Undergraduate students in Basic Public Health Studies, an online course in the Blackboard Learn pilot during the spring semester, are benefiting from tools their peers in other sections of the course in Blackboard Vista do not have. Students in all online sections have similar required assignments, but those in the Blackboard Learn pilot communicate more often and with more detail, capitalizing on opportunities available in the new platform.
Health and kinesiology Professor Roseann Lyle attributes the difference to the enhanced collaboration tools she’s trying as part of the Blackboard Learn pilot. In her online course — a prerequisite for majors in public health promotion, athletic training, dietetics and nutrition and fitness — she has incorporated discussion boards, blogs and group wikis.
“In my face-to-face classes, I would hear from such a small group of students during any given lecture and discussion,” Lyle says. “That’s not the case with the course delivered online.”
Instructors will need to begin using Blackboard Learn for their classes by January 2013, but like Lyle, many are working on converting courses now and for the fall semester. For more information about Blackboard Learn 9.1 on the West Lafayette campus, faculty may register for workshops offered during the weeks of April 9 and April 30, read the Blackboard Learn 9.1 implementation plan or the Blackboard Learn wiki and contact ITaP’s teaching and learning staff with questions or to schedule a consultation session.
Whether her online sections are in Blackboard Vista or Blackboard Learn, Lyle says at least one student in each class typically expresses a viewpoint different from the majority, prompting others to respond.
“My online students interact better with one another than the students I see in the classroom, so I was pleased to see that my online students in the Blackboard Learn pilot responded so well to the many opportunities to discuss issues, read and consider others’ opinions and react to feedback,” Lyle says.
Lyle selected six public health issues for the discussion boards, such as legalizing marijuana for medical purposes and mandating that restaurants include calorie counts on menus. Her students research the issue and post an opinion with their rationale. With her students in the Learn pilot, she also asked them to cite a resource they found helpful in their research. After students read other posts and provide their own, Lyle reads the responses and summarizes the class’s general opinion.
“Instead of my lecturing about the issues, having my online students in the pilot research and post on the discussion board helps them comprehend the complexity of each issue and why it is a public health concern,” Lyle says. “Because they need a reference to support their stance, they are researching more than my other online students in this course and thus forming opinions with a more thorough understanding of the many factors affecting the issue.”
Lyle had previously tried to create and monitor a group assignment in Blackboard Vista, and it was always difficult for the students to get it done on time with the tools available. When she met with Stan Kruse, an ITaP senior educational technologist, to start working on the Learn pilot course, he told her about Learn’s group wikis.
When she presented content on mental health and family values, she assigned students to groups and each group created a wiki, a Web page where they could post and store information and eventually submit a final group assignment. Blackboard Learn allows for a group home page and then individual pages for each group member.
Lyle’s students posted their top-five personal values and what they perceived as those of their parents and those of their grandparents. The group wikis served as resources in the class’s analysis of why they think the priority of some values may change through the generations.
“I couldn’t believe how smoothly the assignment went in my Learn section,” Lyle says. “Stan developed directions on how to use the wiki tool to complete the assignment, and the students expressed few problems.”
The wiki tool also provided Lyle with detailed information on each student’s contribution to the group’s overall output, an asset for grading.
Lyle also likes the Blackboard Learn grade center’s ability to give a quick snapshot of work available for grading. With Vista, she had to search through each assignment for work submitted. Now, one screen shows everything in the queue. Other features of the Learn grade center make it more user friendly as well, such as the ability to filter by category and status.
At the beginning of the semester, Lyle chose a blog to introduce herself, and offered extra credit to students who followed her example. She included basic information and posted a photo, plus such points of interest as family, hobbies, last book read and favorite places to eat. Of the 26 students in her online section in Blackboard Learn, 24 introduced themselves through a blog.
“This helped all of us get to know each other, similar to what would normally occur early on in a face-to-face class,” she says.
Lyle now plans to use Blackboard Learn for all the sections of her online public health course. “I am looking forward to expanding my competency with Learn,” Lyle says.
While they’ll need to begin using Blackboard Learn in January, faculty will have a full year, until Dec. 31, 2013, to move all their course content from Blackboard Vista to Learn.
Writer: Carol Bloom, ITaP, 765-496-7998, email@example.com
Source: Roseann Lyle, 765-494-3158, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated: March 30, 2012