eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

How to Create Richer Experiences Using Group Work

7/22 at 10am
Research has shown students can benefit from group work in several ways. But not everyone is a fan. In this session, the panel describe effective tools and techniques to enhance the group work experience. The session will outline the chief problems associated with group work along with ways to address them. Faculty and students will also be on hand to discuss how they’ve successfully implemented group work and how it’s evolved over the years.

  • Benefits of Group Work
  • Problems associated with Group Work
  • Potential Solutions
  • Results (instructor perspective)
  • Results (student perspective)

Benefits of Group Work

  • Plays to Human Nature (being social significantly enhances learning)
  • Improved Peer Relationships (once you get past forming/storming)
  • Increases in Engagement (active learning)
  • Sense of independence
  • self-directed learning
  • learn to operate in relationships
  • Collaborative exchange
  • Enhance Problem solving
  • Peer Learning

Problems Associated with Group Work

Why students hate it:

  • Various student skill levels
  • Dealing with dominant/passive personalities
  • self-selecting group issues
  • grading discrepancies and issues
  • unclear purpose
  • undefined student roles
  • unclear instructor expectations
  • Vagueness of accountability and fairness
  • Difficulty with meeting and communication
  • Difficulty using various technologies
  • Difficulty pacing project work
  • Difference in opinion of final product

Potential Solutions

Start of Group work/project

  • Purpose and instructions (importance of group work in real life included)
  • individual contract (have students agree to certain terms – using bb quiz) Students don’t agree it doesn’t open up project.
  • Timing of implementation
    • back half of semester
    • mimic earlier assignment (make it familiar for students)
    • accurate group distribution

During Group work/project

  • Group Contract with Defined Roles
  • Mandated live sessions
  • Documentation of Communication
  • Instructor Presence (feedback along the way is essential)

Grading the Group Work Project

  • Grading based on 60/40 split
    • instructor: grade project 60%
    • Students grade peers 40%
  • Grades adjust from review of documentation
  • Role dependent grade adjustments

Results – Instructor Perspective

  • Started with high anxiety of project
  • High growth and interaction
    • live sessions crucial
  • questions were content focused
  • One one student not involved
  • Projects were very strong
  • Student feedback surprisingly positive

Results – Student Perspective

  • Contract with spelled out exactly ( no one could say I didn’t know)
  • Groups were assigned
  • Knew instructor was paying attention and that did make a difference (recordings of live meetings)
  • Grading yourselves made a difference
  • roles made division of work excellent

What we learned

  • Implement on back half of course
  • Mimic earlier assignment for familiarity
  • Individual/group Contracts
  • Mandate Communication
  • Force student voice in participation

BbWorld20 Session blog – Blackboard Learn Roadmap Session

7/22 6:45am

Updates on Learn and Mobile Apps

1 Blackboard, 2 Experiences, 3 Hosting Methods
330 Clients currently on Ultra

Everyone a teacher, everyone a learner
Enabling leaners and educators to engage in Highly collaborative learning.

Update for content editor for original courses

  • Mobile optimized
  • fully responsive
  • copy and pasting has been improved (original formatting or simplified html) Images also copied and pasted
  • MS HTML is removed!
  • Pasting link from youtube/video automatically embeds video
  • Add button
  • pop-up windows now are overlay bubbles (mobile friendly)
  • ability to enter and format computer code (computer science)
  • accessibility checker
  • available later this year

Updated in-line grading Bb Annotate

  • Marking text (select text and choose markup)
  • removing annotations easy
  • adding own text to document
  • built-in search tool
  • draw with tools or use freehand
  • Add image
  • Side-panel shows preview and quick navigation
  • adding comment where you want
  • Learn SaaS – reusable comment bank

Collaborate Whiteboard – coming soon

  • additional drawing tools
  • new shapes and brushes
  • multiple pages
  • sharing whiteboards to breakout room
  • Exporting annotations

Automated Feedback for Ultra

  • correct and incorrect responses
  • coming soon

Peer Assessment for Learn Ultra

  • coming soon
  • shows in stream for faculty and students
  • instructor sees 360 degree view of peer evaluation process when assessing

Connected and Open

  • deepen LTI implementation
  • growing set of REST APIs
  • become industry standard
  • Premium Ultra APIs – surface apps and tools when an where needed in Bb interface
    • allows integrated tool to communicate security with application
    • app engages with user when and where they need to
    • Eesysoft (context-based help and assistance)
    • Blue by Explorance – course evaluation software (prompting students to evaluate when needed)
    • Qwickly – Attendance pro (self-checking attendance request) Students see checkin option on course main page, no need to go somewhere special to do this.

