#miBUG – Can I have your Attention Please? Increasing Student Interaction and Engagement

Developing engaging and interactive courses can help to keep students engaged with the content, their peers, and their instructors. In this session you will see how Michigan Virtual uses instructional strategies and free or low cost tools, such as FlipGrid, H5P, and Powtoon, to increase student-to-content engagement.

Powtoon – dynamic cartoon videos

  • Samples: http://bit.ly/2I24Fix
  • Use to introduce a lesson -instead of just text
  • Tell a story
  • Incorporate and/or review objectives
  • TIP: Write a script and record audio track before jumping into Powtoon to edit

H5P – create interactive content and summative assessments

  • Samples: http://bit.ly/2WHBvtp
  • Can embed into Blackboard
  • Free, easy to create, share and use
  • learning object practice
  • Whose course implementation
  • TIP: Write a script first before jumping into H5P

FlipGrid – video discussion tool

See also: “Using PowToon to Explain Challenging Concepts to Students

#miBUG – Engaging At-Risk Students

Jessica Hale, Washtenaw Community College

This session will feature tips to help you engage your at-risk students in your online classrooms. Using data from online sections, you will learning about how to structure assignments for success, tips for communicating with your students, grading practices that encourage persistence, as well as outreach and intervention techniques.

At-risk – Students who have a higher probability of failing or dropping out of college due to a variety of potential issues.

Teaching online? Do you know who and how many students are considered “at-risk” in your courses?

Keys to Engaging At-Risk Students Online

  1. Supportive Faculty & Staff – Outreach and intervention techniques: needs assessment, success coaching, Blackboard Retention Center tracking. Tips for communicating with students: immediacy makes a difference, demonstrate care, attend to positive performance
  2. Access to Technology – Addressing access issues: identify technology issues early, provide free access to required software, prepare students to troubleshoot
  3. Individualized Instruction – Grading practices that encourage persistence: create auto-graded, untimed assessments with multiple attempts, provide frequent and detailed feedback through the Blackboard gradebook, permit resubmissions
  4. Instruction that Promotes Mastery – Structuring assignments for success: focus on formative assessment, employ low risk assignments, require cooperative work, provide opportunities for reflection

Learn more about the Blackboard Retention Center

#miBUG – Keynote: It All Begins (and ends) with Quality

miBUG 2019, held at Washtenaw Community College, brings together institutions across Michigan who use Blackboard in teaching and learning. The conference has 3 breakout sessions and a keynote.

Keynote Address

We are excited to announce that Dr. Darcy Hardy, Associate Vice President and Client Success Director from Blackboard, Inc. will be delivering the keynote address, “It All Begins (and ends) with Quality“.

Online program directors have spent over two decades trying to define and implement quality, with the primary focus being course development processes and faculty preparation. But when we think about how quality can impact enrollment and retention, we can’t stop there. What about student support services, or the organizational structure? How do policies impact quality? This session will address quality across the entire program and look at additional questions such as these: Do we know if the instructional design of our courses impacts enrollments and retention? Can you link a drop in enrollments to faculty preparedness/online teaching skills? Who controls for quality student support services? Ultimately, enrollment and retention are influenced by many factors – this session will help you ensure your online program is on the positive side.

  • Retention and enrollment is connected to Quality
  • Why are our students here? What are they expecting? What attitudes are they thinking?

  • Issues in higher ed, costs, traditional and specific tracks for course work, student expectations, student drop-out, don’t complete their degree, etc.
  • Why do students drop out of online courses? Struggle with technology, assumptions of online is easier, lack of time management, can’t balance multiple roles, life circumstances, don’t feel like they are getting enough out of it, struggle to stay focused and engagement, financial, lack of social engagement, courses are boring, limited engagement with faculty, lack of discipline. <<< How much of this “blame” is placed on the students vs “us”?
  • Enter student readiness tests. “Is online learning for me?” How many of us have this for our “traditional” students. Is what we are saying if you don’t complete as a student – it’s YOUR problem? Isn’t this the responsibility of the institution, of us as educators?

