Brigham Young University has been doing their homework on how Blackboard is being used. By mining the information in Blackboard they can tell us that 3/4 of the schoolâ€™s courses are in Blackboard, the system contains 360 GB of course content, it receives over 700,000 hits a day, and in the Fall of 2005 there were 2 million quizzes. 2 million for Fall term alone!
They wanted a method for monitoring Blackboardâ€™s â€œvital signsâ€ â€“ a way of being sure the system was healthy and that use of it was growing. In addition, they sat down with stakeholders â€“ anyone they could find who had a vested interest in the system (or who should have an interest) and conducted some qualitative feedback on Blackboard.
The vital signs to track?
- Usage: how much is the system used and how? Which features are being used? This data was easy to grab since it comes from the system. BYU was able to see which tools were getting lots of use and which werenâ€™t. This affected their outreach, since they could promote tools that werenâ€™t being used but also to promote alternate uses of popular tools.
- Satisfaction: Over the course of three terms, BYU conducted brief surveys of students and faculty. Students reported in increasing numbers (75%, 75% and 86% for the past 3 semesters) that Blackboard was easy to learn & use. Faculty, however, reported in increasing numbers (18%, 16% and 28%) that Blackboard is difficult to learn and use. The presenters said there could be several reasons for the uptick in difficulty.
- Efficiency: Monitoring faculty and student efficiency allows them to help everyone be more efficient in teaching & learning overall. Through surveys they tracked opinions of whether Blackboard has increased their workloads (students: 14%, 23% and 25%; faculty: 41%, 26%, and 24%) with an eye on developing training (more for faculty than students) on how to be more efficient in Blackboard.
- Stability: BYU had significant stability issues (with Assessments) in their second semester of tracking information. Theyâ€™ve moved to the ASP model as a result and things are working better now. They rightly describe stability as the #1 vital sign to track.
- Knowledge: They also tracked whether faculty and students feel as if they know how to use Blackboard, with overall positive results.
Next steps include revisions to the vital signs to monitor, as well as plans for a cross-institutional study. I almost jumped at this one, but I want Richmond to get our statistics together before we join into a larger review.