Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Blackboard Sync vs CourseFeed by Classtop – A Comparison
March 27, 2008, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Articles

I wanted to take a moment to provide an update on the soon-to-be-released Blackboard Sync Facebook application. According to the dates presented in today’s Blackboard webinar, Sync should be available in the April/May time frame.

While Blackboard Sync still appears to be in prototype, I thought I would try to collect what I saw in today’s webinar as far as potential features and place the features side-by-side with CourseFeed from Classtop Inc., which has been in operation here at GRCC since November 2007. In fact, since November, over 1,200 users on the GrandRapidsCC network have added the CourseFeed Facebook application.


While I have yet to get my hands on Sync, and realizing it is still in a prototype phase, it seems that CourseFeed has a more typical look and feel of a true Facebook application with the way notifications and updates are handled and displayed. I also like CourseFeed’s email notification capability and the personal mini-feed that can be placed on a users’ Facebook profile page. CourseFeed seems to integrate with the Facebook environment very nicely, and presents information in a way that users have come to expect with other applications.

That being said, the Sync application appears to have some outstanding potential, and I’m definitely excited and interested in trying it out. According to today’s webinar, Sync will be first available around the April time frame as an “Open Access” Facebook application, which would allow a student to add the Sync Facebook application without any institutional involvement. Institutions can “block” this Open Access connection by installing a simple “Opt Out” text file on their server. Another option for institutions is a Building Block that can be installed on the institution’s server which handles authentication slightly differently and has the potential for providing more accurate synchronizations.

Sync will eventually be included and bundled with an upcoming release of Blackboard. I’d imagine this will be similar to how Scholar and SafeAssign are now bundled with Blackboard 8. What intrigues me most is the potential for Sync to also integrate with additional social networks such as Google OpenSocial, and support other Bb products such as Bb Connect. In addition, Sync’s framework has potential for extending capabilities into other communication channels such as Windows Vista Gadgets and Apple Dashboard Widgets. This is impressive. I have heard some buzz about gadgets and widgets in Sakai, and it surprises me a little that someone hasn’t written a gadget or widget yet for Blackboard.

Here are some important notes about how CourseFeed and Sync handle the privacy of student and course information. CourseFeed and Sync:

  • Do not share Blackboard course announcements or content outside of the course – only students enrolled in the course have access to the information.
  • Do not transfer content to Facebook – only links to the content are displayed in Facebook.
  • Do not display student photos from Blackboard – student roster photos come from Facebook.
  • Do not make public a student’s private information.

The benefits of CourseFeed and Sync:

  • Allows students to receive their Blackboard course updates in Facebook.
  • Alerts students when new announcements and content are posted to Blackboard.
  • Provides a way for students to form study groups, ask questions, and interact with each other.
  • Encourages engagement with other students and helps to increase communication between students and instructors.
  • Helps to make learning social by providing classmates a way to connect, interact, and collaborate.

The following table below provides a comparison of Blackboard Sync vs CourseFeed by ClassTop Inc. The information below is compiled to the best of my knowledge:

CourseFeed by ClassTop Inc.

Blackboard Sync (Prototype)

Facebook Profile News Feed


(Mini-Feed Only Visible To Profile Owner)


Email Notifications – What’s New






CourseNotes (File Exchange)






Add/Remove Courses



(Displays All Courses)

Add/Remove Organizations



Content Area Folder and Item Structure



(Course Map is Available)


Once Every 8 Hours


Every 60 Minutes

(Only Syncs if user is logged into Facebook)

Manual Synchronization



Invite Users









Course Content












Course Map



Scholar Bookmarks



Syncs Photo from Facebook



What’s New


(Today | Yesterday | 3 Additional Days – In addition to Announcements and Content, also included are: Number of CourseFeed Users on the System, and New User Join Notifications.)


(7 Days – Only displays Announcements, Content, Forums, and Grades.)

