Word was Blackboard Learn had more, better and more current teaching tools for student engagement than available in the old Web CT or Blackboard Vista. That convinced Yehle to join Chang in ITaP Academic Technologies’ fall 2011 Blackboard Learn pilot. They chose their team-taught graduate-level Nursing Research course to see for themselves what Learn offered them and their students. It turned out to be a great deal, including an improved discussion board tool practically tailor-made for Yehle’s teaching methods.
ITaP started planning for its transition from Blackboard Vista to Learn 9.1 last year. The goal is for most instructors on the West Lafayette campus to begin managing their courses in Blackboard Learn this fall, but no later than Dec. 31, 2012. Blackboard will stop servicing its Vista system Jan. 1, 2013.
Because existing courses can’t be automatically migrated to Learn, ITaP began offering a series of workshops in February to help faculty rebuild their courses. Those sessions will continue the weeks of May 14, June 4 and June 25 and again in early August.
Yehle has been pleased with the improvements Blackboard made in the Learn grade center and in integrating, for example, email capabilities and SafeAssign, a plagiarism detector. She’s found she can organize her course materials more logically, as well as upload her weekly PowerPoint slides without problems.
But Yehle’s favorite is Learn’s discussion board tool, which was enhanced in ways that fit with her use of online discussions, writing summaries from research literature and student collaboration on group activities and online presentations.
“Now, our discussions with Learn can be primarily online, which works best with my graduate course, Sociocultural Influences on Health,” Yehle says. “It’s a hybrid — delivered mostly online with only four on-campus sessions — and the 13 students I have this semester are professional nurses of all ages and years of nursing experience. Our discussions can be very insightful when the students offer actual clinical examples and reference scientific evidence.”
In her Issues in Professional Nursing course for undergraduates, Yehle assigned more writing practice through the discussion board. She had students form groups of three, and each group picked an issue within broad subjects, such as cultural competence, healthcare policy, ethical concerns or the future of nursing. The student groups researched their issues, and each group presented an overview to the class. The other students were then assigned to look in the literature for other journal articles on each group’s issue, select one to read and summarize to expand each group’s references and discussion.
“I required every student in the class to post each summary to the discussion board, and every student had to respond with a substantial comment to every classmate’s summary,” Yehle says. “This gave students more writing practice and more work with the scientific literature on a variety of topics.”
Each group presented an analysis of their issue to the class online through the discussion board. The group prepared a PowerPoint presentation that covered the issue, referred to relevant sources and discussed how the issue relates to patients, the nursing profession and the healthcare system.
During the fall semester pilot, Yehle had to shift to a different browser because she had difficulties when she began to move her course materials to Blackboard Learn. ITaP instructional designer Suzanne Ahlersmeyer helped her solve the problem, noting that Firefox and Google Chrome seem to work the best when moving course materials.
“Just knowing I had Suzanne’s phone number and email and I could contact her with questions eased the whole process,” Yehle says. “I couldn’t have done it without her. Plus, the Learn training was helpful because we practiced with ITaP’s teaching and learning staff nearby.”
Over summer break, ITaP encourages faculty to register for workshops, review resources on the Blackboard Learn wiki and contact ITaP’s teaching and learning staff with any questions or to schedule a one-on-one or small-group consultation.
Writer: Carol Bloom, ITaP Communications, 765-496-7998, email@example.com
Sources: Suzanne Ahlersmeyer, ITaP Academic Technologies, 765-496-7403, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen S. Yehle, 765-494-4011, email@example.com
Last updated: April 26, 2012