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Adoption Tools and Best Practices

Over the last decade, the proportion of online enrollments in degree-granting institutions in the U.S. has steadily increased to 32% of total enrollments in 2011. It’s no surprise that nearly 70% of U.S. higher education institutions see online course offerings as critical to their long-term strategy. However, over this same time period, there has been little change in the administrator-reported percentage of faculty who see online education as legitimate and valuable, with that percentage hovering around 30%.

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Source: Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group, 2013

A disconnect often exists between the feelings that administration has about the importance of online courses and the feelings that educators have about its value. To bridge this gap and increase adoption of online course technology, zero in on the concerns of educators at your institution.

File:en-us/Learn/9.1_2014_04/Administrator/040_System_Planning/Best_Practice_Increase_Adoption/lightbulb_orange.png Build a framework of support around your technology

Educator Concerns: I’m already researching, teaching, and advising. How will I find time to develop an online course?

Some studies show that it takes longer to teach online courses, while other studies show that they are about the same. Educators' perceptions are the they feel about spending time on their online courses is what shapes their attitudes. Offer training solutions that directly address their concerns. Support from the institution and their colleagues can make all the difference.

Successful Solutions:

  • Start with a dynamic rollout: Actively market the online program and its solutions and benefits for your institution. Recruit educators through show and tell sessions, newsletters, free coffee—whatever it takes to generate interest! Leverage Blackboard's Communication and Adoption Toolkit for April 2014 or Communication and Adoption Toolkit for October 2014 to assist with your efforts. If your institution is implementing the Mobile Learn Building Block, you can utilize the Blackboard Mobile Learn Adoption Kit. (The linked resources are available in English only.)
  • Offer training ramp-up plans in several "flavors": Meet educators where they fall on the continuum of technology adoption. Some may want direct instruction in groups. Others might be comfortable with online resources and face-to-face checkpoints along the way.
  • Train online: Educators can enjoy the flexibility of online learning and experience what students experience. If you don't have time to develop your own online training from scratch, Blackboard offers training solutions that include ready-made online and face-to-face training bundles that you can customize and deliver on your campus.
  • Make course development manageable: Create a reasonable timeline for development and support educators continuously during the process. Provide release time for course development, allow educators to start with a hybrid course before going fully online, and provide course designers who build courses for instructors.
  • Assist quickly: Provide links to your campus help desk, open office hours, and to Blackboard Help, videos for students, and videos for instructors. Make sure that educators have a channel to report and resolve technical difficulties quickly. (The linked resources are available in English only.)
  • Mentor each other: Recruit early adopters as mentors to educators who are just starting out. Administrators and department chairs can use the technology themselves and serve as role models.

File:en-us/Learn/9.1_2014_04/Administrator/040_System_Planning/Best_Practice_Increase_Adoption/quotes.png Our Technology Showcase provides a great venue to inform faculty about a wide variety of technologies, seminars, and other professional development opportunities available to them.

~ Eric Kunnen, Emerging Technologies Coordinator, Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley State University is exposing both faculty and students to exciting, new technologies. In a Technology Showcase room situated in a high traffic area of the library, the new technologies include a 3-D printer and the latest features in Blackboard Learn.

File:en-us/Learn/9.1_2014_04/Administrator/040_System_Planning/Best_Practice_Increase_Adoption/lightbulb_orange.png Increase effectiveness of online courses

Educator Concerns: Aren't retention rates lower for online courses? How do I keep students from cheating? Are students disciplined enough to succeed in online courses?

Administrators report that 60% of faculty say that lower retention rates in online courses is one of their major concerns about adoption of online course technology [1]. Cheating and under-prepared students are also valid issues. Blackboard has tools that directly address these pieces of the larger puzzle—creating quality education for students.