  • How much do we tell students – that it’s YOUR problem, vs what is it that WE can do for students to help them be successful.
  • The institution needs to take responsibility in presenting ourselves to encourage online learning, removing barriers, establishing pathways, providing 24×7 support.
  • Issues with social presence, don’t place on students > educate the faculty.
  • Let’s move beyond “course repositories” of content and toward highly interactive and engaging courses – beyond checking boxes, rather, focusing on quality courses.
  • Quality = a standard, excellence, perception (degree to which something meets another’s expectations) – quality has no specific meaning unless it’s related to a specific functions and/or object.
  • Quality courses effects perceptions and the learner experience. If the learners experience is rewarding and successful and students feel they received a quality education, they will tell others.
  • What is quality ONLINE teaching and learning?
  • Are your online faculty MIA when they are teaching their course?
  • There is plenty out there on quality… but are we getting the message?
  • Quality impacts retention – but how? How do we measure online and traditional courses?

Blackboard’s Quality Learning Matrix

Richard Clark – Technology is the delivery truck. Use still need quality “groceries”.

Clark states that “media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition. Basically, the choice of vehicle might influence the cost or extent of distributing instruction, but only the content of the vehicle can influence achievement.”Where learner gains have been found, Clark presents compelling rival hypotheses.

Retention Responsibility

  • Organization and Strategy – Vision and mission needs to support online programs. And how many have a specific vision/mission for online? (Drive enrollment, how big, who are you serving?) What is your niche? Who are you and why is what you are doing is unique? If you want quality, you need faculty support with instructional designers, and technologists. Crappy courses start with the organization’s support structure with the right people and staffing in place. What is your strategic plan for your online program, not just the institution? What is your reason for online and what is your process? Does your organization support your online learning programs? Stakeholders: president, cio, provost, student services, student affairs, online learning director, enrollment management, admissions, registrar, financial aid, department chairs, deans, faculty, students, libraries, ADA officers, etc.

  • Governance and Policy – Need to have decision-making oversight, monitoring, making decisions, which programs to launch. Do you do feasibility studies when you launch new programs and courses? What about marketing? What are your policies for online? Faculty responsibilities and preparedness eg. engagement, technology processes, course quality, standards, etc. Putting a program online, this is an institutional decision, not just faculty/department/college/school. Need a distance education office or center with authority. Need a centralized process, course design, review, consistent navigation, ensure accessibility, adhere to quality standards, etc.
  • Course Design, Faculty Development, Student Support Services – If you can’t provide support, you shouldn’t be offering online courses and programs.

It’s up to us.

#BbWorld18 – Blackboard Collaborate Roadmap

Stay in the know about what’s new for Collaborate and get excited about what’s coming soon. Hear our product management leaders provide an update on the vision and roadmap for Blackboard Collaborate.

We believe that the virtual classroom should be a natural extension of the educator ecosystem, a foundation for learner engagement, and a core component of Blackboard’s comprehensive learning environment.

  • Built for Education, Truly Accessible Classroom, Simple, Intuitive User Experience

  • Collaborate is effective for office hours, group collaboration and meetings, virtual classrooms, events and webinars.
  • Collaborate can be launched from the mobile app.
  • Telephone only capability is available now.
  • Rename recordings are not built into the UI.
  • Downloading the session attendance report is available.
  • New features coming in July:
    • Countdown timer for session start time available in main and breakout rooms
    • Netstats (network quality indicator) provide extra information of each users connection
    • Enhancements to bring microphone up more quickly
    • Features coming soon, adding caption files directly into the recording

  • Next up, working on auto-captioning to help with accessibility.
  • In beta, there will be a new Metric Report to provide insights such as the frequency and scale your institution is using Collaborate.

  • What’s Planned… and coming soon to a Collaborate near you:
    • 2019 – Pause and Resume Recordings (Ability for instructors to pause and resume the recording of a session.)
    • 2019 – Activity Indicators (Real-time indicators when an attendee is typing in the chat, or drawing in the whiteboard.)
    • 2H 2018 – Amazon AWS Infrastructure Migration (Improves our reliability and scalability to meet peak demands.)
    • 2H 2018 – Polling Improvements (Customize questions and answers and exporting session poll results.)
    • 2H 2018 – Reporting (Recording report and attendee report for administrators and faculty.)
    • 2H 2018 – Collaborate Attendance

#BbWorld18 – What are today’s college students thinking about?

We hear a lot in the media today around students today and how they consider higher education. Is today’s learner approaching their bachelor’s degree in new ways? What’s important to them? What are they surprised by as they move through the process of being a student? Join us for an engaging session comprised of new high school graduates, community college students and four-year college students who will be sharing their stories and perspectives on the college experience.

GVSU Student, Carson Kunnen, talks about the technology showcase at Grand Valley State University and the value of exploring emerging technologies.

