#EDU19 – Leveraging Data-Driven Decision Making to Drive Student Success, Retention, and Accessibility Initiatives

Grand Valley State University, College of Southern Nevada, University of Kentucky, and Blackboard partnered together to deliver a session at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference entitled: “Leveraging Data-Driven Decision Making to Drive Student Success, Retention, and Accessibility Initiatives


John Scott, Product Manager, Blackboard Inc. and Eric Kunnen, Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, Grand Valley State University presented on “A Data-Informed Approach to Inclusive Learning:  Scaling Accessibility”

The 3 presentations focused on using data-driven decision-making to streamline data collection, support student success and retention initiatives, scale accessibility, and increase campus-wide collaboration.


  • Gain insight from an unprecedented data set around content accessibility and UDL in the LMS
  • Complete an “Accessibility Strategizer” as a first step to catalyze a culture shift toward inclusion
  • Learn strategies in using data integration to support student success and retention initiatives
  • Discover ways to use student data not just for institutional reporting or service improvement but also to benefit individual students and increase campus collaboration


  • Brian Bourgon

    Director, Enterprise Applications, College of Southern Nevada
  • Eric Kunnen

    Associate Director of eLearning and Emerging Technologies, Grand Valley State University



  • Virginia Lacefield

    Enterprise Architect, University of Kentucky



  • John Scott

    Product Manager, Blackboard Inc. & Researcher & Instructor, University of California, Berkeley


#EDU19 – Transforming the Student Experience

This lightning round will pack as much information into one session as possible. Hear succinct, engaging presentations on a variety of topics. Each will be 10 minutes long, with a Q&A at the end of the session.

Lightning Round 1: Alexa Has Taken Over Our Campus!

Voice is the next disruptive technology. Voice-enabled devices are proliferating across society. Your students arrive on campus expecting it. Hear how the UT Dallas is implementing Alexa across campus. We will share our vision, implementation approaches, value received, best practices, and roadmap.

Outcomes: Learn how UT Dallas is leveraging Alexa for students, faculty, and staff * Learn about the UT Dallas vision and roadmap for voice-enabled services * Get best practices and lessons learned in implementing voice-response

Presenters: Frank Feagans, Kishore Thakur (University of Texas at Dallas)


UT Dallas

  • New eSports Program
  • 29,000 students

  • Teach students on building Alexa skills
  • Voice as the next disruption
  • Alexa, an indispensable assistant
  • UT Dallas Alexa Pilots (News flash briefing, Ask UT Dallas, FAQs from a variety of offices (170 questions were collected), Parking (how many spots are available), “Alexa what is the status of Blackboard”

  • Next up… dining menus…

  • Using students to help build the Alexa Skills.

Lightning Round 2: Martha: Bringing AI to Life

Meet Martha, George Washington University’s virtual solutions AI agent, in an interactive implementation journey presentation. We will share our lessons learned and decision process, give demos, and entertain in-depth conversations about enhancing the student experience on campus through AI.

Outcomes: See how critical lessons learned were applied in our implementation journey * Learn about the strategic, logistical and operational planning considerations for moving to a virtual agent/AI solution on campus * Share your own institution’s efforts and questions around campus AI initiatives

Presenters: John Marshall, William Koffenberger (The George Washington University


  • MarthaA pilot project of a “Virtual Agent” called “Martha”, an easy to use channel to search knowledge, create service requests and check the status of your outstanding requests through an intuitive conversational interface.
  • GW’s has an interactive chat bot (live in August), self service.
  • BMC Helix Case Study
    • Martha proved the feasibility of chatbots in helping IT deliver effective 24×7 support
    • Students surveyed would most likely turn to the chatbot before calling the service desk
    • 88% of the participants wanted Martha to become a permanent service for the GW community
    • Offloading level 0 and 1 calls to Martha frees up service desk technicians to tackle level 2 and 3 issues
    • Keeping support costs in check by meeting growing demand for support without adding headcount
    • Departments outside of IT now want to use chatbots to modernize service delivery for their users

Lightning Round 3: AI-Based Virtual Assistants Improve Campus Life on Through Dx

AI-based virtual assistants (VAs) are growing in popularity. Join Gonzaga University and noHold Inc. in a conversation about the role artificial intelligence is playing in higher education. Learn about implementing, deploying, and adopting AI technology to help your students and faculty help themselves.

