Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Leveraging Technology to Improve Online Student Success & Retention
July 27, 2011, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , ,

The Chronicle recently published an article (Community-College Students Perform Worse Online Than Face to Face) related to online learning and student success rates and highlighted research which was supported by the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In a nutshell, the report finds that students taking an online course had 82% chance of completing the course when compared with 90% in face to face courses.  For remedial courses that percentages were 74% and 85% respectively.

Here are a few key excerpts from the article (in italics) that I have found particularly useful:

  • “Online courses are a vital piece of the postsecondary puzzle,” said Shanna S. Jaggars, co-author of the study. “There are a lot of nontraditional students who would find it very difficult to attend and complete college without the flexibility they offer, but at the same time colleges need to be careful to make sure these courses aren’t just thrown together and that they are effectively serving students.”
    • This is an excellent point and underscores the importance of deliberate course design and quality checks and balances.  Quality Matters is a good resource here along with programs such as the Blackboard Exemplary Course Award Program.  In addition, Blackboard Inc. now has a partnership with Quality Matters that centers around quality courses design and effective faculty professional development.  Grand Rapids Community College is working to evaluate quality programs to move forward in improving the quality of online learning.
  • “Ms. Jaggars said lower completion rates in online courses often boil down to a combination of technical difficulties, a lack of structure, and isolation. Online students often have little training in how to navigate the online interfaces of their courses and struggle to manage their coursework without the grounding of weekly class meetings.”
    • The key here is to execute well on providing a reliable and robust enterprise course management systems like Blackboard Inc.  Further, dedicated student services, technology, distance learning, and faculty professional development departments need to coordinate efforts and provide the structure needed for streamlining services for students and faculty.  This includes specific areas around student (and faculty) support services and technical support.

      Isolation can occur easily, and this is where instructors can leverage technologies to broadcast their presence.  Not only with active participation in the course through announcements, discussion board posts, emails, etc.  But also by leveraging technologies such as Blackboard Collaborate Enterprise Instant Messaging. This instant messaging solution can effectively be used for online collaboration, office hours, and in the awareness that their instructor is present and online.
      Further using tools like Blackboard Connect for Learncan provide the personal touch that can help students succeed.  Sending text messages and text-to-voice message can improve the communication and reduce the feeling of isolation that can be common for students.  Grand Rapids Community College provides these solutions to faculty and is working to promote and create awareness of the power of “online presence” in teaching online.

      Here is a video clip that highlights the interactions possible with Bb IM:

  • Academic analytics is another important facet of this discussion.  Often there is data tucked away in our online systems that can help inform, shape, predict, and improve course delivery and student support.
    • Products such as Early Alert from Starfish Retention Solutions provide effective ways to leverage the data in course management systems such as Blackboard to better identify, track, and retain students.  Blackboard Analytics for Learnwas recently announced at the BbWorld 2011 conference as a product that takes advantage of iStrategy that was acquired by Blackboard in February of this year.

      Grand Rapids Community College uses Starfish Early Alert to identify students who may be falling behind in their online courses by automatically notifying the student and the faculty member if a student hasn’t accessed their online course within 7 days.  Also, conduct/behavior, academic performance, and manually raise attendance flags are used campus wide with the goal of intervening early to better support students.  These flags, when raised, notify the instructor, the student, retention specialists, student conduct and student affairs staff.

“The report suggests several ways to improve online courses, including increased technological support for students and more extensive training in online-teaching methods for faculty.”


Applying the Blackboard LMS to TPACK
February 3, 2011, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Articles, Work Activities | Tags: ,

I recently came across TPACK.

“Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to capture some of the essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPACK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK).” – SOURCE:

What I like about TPACK is that it zeros in on the intersection and interplay of the domains of: Content, Pedagogy, and Technology  This model can be used to be reflective and yet intentional when viewed from the aspect of teaching practice and instructional technology deployment.  This can be useful for faculty, instructional designers, those involved in designing professional development activities, and instructional technologists.

Using the TPACK model, faculty and instructional designers can focus on relaying content that adhere to course outcomes in a way that is pedagogically effective through the application of appropriate technologies.  Taken together this truly has potential to transform teaching and learning.  This in turn, has direct implications for faculty professional development as well as instructional technologists that are charged with providing support for technology integration in teaching.

