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We know that student retention is critical to any institution’s bottom line. Yet 2 and 4-year graduation rates have remained flat for over 30 years, resulting in roughly $16.5 billion in lost revenue from attrition (ranging from $10K to $102M per school). Those statistics are quite alarming.

The good news is that there are many ways to positively influence student retention. For now, we will focus on engagement through communication. The more touchpoints institutions have with student, the more likely students are to stay in school and be successful. There are three types of engagement that have proven to affect student outcomes and retention:

  1. Academic advisor outreach
  2. Instructor-to-student relationships
  3. Student-to-student or peer connections

But what are the best channels for these types of engagement to occur? Institutions, advisors and teachers tend to struggle to connect with today’s student because they often attempt to do so on platforms that students don’t prefer to use or don’t want to use (email, text, outdated messaging platforms, etc.). That’s where our partnership with Pronto comes in.

Developed by HitLabs, Pronto is an LTI-compliant, organization-wide, real-time communications platform that improves student retention by enabling everyday touchpoints with faculty, advisors, administration, and peers. Pronto’s sleek, modern design and advanced functionality enables users to connect and collaborate in ways that students prefer – from their mobile devices or directly inside Blackboard’s LMS platforms. From real-time messaging with read-receipts and presence detection, to live video chat, to file sharing with unlimited storage, Pronto offers institutions a solution that truly enhances the way users communicate.

The integration with Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Open LMS enables users to access their Pronto account directly within a course, making it easy for students to connect with their classmates or for instructors to communicate directly with their students. The integration syncs with Blackboard course rosters, so users are automatically added or removed to Pronto, depending on their enrollment in the course. This is a huge time-saver for system administrators, allowing them to focus on other mission-critical tasks.

Pronto is an application that students actually want to use. Within months of implementation at one institution, students were using Pronto as much or more than they use the world’s most engaging messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp.

The Y axis is the % of monthly active users that use Pronto daily.

After just six months, Pronto became more widely used than Facebook or WhatsApp.

Want to learn more about our partnership with Pronto and how their integrated communication application can impact engagement and retention at your institution?

The post Partnership with Pronto enhances communication to increase student retention appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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Earlier this month, our team had the opportunity to sit down and talk trends in business education with Dr. Norean Sharpe, Dean and Joseph H. and Maria C. Schwartz Distinguished Chair at The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University in New York. With more than 25 years of experience as a scholar and administrator at Yale University, Bowdoin College, Babson College, and Georgetown, Dean Sharpe has a unique view on the changes that have taken place in business education in the last few years and what’s around the corner.

We started the conversation with a look at what’s driving change in higher education today and ended with the impact that these changes are having on business schools today. A summary of our Q&A is below.

How are students today different than 3-5 years ago?

Today’s graduate students are considering location, prestige, discipline of study, and cost when selecting a program. In the last three years, cost has risen to the top of the priority list for students. One result of this trend is that students are selecting programs that are closer to home to contain expenses, even if they are online.

Five years ago, we thought that the explosion of online offerings would entirely disrupt college selection. But what we’ve actually seen is that students want the pedagogy provided by hybrid and blended models. Students want to use the facilities of a campus—such as the career center and computer labs—but also have the flexibility to schedule classes around their lives with options for both in-person and online offerings.

Also related to cost, we’re seeing students evaluating time to completion as an important criterion. Students want to enter the workforce as quickly as possible.

How are these trends in student preferences driving changes in policy?

This student behavior is leading to some major changes in both the higher education system and policy. In New York, the Excelsior Scholarship will provide free four-year degrees for children of families making less than $125,000 per year, which has generated demand for New York’s public universities. This increase in public school applications is straining resources at private institutions, since they are now raising discount rates to compete for students more aggressively. Given the high cost of education, advocating for free four-year college programs will become a more popular political platform over the next two years – already approximately a dozen states provide some form of free tuition for low-income families.

How will these new policies impact the institutions?

I believe this will also lead to increased merger and acquisition (M&A) in higher education. That is, the merging of two institutions and/or public-private partnerships. I’ll be interested to see if these institutions maintain separate brands or combine into one. I also believe we’ll see more partnerships between four-year and two-year institutions, providing direct pathways and scholarship incentives. This will offset capacity issues at four-year institutions while helping two-year institutions provide a pipeline for their students to four-year degrees.

In business schools, these changes are impacting the programs we offer and the delivery method. For example, full-time MBAs are shrinking, part-time MBAs are growing, and discipline-specific MS degrees are among the fastest growing programs. There has been a movement away from the two-year M.B.A. as the flagship program. Students want to focus on tracks that lead to a specific career path. We’re seeing an uptick in students focused on accounting, risk management, data science, analytics, finance, and actuarial science. As you might notice scanning through this list, these are all quantitative areas of study. Both students and employers are demanding more quantitative skills, and this is how business schools can respond.

In addition, MBA Programs are changing their admission requirements and becoming test optional; every semester I’m seeing more schools waiving their GMAT requirements or also accepting the GRE.

I’m also seeing more “Fast Track” programs, which is something that we offer at St. John’s University. Fast Track programs, also known as 4+1, or five year, programs, add one year of graduate school to an undergraduate four-year degree resulting in a student earning both an undergraduate and graduate degree in five years – thereby saving time and money. This option has been popular with students because it positions them well for the workforce and  enter certain industries with an advantage (e.g. accounting with a CPA). Our Fast Track students have nearly tripled in three years.

How have you led your institution through these changes?

Tobin has continued to stay relevant by innovating our program offerings, balancing cost with value, adhering to our core Catholic mission, and creating corporate-institutional partnerships. Small, private schools are the ones being disproportionately impacted by these changes, which is another reason why I believe we will see more M&A in higher education over the next 10+ years.

I’m committed to keeping our programs and formats up to date, and I’m supported by a group of strong faculty members who are entrepreneurial in their efforts to help bring this vision to life. I’m also committed to hiring professors of practice at Tobin—ones who bring real-world expertise to the table.

What other changes do you expect to see in the next 10+ years?

I think we’ll see increased pressure to lower the cost of tuition, shorten the time to completion, and invest in technology and digital learning.

We may also see a shift in the way executive education is offered. Instead of individual employees seeking advanced degrees, I believe we’ll see an increase in employers seeking out custom programs for their employees, offered at scale. This could take the format of corporate-university partnerships, or even some large corporations employing faculty members. Since business schools view themselves as being hugely responsible for educating future business leaders, we must be on the forefront of these trends to meet the changing demand – both from a student perspective and employer perspective.