App Catalog

Bb Data Strategy

Ultra View of Activity as related to grades (marks)

Bb data reporting – available as part of learn SaaS – in one place learn about Collaborate and Learn usage.

Bb Achieve – add-on solution for learner engagement and interaction

  • Content engagement (filter down to department lvl)
  • Performance Dashboards

Access and Equity

  • Ally availability for mobile app.
  • Ally as a service
    • Course content
    • Ally for websites
    • Ally as a service REST API

Personalized Learning Experience

  • Blackboard Assist (Learn SaaS) – helps students where and when they need it with assistance from Bb, institution, and partners. Comes with curated partners (can be turned off)
  • Bb Chatbot (Learn SaaS) Uses Bb Help site originally (no additional charge) future more premium paid version with more options
  • Student List View of Gradebook in Ultra
  • Learning Module Progress indicators (Ultra course View)
  • Offline Content (Bb App) – being able to download course content on mobile device (available now)
  • Messages – Bb and Bb Instructor App (push notifications)
  • Bb Watch OS app for students (view grades, due dates, announcements)

BbWorld20 Session Blog – Streamlining and Improving Instructions for students

7/21 @ 12:45 pm

  • Overview of problem
  • Research on Student ownership/engagement
  • Implementation of triggers
  • Results of implementation
  • Potential future Uses


  • Students not reviewing intro material
  • same questions over and over
  • same mistakes over and over
  • rise of frustration all around


  • Overall Lack of Academic Agency
    (activities not meaningful, no voice in how they are learning)
  • Increase Ownership through
    • Course Contracts (students agree to expectations etc…)
    • Student Choice/Selection

Course contract (ownership and engagement)

  • Share power and authority
  • focus on process and product
  • clearly defines expectations
  • sets up a “pact” mentality

Student Choice

  • share power and authority
  • choose items of interest
  • discussions, PBL, etc… (have 5 readings and choose three of them, propose a topic for discussion)

Adaptive Release

  • Original use – Release dates
  • Evolving use – Rough Drafts
  • Current use – course contracts

Implementation of Contracts

  • course orientation quiz (how to navigate, syllabus, expectations)
  • Needs for something better
  • Need to force students to complete/agree
  • Results and Evolution of Contract

How quiz works

  • 10 mc questions 1 pt a piece Examples:
    • I have read late policy
    • I will not use wikipedia
    • Writing style is APA
  • Have to agree to all 10 in order to proceed.

Beyond Course Orientation

  • Implementation on Individual Assignments
    • Triggers to answer to open access to other part of course
    • column in grade center that delineates where triggers are as opposed to normal course work
  • Implementation Using Graded Videos
  • First Rendition of Choose Your own path
    • get more by watching instructions, assignment template, easter eggs etc.

From Contracts to Choice

  • Focus more on student choice
  • Making it work
  • Possibilities
    • Variety of assignments
    • variety of career options
    • variety of topics
      – Examples: Tech orientation org prior to class registration, which Grade are you teaching opens specific content for students.

BbWorld20 Session Blog – Blackboard Ally Roadmap

7/21 @ 10:45am

Recent Updates & Roadmap

Ally has had 36 product release in just under a year.

Also announcing 5 new major feature additions today/very soon.

Recent additions Reporting

  • usage tab in institutional reporting (student usage) break down alternative format usage, downloads, courses, distribution. instructors, how many fixes, how often feedback was opened..over time.
  • Data is all available in BbData
  • LTI tab – Feature Flags (to release new functionality when we want) eg. translated version alternative format.
  • Dedicated integration with eesysoft (enable flag to capture ally data for eesysoft)

Recent Additions for Instructors

  • improved integration for ultra experience courses
  • feedback flows:
    • PDF’s without title
  • course accessibility report (gives instructor summary at course level)

Recent Additions for Student Facing

  • New alternative formats (BeeLine reader, Translated Version)
  • Alternative formats have become more prominent in UI
  • Beeline Reader – Technology developed for speed reading purposes works with with Dyslexia and ADHD students (uses color gradient to guide eye through text)

Announcements – New for Ally!