While the focus is on the TPACK “center”, the following intersections may be helpful to review to begin putting TPACK into practice and it is also where the “rubber-meets-the-road” so to speak.

Consider the following equation (TCK + PCK + TPK = TPACK):

TCK (Technological Content Knowledge)

  • This intersection is all about how technology can be applied to subject matter to represent it and formulate it in ways never before possible – with the goal to make it comprehensible for diverse populate learners and learning styles.
  • Blackboard can power unique applications and representations of content.  Powerful analogies through Wimba Voice Tools, illustrations through Slideshare and Flickr Mashups, examples and simulations or explanations through YouTube Mashups, and demonstrations or real world application of content with engaging video tools such as NBC Learn can be easily added to courses in Blackboard.


PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge)

  • This intersection relates to how subject matter can be organized, adapted, facilitated, and presented.
  • Blackboard enables faculty and instructional designers to create an effective sequence and structure in displaying course materials, assignments, and learning activities.  Learning Units, Lesson Plans, Course Links, and Tool Links can be used by faculty to bring about custom course designs in Blackboard.  In addition, Adaptive Release can be leveraged to create custom learner paths.


TPK (Technological Pedagogical Knowledge)

  • This intersection is about the knowledge of the existence of technologies and ability to apply them to change teaching and learning.
  • Blackboard has a wide array of tools for teaching.  These tools can be broken down into Content Delivery, Communication, and Assessment categories.  There are also features that provide the ability to manage and maintain class records.  A few of the features in Blackboard include: Grade Center, Discussion Boards, Wikis, Blogs, Journals, Assignments, SafeAssignments, content Mashups (Slideshare, Flickr, YouTube, Camtasia Relay, NBC video content, Voice Authoring), Email, Wimba Pronto Instant Messaging, Wimba Voice Boards, Wimba Voice Email, Wimba Voice Announcements, Self and Peer Assessment, Surveys, Tests, group tools, announcements, etc.



  • and the potential of transforming teaching and learning with technology…

Some closing questions.  As you assess this model:

  1. Which domain do you naturally fall into?
  2. What domain do you need to spend some more time on and learn about?
  3. What steps can you take to approach “the center”?

Learning on-the-GO with Blackboard!
March 30, 2009, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Articles, Work Activities | Tags: , , ,

GRCC was recently highlighted in a recent Blackboard Inc. Press Release entitled: “New Blackboard Learn(TM) for Apple(R) iPhone(TM) Application Lets Users Take Learning on the Go”.

In the press release, Nate Schumacher who is a student and a staff member in the Learning Academy was cited for his involvement in the Beta of the application.

iphoneapp“Building on its efforts to engage students and learners in a more personalized learning experience, Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) today announced the release of a free application that lets users of the Apple(R) iPhone(TM) and iPod touch(R) take learning on the go by accessing course information wherever and whenever they prefer […]The application is great for quickly checking Blackboard on the go, and it helps me be more engaged and organized even if I’m from away campus,” said Nate Schumacher, a freshman at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan who participated in the Beta program for the application. “With Blackboard on my iPod touch, I’m checking more often for new grades and updates the same way I check my email. Because it’s so accessible, I can see my progress instantly and get feedback from professors on how I’m doing, so it helps make me a better student. This application has great potential. I would definitely recommend it to other students…

More information is available on the Blackboard Sync web site.

GRCC – Blackboard Use Tops 14,900 Visits Per Day
December 16, 2008, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Work Activities | Tags: , , , ,

In order to better track and report Blackboard usage here at GRCC, Google Analytics was recently added to the system.  Here are the top results since November 18th:

The Blackboard server has had an average of more than 7,600 visits per day with more than 14,900 visits topping the list for a single day.


Access: GRCC’s Blackboard server has had a total of 236,696 visits since November 18th, and those visits came from 22 countries.  In Michigan, the server has been accessed from 257 cities.


Browsers: While the top browsers are Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, there has also been visits to GRCC’s Blackboard server from users with an iPhone, iPod, Nintendo Wii, and Sony Playstation.


Get your Blackboard course notifications on Facebook!
December 11, 2008, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Articles, Work Activities | Tags: , , ,

The most recent edition of the student newspaper “The Collegiate” included a story about how students can now access alerts, notifications, and updates from their courses at GRCC without leaving the Facebook application. The article highlights GRCC’s use and deployment of Classtop’s CourseFeed and Blackboard’s Sync application.