The post The Big Picture: Drivers of Change and the Road Ahead for Business Schools appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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Click here for the Spanish version

Established in 1991, the University of Petra, located in the capital of Jordan, Amman, is a young, yet acclaimed higher education institution in the region. With around 7,400 undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled in one of its eight faculties, the University of Petra (UOP) is considered one of the best private universities in the country, having already achieved the Quality Management ISO 9001 certification for supporting higher education and the Higher Education Accreditation Commission’s Quality Assurance certificates, among others. Let’s explore Blackboard’s role in supporting UOP’s success.

Located in West Amman, the University of Petra has around 7,400 undergraduate and graduate students in the faculties of Arts and Sciences, Administrative & Financial Sciences, Pharmacy & Medical Sciences, Information Technology, Architecture & Design, Law and Mass Communication, and Engineering.

The university is considered a center of excellence for its research, skills development, applying knowledge to new technologies and technology transfer, and is well known for unleashing students’ minds towards new horizons of thought, philosophy and logic. According to the institution’s website, “UOP provides an intriguing environment of freedom of thought, inquiry, interactive and blended learning, and R&D facilities.”1

In addition to having achieved the Quality Management ISO 9001 certification for supporting higher education and the Quality Assurance of the Higher Education Accreditation Commission certificates, the university is also the 1st runner-up on the QS ranking of private universities in Jordan.2– all outstanding accomplishments to have achieved in only 27 years.

In September 2018, a research team from UOP’s Faculty of Information Technology registered in the US Patent Office for a Portable Neck Treatment Device (PNTD). Using the Internet of Things (IoT) to link patients with physicians, the device is the first of its kind in the world. PNTD helps alleviate neck pain with a pre-programmed, automated technology. The invention is another example of the high-quality work that has been taking place at the University of Petra in recent decades.3

Online Learning Tools to Improve Teaching and Learning

The relationship between UOP and Blackboard began in 2010, when Blackboard Learn was implemented at the institution. According to Dr. Saheer Al-Jaghoub, associate professor and dean at the university’s Faculty of Administrative and Financial Sciences, the solution has been very useful in “performing exams, providing teaching material and making course material available 24/7.”

“The University of Petra has always been improving its teaching and learning processes and one of the initiatives in this area has been utilizing online learning tools to deliver courses,” says Al-Jaghoub.

After implementing in selected courses at the beginning, the use of Blackboard Learn has developed over the yearsat UOP, now covering all courses within the Faculty of Administrative and Financial Sciences.

Having started using the EAC Visual Data tool recently in March 2018, with a pilot within the Faculty of Administrative and Financial Sciences, UOP considers its initial results promising as they were able to obtain analysis for questions and outcomes assessment, along other useful data. Prior to adopting the EAC tool, there was a need to collect the data manually from Blackboard Learn, as well as performing calculations for student achievement of Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs), which took substantial time and effort.

The use of the EAC Visual Data tool, which leverages Blackboard Learn to deliver detailed course-level data on student learning, has also contributed to improving teaching and learning processes at the university. “Both tools helped us to increase teaching and assessment efficiency, as well as measuring student outcomes. This contributes to the continuous improvement of our programs,” shares the dean.

The Road to Obtaining International Accreditation Certificates

UOP believes in the importance of assessment and accreditation to improve academic processes at the institutional level. In order to get there, in 2006, the university took part in all activities and workshops organized by the Al Hussein Fund for Excellence (HFE), which include participation in Assessment of Higher Education Academic programs, Teaching, Learning and Assessment Methods workshops, Strategic Planning for Quality Assurance projects and Capacity Building Support workshops. The institution then participated in the HFE Auditing Program and in the Quality Management System project (QMS – ISO 9001) launched in 2010.

Later in 2015, the university extensively worked to gain the institutional quality assurance certificate from the Accreditation and Quality Assurance Commission for Higher Education Institutions (AQACHI),followed by the programmaticquality assurance certificatefor the Faculty of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences in 2017. Currently, the Faculty of Administrative and Financial Sciences is working to obtain international accreditation for its programs from EQUIS and AACSB International, both renowned accreditation bodies.

UOP also excelled in international accreditation. In 2017, the Faculty of Information Technology achieved ABET accreditation for Computer Science and Computer Information Systems, the Faculty of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences was certified by ACPE this year, as well as the Department of English Language and Literature which was accredited by ASIC, also this year.

“Building culture and disseminating knowledge were two of the major challenges that faced the processes of accreditation and certification. One of the challenges has been obtaining assessment data for the ILO and calculating student performance against ILOs in various assessments. Preserving significant achievements is usually harder than attaining them. Thus, continuous quality management is our objective,” Al-Jaghoub points out. While some accreditation bodies require annual visits, others request audits within two, five or six-year cycles in Jordan.

“We thank Blackboard consultants who have been working with us in the implementation project for their support, and we look forward to continue this fruitful cooperation in the future,” Al-Jaghoub concludes.


A Top Private University in Jordan

The University of Petra believes internationalization of educational institutions is becoming increasingly important. The relevance of university global rankings has increased all over the world not only because it fosters the evaluation of higher education quality, but also because it promotes the competitiveness in the educational market.

UOP was ranked as a top private university in Jordan by QS Top Universities Ranking. Among the many indicators considered in order to include higher education institutions in the ranking are academic reputation, employer reputation, international faculty, international students, faculty staff with a PhD, web impact, and research papers per faculty.

“Continuous effort is undertaken to keep up with the dynamic, globally competitive environment to attract renowned scientists and talented students from all over the world. Prestigious educational curriculums, research activities, innovation and community services are always our top priorities,” affirms Al-Jaghoub.

Blackboard Workshop to Develop ILOs

In March 2018, Blackboard’s Senior Consulting Specialist, Dr. Ruth Newberry, delivered a workshop at the University of Petra regarding the developing of ILOs. Although the university had been working on developing ILOs prior to the workshop, a new approach was presented by Dr. Newberry to all participants, especially teaching staff at UOP’s Faculty of Administrative and Financial Sciences. “Dr. Newberry’s vast experience and the knowledge that she shared with us was very useful. We have also benefited from her advice in relation to the international accreditation processes and requirements,” the dean says.


