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Evaluating Your Students- Blackboard Learn and its Underused Unique Feature-Part 2


By in Blackboard Learn, Student Behavior on .

We are at the end of the spring semester, which means Summer courses will begin soon and planning for the Fall semester is already underway. Now is a great time to consider how to use student activity reports in addressing participation issues or finding out what content/tools in your course(s) are getting attention and which ones might not receiving as much.

As promised in the previous article, this entry will cover the features of other reports you can run in Learn. If you have not yet read the previous article, please click this link to review it (that way, what you see below makes sense): http://blogs.itap.purdue.edu/learning/2013/03/12/evaluating-your-students-blackboard-learn-and-its-underused-unique-feature-part-1/ .

Last time, we discussed the aspects of the All User Activity inside Content Areas report, and how it displays a summary of all user activity inside Content Areas for the course.  The reports that will be covered in this entry are: Course Activity Overview, Overall Summary of User Activity, and Student Overview for Single Course. The information displayed comes from a large enrollment course, and all student names/usernames are blacked out for confidentiality reasons.

First up is the Course Activity Overview report, which displays the totals and averages of student’s time (in hours) spent in the course on Blackboard Learn.

The first part of the report shows the overview of total hours of student activity for each day of the week in the course. In addition, the amount of students in the course are displayed the top, including the date range of the report’s data. Below we can see the total time in hours in the course and the average time spent per user.

Course Activity Overview part 1

The second part of the report, which can extended to several pages after due to the amount of students, shows the total amount of hours each student spent (the blue bars) and avg amount of hours the class of students spent in the course (orange line)- given the date range of report. We can see that many students either spent many more or less hours in the course than the class average.

Note: Again, this data comes from an actual course, and the names of students included have been blacked out for confidentiality purposes.

Course Activity Overview part 2

Now, let’s take a look at the Overall Summary of User Activity report. This report is similar to the All User Activity inside Content Areas report in the last entry, but the biggest difference is that this one keeps track of course tool/mashup usage.

The first part of the report shows the total amount of hits each tool had during the date range set for the report. The report shows the tools/mashups that currently exist in Learn.

Overall Summary of User Activity part 1

The second part of the report shows the user activity totals per user per tool/mashup.

Overall Summary of User Activity part 2

The third part of the report shows the overall user activity per user for each month/day. A graph is shown for each day of the date range on the x-axis and the total hours of activity of all users on the y-axis.

Overall Summary of User Activity part 3

The fourth part of the report shows an overview of user activity on which hours of the day users accessed the course the most. The table on the left lists the hours of the day and the total hits of for that hour, and finally the comparible percentage. The total hits for each hour of the day is display in the graph on the right.

Overall Summary of User Activity part 4

The fifth, and last part of the report is an overview of user activity on which days of the week users accessed the course the most. The table on the left shows the

Overall Summary of User Activity part 5

Now, let’s take a look at the last report type that will be covered, which is the Student Overview for Single Course report. This report is similar to the Course Activity Overview report, but focuses on one student’s level of activity and the total hours/number of times acessed for each item in the course.

The first part is similar to the first page of the Course Activity Overview report, and focuses on total hours the student had on the days of the week for a date range.

Student Overview for Single Course part 1

The second part of the report covers the hours the student has spent looking at items in the course, including the number of times they were accessed and the initial access date/time of the item by the studenStudent Overview for Single Course part 2

As you can see there are several more report types to choose from and they can be useful for seeing trends in overall student activity or pinpointing students who have certain activity levels.Again, I hope this article has been useful to you and inspires you to use these reports in your course(s). I will have one more follow-up blog post on this topic that will cover the remaining reports that Blackboard provides. If you have any questions, please contact ITaP’s Consulting & Training group at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu .

Good Principles for a Successful Semester

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By in Classroom, General Education, Student Behavior on .

As we embark on another academic year, I think it’s important to consider how we can create the best environment for learning. In 1987, Chickering and Gamson put forth a brief article titled Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. This document has become a touchstone for educators and instructional designers over the past two and a half decades, and still remains very relevant today.

Chickering and Gamson (1987) pulled the seven principles together in an effort to better understand over 50 years of research on not only how students learn, but also how instructors teach. What resulted were a set of guidelines that, if implemented in part or in whole, has the potential to greatly impact student success in the classroom. As you reflect on your teaching for the semester, consider these principles – and how you might incorporate them – as you prepare future class sessions or courses.

1. Good practice encourages student-instructor contact.

Students interacting with their faculty members has been shown to increase student performance and overall retention to the university. This can be done through emails to students , in- or -out-of-class activities, or simply learning your students’ names.

2. Good practice encourages cooperation among students.

When students interact with others, particularly those with different backgrounds, ethnicities, experiences, or ideologies, they have an opportunity to learn more about the world around them and develop critical thinking and analysis skills. Group projects, study groups, or case/team/problem based learning are all great ways to have students cooperatively learn a concept.

3. Good practice encourages active learning.

The more active a student is in class, the more likely they are to learn the materials being presented. Encourage your students to ask questions and to answer other students’ questions. Further, consider employing one or more tools supported by ITaP designed to increase active and involved learning in your classroom.

4. Good practice involves prompt feedback.

The more students know how they’re doing and how they can improve their performance, the more likely it is that they’ll be successful in the course. Consider employing Course Signals or the Early Warning System (in Learn) as a means of providing feedback with tips for success on a regular basis. Early intervention is key – the earlier and more often you provide feedback, the better for the students.