Longevity of Updates and Content

30 Days – Announcements and 30+ for Content

7 Days – Announcements and Content

Building Block Available



Institution Opt-In


Institution Opt-Out



Blackboard to offer Facebook Integration – Blackboard Sync
March 20, 2008, 10:50 am
Filed under: Articles

Just in!  Blackboard is joining the ever growing list of Facebook application providers.  Based on a recent client email, I’m very happy to see that Blackboard is planning to provide some integration with Facebook, since social networking can provide some very powerful capabilities for enhancing connection, communication, and collaboration.

Classtop’s CourseFeed Facebook application was FIRST on the market, and currently more than 1,200 of GRCC students have added the application to their Facebook pages.  CourseFeed does an excellent job of providing updates, announcements, what’s new, email notices, and even a course wall for classmates to exchange information with each other.


Apparently the tool is not yet available, which is disappointing – since I want to give it try!  I’ve signed up for the webinar that Blackboard has set up to learn more.  It will be interesting to see how this tool compares to CourseFeed.  As I scan through Blackboard Sync Wiki, it looks like there will be some Scholar integration which would be a value added capability, compared to the CourseFeed application.  Meanwhile, more information about Blackboard Sync is available here:

GRCC Featured in a Customer Spotlight on
March 19, 2008, 6:08 pm
Filed under: Articles

Back in February, Wimba Inc. was on campus with a video crew. The purpose of the visit was to begin writing a case study and to record a series of video interviews of students and faculty related to their experiences with using the Wimba Voice Board and Wimba Pronto. Ann Alexander, Bernard Manker, Britt Price, Daniel Anderson, Eric Kunnen, Garret Brand, Jeff S. Kissinger, and 2 students were part of the video interview.


The video and case study are currently being featured on the customer spotlight area on In addition, the video that was shot back in February was played during a keynote session as the first annual Wimba Connect Users conference in Orlando on March 4th.

Click here to watch the complete video interview and to access the case study.

GRCC Highlighted in NISOD Hook’em Up Newsletter
March 19, 2008, 5:17 pm
Filed under: Articles

I was very happy to discover that Grand Rapids Community College was highlighted in a recent NISOD Newsletter. The newsletter article featured the following GRCC initiatives in the Hook’em Up NISOD Newsletter (March 2008, Volume 2, Number 5):

  • GRCC’s use of Blackboard Scholar – “One of the first Blackboard clients to participate in the focus groups was Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC). As part of this effort, Eric Kunnen, coordinator of instructional technologies at GRCC, conducted a student survey that indicated most students were not well-versed in using social bookmarking tools. “They really did not know what social bookmarking meant until they got to use it in a group activity,” says Garry Brand, faculty development coordinator and associate professor, Business Law.”
  • You can learn more about what GRCC is doing at GRCC’s YouTube Channel.
  • Congratulations to GRCC instructors Julie Hess and John Doane as 2008 NISOD Excellence Award winners!

GRCC’s YouTube Channel Featured on Blackboard’s “Educate/Innovate” Blog
March 19, 2008, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Articles

I was very happy to learn that all of the hard work that Klaas Kwant, Garry Brand, and I have put forth on creating our GRCC’s YouTube channel is getting some recoginition.


Blackboard’s “educate/innovate” blog just ran a feature that included information about Blackboard’s new BbTV YouTube channel. In this blog post, GRCCTV was featured. Here is a quote from the article:

“For educators and staff members seeking ways to use video in a Blackboard environment, in classroom teaching and learning, or across your campus, I highly recommend a YouTube Channel created by Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC): GRCCTV.

On its GRCCTV Channel, Eric Kunnen and his colleagues post video recordings of campus lectures and courses, and archive thought-provoking and cool education videos.

Amidst the 420+ videos (uploaded by Klaas Kwant and Media Technologies) in the GRCCTV archives is this interesting little 20-second clip with the description “Student uses mobile device (iPhone) to take a Blackboard assessment in a Business Law class.” (This student is in Garry Brand’s course.)”

Read the entire blog article here.