1 University of Petra. (n.d.). University of Petra | About UOP. Retrieved from https://www.uop.edu.jo/EN/AboutUOP/Pages/default.aspx

2 QS University Rankings: Arab Region 2018. (2017, October 16). Retrieved from

3 Qasem, A. E. (2018, September 21). UOP Portable Neck Treatment Device (PNTD). Retrieved from https://qswownews.com/uop-portable-neck-treatment-device-pntd/

The post How the University of Petra Became an Internationally Accredited Institution appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on October 02, 2018 – Click here for the Spanish version

At the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS), small class sizes and applied learning opportunities support the student-centered education offered at this public institution to more than 6,600 students each semester. Located in Fort Smith, the second-largest city in Arkansas, UAFS has had a formal process of assessing student learning outcomes for more than 25 years and is constantly looking for ways to improve it. In 2016, UAFS started experimenting with Blackboard Outcomes Assessment, a solution that supports and facilitates institutional processes related to assessment and accreditation.

“Assessment is just a way for an educator to document that student learning has occurred. Good teachers and professors are already documenting learning and using the results to improve the learning process,” says Rebecca Timmonsdirector of Academic Assessment and Accountability and co-chair of the Committee for Assessment of Learning Outcomes (CALO), responsible for coordinating assessment activities on campus.

At UAFS, student learning outcomes assessment is faculty-led and occurs at three levels: course, program, and university. Timmons explains that the course-level assessment for student learning outcomes are set by the individual faculty, or faculty departments, and are tied to the course competencies agreed to by the department.

“Every academic program specifies university learning outcomes and program learning outcomes that are measured to determine ways in which to improve student learning. These findings are used for curriculum improvement, planning, resource allocation, and to determine if students have learned the material,” explains Timmons.

According to the director, although UAFS has had a formalized assessment process since the early 1990s, they are now beginning their third five-year cycle of assessment, in which faculty analyze the results of the assessments and determine what needs to be changed or implemented to achieve the desired results for both program and university learning outcomes.

University of Arkansas – Fort Smith
·       7,000 students enrolled
·       18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio
·       Offers 60 bachelor and associate degrees, 35 certificate programs, and a master’s program

Applying Blackboard Outcomes Assessment

In the fall of 2016, during a Blackboard Outcomes Assessment workshop, UAFS learned how to use the solution to configure their university, program, and course learning outcomes and assessments.

“We discussed how to set up the goals and rubrics, identify artifacts, how to score rubrics in the outcomes experience, and apply the analysis and reporting feature. Since that workshop, we have experimented using Blackboard Outcomes Assessment at all three levels,” says Timmons.

As UAFS is always looking for ways to improve student learning, using Blackboard Outcomes Assessment was an opportunity to see if the solution, which seamlessly integrates into Blackboard Learn, fit into the institution’s culture and provided faculty with the results they sought after.

Ethical Decision-Making Pilot Project

In the Fall 2017 semester, UAFS started a pilot project to assess one of the university’s learning outcomes — ethical decision-making, Objective 1: Students will identify ethical dilemmas and affected parties – using the Blackboard Outcomes Assessment feature. Three professors volunteered to participate in the pilot for the 2017-18 academic year.

“We met and discussed the assignments each one would use for the pilot, the process for assessing them using Blackboard, and the timeline for the project. The faculty then used the ethical decision-making rubric to assess the artifacts collected in the fall semester. In the spring semester, we met to discuss the results provided by Blackboard in the report overview, the findings, and what needed to happen to improve student learning in ethical decision making, as well as the assessment process,” shares Timmons.

The pilot project will be ongoing, meant for faculty to apply these ideas and suggestions to the 2018-19 academic year and then assess again using the ethical decision-making rubric.

Regional accreditation will become more important as we advance through the 21stcentury. Accreditation takes into account not only student learning, but also the financial healthiness of an institution, as well as the integrity of its practices and processes. Standards are constantly being tweaked, and more and more, higher education institutions are being held accountable. As higher education becomes more under fire, institutions will be held accountable for student learning.” – Rebecca Timmons, Director of Academic Assessment and Accountability at University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

Results and Benefits

Although the university does not intend to use Blackboard Outcomes Assessment as a standalone universal assessment solution —another digital tool is currently used as a repository of faculty narratives and reflection on the assessment results — Timmons believes there are benefits of using an assessment solution pulling directly from the digital learning environment.

The main advantage is that everyone on campus is using the same system, which makes for a standardized access to the process, location of the artifacts, and results storage. “The data can be archived and accessed at a later date. No one has to look for information stored on shared drives or in folders,” says Timmons. The results are also standardized, so faculty know what they will be able to retrieve and analyze upon the completion.

An additional benefit is that, once faculty are trained in using the digital environment assessment process, they don’t have to be retrained. “Sometimes assessment lingo can become confusing. When everyone understands the Blackboard Outcomes Assessment process and terminology, it reduces confusion,” says Timmons.

Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, UAFS is an Open Pathway institution. Timmons explains that the Open Pathway is a 10-year cycle with reviews conducted in the years 4 and 10 with a focus on quality assurance and institutional improvement.

For the accreditation conducted in the years 4 and 10, assurance arguments are written and submitted — a process that involves campus staff, faculty, and administration in reviewing each of the five criteria and their subcomponents to determine how they meet the standards and providing supporting evidence.

“Student learning is central to educational and organizational quality. Accreditation focuses on the institution’s commitment to knowing what students are learning, improving the teaching process, and supporting these efforts through the integrity of the institution and financial support,” Timmons explains.

Best Practices in Assessment & Accreditation

Diverse Assessment Practices: UAFS allows for flexibility in assessment and works with faculty and programs to document what they are already doing and build on that knowledge. “Although the UAFS assessment reports are standardized, the individualized assessment practices are not,” says Timmons.

Teaching and Learning Improvement: At the beginning of the five-year assessment cycle, faculty determine their program learning outcomes (PLOs), which are displayed on each program’s website. The PLOs assessments are then created to support these outcomes. Throughout the five-year cycle, students are taught, assessments are conducted, results are collected, and analyses are performed. Teaching methods and document collections are also modified. “The conversations we have about student learning are probably the single most important factor in improving learning. Reports are written that support these conversations. This is all documented and keyed into a template that faculty can refer to,” affirms Timmons.

The post Improving Student Learning through Assessment and Accreditation appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on October 1, 2018 – Click here for the Spanish version

Having celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016, Davenport University is a non-profit, student-centric institution focused on preparing learners to succeed in 21st century careers. With campuses online and across the state of Michigan, Davenport is moving towards an increasingly immersive learning experience and applying new technologies to improve not only teaching and learning, but also assessment and accreditation processes. For the past two years, the institution has been using Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data, which provided them with an easy-to-use, scalable solution to effectively collect and analyze assessment data.