5. Good practice encourages time on task.

The more good time a student spends on a task, the better they’ll understand the concept and be able to perform the same task the next time. “Good” time is purposeful time – not time spent multi-tasking or working on multiple things at once. It is time that is devoted to one thing with a strong concerted effort. Encouraging students to enhance their learning and studying skills is a great way to help them increase their overall effectiveness.

6. Good practices communicates high expectations.

Most students will work to reach the bar you set for them. If a high bar is set, they’ll work to reach it – provided if you also provide support for them at the same time. Telling students where the bar is set and how they can reach it with your support or the assistance of other offices on campus (resource rooms, help labs, etc.) will go a long way in helping your students succeed.

7. Good practice respects divers talents and ways of learning.

How you learn is not necessarily the same way your students learn, and that’s ok. Understanding where these differences lie, and using varying methods of assessment (oral projects, written papers, team work, multi-media, etc.) will allow for students with different styles and skill sets to flourish.  Purdue’s Center for Instructional Excellence has some information on learning styles, and can work with you to better understand how these can be incorporated into your classroom.


Reference: Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7): 3-7.

Technology: What students know vs. what we want them to know

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By in Classroom, Course Redesign, General Education, Musings on Technology, Student Behavior, Student Technology Kit on .

One of the common technology disconnects we see is faculty expectations compared to student abilities. One of the possible reasons for this is the types of technologies student most commonly use compared with the types of technologies we want them to use.

Student Tech Use

First off, some students have significantly more computer experience than others. Some will have had home computers before they started to talk and others will have had limited access in schools. This gives a spectrum from no experience to constant experience…


Range from No Technology Use to Constant Use

Range from No Technology Use to Constant Use

In addition, however, we need to think about what students are doing when they use technology. The types of technologies students are frequently using are social networking, gaming, and ‘productivity’ tools (such as Word and email). And each student will have a different level of experience with each. So while one student may have focused on productivity and gaming, another might have focused on social networking.


Differering student expertise

Differering student expertise

So, graphing a class of students, you might end up with something like this:

Students will have various areas of expertise as well as different levels of use

Instructor Expectations

 The types of technologies we want them use could be grouped into productivity tools (perhaps expanded to include presentation and spreadsheet tools), subject-specific technologies (such as electronic medication administration), and instructional technologies (such as research databases, DoubleTake and Blackboard).

Students’ experiences in subject-area and instructional technologies are often pretty limited. So a typical student might look like this…

Student experience with subject and instructional technologies

Student experience with subject and instructional technologies

and a class might look more like this…

Class experience with subject and instructional technologies

Class experience with subject and instructional technologies

So what?

As instructors increase the amounts and types of technologies used for teaching, the students may need additional support. Programs we think of as intuitive may only be so because of our experience and background. For example, I don’t care what my kids say, I struggle with Facebook constantly. They don’t.

It might help us think through student technology learning needs if we think through their probable experiences and compare these with the technologies we are asking them to use.

This, of course, puts another burden on the instructor – as the main person associated with the technology, the instructor is probably students’ first contact.

If you are planning on using instructional technologies in class or in assignments, you might want to check your student’s readiness first. Attached is a simple and quick survey that might help you with this.

By thinking through what types of support students may need, when they might need it, and who is the most appropriate contact for the students, you can help them get support more quickly.

  • Many technologies have quick-start guides that you can provide students before they need them.
  • We also have student trainers who can provide basic instructions on many technologies your students might need to complete your assignments (http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/trainingnew/st/ or email itaptrainers@purdue.edu).
  • And if you are not sure who the contact should be, you can always start with the ITC Help Desk (x44000).

If you are interested in learning more specifically about instructional technologies, our team in IDC is ready to help. You can contact us by emailing itap@purdue.edu.

Pat Reid, Ed.D., Manager, Teaching and Learning Initiatives

The Blackboard Early Warning System

By in Blackboard Learn, Student Behavior, Tools on .

The switch to Blackboard Learn means a transition for many other tools as well. One of the most popular tools that ties into Blackboard is Course Signals, an early intervention tool which alerts students to their status in a course through emails and the ever popular red, yellow, or green stoplight in Blackboard. Unfortunately, compatibility issues between Course Signals and Blackboard that are beyond ITaP’s control have delayed availability of Course Signals in Blackboard Learn. This doesn’t mean a red light for Course Signals, though. We are optimistic that Course Signals will be available in Learn in the future, and we will continue to have Course Signals available this fall in Blackboard Vista to instructors with courses of less than 600 students – a necessary limit because of a still existing bug affecting large enrollment courses.

I realize many of you may have already made the switch to Blackboard Learn but there is still a way for you to communicate with your students in a Course Signals-like manner in Blackboard Learn.

There is a tool called the Early Warning System that is currently available in Blackboard Learn. The Early Warning System allows instructors to create rules based on grades, last access (Blackboard login) to a course, or due dates, and then send emails to all users who fit the definition for a given rule.

For example, instructors could set a rule that identifies all students with grades below 80%, and send the same message to all of those students.

While not as robust as Course Signals, which includes additional effort data and 3 categories, good practice and pedagogy indicates that simply communicating students’ grades and/or standing in a course to them is extraordinarily effective in helping them be more successful in their studies – so while functionality may be lost, the impact you can have on student success is not.

In lieu of Course Signals, why not consider using the Early Warning System this fall. A pdf is available with instructions for creating grade based rules, and I am happy to provide you a tutorial as well.