Top 7 Highlights from 2017 and Looking Forward to 2018

Blog Post created by eric.kunnen on Dec 5, 2017

As the 2017 academic year comes to a close, it's important to look back while also looking forward in pioneering the future into 2018 and beyond.


This post highlights the top 7 topics that have bubbled up throughout the year through the work of the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at Grand Valley State University (GVSU).




GVSU has been involved in the open education resources (OER) movement for many years, and most recently has seen a growth in the adoption and use of #OER in teaching and learning. For example, there have been several adoptions of OpenStax textbooks in Chemistry and Mathematics and a new interdisciplinary team lead by the university's library is helping to coordinate resources and raise awareness. In fact, GVSU has been participating with the K-12 community through the #GOOPEN initiative as part of the US Department of Education's goal to encourage states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials to transform teaching and learning. GVSU joined the #GOOPEN initiative in January last year. Further, there has been activity across the state for several years, and one recent example is the #MIOERSummit, which brought together faculty across the state with the goal of improving student success through the use and adoption of OER.


>>> What about you? What activities or opportunities do you see in the area of OER?



Each spring, GVSU brings together faculty and staff at a university wide "Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium" to focus on enhancing teaching and learning through technology. This year, it became clear that accessibility should be a focus, and most notably 'Universal Design for Learning' (UDL). The university brought in Dr. Thomas Tobin as a keynote to bring to light the value of UDL for creating accessible and inclusive education. Also as part of the symposium, 2 faculty were awarded with a Teaching with Technology Award.




Another exciting announcement came from Blackboard, with the launch of Blackboard Ally. This solution from Blackboard has amazing potential for serving as an institutional dashboard monitoring tool, a faculty education resources, and a timely conversion solution for students.


>>> What about you? What activities or opportunities do you see in the area of UDL and accessibility? Have you adopted Ally, if so, how is it going?



As with many states, Michigan has a group of colleagues that meet to discuss how to best leverage Blackboard to enhance education. The Michigan Blackboard Users Group hosts monthly webinars and yearly conferences that enable the community to gather together to share best practices. In the spring, the conference was held at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan. There were more than 100 educators from 20+ institutions in attendance across Michigan and Canada.


>>> What about you? What activities or opportunities do you have available in your state to connect with peers and colleagues?



To best communicate and create awareness of the capabilities of Blackboard, we believe that a variety of opportunities are valuable. From the "Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium" mentioned above, to the "#EdTech Summer Teaching Institute", "New Faculty Orientation", ongoing seminars and self-help documentation, special celebrations such as the "National Distance Learning Week", "eLearning Open Office Hours", along with regular meet ups with faculty in "Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities" have been very successful at GVSU. Additionally, the university has recently implemented a faculty badges initiative, whereby, faculty that attend sessions and submit a reflection can earn a badge related to professional development activities that include: Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Design and Development, Blackboard Essentials, Blackboard Collaborate, Digital Video, and more!




>>> What about you? What activities have you implemented to connect with faculty?


5 - #BBWORLD17

What yearly recap would be complete without mention of the national Blackboard conference, BbWorld17? This was another outstanding users conference with a plethora of great sessions by peers and colleagues from around the world. This year was notable as 2 of GVSU's professors earned "Exemplary Course Awards".




>>> What about you? What takeaways have you walked away with from this years conference?



There are a wide array of Blackboard extensions and plug-ins to further extend the capabilities and solutions available to students and faculty.  A couple of examples that have been established at GVSU include: BbStats - Opensource Blackboard Reporting and a Class Photo Roster. These applications were written by Bb MVP Szymon Machajewski and provide a wealth of value to the university. First, with BbStats, valuable statistics are easily obtained to best monitor and communicate the use of your Blackboard environment. At GVSU, we created an infographic to highlight a  few of the statistics. Second, based on a project request from faculty involved in a campus wide Strong Start Initiative, a class photo roster feature was implemented in Blackboard to enhance personal connections between faculty and students. Both of these solutions provide a greater value add to the capabilities within Blackboard.




>>> What about you? What Building Blocks have you implemented?



Every year, GVSU surveys faculty and students as to their user experiences with Blackboard. This provides valuable information to our eLearning team as to which tools are valuable, which features may be beneficial to increase awareness around, and what are opportunities for improvement. Here are a few highlights from GVSU's survey.




>>> What about you? What ideas do you have for monitoring and measuring how students and faculty are using your Blackboard environment?


2018 and BbEYOND

In reflecting back to 2017, there are many accomplishments and successes to celebrate.  But what is next? What opportunities are available to kick-it-up-a-notch at your institution? In addition to expanding and continuing the conversation around accessibility, UDL, OER, advancing the adoption of Blackboard, and engaging with faculty, we are also seeing an increase in the use of video in teaching and learning. Tools such as Panopto, Kaltura, and Ensemble are of increasing importance, along with unique capabilities such as the use of lightboards. Additionally, another area of tremendous opportunity involves data, namely learning analytics, predictive modeling, and overall taking advantage of the valuable information we have about students and faculty in their use of Blackboard. The work of John Whitmer and John Fritz has been outstanding in helping to frame the conversation of what is possible.




>>> What about you? What trends do you see in #highered that we should all be monitoring more effectively?