“As an institution, we were struggling to aggregate data across all sections and modalities. At the time of implementation, we had faculty transposing assessment data from the gradebook in Blackboard Learn to a Google spreadsheet, or Chairs were joined to old courses to mine assessment data. We knew there had to be a better way, and once we were introduced to Blackboard Outcomes Assessment, coupled with the power of EAC Visual Data to collect and analyze data, I was sold,” says Dr. Jeff Wiggerman, director of Instructional Technologies & Delivery Systems at Davenport University.

As the leader of a team of instructional designers for the Global Campus — the university’s online campus —, Wiggerman is constantly looking for strategies for innovation and improvement of course delivery, allowing him to get involved in a large spectrum of projects across the IT and academic departments.

“What I saw immediately was a way to solve an academic challenge. We hadn’t been able to provide a solution that was scalable, but Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data provided this solution,” Wiggerman explains.

Seamlessly integrated into Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Outcomes Assessment streamlines the collection of student work, takes the hassle out of workflow management, and automates institutional reporting. By making assessment easier and faster, institutions can move beyond compliance reporting, and use the available data to continually improve program quality and help students succeed at higher rates.1

EAC Visual Data is a software that also integrates into Blackboard Learn, simplifying the process of collecting, analyzing, and reporting student learning outcomes data for faculty, deans, department chairs, and assessment professionals.2

“I would without a doubt recommend this solution to other institutions,” says Wiggerman. “Anytime we can scale something as important as data gathering for assessment and accreditation throughout a learning management system, not only does it save all parties involved valuable time, but also promotes better decision making.”

Davenport University
·     7,500 students enrolled
·     More than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs offered through its colleges of Business, Technology, Health Professions, Arts & Sciences and Urban Education
·     500 online courses offered through the university’s Global Campus.


Davenport University is accredited by a number of college-specific institutions. One example is the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), which is responsible for accreditation of all associates, bachelors and graduate business degrees for the Donald W. Maine College of Business.

IACBE conducts a site visit every seven years, and every two years the university submits their assessment plan for each degree and program. “Our assessment plan is unique because it is multi-tiered and includes both degree and program level outcomes. The degree outcomes ensure that all outcomes throughout the degree are consistent, and program level outcomes are assessing the focus of a specific program,” Wiggerman explains.

According to the director, degree and program outcomes are aligned with the results the institution is assessing for IACBE, so every year the university gathers and reports data on student performance.

“Based upon the aggregated data across all sections using EAC Visual Data, we look at curriculum changes to close the loop, find trends, and make the appropriate changes proactively. Based upon program revisions, we will make the appropriate changes in the course masters and outcomes module to ensure we can run an aggregate report to review how the changes have impacted student performance, and where programs might also need to be reviewed,” says Wiggerman.

Implementing Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data

The implementation of Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data for all 500 online courses offered through the university’s Global Campus followed a process designed to ensure quality and prepare for the next accreditation cycle.

Wiggerman explains that an instructional designer works with a subject matter expert for every course that is developed and delivered online. “This is our foundation to ensure everything we need in a course gets into place,” he says. The process begins with mapping the course using Quality Matters standards to ensure there is alignment throughout, and to identify which assignments are assessing IACBE outcomes.

“Once we have this information, I build the Module Outcomes for the program or degree, so we can align the appropriate content areas of a Blackboard rubric and assignment to that goal(s) for collection,” says Wiggerman. “Once the course is built with all these pieces in place, the department communicates with their faculty about the collection, and faculty must use the Blackboard rubric to grade the assessment in order for us to aggregate data across all courses. After the course is completed, the Associate Dean for the college runs the report after every semester in EAC Visual Data to prepare for the accreditation cycle.”

Integration with Blackboard Learn

In Wiggerman’s experience, the main benefit of using an assessment solution that pulls data directly from the digital learning environment is that it has forced the university to think about the alignment of each assignment to assessment. “We now look at what we are actually measuring and why, which ultimately influences the criteria of our rubrics for authentic assessments,” Wiggerman explains.

According to the director, before the institution started using Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data, they had areas in their rubrics that were measuring important parts of the assignment but were still left up to interpretation by faculty.

“Creating this alignment in Blackboard Learn with the rubrics has helped our faculty understand what we are measuring and allowed them to make a connection to our academic goals. Faculty are now able to see the assessment tool not just as a scoring rubric, but as a grading rubric once we integrated specific measurable outcomes into the grading rubric itself,” affirms Wiggerman.

This allowed the university to look at how well our students are measuring against IACBE outcomes by pooling together the exceeds expectations and meets expectations to see what percentage of students are meeting their 85% threshold, collectively and individually. In turn, it also allows the institution to look at students who did not meet expectations and start drilling into the data to look at their degree path, instructors, and overall program.

“For instance, we had found that our graduate healthcare students were not doing as well as we had predicted when they reached their strategy capstone, so by using EAC Visual Data and Blackboard Outcomes Assessment we were able to close the gap to add an outcome in their program that prepares them to be more successful in their capstone. That is the benefit and power of having tools like these,” Wiggerman explains.

 “We offer over 500 courses online, and our uniqueness is our ability to be nimble to pilot ideas without a fear to fail. If we do fail, we look at what we have learned to apply to the next project. With academics keeping curriculum current to teach content and skills that are in demand, it creates an environment where we’re able to keep searching for what’s next and be leaders in the digital space.” – Dr. Jeff Wiggerman, Director of Instructional Technologies & Delivery Systems

Cultural change

The use of Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data resulted in a cultural change in the way the university traditionally thought about and conducted assessment using Blackboard Learn, according to the director.

“The support of experts at Blackboard and EAC helped us tremendously in solidifying new processes, establishing ownership, implementation, and ultimately, the success of these tools. What I’ve found is the existence of the tool has created conversation of assessment and accreditation with different colleges I wouldn’t have been involved in. Now I find myself talking to Chairs and Associate Department Chairs across the university about how these solutions can impact their assessment and accreditation for their college. There’s a buzz surrounding the power of Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC to aggregate data to support decision making.”

 Davenport’s Top 5 Best Practices for Assessment

Jeff Wiggerman, director of Instructional Technologies & Delivery Systems, shares some of the institution’s best practices when it comes to working with Blackboard Outcomes Assessment and EAC Visual Data.