Studying Online with Classmates is Cheating?
March 15, 2008, 11:37 am
Filed under: Articles

I recently came across a blog post by Gerry Mckiernan from Iowa State. Gerry referred to an article in the Toronto Star entitled “Student Faces Facebook Consequences“. This article highlights a student that is being accused for cheating because he was studying with classmates – online. The student is even facing expulsion. Ryerson University appears to be charging the student for 147 (1 for setting up the site, and 1 for each student that participated) counts of cheating for using Facebook to study online with other students.


Ryerson student Chris Avenir is facing expulsion for taking part in a Facebook study group for one of his engineering courses.

In the Facebook group, the students exchanged tips for studying and completing their homework assignments. What I don’t understand is how is this different than a group of students gathering together to study in a face-to-face format. Either in the hallway, in the library, before class, after class, in study hall, or even exchanging instant messaging or emails with each other.

I think Kim Neale, who is a Ryerson student union’s advocacy coordinator, says it well:

“All these students are scared … now about using Facebook to talk about schoolwork, when actually it’s no different than any study group working together on homework in a library,” said Neale.

A significant amount of learning happens OUTSIDE of the classroom. Students, coming together in informal settings is an extremely powerful way of learning. Learning is social. Education is participatory. Taken further, we, as a society need to help each other grow, learn, and succeed. As educators and educational institutions, we need to expand the online exchange of information, not create fear or oppress the use of technology for learning. Using online tools to communicate and exchange learning is a prime example of leveraging technology to meet educational outcomes.

Chris Avenir himself also makes a great point:

“But if this kind of help is cheating, then so is tutoring and all the mentoring programs the university runs and the discussions we do in tutorials,” he said.

Part of the issue seems to be the assessment techniques that are applied by the professor as they relate to student performance and learning outcomes. If, in the end, the student is truly personalizing and learning the outcomes of the course, how they get there needs to be supported by the educational institution and the professor in my opinion. In the end, it’s about learning. We need to support our students learning using as many tools as necessary to ensure everyone can learn. We need to leverage technology to provide students with the ability to learn through communication, collaboration, and sharing.

There are several tools that Grand Rapids Community College has available that can create a more effective learning environment for students.  I think educators should encourage students to use:

  • online discussion boards (via Blackboard) for communication,
  • instant messaging (via Wimba Pronto) for collaboration,
  • social networking (Facebook via CourseFeed) for awareness of announcements and new content posts,
  • social bookmarking (via Blackboard Scholar) for sharing web-based resources,
  • wikis and blogs (via Learning Objects Campus Pack) for collaboration,
  • and creatively apply other emerging technologies to the teaching and learning interchange.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

League for Innovation – Innovations 2008 Conference – Day 3
March 4, 2008, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Conferences

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Forum Session
Governor’s Square 9, Concourse, Plaza Building

Creating a 21st Century Organization in Higher Education


This session explores the need to restructure higher education to replicate what is occurring in the business world—a flattening of organizations. The structure of higher education harkens back to the Middle Ages. With titles, regalia, symbols of office, and so forth, institutions are well grounded in their heritage. Unfortunately, administrative structures are often equally grounded in the past. However, through Web 2.0, YouTube, Second Life, and a host of other technological innovations, society is coming to expect a
more participatory structure since individuals believe their voice will be and must be heard.

Larry Skogen, President;
Drake Carter, Dean, Instructional Services;
Carla Braun Hixson, Associate Vice President,Continuing Education, Bismarck State College, ND

