Guest post from Geralyn Stephens, Associate Professor – Clinical College of Education at Wayne State University, and C. Cindy Sulad, Associate Director – Blackboard Support at Wayne State University  – 2013 Catalyst Award Winners for Staff Development.

Wayne State was recently ranked No. 21 for its online undergraduate degree programs by U.S. News & World Report.

Cindy            Geralyn

Blackboard Learn 9.1 was launched on our campus in the Spring of 2013.  While we were excited about all the new features, there was another major event occurring that would directly impact faculty awareness, training and subsequent use.  Our Office for Teaching and Learning, the Professional Development arm, was without personnel. By the Fall term 2013, all of the staff in that office had moved on and not been replaced, however, a wonderful Graduate Assistant remained. That is when we joined efforts to provide faculty support.  Here are strategies we used for training faculty in our professional development program that worked exceptionally well!

  1. Start Small –We offer to upload course syllabi, if we could make the course available to students.  This provided our faculty with an opportunity to learn Blackboard Learn at their own pace.  This also provided us with an opportunity to reach faculty members who had not previously used the LMS.
  2. Complement Current Practices –Our institution requires certain information be included in all course syllabi.  To address this, we created Blackboard Learn modules containing this information and we took responsibility for ensuring it remains current. Then, we upload the modules into every WSU course at the beginning of each term for all courses offered across the institution.
  3. Make it Convenient –We hold training in faculty offices, on the weekends or at the local coffee shop, wherever they are working on their Blackboard Learn course sites.  Initially, this can be quite time consuming, but it builds trust and camaraderie.
  4. Relevancy is Critical – For group training sessions, solicit those registered for information about what/how they are currently addressing the topic.  Then, incorporate the information as a foundation for learning to use the new Blackboard resource. The training sessions can be designed around their real world scenarios.
  5. Include new Blackboard Tools in Training – This is an excellent way for faculty to learn about new resources.  They begin to use the resource as a learner, while learning to use in their instruction.  For example, use the Blog feature for Questions during a workshop.
  6. Assessments and Data Collection – This is one of the most important aspects of Staff Development.  Document how the participants use the resource in their Blackboard Learn courses After the training.  Collect data detailing how the faculty used the tool, the impact on students and their recommendations for enhancing the training experience.
  7. Create a Faculty Learning Community:  Using a Blackboard Learn Discussion Area and the Self-Enrollment option, we created a place where faculty could communicate with others to discuss topics related to online teaching and Blackboard.  It is called the Online Teaching Network.  The boards were also monitored by our team to ensure any technical or how-to questions were promptly addressed.  We also included a section called “Nifty Note” on the Faculty tab in Blackboard.  It contains quick tips, how-to instructions and other items related to faculty use of Blackboard.

These techniques worked well for us.  If you have ideas but have yet to try them, then please let us know.  We are available to help you.  Please contact Cindy at: or Geralyn at  Also, if you are doing some creative things with your faculty, then consider submitting your program for the 2014 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Staff Development.

To learn more about how your institution can achieve similar success, get in touch with Blackboard.

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