  1. Before starting a project, develop a cross-functional team that can pull together and integrate the current rubrics and assessments used by academics to be absolutely clear about the outcomes that need to be measured.
  2. Be systematic with pulling data after every semester in order to identify any outliers that can be addressed quickly before it’s too late.
  3. Create a culture where the university is able to have conversations formally and informally around results, process and ownership. This has proven to be beneficial for assessment practices.
  4. Embed measurable outcomes within the rubric for direct assessments. This has helped with grading criteria and grade inflation.
  5. Create a cross-functional committee focused on Outcomes and EAC to fully embed these solutions into the culture of assessment and accreditation throughout the institution.



1 Blackboard. (n.d.). Outcomes Assessment. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.blackboard.com/education-analytics/outcomes-assessment.html

2 EAC. (n.d.). EAC Visual Data. Retrieved September 13, 2018, from https://www.edassess.net

The post How Davenport University Used Technology to Change the Way Assessment is Carried Out appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on July 18, 2018 – Click here for the Spanish version

Rather than “catching” students doing something wrong, tools like SafeAssign present learning opportunities to improve student writing.

Plagiarism has always existed, but the availability of information and technology has made this practice much easier – and more traceable. For a generation of people who have grown up using collaborative resources like Wikipedia, music file sharing and other websites and applications, the concept of authorship may have become more diffuse or difficult to understand.

“Having the answer to almost any question imaginable right at your fingertips is something entirely new to humanity. I believe it makes it harder to strive to come up with our own unique answers, and students may end up finding an answer someone else has already created more quickly or easily than generating their own”, says Trey Buck, SafeAssign Senior Product Manager at Blackboard and SafeAssign product expert. “At the same time, though, I see it as a real opportunity. It is a benefit to education that there is information readily available that can help solve problems, but critical thinking skills – being able to assimilate information and really understand, write about, and ultimately communicate that information in a way that is unique – are more important than ever. Platforms like Tumblr and Facebook allow people to get their voices out, but given that the possibility of plagiarizing is greater, our content needs to be more original, as well.”

Educational tool

Offered as a part of the overall Blackboard Learn solution, Blackboard SafeAssign is a plagiarism prevention tool based on text-matching algorithms capable of detecting multiple exact and inexact matches between a submitted paper and source material. It compares documents across several sources, including the Global Reference Database, which contains papers that were volunteered by students from Blackboard client institutions to help prevent cross-institutional plagiarism.

According to Buck, who has been working with SafeAssign for the last five years, there has been a significant growth in the adoption of the tool, with 30 to 40 percent increases year over year. This growth is being driven by both existing Blackboard clients using SafeAssign more regularly and new schools coming online with SafeAssign for the first time. “More and more schools, I believe, will start to place emphasis on these types of tools because the natural adoption and usage of online educational tools broadly has gotten far more sophisticated. Enabling SafeAssign within Blackboard Learn is so easy and being able to decide where to use it inside of courses and assignments provides flexibility and choice to schools and instructors,” he says.

Buck states that the most important thing about plagiarism prevention technology is its intended use as an instructional tool rather than a punitive tool for policing students. “SafeAssign should not be treated as a perfect mechanism that is going to ‘catch’ students in all cases. What we really want is for our customers to use SafeAssign as a way to teach students about the value of original writing as well as proper citation.”

He reminds us that there are several forms of plagiarism out there, and unintentional plagiarism is a reality. “I often use the example of a history class. An introductory history class in, let´s say, the history of Brazil, is very likely to have a lot of the same high-level topics that have been covered for years – even if the prompts change – and therefore it can be difficult for students to write truly new and unique content about that sort of subject. So, it is very possible that students end up writing something similar to what has previously been written, even totally unintentionally. We want users to think about SafeAssign as a tool to help improve the educational experience and the practice of administrating education, and not as a way of trying to catch students doing something wrong.”

Buck points out that it can be difficult to engage students on the topic of plagiarism without it feeling threatening: “That is something we hear from students quite a bit, that they feel like the school is always judging them, so to speak. That may not be the school´s intention at all, but because of the way the students often feel about these types of tools, the perception is inherently negative. Even the idea of plagiarism is kind of a negative thing, so people do not necessarily want to talk about it,” he says.

In order to mitigate students’ feelings that they may be punished by using the service, it can be a helpful practice to allow students to submit drafts and correct their own work prior to submitting the final version of an assignment. Instructors can also create assignments with an unlimited number of submissions to allow students to resubmit after review. In short, it’s important to use plagiarism software in a preventative and educational way so students will not feel that they are being caught by surprise or assessed unfairly.

Plagiarism can be a constant malaise in the education sphere, and many schools have academic conduct policies that at least mention plagiarism. Additionally, students should be learning about original writing throughout their educational journey. “It is a topic that covers a lot of different writing levels as well as educational levels, and I do not think it is the school´s sole responsibility to teach their students about this,” he says. “I think it is the responsibility of schools to use tools like SafeAssign to help educate their students as a part of the learning process, in addition to giving them writing assignments and allowing students to do their own creative work. And then, in cases where intentional or unintentional plagiarism may be of concern, schools can use the analysis of a tool like SafeAssign to help facilitate the appropriate actions.”

In Buck’s opinion, the main challenges that institutions are facing are setting the right expectations for both instructors and teachers when they are using these types of tools, making sure they understand what they are getting out of the tool, and ensuring that students do not feel like they are getting punished in every way by the school and the institutions that use these tools. “There are so many learning opportunities that these tools can create, and we want people to recognize and act on those occasions as opportunities rather than punishments.”

Technology evolution

Blackboard has owned SafeAssign for more than a decade, and over that time the tool has improved in many aspects. For example, it was moved from a separate tool in Blackboard Learn – where the teacher had to create a separate assignment type to use – to an integrated option in the native Learn assignment workflow. “We have also made some adjustments to the algorithms over time, to make results more accurate, and we have improved the user experience and overall quality of the SafeAssign Originality Reports,” affirms Buck. “Another interesting thing is that, for each client that signs up to use SafeAssign, every document that has been submitted by their users goes in a database just for them, and the longer they use the server, the bigger that database gets. So, they have an ever-growing database of documents to analyze student work against.”

As for the future, he believes that SafeAssign should present matches in a smarter way. “Today we very much rely on the teachers to do their own understanding and interpretation of the originality of the reports, even in the most basic level. That is good in some ways, but we can certainly continue to make the results more intuitive. And I think that, over time, we will likely start to roll in additional functions to SafeAssign that surround that basic progress.”

Although tools like SafeAssign tend to get smarter with time, Buck emphasizes that they should never replace a human. “It is concerning when we see schools that will set policies like, ‘if the match percentage of originality in the report is over a certain amount, that report automatically gets flagged for review by an academic oversight committee’ or something similar. I also know that, to students, a policy like that feels very much like oversight rather than support and further exacerbates students’ concerns about these types of tools,” he says.

