Guest post by Dr. Deborah Everhart, Chief Architect in Product Management, Blackboard Learn and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Georgetown University.

As a Director in the Exemplary Course Program, I have the privilege and pleasure of reviewing dozens of course submissions each spring. Every year the Directors see course innovations that we’ve never seen before, and I’m personally gratified to see how faculty and instructional designers are using Blackboard Learn in ways that effectively address the needs of students. It expands my understanding of how we can continue to evolve our products, as well as giving me best practice ideas for my own course!

Leslie Koberna

Delving a little deeper into the ECP experience, I interviewed Leslie Koberna from Texas Woman’s University, one of the 2011 ECP winners. When I asked her what makes her Oral Radiology course exemplary, she described her methodology for getting students engaged during the first week of the course. They are expected to complete activities that acclimate them to the course and familiarize them with the course materials and objectives. For example, they take a practice quiz based on the syllabus, which not only demonstrates that they’ve read and understand the syllabus, but also introduces them to the structure of Blackboard quizzes that they will be taking throughout the semester. Leslie makes sure every student is engaged from the very beginning, greatly improving their opportunities for success in the course.

A “Course Tour” guides students through the structure of the course and explains how “all assignments are designed around the module objectives to help you learn and apply the material.” Each topic includes both textual and video materials to help the students learn the material from different perspectives. Such a well-organized course makes even a challenging topic like oral radiology approachable.

For anyone thinking about submitting your courses for review in this year’s ECP program, it’s not too late! We all know our courses are never as good as we’d like them to be, but take heart from this tale: Leslie submitted a different course for ECP review in a prior year, she got “wonderful feedback,” which she used to revise her radiology course. She submitted—and won! The value of iterative improvements to our courses, whether we “win” or not, is always an investment worth making.

“I would encourage anyone who is considering submitting to ECP to do it. Not only did my students benefit when I used the rubric to improve my courses; but since receiving the award, I have had several opportunities to share components of my course with others and to travel to Blackboard World 2011 to present best practices from my course.” –Leslie Koberna

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