Successful Solutions:

  • Orient students: Provide opportunities for students to practice in Blackboard before enrolling in a course. Develop a standalone course that gets students comfortable with online learning. Or, consider licensing the Blackboard Learn Student Orientation that you can customize for your school's specific needs. Instructors can also give ungraded assignments at the beginning of the term to let students practice with tests, turning in assignments, and using communication tools. (The linked resources are available in English only.)
  • Increase engagement: Blackboard Collaborate provides web conferencing capabilities, including a whiteboard space and sharing your screen with an audience. Blackboard Mobile Learn enables instructors and students to use any mobile device to interact with their courses and students.

  • Retain students: Retention Center enables instructors to quickly identify at-risk students and intervene early.
  • Maintain academic honesty: Test options allow instructors to password-protect tests and restrict the timeframe the test is available. SafeAssign helps to prevent plagiarism and helps students to properly attribute sources.
  • Keep students on track: My Blackboard keeps students up to speed on newly added content, course interactions, grades, and due dates. The calendar in My Blackboard includes events for all courses and enables users to jump directly to assignments and tests to start their work.

    Users can set up notifications to receive alerts through email, text messages, and push notifications on their mobile devices.

    For K-12 schools, Blackboard Engage can provide a solution for keeping students and their families in the loop.

  • Evaluate course outcomes: Use Blackboard's Outcomes Assessment to gather data, and pinpoint areas of success and areas that need improvement.
  • Be reliable: Make every effort to be sure your institution's technology minimizes downtime. Blackboard's Managed Hosting can be a partner in your efforts to provide a stable technology infrastructure.

File:en-us/Learn/9.1_2014_04/Administrator/040_System_Planning/Best_Practice_Increase_Adoption/quotes.png We're always looking for ways that we can get the most out of our use of Blackboard technologies.

~ Paul Fisher, Associate CIO, Seton Hall University

Seton Hall finds success in focusing on areas that will help both faculty and students in their experiences with the technology. For example, they encourage the use of the Grade Center to increase efficiency for faculty and satisfaction for students.

File:en-us/Learn/9.1_2014_04/Administrator/040_System_Planning/Best_Practice_Increase_Adoption/lightbulb_orange.png Make it worth their time

Educator Concerns: When I was hired, online teaching was not an expectation for me. Why would I go through all of this extra work? My on-campus students love my class, achieve their goals, and give me great evaluations.

The benefits of teaching online, both to instructors and students, can be numerous, but that may not be enough to motivate educators to invest the time and effort to learn and employ online technology.

Successful Solutions:

  • Offer incentives: Programs set up to speed adoption through incentives can allow educators to participate if they elect to do so. These early adopters serve as role models and mentors for later groups. Incentives can include cash stipends, release time, course load reduction, a factor in promotions or tenure, free technology, or other rewards that may be of value to that educator.
  • Recognize them: Acknowledge educators who are doing exemplary work through awards, articles, tweets, and other channels available at your institution.
  • Point out the positives: When teaching online, they can enjoy a new teaching paradigm with more flexibility, more student contact, and more data to base course improvement decisions on. This can be part of your marketing plan, and you can include some stories about educators who are innovating and benefiting from it.
  • Promote learning opportunities among peers: Peers are often the best motivators. Enlist others to share ideas with your teaching community. Among the many resources available, Blackboard has a dedicated site designed to support educators with resources for their online teaching activities. They also have programs that offer best practices from the education community around the globe, such as the Higher Ed Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series (BITS) and the K-12 Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series (BITS).

File:en-us/Learn/9.1_2014_04/Administrator/040_System_Planning/Best_Practice_Increase_Adoption/quotes.png We could sense the excitement around the topic and we wanted to do something to capitalize on that momentum.

~ Susan Zvacek, Ph.D., Senior Director for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technologies, Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays is encouraging the use of Open Educational Resources in online teaching. They have established a grant program to encourage faculty to explore how to effectively integrate them into their teaching.


Allen, I. Elaine and Seaman, Jeff. Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group, January 2013.