  1. Reporting at Departmental Level launching in next few weeks (based on institutional hierarchy) Adds an additional directory tab to institutional report. Can be configured to be available to departmental administrators. (requires latest version of learn SaaS)
  2. Ally launched in Arabic even for Alternative Formats
  3. Ally Alternative Formats soon to be available for content created within the LMS (Original and Ultra)
  4. WYSIWYG Feedback – coming in future
    – provide instructor feedback for WYSIWYG content
    – Feedback directly embedded in content editor
    – live score while editign
    – highlights within the editor
  5. Future (Expand accessibility checklist
    -support for excel
    – text spacing, line spacing
  6. Support for Audio/Video content (future)
    – add support for additional types for video/audio sources
    – tools for instructor to provide captioning
    – integrated with 3rd party
  7. improved audio alternative formats (future)
    – for documents over 100k characters
    – Option to highlight text with audio alternative format
  8. Crowdource Remediation (forward looking)
    – duplicative manual remediation across insitutions
    – ally can facilitate re-use remediation by suggesting improvements elsewhere

Ally for Websites
– check content for issues
– reporting
– alternative format

Define domain/subdomains you want to track over time.

  • Checking for broken links (get a list)
  • Report for each domain or overall report
  • Launch feedback component from report

BbWorld20 Session Blog – Blackboard Collaborate Roadmap: Supporting Online Learning now and into the Future

7/21 10:00am

“Lightyears of progress in weeks.”

Impact of COVID-19 on our roadmap

  • Accelerate some features/shift priorities
  • Performance
  • Server capacity
  • Security

Forward Looking-statement (disclaimer that things may change) Roadmap is plan but may change in future.

Who we are as solution

  • Made for teaching and learning
  • Trustworthy
  • empowering engagement
  • Inclusive
  • Responsive
  • Easy to adopt
  • Measurable

EOS of Collaborate original

  • Tech stack made it inevitable
  • collaborate ultra is mature and well adopted
  • more scalable
  • most asked for features: add in ultra roadmap
  • Some original features cant’ make it

Made for teaching and learning

  • Roles, asymmetry and engineered collaboration
  • feeling safe and included
  • part of an ecosystem
  • part of a pedagogic path, not just an event
  • variety of instructors, needs, creativity, teaching methods

First half of 2020

  • Large sessions in scheduler (instructors more autonomous) (allow 250+
  • Poll results download available
  • sharing camera as content
    • document cam
    • mobile cam
    • show experiment/practice

2nd half of 2020 in chronological order

  • Profanity filter 8/6/2020
  • Recording reminder
  • Timer: test and plan
  • 1000 attendees in session


  • stability and robustness – #1 priority
  • Security and privacy as educators
  • Safety and privacy by design

First half of 2020

  • telephony capacity increase
  • scalability improvements
  • Secure by design features deactivating guess access/ recording access from only inside if wanted
  • Review of scalability of 3rd party

2nd half of 2020

  • improved monitoring – to proactive intervention
  • Security compliance adopting industry standards (OWASP)
  • Bulk invitation (early August) from scheduler
  • Recordings bulk management (visibility of your storage use, bulk delete for admins, consider retention policies
  • Waiting Room!!! (end of 2020) Apply to guests only first.

Empowering engagement

  • Teaching is not “meeting:
  • engagement is everything and needs to be engineered by prof
  • empower isntructor

New Whiteboard 8/6

  • Whiteboard and file annotation crucial for pedagogy, collaboration, engagement, complete exercise
  • Formatting (Pencil thickness, fonts, font size shapes with color fill and more
  • usability: copy and reuse elements, paste text, wrapping, eraser, confirmation for clear all
  • Annotation persistence: between slides (laod a blank doc to have multiple white board pages) Between tools (go from files to whiteboard to app sharing and get back to your previous annotations.
  • Breakout groups interaction for file annotations

for 2020 and beyond Whiteboard

  • pointer
  • multiple whiteboard pages
  • who made which annotations
  • sharing breakout whiteboard into main room