Outcomes: Learn about implementing a VA (creating one, when it makes sense, and what is involved) * Learn about deploying a VA (logistics, potential pitfalls, and generating adoption) * Learn about the maintenance aspects of a VA (utilizing analytics and creating a financial map)

Presenters: Lyle Spencer, Borre Ulrichsen (Gonzaga University); Diego Ventura (noHold Inc.)

  • Proof of concept (low risk)
  • Decrease tickets (positioning)
  • Increase satisfaction (content maintenance)
  • Capture voice of student/staff (metrics)

Surveyed 400 students across 12 institutions:

#EDU19 – Leveraging AI to Support Data Empowered Learning

In this session, we will explore early prototypes of AI applications and discuss challenges related to ethics and privacy in higher education IT. These prototypes leverage machine learning in a way that empowers content discovery, course design and assessment, reflective teaching practices, and predictive analytics.

Outcomes: * Learn how AI will shape the future of teaching and learning * Discover new example of applied AI technologies * Learn about an effective data science pipeline for higher education IT * Reflect on the ethical and privacy challenges related to AI applications



Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching (DART) is a software tool that analyzes classroom sound to predict with ~90% accuracy the quantity of time spent on Single Voice (e.g. lecture), Multiple Voice (e.g. pair discussion), and No Voice (e.g. clicker, question thinking) activities.


Helping instructors engage in reflective teaching practices with the support of machine learning

  • Provide insight into course content
  • Audio analysis pipeline, speech2text, sentence embedding,

  • Use these data for instructional design, time spent in class
  • Patterns of interactivity

LIFT Prototype

Leveraging AI for Academic Advising

Using machine learning enables us to provide insights into how students might perform in specific classes based on similar students in the past.

Pilot Study – Examine advisor use of LIFT during their academic review process. Academic review occurs in the period of time between semesters when advisors are reviewing student’s academic plan and progress and determining potential interventions.

  • Penn State uses Starfish
  • Privacy and Ethics – Include technical review, bias elements are evaluated, investigating what decisions are being supported by the model, are differences experienced with predicated outcomes, are they accurate, what about consequences, privacy impact assessment helps to determine what is collected, how it’s uses

#EDU19 – A Shared Vision for Change: Strategies, Approaches, Techniques

Change in higher education requires a shared vision and sustainable approaches to leading transformation. Representatives from two universities will share experiences for engaging stakeholders in a vision for change and corresponding strategies for identifying and developing people within organizations who possess critical abilities—influence, empathy, and resilience—for guiding others through uncertainty.

Outcomes: Understand how you can use images to develop a shared vision for change * Strategize how to develop and apply the capacity to influence, empathize, and be resilient when managing change * Explore how to develop abilities in others/existing staff who work on change management initiatives


Forces Driving Change

Visual Metaphor Cards

  • Change through images, visual metaphor cards – used to stimulate discussions
  • Inclusive, creative, expressive, transparent

Identifying Skills of Others to Help with Change – Catalysts

  • Awareness
  • Experience
  • Global mindset
  • Ability to seek guidance
  • Identify professional development
  • Delayed gratification
  • Emotional intelligence


  • Hold the tension of uncertainty
  • Embrace ambiguity
  • Patience
  • Recognize opportunity to add value across the institution
  • Listening, engagement, reporting to multiple stakeholders
  • Fostering trust, empathy, capacity
  • Monitor willingness / eagerness to share expertise
  • Flexibility
  • Partnerships
  • Communication

#EDU19 Where Good Ideas Come From – Keynote

Welcome to EDUCAUSE 2019!

  • Welcome to EDUCAUSE 2019! 8,398 attendees, 41 countries – making this one fo the largest conferences in history.
  • Imagine and explore transformational opportunities in highered
  • DX – Digital transformation is a focus on how to create and generate change.