Notes: (Student comments paraphrased…)

  • As a student, what are your next steps? What factors and who do you look to for influence in your educational journey.
  • Working as a law student as a student, and working there has facilitated my decisions and given me experiences. Working on campus has also given me great experience and also motivating.
  • Affordability is important and most students are working at least one job.
  • Early college admissions and dual enrollment contributes to advancement and helped me get a jump start on my educational journey.
  • Study abroad is a direction for me, but I do have concerns with how to manage that financially.
  • How did you decide to attend the college you chose. I researched price first, then viewed web pages of college websites to learn more about them.
  • I researched private vs public institutions but the value of public was much greater, even with scholarships provided at a private institution. I found it was less than 1/2 the price of the private institution. My life will be a lot easier to pay off my loans, also the larger public university gave more opportunities.
  • Opportunities for working on campus has helped shaped my thoughts about the future. Working in the Grand Valley State University Technology Showcase for example has exposed me to a wide array of new technology like 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality and more.
  • Working on campus has shown me that the student experience can be a challenge. For example, something as simple as wait times for phone calls or support requests and the wait time for registration.
  • High school guidance counselors are ok, but they have so many students to manage so I felt I needed to take action myself. Also asking friends.
  • Visited CMU, MSU, GVSU they did well in conducting the tours, I could see myself in the dorm or in the library. The personalized experience for a face to face visit. The faculty and advisors themselves and meeting them made me feel more comfortable.
  • All throughout high school I worked in a supermarket and felt stuck… when I went into college I couldn’t work because I didn’t have work study. No one wanted to hire me because of my lack of experience. But meeting someone from my college at the supermarket, who ended up hiring me, I feel like I have opportunity and advantage. I also feel like having connections is so important. It helps me in financial aid, and registration, etc. All the detailed questions that so many students have, I can ask my on campus supervisor which has really helped.
  • My college had a great freshmen orientation which helped me connect with other students and ask questions about how to register, where to go to meet with an advisor, etc.
  • Getting into the experience instead of just hearing about it.
  • My college has a good web site and connect with advisors easy by signing up for a meeting for example.
  • I appreciate smaller schools because it’s more personalized, you can actually get help from a real person.
  • What about email? Is email a preferred channel? I don’t mind email, I’m used to check email and it is still efficient. I like the email personally, but many students don’t check their email. One of my professors gave us her mobile number and I really liked that I could text my instructor.
  • Email is the “official” communication, but texting is more informal.
  • I like when my professor contacts us through Blackboard because I know it’s important and something I need to pay attention to.
  • Social media is also helpful for events on campus, I really like that. It’s a good way to see what is happening on campus.
  • What is the future of education? Increasingly more classes online and more hybrid and more emerging technology with VR/AR. Easier ways to learn for visual learners. Virtual reality anatomy provide new ways to learn. AI will also improve our education. I’m not a fan of Alex per se, but AI has the opportunity for provide guidance and personal touch. Showing students a variety of ways to solve a problem. Hopefully education will be more affordable. More online courses and recruit more students, but the campus is still important and great classroom experiences. I really like my hybrid classes where I can save time and work more to pay for college but also meet online.
  • What is your online learning experience? For the hybrid class I found it beneficial to have face to face and also online. I do find that I need help outside of class while I’m doing homework. I find it difficult sometimes to communicate with the professor and hearing back from them before the test. I have mixed feeling about online classes, talking with professors to me though is important, and having that time on your own is also valuable… but you need to stay self-motivated.
  • Audience Question: Worst thing in Blackboard? Not using the tools provided is the worst thing you can do. I had 2 profs not using Bb at all and I was frustrated:

“I pay $20 grand to go to this school and I can’t even see my grades?”