“Blackboard is extremely conscious of the implications of accusing students of plagiarizing and that is why we always position SafeAssign as one tool of many in an instructor’s toolbox. We always leave the choice in our clients’ hands as to what to do with the results; we do not flag them for follow up, we do not report them anywhere,” Buck adds. “The tool is meant to support our clients’ pedagogies and beliefs in how education should happen at their school. At the end of the day, humans – not machines – should be deciding whether plagiarism has occurred and then taking the subsequent actions. Programmatic tools like SafeAssign are built to help inform decisions that humans should always be making based on as much information as possible.”

The post Teaching Academic Integrity Through Plagiarism Prevention Technology appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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Este artículo fue publicado originalmente el 18/07/2018 en E-Learn Magazine. Lea la versión en inglés aquí

En lugar de “atrapar” estudiantes haciendo algo malo, herramientas como SafeAssign presentan oportunidades de aprendizaje para mejorar la escritura de los estudiantes.

El plagio siempre ha existido, pero la disponibilidad de información y la tecnología han hecho de esta práctica un proceso más fácil de gestionar y rastrear. Para una generación de personas que han crecido usando recursos colaborativos como Wikipedia, archivos de música compartidos y otros sitios web y aplicaciones, el concepto de autoría pudo haberse vuelto algo difuso o difícil de entender.

“Tener la respuesta de casi cualquier pregunta imaginable en la punta de los dedos es algo completamente nuevo para la humanidad. Creo que esto hace más difícil tener nuestras propias respuestas únicas y lo que ha desencadenado es que los estudiantes encuentren una respuesta que alguien más creó”, afirma Trey Buck, Senior Product Manager para SafeAssign en Blackboard.

“Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo veo una verdadera oportunidad. Es un beneficio para la educación que exista información completamente disponible que pueda ayudar a solucionar problemas, pero las destrezas de pensamiento crítico – ser capaces de asimilar información y comprender realmente, escribir y publicar finalmente de forma única por nosotros mismos – son más importantes que nunca. Las plataformas como Tumblr y Facebook facilitan a las personas oír sus voces, pero dado que la posibilidad de plagiar es mayor, nuestro contenido debe ser más original que nunca”, aclara también.

Herramientas educativas

Blackboard SafeAssign, que se ofrece como parte de la solución global de Blackboard Learn, es una herramienta de prevención de plagio basada en algoritmos coincidentes con el texto que son capaces de detectar múltiples coincidencias exactas e inexactas entre un trabajo y material fuente. Esta herramienta compara documentos a través de varias fuentes, incluida la Base de Datos Mundial de Referencias, que contiene artículos que fueron entregados voluntariamente por estudiantes de instituciones que son clientes de Blackboard, para ayudar a prevenir el plagio interinstitucional.

Según Buck, quien ha trabajado con SafeAssign durante los últimos cinco años, ha habido un crecimiento significativo en la adopción de la herramienta, alrededor del 30 o 40 por ciento anualmente. Este crecimiento es impulsado por clientes de Blackboard que utilizan SafeAssign con mayor regularidad y nuevas instituciones que entran en línea con SafeAssign por primera vez. “Creo que más y más instituciones comenzarán a hacer énfasis en estos tipos de herramientas porque la adopción natural y la utilización de recursos educativos en línea se han sofisticado aún más. Habilitar SafeAssign dentro de Blackboard Learn es muy fácil y ser capaz de decidir cuándo usarlo en los cursos y tareas ofrece flexibilidad y opciones para las instituciones y docentes”, indica.

Buck afirma que lo más importante de la tecnología de prevención del plagio es que está concebida para utilizarse como una herramienta instructiva en lugar de un castigo para vigilar a los estudiantes. “SafeAssign no debería ser tratada como un mecanismo perfecto que va a ‘atrapar’ estudiantes en todos los casos. Lo que realmente queremos es que nuestros clientes utilicen SafeAssign como una forma de enseñar a los estudiantes sobre el valor de la escritura original, así como la utilización apropiada de las citas”.

Él nos recuerda que existen varias formas de plagio e incurrir en éste sin intención es una realidad. “A menudo utilizo como ejemplo una clase de historia: por ejemplo, una que sea introductoria sobre la historia de Brasil, muy probablemente tendrá muchos de los mismos temas de alto nivel que han sido cubiertos durante años – aunque las entradas cambien – y por consiguiente puede ser difícil para los estudiantes escribir contenido nuevo y único sobre ese tipo de temas. Entonces, es muy posible que los estudiantes terminen escribiendo algo similar a lo que ya se ha escrito previamente, aun cuando sea completamente sin intención. Queremos que los usuarios piensen en SafeAssign como una herramienta para ayudar a mejorar la experiencia educativa y la práctica de administrar la educación, y no como una forma de tratar de atrapar a los estudiantes haciendo algo malo”.

Buck señala que puede ser difícil abordar a los estudiantes con respecto al plagio sin que esto se sienta amenazante: “Eso es algo que escuchamos bastante de los estudiantes, que sienten que la institución siempre los está juzgando, por así decirlo. Esa puede no ser la intención de la institución, pero dada la manera en que los estudiantes se sienten con frecuencia sobre estos tipos de herramientas, no hay duda de que la percepción es negativa. Incluso la idea de plagio es como algo negativo, de manera que la gente no necesariamente quiere hablar de eso”, asegura.

Con el fin de evitar que los estudiantes se sientan castigados utilizando el servicio, puede resultar muy útil permitirles entregar versiones preliminares y corregir su propio trabajo antes de enviar la versión final. Los docentes también pueden crear tareas con un número ilimitado de entregas para permitir nuevas versiones después de la revisión. En otras palabras, la clave está en usar un software contra el plagio de una forma preventiva y educativa, para que los estudiantes no sientan que están siendo sorprendidos en algo indebido o que están siendo evaluados de forma injusta.

El plagio puede ser un problema constante en el entorno educativo y muchas instituciones tienen políticas de conducta académica que al menos mencionan esta práctica. Pero aún así, los estudiantes deberían aprender sobre la escritura original a lo largo de su experiencia educativa. “Es un tema que cubre muchos de los diferentes niveles de escritura, así como los niveles educativos, y no creo que sea una responsabilidad exclusiva de las instituciones utilizar herramientas como SafeAssign para ayudar a educar a sus estudiantes como parte del proceso de aprendizaje. Por el contrario, asignarles tareas de escritura permite a los estudiantes hacer su propio trabajo creativo. Y entonces, en los casos en que el plagio es intencional o no, se debe utilizar el análisis de una herramienta como SafeAssign para ayudar a facilitar las acciones apropiadas.”