Engagement – 2nd half of 2020

  • Chat mentions
  • Video Gallery (highest priority) balance between interaction and focus enhancing the number of video feeds that can be seen at once (more faces) students with lower bandwidth don’t get penalized…let students choose

Balance Engagement and Focus (2021)

2nd half of 2020

  • Video Gallery (just video grid only when speaking not sharing content – yet) you can zoom and pagination.
  • Add templates and gallery when sharing
  • Pinning Videos

Leveraging for pedagogical uses 2021

Looking towards 2021

  • Recording pause and resume
  • more options for sharing recordings
  • More whiteboard/chat improvements


  • LMS (Learn) (calendar, groups as breakout groups, course content)
  • Live captioning (finding right parnter)
  • partnership with 3-play media

Session Preparation

  • groups, polls, etc

Secure and Inclusive engagement and collaboraiton

  • chat moderation
  • students can’t delete others annotations

Data powered

  • integrate with bb data
  • engagement score during session
  • engagement coaching via data
  • gallery view powered by predict

BbWorld20 Sesion Blog: Ways to Empower Faculty to Create a More Inclusive Environment

7/21/2020: 9:15am

Goal for Digital Accessibility and Inclusive Education TAMUCC

Create a more inclusive digital academic environment

  • Culture of Awareness and support
  • Positive and open mindset

Strategy for Success


  • finding stakeholders and partnerships
    • Departments (disability service office, HR, faculty excellence, and others)
    • Governance (support from administration, faculty senate, committees, SGA)

Discovering strategy and vision

  • learning the lessons (technically ready, but buy-in and culture wasn’t there)
  • moving forward (training, support, accessibility website)
  • building awareness
    • Digital accessibility day (content remediation)
    • one-on-ones with IDs/Trainers
    • Accessibility simulation lab

Making Strides by Empowering Faculty

Engagement, professional development and embracing the current situation.

  • Community of Practice
    Talking about UDL, accessibility standards and introducing Bb Ally.
  • Leveraging Quality Assurance
  • Effective Communication
  • Supporting the Transition

Ally turned on for all courses – Communication around Ally went out via Dept newsletter, faculty advocate and other communication resources, Bb Org, Certification etc…

Worked Students into communications – alternate formats (from department, training resources and instructors)

SHSU Online Support Desk – Interim Hours

Beginning Monday, May 13, our Support Desk hours will be:

Monday – Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Saturday – Sunday: Closed

We’ll resume regular hours after Memorial Day.

Support Desk Summer Interim Hours

Quickly Provide Audio/Video Feedback in the Blackboard Grade Center

Quickly Provide Audio and/or Video Feedback in the Blackboard Grade Center

Instructor presence in online courses is crucial for student success.  The instructor plays an important role in student satisfaction in online courses.  SHSU Online instructors interact with students in discussions, virtual office hours, feedback, and other important ways.  One facet of instructor presence in online courses is feedback for the student’s submitted activities/assessments.  Most of this instructor feedback has been textual in nature.  Instructors generally type in their comments and try to personalize the text they use when doing so.

For some time now, Instructors have had the ability to provide feedback with other tools (audio/video/etc.), but it has been a kluge.  Recording a video somewhere else, selecting a mash up, or pasting embedded code in the appropriate place was how more personalized feedback could be given.

Blackboard’s Insert Recording Feature

One of Blackboard’s latest feature releases allows instructors to record and insert an audio or a video recording right into the feedback area for a Blackboard gradable item.   Watch this short video to learn how to provide audio and/or video feedback to your students seamlessly with the Insert Recording tool.

Best Practice Alert

You don’t have to do a video/audio feedback recording for every grade!  Limit how many you do during the semester.  Here are a couple of strategies to get your started:

  • Make a list of your students and decide how many times you will leave video or audio feedback during the semester.  Use check-boxes to keep track.
  • Select a small number of activities where you will provide this more personalized feedback and use the tool on them.

Why I BbWorld – An eVolution


So Blackboard asked us to share #WhyIBbWorld via our twitter feeds as part of their lead up to Blackboard World in Austin #ATX this summer.  Being the eLearning eVangelist that I am, I have been posting multiple #WhyIBbWorld tweets that include everything from the obvious to the quirky (Me on the dance floor during the CAP, for example).