Here is a video tutorial on how CourseFeed works with Blackboard:


Here is the full article:

Blackboard information accessed on Facebook
By Kyle A. Kiekintveld

Collegiate Staff Writer

Fall 2008 – Blackboard Usage at GRCC
November 24, 2008, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Work Activities | Tags: , , ,

Every semester, we do our best to track and report usage of the Blackboard system here at GRCC.

The following post highlights some statistics gathered from this Fall.  A course is considered to be “LIVE” and recorded as such if the course has an announcement, content item, gradebook item, quiz, pool, group, or has used the email or other tools.  On the other hand, a course with none of the above is not considered to be used.

I have also included statistics on several Building Blocks that are used in conjunction with our Blackboard environment.

1. Blackboard – Fall 2008

This semester, 64% of GRCC’s sections are using Blackboard as indicated in the following chart:


In addition, this semester there are a total 486 instructors using Blackboard when compared to 183 that are not using the system for teaching and learning.  This means roughly 73% of GRCC faculty are using Blackboard to improve student engagement and success.

instructorusingThe following table highlights additional metrics regarding GRCC’s Blackboard environment.

TOTAL LIVE Sections using Bb
Total Number of Fall 08 Sections
% Sections with Bb Usage
Total Number of Sections not using Bb
Total Unique Students
Total Student Enrollments
Total Unique Instructors
Total Unique Instructor/Faculty
Total Unique TA’s
Out of the 1540 courses that are considered LIVE for this semester, the tools that are most commonly used tools are: content, gradebook, and announcements.  These data are represented in the following chart:
Finally, here is a chart that reflects the trend of the number of live (used) courses over time:
trendsf05082. Wimba Pronto

Pronto is a free instant messaging, audio chat, app sharing, and video conferencing tool that is integrated with Blackboard.

Total Users: 1,411
Total Instructors: 141
Total Number of Pronto-Enabled Courses: 4,806
Total Number of Users who Have Created a Profile: 339

3. Blackboard Sync
Sync™ is a Facebook application that delivers Blackboard course information and updates through the Facebook interface to keep students in touch and engaged with their academic studies.

Total Accounts: 158

4. CourseFeed
CourseFeed™ is a Facebook® application that alerts students when their instructor posts new assignments, announcements, and content in Blackboard®. CourseFeed™ also includes a course wall. Finally, notifications can also be sent to students via email.

Total Accounts: 1,760

5. Rave Wireless
Rave Wireless provides students with the ability to sign up to receive crisis notifications and also provides students with the ability to subscribe to the Blackboard Announcements Channel to receive text messages from Blackboard when their instructors post a new announcement.

Total Users Signed up for Blackboard Channel: 85

Note: We are still testing this service and we have not yet placed the Rave Wireless Building Block in production.

Dr. Wesch – A Portal to Media Literacy Keynote – Through a GRCC Lens
August 1, 2008, 12:53 pm
Filed under: Conferences, Work Activities | Tags: , ,

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the BbWorld’08 Developers Conference keynote. Luckily the Mike Wesch’s keynote was captured on video!

Here are my notes after watching the keynote:

Presentation: A Portal to Media Literacy
– Delivered at the Blackboard Developers Conference, Las Vegas, NV
– 7/14/2008
– Dr. Michael Wesch

Dr. Wesch became known with the YouTube video: “A Vision of Students Today” (See below.)

On the first day of class he asks of his students… “How many do not actually like school?” Over half of students said they didn’t like it.

Then he asks “How many do not like learning?” No one raised their hands.

Dr. Wesch also conducted an “open activity” whereby students could send message around the question “What is it like to be a student today?” Students ended up saying many interesting things: students use Facebook during class, neighbor paid for class and doesn’t come, students purchase textbooks they never read, etc. This turned into the popular video on YouTube:

He often hears some faculty say “Some students are just not cut out for school.” Really? That is a ridiculous statement because that is like saying that students are not cut out for learning…!