A juicio de Buck, los retos principales que enfrentan las instituciones establecen, a su vez, las expectativas correctas para los docentes cuando estén usando estos tipos de herramientas. Ambas partes deben: entender lo que están obteniendo con la herramienta y garantizar que los estudiantes no sientan que están siendo castigados. “Existen tantas oportunidades de aprendizaje que estas herramientas pueden crear. Por eso, queremos que las personas reconozcan y reaccionen ante las mismas como oportunidades, en lugar de castigo”.

Evolución tecnológica

Blackboard lleva más de una década con SafeAssign y durante ese tiempo la herramienta ha mejorado en muchos aspectos. Por ejemplo, pasó de ser un recurso separado en Blackboard Learn – donde el profesor tiene que crear un tipo de tarea independiente para ser utilizada – a una opción integrada en el flujo de trabajo de tareas nativas de este LMS. “Igualmente, con el tiempo hemos hecho algunos ajustes a los algoritmos para hacer que los resultados sean más precisos, hemos mejorado la experiencia del usuario y la calidad global de SafeAssign Originality Reports”, explica Buck. “Otro aspecto interesante es que, para los clientes de SafeAssign, cada documento que ha sido entregado por sus usuarios se archiva en una base de datos exclusivamente para ellos y mientras más utilicen el servidor, esa base de datos aumenta en la misma medida. De manera que, tienen una base de datos de documentos en crecimiento para comparar y analizar el trabajo de los estudiantes”.

En cuanto al futuro, él cree que SafeAssign debería presentar las coincidencias de una manera más inteligente. “Hoy confiamos mucho en que los docentes comprendan e interpreten la originalidad de los informes por ellos mismos, incluso en el nivel más básico. Esto es bueno de cierta manera, pero debemos continuar haciendo los resultados más intuitivos. Y considero que con el tiempo es muy probable que lleguemos a funciones adicionales para SafeAssign que acompañen ese progreso básico”.

Aunque herramientas como SafeAssign tienden a ser más inteligentes con el tiempo, Buck subraya que nunca deberían reemplazar a un humano. “Es preocupante cuando vemos instituciones que establecen políticas como ‘si el porcentaje de coincidencia de originalidad en un documento es superior a cierta cantidad, ese documento automáticamente es marcado para ser revisado por un comité de supervisión académica’ o algo por el estilo. También sé que para los estudiantes una política como esa se siente mucho como una supervisión, en lugar de un apoyo, y esto exacerba aún más la preocupación de los estudiantes sobre estos tipos de herramientas.”

Para concluir, añade que “Blackboard es muy consciente de las implicaciones de acusar a los estudiantes de plagio y es por esa razón que siempre presentamos SafeAssign como una herramienta de muchas a disposición del docente. Siempre dejamos la elección en manos de nuestros clientes con respecto a qué hacer con los resultados; no los marcamos para realizar un seguimiento, no los reportamos en ningún sitio.” También asegura que “la herramienta está creada para apoyar las pedagogías y creencias de nuestros clientes sobre la manera en que la educación debería desarrollarse en sus instituciones. Al final del día, los humanos – no máquinas – deberían decidir si ha ocurrido plagio y luego emprender acciones consecuentes. Herramientas programáticas como SafeAssign están concebidas para ayudar a tomar decisiones informadas que los humanos deberían tomar siempre con base en la mayor cantidad de información posible”.

The post Enseñar integridad académica a través de tecnología appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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It’s now October, and at this point incoming Freshman at the University of Southern California are settling into their first semester and getting familiar with student life—giving the card office a moment to catch their breath from all the hustle and bustle of issuing student IDs and beginning the Credential LifeCycle for incoming students.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to the University of Southern California Assistant Customer Service Manager William Bourlier to discuss how USC was able to engage parents and students with a more direct delivery of information. Learn how the university reached 90%+ of the incoming undergraduate class utilizing online photo submission while leveraging an orientation program for new students. He’ll share USC’s catalyst for executing this marketing campaign, what challenges they faced and final results.

Q: What was the main motivation for developing a university-wide initiative for improving the distribution of the USC Card ID?

A: Our main objective for improving the distribution of the USCard was to enhance the Trojan Experience while increasing the visibility of the campus card office. We also wanted to develop a partnership with Orientation Programs to have a more active role in the 19 new student orientation programs at USC.

Q: How did the idea come about for the USCard Services marketing campaign & strategy?

A: The idea for this marketing campaign came from a university-wide initiative to provide a highly individualized, truly memorable and transformative customer service experience for our students and their families. Prior to implementing the campaign, we issued both a student ID and family card during new student freshman orientations but were dissatisfied with the participation of students submitting images online and the way ID cards are distributed during new student orientations.  In addition, we wanted a more active role in the orientation program to build USCard and ID card awareness.

Q: Can you share with us how USC uses their credential program to engage students?

A: USCard Services began an email and postcard marketing program to reach new students attending one of USC’s 19 new student orientation programs. Student ID cards were distributed with an information-filled postcard at the Student Services Expo, where students becoming part of the Trojan family were celebrated with Instagram posts. A lucky freshman was awarded a USC backpack during each of the freshman orientation’s Instagram raffle.

Q: What elements of the marketing campaign are you most proud of?

A: The overall program improvement of ID card delivery, packaging and ID card awareness were significant.  Our online image submittal and ID card distribution increased from 60% to 94% within a year. Credit Card Deposits increased 8% from the prior year and cash deposits increased by 40%. We also saw attendance at our Student Services Expo increased dramatically.  Parents and students were more engaged in the service fair and parents felt more involved as part of the Trojan Family.

To learn more, register for our upcoming webinar, Card Offices That Add Value. Register today!

The post USCard Services Q&A: USC Improves the Distribution of Their Card ID for New Students appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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In today’s highly competitive higher education market, partnerships of all kinds (i.e. employer, inter-institution, intra-institution, vendor, etc.) have stood out as important channels for attracting new students and driving innovation.  Given the frequently talked about partnerships between a few notable universities and big brand employers, the idea of cultivating partnerships has taken center stage.