I have to admit it has been great being able to post my own #WhyIBbWorld’s and to read the tweets of others.  I have found many a kindred spirit in the reasons posted online.  Reading all these great #WhyIBbWorld tweets made me start to take a deeper look at why I attend Blackboard World.  I guess the reasons why I attend Blackboard World have evolved over time.  Let’s put them in three categories:

  • The Early Days
  • Getting Into the Groove
  • The Seasoned Vet


The Early Days

I attended my first Blackboard World some 20 years ago in Washington D.C.  In those days we were brand new to Blackboard version 5(the one right after CourseInfo).  I attended, so that we could see how to “use the darn thing”(Blackboard bought Web-Course-In-Box who we were using) and to maybe get a picture of the Lincoln Memorial.

I attended subsequent Blackboard Worlds because I was the only Blackboard guy on campus and I needed to plug into a community of folks like me.  On campus I was the Blackboard Wizard (there had to be twist) and I was looked to for knowledge, both technical and pedagogical, on how to use it. Blackboard World allowed me to connect to other people who were doing what I was doing and more.  In those days I was the Sys Admin, Faculty Development person and Instructional Designer, so I needed to “fill up” on everything I could, to improve things for faculty and students back at SHSU.

When you are on your own on campus, supporting a strategic system like Blackboard, it can be a scary situation. When you are wearing all the hats, you feel like you are always treading water and that you can’t make any progress.  Blackboard World was like a life preserver that allowed you to take stock of where you were and plan for where you needed to go.


Getting Into the Groove

As I got my first BbWorlds under my belt, my perspective as to why I was going changed.  I started to focus more on the connections I was making.  Connections with Bb Staff, Vendors at the conference and eLearing Guru’s from other institutions.  As Blackboard’s clientele grew, I was able to experience more cultures of learning (national and international) by attending.


As my use of Blackboard become more nuanced, so did the sessions I attended. I paid much more attention to the types of schools and programs the presenters were coming from, and that played a larger part in choosing the sessions I would attend.

Getting into the grove also changed part of what I would call the “overall feel” of Blackboard World. It became more than just a conference and networking event.  It also became what I lovingly refer to a “nerdy high school reunion”. Connections that you made in early BbWorlds were celebrated and renewed, all in an atmosphere of learning and sharing.  So besides just lining up your dance card for sessions, you might find yourself at Terry Patterson’s annual Birthday dinner or coordinating outfits for the client appreciation event.

At this point in my “Blackboard Evolution” I was leaving the “treading water” stage and starting to lift my head up to see what was coming next.  I began bringing my list of “I Wish Blackboard Coulds” so that when I spoke with Blackboard at the vendor fair or in meetings, I had ammunition for important conversations built upon the needs of my constituents back home.

Lastly, I started presenting about the things we were doing at our campus.  Not only did I present, but also I shared out some of the things we were doing for the community to use.  A prime example of this would be the Blackboard Support Orgs for students and faculty that we created and curated so that others could benefit.

Seasoned Vet (Where I Am Now)

The other title I chose for this section was A Little Rounder, A little Greyer.  

This year marks my 18th Blackboard World.  We had a year or two where we used another LMS who shall not be named, but whose name rhymed with Schmeeee Schmollege. Their conference made me really miss #BbWorld. One of the unmentioned LMS’s conference keynotes was Ben Stein…..anyone…..anyone.

I still look forward to many of the things that I experienced in my first two stages:

  • Talking to people who speak my language
  • Nerdy High School Reunions
  • Presenting/Sharing

I also pay much more attention to the more strategic or long-term elements of the conference. The product road-map sessions and the Bb Executive sessions come to mind. 

In my Veteran years at BbWorld, I:

  • became a VIP Blogger
  • earned my Bb Certified Trainer certification
  • was nominated and became a Bb MVP

As I look at those all of these aspects of my #WhyIBbWorld evolution, I realize that they are all really about one area….community.  I feel very fortunate to have spent much of my professional life in this community. Blackboard World has been there when I needed a lifeline, it allowed me to make important connections for me and my home institution, provided me with a nerdy high school reunion, gave me a platform to share out to the community, and allowed me to think much more strategically about eLearning at my campus.   I have taken so much from my attendance at BbWorlds and tried to give back at least as much as I have learned.

Thank you to Blackboard, the community and the universe for providing this outstanding conference.  I’m looking forward to #BbWorld19!

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