start. Change the new start date to reflect when this new course is going to start. All dates in the course adjust by the number of days each date occurs after the start date.

To learn how to adjust and manage course date’s Watch a Tutorial.

5. Blackboard Instructor Mobile App for On-the-Go Access

“Blackboard Instructor” is a mobile application for Apple, Google, and Microsoft mobile
devices that provides instructors with a quick and easy way to manage courses, interact with students, and view content.

  • Save Time
    Manage courses anytime, anywhere, on the go…
  • Connect with Students
    Create announcements, reply to discussions, host Collaborate sessions, and more!

Download the Blackboard Instructor Mobile App today!

6. Gradebook Colors


You are able to create rules to apply color to the cells in the Grade Center grid, either by grade or status. Creating color rules in the Grade Center provides visual indicators to help you interpret information quickly. For example, you can use yellow to highlight graded items with failing scores so students and columns that require attention are prominent. Also, you can assign colors to the following grading statuses: In Progress, Needs Grading, or Exempt.

To learn how to use the Colors feature in your course Watch a Tutorial.

7. Rubrics for Assignments

A rubric is an assessment tool listing evaluation criteria for an assignment. A rubric divides the assigned work into parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each part, at varying levels of skill. You can use a rubric to quickly grade an assignment and/or communicate the assignment requirements and acceptable performance standards. Rubrics can help ensure consistent and impartial grading.

Students can use the rubric to organize their efforts to meet the requirements of an assignment, and you can use them to explain evaluations to students. When you score assignments with a rubric, students can more easily recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their work and direct their efforts accordingly.


To learn how to grade using a Rubric Watch a Tutorial.

BONUS:  Badges, Certificates, and Achievements

The achievements tool allows instructors and course designers to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both badges and certificates. These can be beneficial in the #gamification of instruction. Students can see which rewards they have earned and what is required of them to receive additional rewards, providing insight into learning progression toward defined competencies.

Achievements has four functional areas: achievements description, reward, notification and sharing. Criteria identified in the achievement description must be met before a reward is earned. Students are notified when a reward is earned and can then share it as they choose. Each achievement must have at least one reward identified during set up. The reward is the item awarded upon meeting the required criteria. It is given in the form of badges and certificates.


For more information on Blackboard’s Achievement tools see Achievements.

For assistance and support with any of these tools, please contact the eLearning team or visit our eLearning Teaching with Technology support site. We are here to help!





Ensemble Video’s Dropbox and Blackboard Integration Enhances Online Education at Grand Valley State University

Video is becoming more and more strategically important in the delivery of instruction.  At GVSU, the university supports the use of video in Blackboard through the use of Ensemble.

Recently, the staff of eLearning and Emerging Technologies (Eric Kunnen, Justin Melick, Kim Kenward), along with faculty and staff from GVSU and University Libraries were featured in a case study by Ensemble Video about the university’s use of video in teaching and learning. The article is entitled: “Ensemble Video’s Dropbox and Blackboard Integration Enhances Online Education at Grand Valley State University

The Article is Available on Ensemble’s Website



Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series: Meeting the Challenges of Accessibility & Inclusive Classrooms

Accessibility is becoming increasingly important and critical in the delivery of education.   The topics of inclusive classrooms, universal design, and accessibility were the focus of a Blackboard webinar that was originally offered on Thursday, March 17 at 2 pm EST as part of the Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series.

View Recording

March BITS: Meeting the Challenges of Accessibility & Inclusive Classrooms 

BbjohannahuntAs more and more attention is being placed on meeting the needs of students with diverse abilities, educators are looking more closely at inclusive classroom goals and how to accomplish them without adding significant additional time and effort to building online and in classroom curriculum. 

In this session JoAnna Hunt, Blackboard’s Accessibility Manager, will provide an overview of inclusive classrooms, outline the benefits and the challenges faced in implementing them, and provide a practical framework for assessing your pedagogy, your content, and the technology you’re using in the classroom to help you easily achieve inclusivity in your online and face to face classrooms. 

Featured Speaker: JoAnna Hunt, Accessibility Manager Blackboard