Digital transformation (Dx) describes a cultural, workforce, and technological shift, enabled by advances in technology that include analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud, mobile, social networks, storage capabilities, and more. Combined with external drivers such as increased expectations from students for a seamless experience, decreased funding for higher ed, and a growing need to advocate for its benefits, these forces make it possible to think differently about higher education, with the potential for new business models, better student outcomes, and different, more innovative, approaches for teaching learning, and research.

  • “The power of technology to connect us as human beings – support teaching, learning is a focus.” – Linda John, Associate Vice Provost of Learning Technologies, UW (EDUCAUSE Leadership Award).
  • Melissa Wood, Senior VP of IT at Stony Brook University (EDUCAUSE DEI Leadership Award) – “Lead from where you are.” Lead by listening.

Where Good Ideas Come From

Building on his best-selling work and book on the history of innovation, author and PBS host Steven Johnson will share his insights on the environments, practices, and platforms that best support new ideas and creativity, and provide a glimpse of the coming tech revolutions that will transform tomorrow’s educational landscape.


  • Steven Johnson
  • Notes

    • We are too grounded in the “eureka” movement. “The apple falls from the tree…” Truly transformative ideas come out of a slower evolutionary process – a slow hunch. An inkling of possibility and exploration.
    • Highered is a wonderful place to incubate ideas.
    • People and teams that keep the hunches alive that can evolve over time and that are applicable to the world are innovative.
    • This sticker was on the original cern server where the entire web was powering the internet:

    • CERN and Tim Berger’s-Lee is a good example of the “slow hunch”. Came out of a hobby, keeping track of people in the office when he met someone new – created a hyperlink between the staff and the projects happening. “Inquire within upon everything” was used internally. Initially WWW was named “tangle”. After 5 years of this side project, perhaps this is something bigger. “I believe I have created a new global communication medium as a side job…”
    • Emerging concept of identity…
    • We need to keep side projects and hunches alive.
  • “Liquid Networks” – The enlightenment used to happen in the 18th century coffee house. Semi-public spaces. Flow of ideas happen around coffee! 🙂 We need more of these spaces to nurture ideas and help them emerge!

    • How do we handle or blind spots? Well… we can’t work alone. The importance of diversity. Diverse groups are collectively more smart, more creative, and have better decision making.
    • Innovative groups have large and engaged friend networks. We need to maintain our cross-pollination vs specialization.
    • Ada Lovelace is a fascinating figure and is widely considered to be the worlds first software programmer in 1830. Math prodigy. Charles Babbage created the first “programmable computer”.
    • Someday these machines can be used for more than numbers and calculations, but for creativity and even composing music. – Ada Lovelace
    • Let’s look at who is using technology and are having the most fun. These are areas that have influence. Just for the fun of it – trigger advanced in tech, culture, politics, etc
    • MIT and the PDP-1… the first monitor where you can push around pixels. They created a space theme game called space war (like “asteroids”). This created innovation around joysticks, input devices, mouse, visuals… and fun. A shift to computers and more creative and playful. “The personal computer” phrase was coined and lead to Atari and a company started by Steve Jobs.
    • What is happening now, that looks like play, that contains the seeds for predicting what comes next.
    • Play leading to transformative ideas… AI, deep learning, machine learning – today the major milestones have interestingly come from games.
    • December 2017 – Googles AI division deep mind, was the beginning of something with “Alpha Zero” game play algorithm and drew from extensively with chess play. Built-in and the computer used it to predict game play. After the end of 9 hours, the 2 AIs played 400 millions games. The game they were playing at the end was aggressive and better than what humans were capable.
    • There are a whole range of cause, effect, subtle language, and yet have super human skills. This is another place where the importance of diversity is crucial. Some kinds of problems are better solved by AI, but other problems will be required of humans. Key is which tool when, and the ability to collaborate.
  • To survive we need to work with AI, with a diverse group of people, those are going to be the liquid networks of the future – all connected through collaboration. – Steven Johnson