“Students learn what they do…” – Dewey

Mike then asked… what if these classroom walls could talk, what would they say: (These would end up being the great myths of education.)
1) To learn is to acquire information, room is setup for an information dump. – No
2) Information is scarce and hard to find… that is why you have to come to class. – No
3) Trust authority for good info from professors. – No
4) Authorized information is beyond discussion… isn’t needed. – No
5) Obey the authority. – No
6) Follow along. – No

Student expectations end up being the same as the above. Students wait to be fed the info. That is what they are “used” to…

What students say in these walls:
1) How many points is this worth?
2) What do we need to know for this test?
3) How long is the paper need to be?
There is the crisis of significance… What does education really mean to students?

Well… there is now something in the air! Most classrooms have wifi access. Most of the information is at hand, with a click.

Is information is scarce? No. There are 70 exabytes this year will be created this year (70 billion gigabytes) = 350 feet of a stack of books.

With education, we generaly look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future. “Marshall McLuhan” Ask the question, is tagging better than organizing via folders… most likely but we are stuck in the old metaphors.

On paper, we thought of information as a thing… with a material form, you could point to it, had it’s own logical place in a hierarchy. Early web sites replicated this with Yahoo categories and disciplines.

Enter hyperlinking, and now information can be in more than 1 place at a time! For example, Google harnesses links and shows us we might night not need the hierarchies.

Blogging teachings us that anybody can be a creator of information. 112.8 million blogs… they aren’t even counting anymore.

TV is a form of information. In 1948 ABC started broadcasting after NBC and CBS. 60 years ago… they would have produced 1.5 million hours of programming. YouTube however has produced this much in 6 months. There are over 9000 hours per day are uploaded to YouTube. There are over 200,000 3 minute vidoes… 88% is new and original.

So information is NOT scarce.

The idea of follow along… is going away. We can work together on the web through Wikis such as wikipedia that would rival even the best resources and experts through collaborative and community efforts.

The idea of obeying the author is on the way out… you can have discussions and transparent comments on the materials. Go beyond the front page, look at the debates and so on. The expert and author is breaking down in favor of a wide array of resources, commentary, and discussions.

Information is not hard to find… in many ways we have information overload. Students can mark up information and provide context for other students. Tags can also help organize the web without folders.

Personal Netvibes framework and be public and recieve fresh updates from Flickr and blogs by tags or keyword… information can find us… it can be delivered to us!

Testing students based on bubble sheets and scantrons is bizzarre. To learn is to acquire and discuss information. We are not teaching students how to discuss, challenge information, critique information, share information, create information, making connections, and making significance within the context of what they are learning.

How can we create signifcance, and meaningful connections, how can we create students who can create meaningful connections? What is out there?

The Web2.0 landscape…YouTube, digg, Facebook, Blogger, MySpace, Google… the challenge is to start creating learning environments that support these with a platform of participation. And leverage this new media environment we have. Students need help using these resources in their learning.

We need:

  • A platform for participation that allows students to realize and leverage this emerging media environment.
  • To begin moving toward ubiquitous networks where computing, information, speed, is available everywhere and accessible from anywhere. Have we prepared our students for this world? We live in a download and upload world. We need to move toward a participation paradigm. From closed… to an open… from knowledgeable to knowledge-able (critique and create information).

It’s time for educators to push the envelope. To enabling students “outside of the classroom” that will enhance in the classroom application. It’s time to meet students where they are and add Facebook because they are there… meanwhile they can also view course related info. How about creating a course wiki so students can upload their notes, videos, links along side course content. Students will mark in bold things that are important to them, each page has a discussion component updates. Insert a Twitter stream for an informal thread of thoughts. Use tools like Diigo to highlight pieces of a website and allow comments. How about provide students with collaborative video projects that can be placed on YouTube? Students can find the latest research, share discoveries, study together, talk back, share notes, collaborate, assess each other, research together, share with each other, be creative with each other, co-create content for the course in this new Web2.0 environment.

What is it like being a student today?

What is it like being a faculty member today?

The GRCC Lens: How can we move together to transform learning at GRCC? Could we, for example, make better use and leverage Blackboard for:

  • Engaging students outside of the classroom using the vast array of communication (Blackboard Connect, Discussion Boards, Wimba Pronto) tools for discussion, instant messaging, text messaging, etc. in Blackboard?
  • Bringing in resources and engaging students with tagging content with Blackboard Scholar?
  • Allowing students to create content within the course through Blackboard Wikis and Blogs?
  • Extending Blackboard updates into the Facebook environment with applications like Blackboard Sync or CourseFeed?

What are other ways we can leverage technology for teaching and learning?