  • “If I see my grades it motivates me to do better! I need feedback to be successful.”
  • Life experiences and meeting people is important in person – the value of online is there, but there is a real opportunity to connect with others face to face. My personal interactions on campus is why I’m here right now. The in between networking and interchanges on campus are key. Living on campus puts you out of your comfort zone, meeting people and getting connected with others is helpful in moving you forward.
  • Audience Question: What about smartphones? I used my phone in class and laptops too. I don’t use my smartphone for my classes, but I use my laptop. I found it more difficult to access programs and content on my phone as it’s not “smartphone friendly”. Smartphones can be distracting but some professors use them in class. In general I don’t use my phone in my classes. The computer is so much easier and faster to navigate content vs my smartphone. One of my professors used Kahoot very well and we used our mobile phones during class, that was super helpful to keep me engaged. Especially because he explained each answer and why it was right or wrong, it was an engaging way of learning vs lecture. Smartphones can make me a better learner, but typing a paper no way.
  • Audience Question: Do you feel overwhelmed with technology? Well, snow days aren’t a thing anymore! 🙂 Accelerated online classes was a challenge and assignments were do every day – and I work full time – I was overwhelmed and missed sleep and I was stressed. Going from 6 in the morning to 11 at night was overwhelming.
  • All of these students are working while going to school.
  • Audience Question: How valuable do you find lectures? I don’t enjoy them, I think it’s beneficial. When I miss class because I’m sick it takes a lot to get up to speed if you missed class. If you miss class, no one knows. With smaller schools your teacher connects with you if you are not there. I find it more valuable when students talk with each other during lecture as I can see others opinions not just a student being called on and seeing if the answer is correct. I prefer discussions in class vs lecture. Facilitated conversations about the content is valuable – lecture can provide a grounding and context for the conversations in class. The only way lectures work, every student zones out after the first hour but if you facilitate a conversation with students helps me stay engaged. It’s about being interactive and adding humor into the class is more memorable. After the first 30 minutes I want to go to sleep, whatever the instructor can do to keep me engaged the better and more effective the learning process.

#BbWorld18 – Blackboard’s Vision for the Teaching and Learning Portfolio

This session provides an overview of Blackboard’s overall Teaching & Learning strategy and vision for the future. Come and learn where we’re headed directionally for Blackboard Learn, Collaborate, Ally, Moodlerooms, Mobile, Analytics, SafeAssign and related services. This session is not a product roadmap session, but rather a view of our vision for our Teaching & Learning portfolio over the long term.


  • Year in review…
  • Original Experience – Q4 2017 and Q2 2018 releases. Quality and bug fixes. New features include attendance and audio/video feedback. Installer improvements, automated update procedures, improved performance testing. New REST APIs and LTI standards.

  • Crocodoc to Box – Honest that we didn’t get this right. 2 areas: 1) Timing of announcements and availability date caused timing concerns. 2) Capabilities were not ready, such as downloading annotations. New features will be available in early August such as downloading annotated feedback.
  • SaaS Deployment – 6 global deployments with 2 more including Canada and South Korea. 383 and now 386 clients that have moved to SaaS.

  • Learn Ultra – Efforts have been doubled in features and functionality. 62 clients in production with Ultra with 34 additional pilots underway. Flexibility to change at your own pace. Turn on base navigation in Ultra… you can go fast or slow. Ultra base navigation can be used with Original courses, dual course mode, all ultra course.

  • Collaborate – An outstanding and effective tool for: office hours, group collaboration and meetings, virtual classrooms, events and webinars.
  • Collaborate Highlights – Countdown timer is coming out in late July. Recordings to include post-captioning (in addition to live captions). The next step is to provide automated captioning. Telephone only dial in. Improved reliability and scalability. Transition to Amazon AWS for stability and reliability. Next is to expand student and faculty presence along with easy recording for Flipped Classrooms. Also new features are planned for automated virtual attendance tracking for participation grades or at-risk student detection.
  • Mobile – New feature development, 6.3 million downloads, 4.6 star rating in App Store, CODiE Award, grading now available in Instructor app (Grading beta with 38 institutions).

  • Blackboard Ally – Provides alternative formats for students, auto checking of files uploaded by faculty, instructor guidance for fixing accessibility issues and institutional dashboards. 177 institutions are live, 20 languages supported, 14 countries, 7.7 million course processed and 187 million content items processed. Next is for Ally to auto-detect for captioned videos. Next also is to provide course wide accessibility reports for faculty.

  • SafeAssign – Plagiarism prevention solution. Improvements have been made with move to Amazon AWS. Ultra now includes SafeAssign and also enhanced the originality report. SafeAssign now supports test essay questions. Growing corpus and now available for Moodle and Moodlerooms. Next up is to detect content in discussion boards.
  • Analytics – Improvements in authentic assessment and rubric analysis with granular tool detail. Monitor for instructional design purposes and adoption. Bb Predict includes new communication workflows for advisors for them to collaborate with each other and also in bulk communication.
  • Blackboard Openness – IMS Leadership, REST API, open content in the content market, Open Education Initiative.
  • GDPR – Blackboard supports clients with data privacy. Blackboard has been way ahead of this new EU policies. Bb has made enhancements in this area for data privacy also.
  • Blackboard Data – New open data model for analytics across products. eg. Learning Tool Adoption and Use. Core features will be FREE to Blackboard clients!
  • Blackboard has received awards for software in the past year:

#BbWorld18 – General Session Inclusive Education Panel

Session Description: One fundamental challenge in today’s complex education landscape is ensuring that every student has access to an inclusive learning environment. While checking a box to meet legal requirements was once the norm, many schools and institutions are broadening how they think about inclusive education to meet the needs of all learners–regardless of physical or cognitive disabilities or learning preferences – to drive student success. Let’s talk to experts about how they’re changing the conversation around inclusive education, and the culture change that can drive student success for all.


