5 Ways to Engage Community College Students



Guest Blog Post from Eric Kunnen. Eric is the Director of Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Many of you, like me, proudly work at a Community College and together we serve over 13M students [American Association of Community Colleges] across the country. That number is impressive and it’s growing, fast. When we dig into the numbers we see a community of students, educators and administrators who face a unique set of challenges. 45% of our students are between the ages of 22-39. They are working, raising children, and serving in the military, while furthering their education. At Grand Rapids Community College, we see innovative technologies as an important resource in creating a connected and personalized learning environment for a population of students that is highly mobile.

Being part of the Blackboard Idea Exchange (BIE), I had the opportunity to be part of the development of the latest release of Blackboard Learn. As I saw the new features, I realized that many of them hit on two of the five benchmarks of effective educational practices for Community Colleges: Active & collaborative learning and student-faculty interaction. As a follower of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, I couldn’t help but share how the enhanced Blackboard Learn helps engage Community College students – especially through a new feature called My Blackboard.

My Blackboard provides students with the ability to stay more connected, receive immediate and important information, and experience a more personalized learning environment.  For the Community College student that is busy working full-time and commuting to campus, time is critical. So, efficient, engaging tools are increasingly important.  My Blackboard is the base camp of sorts that provides students a quick at-a-glance view of the most important course information.

Here are 5 ways that My Blackboard increases student engagement in the learning experience:

  1. The “Posts” screen in My Blackboard provides inline commenting and interaction with course conversations – “Posts” from collaborative tools – without the need to enter a course.  In short, the collaborative tools that exist within a course are brought forward to students, making it easier to engage.
  2. The “Updates” screen provides timely reminders and due dates to help students keep track of what is due and when.  This level of student organization is important for community college students who are juggling busy work schedules, family, commuting and life.
  3. “My Grades” consolidates all scores across all courses, along with the feedback instructors have entered, into one view in My Blackboard.  This enables students to do a better job monitoring their own performance and to seek out assistance as needed.
  4. The new “Blackboard Profile” is the beginning of a complete academic network for students.  It provides them with an easy way to link in information from Facebook or Twitter and establish a profile that empowers a brand new network of informal learning, sharing, and connecting.
  5. This academic network is brought to life in My Blackboard with the “People” screen, which shows students everyone in each of their courses as well as school-wide.  Breaking the barriers of isolation is important for students, as much of learning is informal and social.  For community college students who generally spend less time on campus, it is especially important that they are able to connect with each other online.

In addition to students, faculty will also benefit from the enhanced Blackboard Learn – including the My Blackboard features above as well as a new Item Analysis feature.  There is also an entire set of new tools available for community colleges to harness from a program review perspective with Enterprise Surveys.  Take a look at the latest release of Blackboard Learn for yourself and I think you’ll see the potential. Let me know by tweeting at me with the hash tag #BbLearn @ekunnen