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Best Practice: Analyze Course Effectiveness

Adjust and adapt your course to increase student success.

students connected to a computerKnowledge is power. To determine how well your design is working, analyze how students interact and perform in your course. Adjust your course accordingly, and be rewarded with an engaging and robust learning environment that enables students to reach their learning goals. 

For example, low participation in discussion board activities can lead to an investigation into instructions and expectations for using the tool, where the tool is placed in the course, and the timeliness of your interactions. After making improvements, check participation levels again to confirm that the changes had a positive impact.

Blackboard Learn provides a collection of tools and reports to track your student activity and gain insight into the effectiveness of your course. For example, you can use:

  • Item Analysis on tests
  • Course reports
  • End-of-course evaluations

Item Analysis on Tests

Item Analysis provides statistics about overall test performance and individual test questions. This data helps you to identify questions that might be poor discriminators of student performance. Use this information to improve questions for future test administrations or to adjust credit on current attempts.

To learn how to run this report, see Item Analysis

Item Analysis Example


After the item analysis, you notice the majority of students answer one question incorrectly. What is contributing to the low success rate?

  • Is the wording of the question confusing?
  • Are the answer options unclear?
  • Were students given appropriate learning content to successfully answer this question?
  • Was the learning content easily accessible and clear?

Based on what you discover, you can improve the test question to be sure that is is truly assessing what students know or do not know.

Course Reports

Course reports include details about which students are accessing your course and when. Use the information from these reports to determine when you should be present in your course and investigate the effectiveness of your content and activities.

Course Activity Overview Report

The Course Activity Overview report displays overall activity within a single course, sorted by student and date. The data includes the total and average time spent per user and each user's total activity in the course. Use this information to investigate and improve your content and activities.

To learn how to generate this report, see Course Reports.

Course Activity Overview Example


Student activity is high in the afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Use this information to your students' advantage and make yourself present in the course when they are most likely there. Set that time to engage with your students, post announcements, host office hours, and participate in group discussions.

Example 2

Students tend to spend a long time on one page and significantly less on others. One student in particular hasn't accessed any pages. Time spent on pages could indicate special interest in the topic or difficulty understanding it. Based on the recognizable patterns that you see in student activity, investigate the accessibility and effectiveness of your course, content, and activities.

Course Coverage Report

The Course Coverage report displays data on course items that have been aligned to goals. Use this report to discover which goals do not have instructional material associated with them. Fill in these instructional gaps with rich content.

To learn how to run this report and how to align content to goals, see Course Reports and Goals.

Course Coverage Example


Image illustrating associated textAfter running a Course Coverage report, click the linked number under Not Covered to view goals that do not have course material associated with them.

After you create course material that enables students to meet those goals, use the content item's contextual menu to Add Alignments to the goal. This process links the content to the goal. Your changes will show in the report when you run it again.

Learn Analytics Reports

Learn Analytics reports are available If your institution licenses Blackboard Learn Analytics. They include: 

  • Student At a Glance: Gather detailed information about how a student is performing compared to other students in the same course or with the same major.
  • Learn Course At a Glance: Analyze how a particular course is designed, how the course compares to other course sections in the same department or with the same course number, and how students are using the course.
  • Activity and Grade Scatter Plot: Analyze how different student activity types relate to the grades recorded in the Grade Center or the SIS Final Grade.
  • Activity Matrix: Analyze activity and grade patterns in a course to help find students with different usage and performance profiles.
  • Course Activity Trend: Understand various course measures over time, broken down by instruction method. This is important because different instruction methods have different expectations regarding instructor course design and student participation.

End-of-Course Evaluations

End-of-course surveys are a great opportunity to hear how your students felt about their learning experience in your course.

Course Surveys

Summative evaluations give your students time to reflect on how effectively your course met their needs, where content can be improved, and the concepts they found exceptionally challenging. Evaluations give students an opportunity to improve the experience for future students. Not only is this a great model for lifelong learning, this information can lead to improved content and interactions for your students.

To learn how to create an end-of-course survey in your course and make it available to students, see Create Tests and Surveys

Course Evaluations Example


Course Evaluations should be general enough for students to give you honest feedback but also guided enough that you can easily understand what they mean.

Consider using a rating system and ask your students:

  • Did you find the material engaging?
  • Did the activities prepare you for success?

Include open-ended questions such as:

  • What are your overall thoughts about the course?
  • What was the most valuable portion of the course vs. most distracting or unneeded portion?

Enterprise Surveys

Another option for summative evaluation that might be available to you is an Enterprise Survey. You need a special user account to access the enterprise survey tool. Your institution creates this account for you.

Enterprise surveys help you to measure satisfaction levels, community engagement, and other attitudes that impact institutional effectiveness. Surveys provide indirect measurements of student learning by relying on self-reported data and implied success. Enterprise Surveys collect data anonymously. Individuals cannot be identified by their responses.

To learn more about creating and using Enterprise Surveys, see Enterprise Surveys