Student included in international publication

Feb 4, 2005

Student Jon Kowalski has been instrumental in implementing Blackboard software at Kettering. He shared his expertise in the Jan. 23 edition of the online publication BbMatters.

For Jon Kowalski, of Commerce Township, Mich., making his mark on Kettering before ever starting classes was pretty heady stuff. Hired by the university as a co-op student because of his experience with Blackboard, a software program used by educational institutions for on-line course management, Kowalski wound up training his professors in classroom support before they had him as a student.

Because of the university's year-round academic/co-op work calendar Kowalski wasn't officially a freshman until October of 2002. But hs started working for Kettering in July as Blackboard support staff with Donna Wicks, systems administrator for Blackboard.

"It was great that Jon was already trained in Blackboard and I didn't have to tell him how to do things," said Wicks. Together the developed the first Michigan Blackboard Users Group (MiBUG) conference and have continued to improve Blackboard services campus-wide.

Although he is now a senior and a co-op employee of ETAS, provider of development tools and diagnostics and service solutions for the automotive industry, Kowalski's experiences at Kettering have made him something of an expert on Blackboard, and he recently published an article in the Bbmatters, an on-line publication about Blackboard software. His complete article follows.

Utilizing Students to Increase the Value and Usage of Blackboard
Author: Jon Kowalski

Many universities can say that Blackboard is quickly becoming part of their DNA? with courses and other administrative content finding their way onto Blackboard . However, how many institutions can say that's true on the student side as well? Great things are happening on Blackboard at Kettering University in terms of student adoption and student-led functions and organizations - and this is only the beginning!

Increasing Blackboard utilization seems to be a real challenge at most institutions. With a limited (if any) budget for advertising technological tools to students - how can you convince them that Blackboard is the way to go? The answer is easy? involve your students in the process. Give students the resources that they need to add content and resources related to student life and other aspects of University life onto Blackboard, and you may be amazed. At Kettering, student usage of Blackboard has greatly increased during the last few years. While all of the increase may not be directly attributed to student-run content, one can argue that the increased student-run presence on Blackboard has helped to create a well-rounded, resource-packed virtual campus.

One of the first big items to be hosted on Blackboard was student government elections. According to student activists from many schools throughout Michigan, a turnout of over one percent is a very notable event at most schools. During the last student government election held on Blackboard, the turnout was 40.5%! Holding the election on-line allows for easy access for students, instant results, and overall a very user-friendly process that has increased turnout significantly. While the change to Blackboard was incredibly advantageous for the voting process, it also helped to bring many students onto Blackboard for the first time, introducing them to the many features of Blackboard.

During the last academic year, student government wanted to create a unified calendaring solution for all student activities. By using the Calendar feature in the student government organization, they were able to advertise all of the student activities available on the Blackboard login page. In addition to creating another use case for students, they increased visibility of student activities on campus. The Blackboard calendaring solution offered a solution that was integrated into the course delivery system that students were used to, while automatically pushing the information out to them.

Additionally, the student government was looking for a way to quickly gather student input. Of course, Blackboard has a great solution for this - the survey tool! By using the survey tool to gather information quickly, the student government was able to justify their decisions with data and comments from the student body.

While the items listed above are just a few of the ways that Blackboard is being used by students, the key points about student-led content are:

  • the content adds more value to Blackboard in general since students are able to access student activities information in addition to course content,
  • it encourages students that are not taking classes enhanced by Blackboard to use and become familiar with Blackboard,
  • students administering the content become more educated about the options and tools available in Blackboard - these students can then assist professors in adopting advanced tools within Blackboard and
  • it brings Blackboard closer to being a one-stop shop for all institutional information, creating a virtual campus.

In addition to these three examples, students have started moving their organization web sites from Yahoo! Groups to Blackboard en masse, a great deal of Orientation information is now online, and Blackboard is quickly becoming a resource that all student utilize on a regular basis. The greatest thing is that this is just the beginning - with student leaders learning more about Blackboard's capabilities everyday, who knows what will be added to Blackboard next!

Sometimes it is key to remember that your institution is educating the future leaders of society. Try to focus on this if you're having a hard time handing over the keys to some of the resources that are needed to increase student usage on Blackboard. The fact of the matter is that if you set high expectations for students, we will usually meet those expectations.

In the quest to increase usage and adoption on a course management solution, one point rings true in my mind? Students Matter!

Jon Kowalski is a Senior at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. He is majoring in Electrical Engineering and pursing minors in Computer Engineering and Fuel Cell Engineering. Jon was the Blackboard Coordinator at Huron Valley Schools for two years, served as the Blackboard Training and Support Coordinator at Kettering University in 2002, Co-Founded the Michigan Blackboard Users Group (miBUG), and served as the miBUG Conference Coordinator from 2002 to 2004. He can be contacted at jon.kowalski@kettering.edu.

Contact: Dawn Hibbard
(810) 762-9865
dhibbard@kettering.edu