As a team entrusted by our clients with tackling tough challenges like enrollment growth and learner engagement, we explored the concept of partnerships in a recent research collaboration with our own special partner, UPCEA, the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. Since 2014, UPCEA and Blackboard have worked together to share new ideas with the education community and to deepen the understanding of industry trends, best practices, and evolving market factors around professional, continuing, and online education.

Our most recent project, offered through a series of research reports, covers topics frequently on the minds of higher education leaders. Specifically, this year’s research—covering partnerships, strategic planning and resources, measuring success, innovation and critical goals and common challenges—includes survey responses from over 250 professional, continuing and online education units at colleges and universities across the U.S. The first in this series offers some deep insights into how higher education leaders are thinking about and leveraging partnerships in their quest for differentiation, innovation, and growth.  The full report can be found here, and we welcome your feedback.

Sharing some highlights from the study, we learned a few key concepts related to partnerships today:

  • 54% of respondents felt that some partnerships are important.
  • Community colleges ranked the importance of partnerships the highest among the sectors, with 57% agreeing that partnerships are important.
  • 48% reported that the most common method of partnership involved working with employers to customize or co-design curriculum.
  • Over half of all respondents (55%) reported their universities are pursuing partnerships primarily to strengthen the institution’s presence in the surrounding community.
  • Nearly half (47%) of respondents felt that partnerships provide universities with a more reliable enrollment pipeline of new students.

In our work with higher education clients, we have witnessed that setting up and managing partnerships is no small task.  While the rewards can be high, many institutions go into the effort with little to no defined process and leaders are figuring things out one step at a time.  There is often no consistent model for success and there is very little standardization across the organization on how any partnership should work.  From our experience and view into institutional best practices across the nation, we have identified a few critical steps that help the partnership process go more smoothly:

  • Have standard operating procedures as part of your understanding with the partner.  For example, set up a regular cadence of meetings, reports, and shared experiences or content to ensure that everyone is aligned on expectations.
  • Set-up protocols on data sharing and Key Performance Metrics (KPIs). Have identified success metrics that everyone agrees will provide insight into whether you are both achieving your shared goals.
  • Consider hosting shared data in one collaborative location. Determine how data will be sourced and shared through a system such as a CRM or Business Intelligence tool.
  • Check in and monitor the relationship regularly, both at the leadership and coordination levels.  Keep communications frequent and ensure that executive sponsors are engaged on both sides.
  • Establish feedback loops and know what both parties are responsible for doing.  Provide a mechanism for escalating challenges or problems and offer channels for transparent dialogue.

Once you’re able to establish and manage a new partnership with consistency, you’re likely to enjoy some of the many benefits offered by this important channel.

  • Partners often offer capabilities and resources unlike or simply not found anywhere else within the institution. They have the ability to fill gaps, bring new data and insights, as well as an outside perspective.
  • A student’s ability to build a network, secure hands-on learning, and gain a leg up in the quest for career advancement can be the make-or-break determinant in a candidate’s enrollment decision. Focusing on employer partnerships can become a game-changer in differentiation.
  • While partnerships most certainly play a positive part in strengthening the institution’s role in the community, when done well, partnerships can have a direct and material impact on enrollment growth. The return on investment can prove the time and effort to be well worth it.

Find out more by reading the full partnerships report and stay tuned for our forthcoming research reports on additional hot topics:

  • Strategic Planning and Resources
  • Measuring Success
  • Critical Goals and Common Challenges
  • Innovation

The Student Services team brings expertise and experience in navigating the opportunities related to establishing partnerships of all kinds. We can offer consultative and hands-on help identifying the best partnerships for your organization, providing best practice in governance and operating procedures, as well as developing outreach plans to potential partner contacts. To learn more, visit our website.

The post New Research: Strategic Partnerships in Higher Education appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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Creating equitable opportunities for learning is a key goal for educational institutions.  However, it can be challenging to create an inclusive learning experience when navigating a wide variety of content and technology that hasn’t always been designed to meet the needs of all students.  For this reason, reaching students beyond the traditional borders of the physical classroom often requires a different approach that focuses on accessibility, usability and engagement to foster a truly inclusive environment.

Blackboard Collaborate, our virtual classroom solution, has been built from the ground up with accessibility and education in mind so that everyone – regardless of their abilities or dependency on assistive technologies – can fully engage and participate in the teaching and learning experience.  Blackboard Collaborate’s fully inclusive user experience is designed to adhere to common accessibility standards, provide keyboard shortcuts and navigation, and work well with screen readers.  Even beyond that, there are features in the product that are explicitly intended to provide a truly inclusive experience, such as natively supporting closed captioning during a live session by allowing one or more of the attendees to be designated as captioners.

Often times, however, instructors don’t have the ability to provide live captioning for all of their Blackboard Collaborate sessions and would like to add captions for students watching on-demand recordings.  Captioning is not only for individuals who have hearing loss, but also supports students who prefer other modes of learning.  Oregon State University’s Ecampus and 3Play Media did a national research study on the perception of caption use in institutions of higher education.

Some important findings from the student perspective were:

  • 98.6% of all students find captioning helpful
  • 71% of students without hearing difficulties use captions at least some of the time
  • 66% of ESL students find captions “very” or “extremely” helpful
  • Student participants in the study cited closed captions as a valuable learning engagement tool to help them focus, retain and comprehend information, and overcome poor audio quality of videos.  This was particularly useful for students who identified English as their second language.

Some important findings from the institution perspective were:

  • 46% of institutions use a third party to create captions for online courses
  • The #1 barrier to institutions providing captioning is lack of general awareness

With the July 2018 release of Blackboard Collaborate, instructors and administrators now have the ability to add captions to recordings, even if there wasn’t someone providing them during the original live session.  They also now have the ability to clean up transcription errors from the live session in the recording.

We recognize that allowing the manual upload of caption files for Blackboard Collaborate recordings is a very important step in our accessibility journey, but we are by no means resting on our laurels or declaring victory.  The need to continuously improve our products and workflows to allow for even greater inclusivity and accessibility is a driving force in our roadmap and our product planning efforts.  This release is a milestone that we’re proud of and will serve as the foundation for continued work in this area.  Our ultimate goal is to be able to remove the burden of having to manually caption recordings and provide a mechanism by which they can be automatically captioned using built-in speech-to-text capabilities.  Since the automatic speech recognition technology today doesn’t always provide the needed level of transcription accuracy, it is also important for us to provide convenient ways for our clients to easily make corrections.  This will be our focus as we look to expand on the work completed thus far, and drive efforts into and through 2019.

The post Improving Accessibility Of Virtual Classroom Recordings appeared first on Blackboard Blog.

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