  • If we want to say in charge of our destinies, we have to learn to anticipate the changes going on all around us.” – Luc de Branbandere, The Forgotten Half of Change
  • Reorganize intellectually and operationally to meet the needs of the 21st Century.
  • Many resources available indicating that life is changed… things are changing… but there is a lack of real world application of how we can understand to move forward with all of this change.
  • Used e-Instruction to respond to who are you? Majority are middle level administrators, presidents or senior administrators, then other, then faculty, then staff.
  • CensusScope ( – Age Distribution, 2000 – Buldge of 35-44
  • Accelerating rate of technological change.
  • Which of the following best represents your knowledge of the current literature about new business and organizational structures and theories. Most say I know a little, but ready to learn more.
  • Generational differences ( = Baby Boomers 1946-1964 (tv, telephone), Gen X (video games, email, pc) 1960 – 1981, Net Gen (text messaging, im, web)1977 to 1997.
  • An Online Universe – Web 2.0, YouTube, ScondLife. (Chocolate Rain and Cherry Chocolate Rain Viral Video)
  • Effect of Online Universe – Gary Hamel’s “thoughtocracy” – “Your contribution should be judged simply on the merits of what you do rather than on the basis of your title or your credentials or providence or anything else.”
  • Characteristics of the Net Generation – Multitaskers, multiprocess, delays in communication is not acceptable, construct their own knowledge, they want to be users of info not just viewers, and voices of individuals must and will be heard.
  • Which of the following do you think was the lowest ranked reason that employees gave for staying with an employer. Salary is the lowest ranked young people say. Older adults say a reasonable view of hours worked in an average week.
  • Top 10 reasons younger employees would stay with an employer.
    1. A management style that you respect.
    2. Future opportunity for advancement.
    3. Reward you for success.
    4. Places it’s employees needs as essential to success
    5. A casual and friendly work environment
    6. Has a reasonable view of hours worked
    7. Forward thinking and innovative management
    8. Well respected and intelligent management
    9. Trustworthy management
    10. Allows working from home
  • Why look for another job?
    • Opportunity for advancement
    • Relationship with manager
    • Training
    • Fair salary
    • Work-life balance
    • Benefits
  • The new educational institution. Need to be innovative, challenging and rewarding, ample professional development, flexible, response to personal needs, and empower employees to collaborate on decisions. Avoid micro-management.
  • We need a new model for organizations that uses hierarchical decision making only for activities that need that authority, such as allocating resources, appointing people to jobs, or holding people accountable–but at the same time enables self-directed professionals to collaborate with their peers continuously.” – Innovative Management, Lowell Bryan
  • The Organizational Future is FLAT = Functional, Leveling of the, Administrative, Topography.
  • Traditional Organization Structure is “Silos” and no clear collaborative linkages.
  • New Organizational Structure is “Flat” with clear linkages between operational units.
    “The goal should be to separate the organizational structure from the operational structure where possible.”

    • President – Executive Council – Operations Council connects Advancement, Instructions, Operations, Energy, HR
    • Operations Council has 15 seats which includes a “micro-cosom” of the various operational areas. Inclusive of different points of view. Staff senate and faculty senate. Hmmm, should GRCC have a staff senate?
  • Where are decisions made on your campus? Most are at the senior level based on audience response (24 out of 39 responses). Wow. Decisions should be shared throughout the institution.
  • What is the current state of of college views at your campus? Most say, we are still top down, but we are starting to realize the need to change. What is the worst of both worlds? Silos with their own decisions?
  • Douglas MacGregor writes: “The distinctive potential contribution of the human being… at every level of the organization stems from his capacity to think, to plan, to exercise judgment, to be creative, to direct and control his behavior.”
  • Flattened Implementation of Ideas
    • Idea Based
    • Product Based
    • Organizational Processes and Procedures Based
    • Services Based
  • Creating a Culture of Innovation
    – Embrace Risk and Tolerate Failures

    • A measurable, intentional, ongoing process tightly linked to our vision, goals, and strategies that provides a way for people to put ideas into valuable action:
      • Establish Process
      • Measured
      • Creativity friendly rewards system
      • Tolerance for failure
  • Innovation Avenues
    (GRCC should use this and determine how it fits with the strategy team and our Innovation work.) – See Flowchart Workflow in Handout

    • Idea blogs – public staff/student ideas
    • Wild endeavors – ideas that employees have, system/process for gathering ideas, funding opportunities, cross departmental/occupational teams, rewards for system for innovation even failures… it failed because.
    • Planning revolutionary innovation team – working with themes, gaps, focused projects, creative ideas
  • Moving to a Culture of Innovation
    • Training Commitment
      • Define innovation
      • Update on innovation process
      • Motivational presentation
      • How to create a culture of innovation in your department.
    • Communication Commitment
      • Celebrating and story telling
      • Email updates
      • Newsletter, website
  • McKensie Quarterly is an excellent reading resource.
  • Bismarck State College –

