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In 2016, Blackboard engaged in a study “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes” that included data from 70,000 courses from 927 institutions, with 3,374,462 unique learners.

Based on this study of over 3 million learners and 70,000 courses, it was found that 53% of courses were supplemental, meaning content-heavy with low interaction, following by complementary at 24% meaning one-way communication through content, announcements, and gradebook. Additional course archetypes are illustrated in the chart below:


Chart retrieved from: “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes

Additionally, the Blackboard study found:

Courses with the largest amount of student activity take advantage of a diverse set of tools; campuses should identify and investigate these leading courses as sources for best practices and examples that can be adapted by other faculty in their courses.

Blackboard Use at GVSU

At GVSU, the eLearning team was interested in researching how Blackboard is being used by faculty and students. By leveraging the opensource BbStats Blackboard Building Block (which includes a “Latent Class Analysis Report”) by Dr. Szymon Machajewski, it was found that 72% of courses are using Blackboard in Holistic and Complementary ways, whereas 28% of courses fall into the content repository category in the Winter 2019 semester.

19% Holistic

  • 19% or 758 courses at GVSU fall into the Holistic category where 5 more more tools are used per course (eg. content, grade center, announcements, and possibly assignments, discussions, and/or assessments).

53% Complementary

  • 53% or 2,082 courses at GVSU are using at least 3 tools per course (eg. content, grade center, and announcements or assignments).

28% Content Repository

  • 28% or 1,088 courses at GVSU are using 2 or less tools per course (eg. content and announcements or discussion board). Additionally, there is no use of grade center, assignments, or assessments.


Chart retrieved from: GVSU BbStats Blackboard Building Block, Latent Class Analysis Report


Read more on GVSU eLearning blog ...

Download the Springer journal article:

DjrvZN7X0AA8cMu.jpgWould you like to know how your faculty are using the LMS?


The study demonstrates how to evaluate the use of your own Blackboard Learn LMS and how to apply latent class analysis to identify major faculty usage profiles.



Technology in Higher Education affects teaching and learning excellence while being a significant expense for universities. There is a need for evaluation of current instructional technology use when planning for renewal or adoption of a new learning management system (LMS). This study was conducted to understand the patterns of course tools used by faculty in a commercial LMS used at a large public research university. Course data was extracted from 2562 courses with 98,381 student enrollments during the Fall of 2016. A latent class analysis was conducted to identify the patterns of LMS tool use based on the presence of grade center columns, announcements, assignments, discussion boards, and assessments within each course. Three latent classes of courses were identified and characterized as Holistic tool use (28% of the courses), Complementary tool use (51%), and Content repository (21%). These classes differed in the mean number of students per course and whether courses were exclusively . These descriptions provided data-based information to share with deans across the university to facilitate discussion of faculty needs for LMS tools and training.



Comparing the student use of time in  courses and faculty design intentions, there is clearly a gap.  Perhaps time spent on course items by students reflects their best judgment on what will make them successful in the course.  Faculty may be designing opportunities for students, which are not well communicated and utilized.  Further research is needed to bridge this gap and match student  behavior with faculty expectations and their design for learning.



TechTrends Journal | Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning

A publication of the Association for Educational Communications & TechnologyISSN: 8756-3894 (Print) 1559-7075 ()


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To read the full article please visit Research Gate or you can use your library access to Springer journal TechTrends:


Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use


Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use | SpringerLink




Machajewski, S., Steffen, A., Romero Fuerte, E., & Rivera, E. (2018). Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use. TechTrends.


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