  • #EDU16 – Rethinking Academic Technology for 21st-Century Teaching and Learning

    Session Description: Pedagogical and technological changes are upsetting the status quo of course delivery. To remain relevant, academic technologists must be responsive, agile, and forward-thinking within a context of rapid change, high demand, and limited resources. Learn how one academic technology unit strategically prioritized and responded to these challenges in today’s climate.
    Outcomes: Articulate tactical work in response to the strategic goals of your institution and department *Redefine priorities in response to technological and pedagogical change *Retrofit Brown’s reflexive model to fit your own institutional culture


    • Hong Chau

      Instructional Designer,Brown University
    • Catherine Zabriskie

      Director, Academic Technology Services,Brown University


    • Short Term – Improve the current situation with painpoints.
    • Long Term – Confirm our Vision
      • Instructional Technology Group
      • MM Labs
      • Classroom Technology
      • Media Product
    • Question: What do you spend your time on everyday – does that link to the vision?
    • Question: What are the 5 most important things that you do – why is that important to the insitution?
    • Session Materials
    • Technology Themes
      • Moving Forward and Looking Ahead
      • Responding University Needs
      • Making Connections
      • Partnering
      • Empowering Individual Growth
      • Process for Visioning
        • Step 1 – Defining the work: Where are we now?
        • Step 2 – Understanding the work: What are the values/benefits of the work we do? Map the work to the themese/priorities and is there anything missing?
        • Step 3 – Where are we going? What should we stop, start, or do better and how?

    #EDU16 – Seeking Evidence of Impact: Methodologies in Teaching and Learning

    img_1035Session Description: Benchmarking and collecting evidence of impact is important in any undertaking. In this respect, postsecondary teaching and learning presents a unique set of challenges and complexities, so the key is to identify those methods that will produce useful and actionable results. This session will consist of overviews of evaluation and research techniques and methods in three important domains in teaching and learning: online and blended learning, classrooms and learning spaces, and the LMS. We’ll conclude the session with a discussion with our domain experts about the relative strengths of the approaches they presented and considerations with respect to implementing them.
    Outcomes: Learn about evaluation and research methods in key teaching and learning domains * Discover new methods that will help you conduct evaluations at your campus * Understand how these methods could be used at your institution


    • Tanya Joosten

      Director, Digital Learning R&D, DETA Center,University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    • Adam Finkelstein

      Academic Associate,McGill University
    • Malcolm Brown

      Director, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative,EDUCAUSE
    • Terence O’Heron

      Director of Operations, Teaching & Learning w/Technology,The Pennsylvania State University


    • EDUCAUSE Assessment Resources
      • Learning Space Rating System
      • Information Security
      • Information Security Program Assessment Tool
      • IT Risk Register
    • EDUCAUSE Benchmarking Resources
      • Technology Research in the Academic Community
      • Core Data Service
      • Benchmarking Service

    The big question… “Are these (active learning) rooms worth it?”

    • A Framework for Evaluation
    • Level of Impact (Kirkpatrick)
      • Reaction, Learning, Behavior, Results
    • Potential vs Actual – There is always potential but it may not be realized.
    • LSRS Sections – Institutional Readiness, and Features of Physical Spaces
    • Measuring Actual Use of Learning Spaces
      • Surveys
      • Observation forms were used to see how the classrooms were actually being used.
      • Heat Maps to track movement of instructor and students in the classroom.
    • Think about…
      • Providing the right people , the right information, at the right time
      • Focus on high quality faculty development in high quality spaces
      • Instructors are allowed to seek the potential and lead toward the actual
    • Online and Blended Learning
      • DETA – Toolkit Download is Available
      • The toolkit includes: access, learning effectiveness, satisfaction, instructional effectiveness
      • Research model:
      • Research questions include:
      • Framework of Inquiry:
    • Penn State LMS Research
      • Criterion
      • Assessment Strategy – Direct observations, focus groups (faculty and student), surveys (faculty and student), vendor review (support, training, and ID staff)
      • Business Requirements – Functional, technical, support, training, governance, partnership, exit strategy, cost

