Blackboard Usage Study: Results Released

Blackboard Learn.
North America.
Spring 2016.
927 Institutions
70,000 Courses.
3,374,462 unique learners.

The most recent Blackboard usage study casts a much wider net than has been their scope in the past. Titled “Patterns in Course Design,” the learning management system heavyweight released an interpretation on the current environment of course design. By crunching the aggregate data across their broad sample, they were able to classify every course into one of five “archetypes.” They accomplished this by analyzing the tools deployed within the courses and how they were utilized. The identified archetypes reflect larger patterns of course design and student experience.

These five archetypes are telling of the primary use of the Blackboard learning management system. Three out of four Blackboard courses are used, likely in coordination with a face-to-face course, as a course content storage platform. In these types of courses, the majority of Blackboard’s tools go unused. Students are rarely assessed, interact, or are graded in Blackboard in the “Supplemental” and “Complementary” categorized courses in the figure to the left.

This is staggering, considering the incredible expense the Blackboard learning management system is to an institution. The value of Blackboard is in the tools that make it a learning management system. However, if three out of four faculty only need a digital content storage repository to complement their face-to-face instruction – well, a system to meet those more basic needs can be had for cheap, or even for free.

Blackboard usage study

In their usage study, Blackboard explores why the majority of their LMS goes unused. There very well may be a lack of faculty training, guidance, and support. The percentages drop precipitously as we descend the ladder into more and more engaging archetypes. “Holistic” use of the platform only occurs in 1 out of 50 Blackboard courses.

This Blackboard usage study provides some suggestions in their summary on ways to leverage built-in tools to increase engagement on the platform – including using discussion boards, announcements, and varying assessment types. The instructional design team is working on some of the same professional development challenges to get faculty and staff at CGPS more comfortable with tools within, and outside of, Blackboard. That said, our courses appear to already exceed the great majority in Blackboard utilization.

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