9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Plaza Ballroom, Concourse Level, Plaza Building


Jean Goodnow, President, Delta College

Leonardo de la Garza, Chancellor, Tarrant County Community College District

Keynote Speaker
Bing Thom, Developer, Innovative Learning Spaces, Bing Thom Architects

2008 Microsoft Terry O’Banion Student Technology Award Winners


  • Authenticity in an Age of Globalization – Keynote with Bing Thom
    • Population and consumption – Land, autos, we want more…
    • Changing life patterns – Increasing life expectancy and continuing education and supporting change of careers and continual learning
    • Live with More for Less
    • The compact city/mixed use – live/work/education/culture/entertainment/shopping
    • Vancouver has 80,000 people living in downtown on a peninsula. People are willing to live with less private space so there is more public space.
    • Fastest growing areas in Vancouver is now suburbs. “Satellite cities” are linked by rapid transit. Surry is slated to be larger than Vancouver. Bing will be working to architect and design the effective use of space and campus in this area. University is on top of the shopping center because that is where the intersection of key areas of 7 minute walking distance. – (Check web site for photos.)
    • Looking out into the city and down into the shopping center. “We didn’t have to build food spaces or study spaces. Students are part of the city life and stick around campus much much longer.”
    • “Accidental collisions” for students to intermingle and talk with each other… learn more from each other in informal settings. Lots of study areas with wood used a lot in the architecture. Outside of building glowing to bring people in at night. Plaza for the city as an open space for outdoor entertainment. City is planning to move city hall to the campus tower. Lots of views from the building to the city and to common areas for entertainment, shopping, food. Gathering space for student activities. Combine new library and city hall located as part of a complete campus. “Properties” are considered as collaborative spaces… not this is the city property, this is the college property, this is the office building property… no. It’s the combination of spaces that is important. How ALL spaces work together.
    • Fort Worth project… river is always dirty. Prime real estate is in the flood plain (600 acres). Re-routed river to shorter point. Designed view zones for viewable areas of the cities. Layout housing blocks for young families. Focus on street widths… smaller widths creates a more closely knit community. Think San Francisco. Use canals on the river and space for water and paths for recreation. City college brand new design… would be the first downtown campus. College as a catalyst of partnership and brining people together. This is impressive connection of colleges and city buildings. Shaped the bluf so you could view the water easier.
    • Alberta Calgary project. Forming futures for the technical college. Challenge to develop a master plan. Include the heritage building… grow from the inside out. Swing space for building replacement. Good movement and circulation that includes green space on 3 sides. Added to that is a good transit system. Build a series of pedestrian streets instead of cars. Take parking to the edge. Get cars off from the center of the campus so the buildings become more personal. Drag people through the campus… even if you are not part of the campus, the shortcut to the main city transit is through the center of campus. Lots of glass to “window shop” into the spaces from the outside and inside. Big spaces and small spaces are important… movable furniture is key. Bring greenery into buildings. To get students to “hang around” we need to create spaces that has soft furniture, home feeling, greenery, well designed space, fireplaces, well designed food places – good food, etc. “MegaBites Diner” use the city to help drive. Too big of spaces is not good, no sense of intimate spaces.
    • Where we were, where we are, where do we want to go?
  • 2008 Microsoft Terry O’Banion Student Technology Award Winners
    • $5,000 scholarship awards go to:
      • Rodney Hargis – Mercis Community College
      • Irvin De La Torre – El Paso Community College
      • Richard Phillips – Snead State Community College
  • Walden University is largest teacher prep online program. Also, Walden’s leadership program includes: 1) most community college centric program, 2) 20 community college leaders serve as faculty mentors, and 3) all mission and programs deeply linked to lead and effect positive social change.