    Faculty development is key across all implementation and research…

    The Future of Learning

    img_1014Session Description: In this talk, Sugata Mitra will take us through the origins of schooling as we know it, to the dematerialization of institutions as we know them. Thirteen years of experiments in children’s education provide a series of startling results—children can self-organize their own learning, they can achieve educational objectives on their own, and they can read by themselves. Finally, the most startling result: groups of children with access to the Internet can learn anything by themselves. Studies in the slums of India; the villages of India and Cambodia; poor schools in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the United States, and Italy; the schools of Gateshead; and the rich international schools of Washington and Hong Kong produced experimental results that show a strange new future for learning. Using the TED Prize, Mitra has now built seven “Schools in the Cloud,” glimpses of which he will provide.



    • Sugata Mitra | @sugatam

      Professor, Educational Technology, School of Education, Communication & Language, Newcastle University


    • The Hole in the Wall Experiment 1999-2005
      • How many engineers and programmers are we missing by the lack of opportunities in our slums?
      • The first lesson in education, allow students to discover the answer without telling them…
      • The second lesson in education, the teacher can empower kids by letting them teach each other… Learning can happen without a teacher, students can explore and help each other.
      • Given 9 months, students left by themselves will increase their own computer literacy to the level of a secretary in the West.
      • Who was teaching them? Instead ask: What was teaching them?

    Children, given access to the Internet in groups, can learn anything by themselves.

    • SOLE – Self organized learning environments.
    • It became clear that children in groups have an understanding that is greater than that of each individual. It was this collective ‘hive’ mind that was working like an efficient teacher.
    • Can an objective be achieved without a manager – they are achieve with a collective desire.
    • Children begin to answer questions far ahead of their time… It helps if you admire them!

    Do not teach, have a conversation.

    • Enter the School in the Cloud – It’s a SOLE and Granny Cloud combined. And ask what would happen then in a school or in a community.
    • We think that we can tell the student what to do.
    • Schools in the Cloud improve:
      • Reading comprehension
      • Communication skills
      • Internet Searching Skills
      • Self Confidence
    • The challenge of assessment… paper pencil tests and the measurement of learning.
    • In order to cater to the needs of an obsolete examination system, teachers, good or bad, need to use teaching methods from the 19th century, consisting of rote learning, drill and practice, and negative reinforcement.
    • We need to prepare our students to work in our current environments. Allow the use of the Internet during a test and the student’s phone.  We have to factor in the complimented self – the student and technology.
    • We need: Comprehension, communication, and computation to be the key concepts  vs reading, writing, and arithmetic. But to include the later in the former.
    • Schools should produce happy, healthy, and productive people.

    We need a curriculum of questions, not facts. A pedagogy that encourages collaboration and use of the Internet. An assessment system that looks for productivity over process and method.

    #EDU16 – Only Blackboard: Innovation to Drive Student Success through the LMS and Beyond


    Session Description: Your institution’s needs are unique, and as the industry’s most experienced education technology provider, Blackboard provides innovative solutions that extend beyond our foundation in the LMS. In this session, hear about innovations across our flagship Learn product line as well as new advancements in the use of predictive analytics and mobile technologies designed to help your institution promote student success.

    Outcomes: Leverage data from your LMS to improve student outcomes * Empower students to improve pathway planning * Use technology to scale academic advisory services


    Brook Bock, Vice President of Mobile,Blackboard Inc.

    Mike Sharkey, Vice President, Analytics,Blackboard Inc.