  • Inclusive Education – Meeting learners needs and desires wherever they may be. Ensuring all learners across the spectrum of cognitive and physical abilities, learning styles, and diverse individual needs have access and are supported through educational opportunities.
  • Inclusivity is at the core of Blackboard’s business.
  • Only 1/2 of students who enter higher ed graduate.
  • Panel: Heidi Pettyjohn, Lucy Greco (Francis service dog), Marie Cimitile, Marc Booker
  • How are college doing with students handling students that ask for an accommodation or don’t know they can ask for one?
  • Most colleges are still grappling with how to approach and there is room to grow. The mindset shift is that we have to build our technologies to support students just as we do physical buildings.
  • In higher ed students do have to self identify, syllabus statements are important, and faculty are part of the role in creating native accessible content.
  • We are getting better with providing students with flexible learning options, but most faculty are not prepared to make electronic content accessible.
  • Certain fields seem resistant to creating accessible content, math and other fields do not seem to have the desire to make changes in pedagogy or delivery of content.
  • Sometimes we get in our head what a university is, what we really need is a rethinking of higher ed for all students. Adult students for example have challenges such as financial, family, work, time, etc. We have to take education to students in ways that are more accessible.
  • Adult learners require services that meet students where they are at. The golden rule of adult ed, as we move to meet the working needs of students and our mobile society require an education defined by the students.
  • Faculty role and faculty attitudes – academic freedom you can’t tell the teacher what to do in the classroom, etc. Not all faculty hold this view and there are differences with level of faculty and their experiences. I think faculty are on board, but they are not aware. Most faculty are wanting to share and help students, but may not have the information they need about accessibility. If you want students to be more successful, these are the things you need to do to help them. Help faculty to understand how to bring about how they can make their content and instruction more accessible. Most faculty want to teach and help students.
  • Increasing the capacity of supporting faculty in creating accessible content and to remove the barriers. Providing tools to faculty to make a different. We don’t worry about the faculty that cross their arms and dig in. Students also drive the needs.
  • Some faculty don’t use the LMS that their institution provides.
  • Focusing on captioning for students with documented needs.
  • Compliance and expectations are clear and support is needed as well as training of faculty in accessibility.
  • Are papers and assignments graded and returned promptly? Are there practices that colleges should put in place. Absolutely, students need feedback, students need responses within 24-48 hours, students need good “customer service” these are the universities that will stick around. Rapid feedback is key. Helping students understand the university and change the university for them.
  • Backward design, take the perspective of students and then use that to demystify the process along the way.
  • Adult learners need immediate feedback, and also substantive feedback. Faculty need the tools to diagnose students (retention center, performance dashboard, etc.) and the capability to be responsive through grading feedback. Faculty need the awareness to monitor what is going on and help them to be change agents on the behalf of students.
  • More important that adding captions, it’s not just for students with disabilities. Captioning for example helps for searching content. Accessible content design makes content more rich.

“It’s not just an accommodation, it’s about making education better for everyone.” – Lucy Grecko

  • Faculty in general for the most part care about teaching. But faculty unlike high school teachers are not really trained in how people learn. So many recreate the experiences they had, and some of this is bad. Some faculty are caught in a cycle of tenure, research, etc. that don’t encourage them to become better teachers. Often the environment works against them in becoming actually a better teacher. We have to do a better job of finding the support for them.
  • Do research university devalue teaching? For faculty in research institutions, you can’t do your research without students, so make students a priority!
  • Inclusivity and diversity makes the classroom a better place for all. It’s not just about single individuals it’s about expanding the circle and we need to rise to adapt.
  • The typical student is a very broad group, not the traditional student as we have known.
  • Nothing with us without us. Learn from those with disabilities and engage with those to create inclusive education.
  • Let’s be clear, barriers have existed for a long time, our job is to give voice and amplify those with needs.