    • Need to Innovate in Higher Education
      • Education is evolving and students are experiencing a different
      • Students are increasingly non-traditional
      • The students’ journey is different from what has beenimg_1007
      • Students have a lot of educational opportunities
      • Students have high consumer expectations
      • At Blackboard we are taking a user-centered approach in designing our products.
      • Students, faculty, advisors, administration, recruiters and there needs to be a unified experience.
      • Consistent and integrated experience – a new Ultra interface is beyond the look and feel but it’s about a connected experience
    • Student Planning
      • There are 12.5 million with some colelge credits and no degree. – Harvard Business Review
      • The most popular major among incoming freshman is undecided
      • Students take an average of 134 credits when 120 are sufficient for a bachelors degree
      • 30% of non-returning students left because they couldn’t find the classes they needed at a time that would fit into their schedule.
      • Introducing Blackboard Planner
        • This empowers students with the information they need to chart the course of the path to graduation
        • One app for all planning and learning activities – Bb Planner is integrated into the Bb Student mobile app.advise_02
        • Students navigate through the Planner app to enter information about their interest and then discover careers based on interests.
        • Bb has integrated with Burning Glass to power the apps decision tree.
        • Partnered with Road Trip Nation – to give students an idea of what it is like to work in a specific career.
        • Reaching out to a campus advisor is also easy, right from the device.
        • Planner also provides their status as to their progress toward a degree and then there is a “what if” feature that allows students to discover a new degree or pathway based on what classes they have already taken.
        • At the institutional level the system can help advisors identify at-risk students.
        • Advisors can also connect through Collaborate to have a real-time session through mobile.
    • Predictive Analytics
      • Bb Predict is based on a solution created by Blue Canary.
      • Date is collected from SIS and LMS – and asking questions like will the student pass the class, will the student show up in class, and then putting this information in front of advisors, faculty, and students.predicthero_616x418_tcm21-40961
      • The goal is to take the raw data and distill that into of something of value – with the end goal: Student Success.
      • PROBLEM: What is the question you are trying to answer? This is the place to start when looking at data/analytics.
      • INGEST: Aggregate the data from multiple sources.
      • MODELING: Take and turn the data into valuable info (answer the question)
      • DISTRIBUTE: Put the valuable info into the hands of those who can act on it
    • Data Science
      • How can we use data to make things better. Blackboard’s data science team is to further the state of the art in research, share that research, and help to improve products for that institutions can become more effective.
      • Student activity in courses was reviewed by Blackboard from 70,000 courses from 927 institutions, with 3,374,462 unique learners that resulted in the following categories of “course types”:course-archetype-717x359
      • Bb Collaborate data is also used to evaluate student activity in the creation of an engagement score.

    See Blackboard Blog Post: Patterns in Course Design: How instructors ACTUALLY use the LMS

    Coding, Gaming, IoT, and Wearables: New Student Success Technologies, or Chocolate-Covered Broccoli?

    Session Description: Join us for a spirited discussion of four current technologies. Share your perspective on whether educationally these technologies are like pouring chocolate over broccoli or if they can improve student outcomes by strategically leveraging them. Come caffeinated and opinionated, and be ready to dive in and share with peers and colleagues.
    Outcomes: Identify current learning technologies and trends *discuss the affordances and constraints of each technology presented *identify common adoption issues faced by new technologies and resources to resolve those issues


    • Chris Luchs

      Associate Dean, Career and Technical Education, Colorado Community College System
    • Kae Novak

      Instructional Designer, Front Range Community College
    • Dr. Farah Bennani

      Associate Dean, Colorado Community College System


    • The lenses to view new technologies with: Implement Tomorrow, Needs more Research, Chocolate on Broccoli
    • Coding – Becoming a popular educational opportunity as languages are becoming easier.
    • Gaming – Engaging students with content is becoming more possible through games. Resources like Kahoot can be leveraged by faculty.
    • Internet of Things – Potential exists and everything is connected, but the question is how does this impact the classroom, what about privacy?  How will the play out in the school and in the classroom.  We can monitor the impact on the consumer end as this will impact on that horizon first. This technology is on the horizon, but there still needs to be some more research.
    • Wearables – They are here! Fitbit like devices are not just about tracking, but they are about social too. How about using these in physical education classes. Think about the community that goes along with it. There are some that are motivated with the “quantified self”.  Oral Roberts University requires students to use Fitbit. Concerns around who owns the data and how secure is it?  What about privacy?
    • What about Virtual Reality? Lots of potential, however, the biggest challenge is building content…

    The key questions, what capabilities do these new technologies bring to the education experience? What instructional problems can these new technologies solve?