Teacher and student working on a desktop in a classroom

National University: A 2019 Blackboard Catalyst Award Winner for Training and Professional Development


Our annual Catalyst Awards recognize and honor innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where millions of educators and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology. Winners were selected by a cross-functional team of Blackboard experts and the honorees, from across the globe, were recognized in July at BbWorld 2019. Below learn how National University is leading the way in training and professional development.

Training and Developing the Best

In 2016 my team and I received a grant to develop a professional development course for college professors who teach online at National University. We created a course called Enhanced Teaching & Learning Strategies, or ETLS, for short. The ETLS course resulted in National University faculty seeing an improvement in student outcomes, satisfaction, and engagement within their courses.

How It Works

The ETLS course was designed using a framework we refer to as the Trifecta of Student Engagement. This framework outlines that students need to regularly and meaningfully interact in three areas to be fully engaged in their course: (1) Students need to interact with their course curriculum content; (2) Students need to interact with their peers; and (3) students need to interact with their professor. When students interact with all three areas, we call it the Trifecta of Engagement.

The ETLS course was designed with three units of content representing each area of the Trifecta of Student Engagement:

  • Unit 1 is about engaging students with content using tools like video and presenting content in multiple formats following Universal Design for Learning principles.
  • Unit 2 is about engaging students with their peers following social learning theory using tools like wikis, blogs, groups, peer assessment, discussion boards, and Blackboard Collaborate.
  • Unit 3 is about engaging students with their faculty member following the Community of Inquiry framework, effective strategies for giving feedback, and tools such as rubrics and journals.

The Outcome

For their final project, faculty apply the Trifecta of Engagement framework to a course they teach and present the results in a way that can be disseminated to all faculty such as a paper, webinar, or recorded video presentation. Faculty are encouraged to measure the impact their teaching strategies had on students. One faculty member saw an 11 percent improvement in average student grades. Another faculty member found that the student assessment of learning increased by 0.57. Some faculty received positive comments from students in course evaluations. You can view faculty final projects on our Teaching and Learning Strategies website.

For more results and impact this course had on faculty and students you can see my article published in the Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning called Trifecta of Student Engagement: A framework for an online teaching professional development course for faculty in higher education.

Author: Heather Leslie is an instructional designer at the University of San Diego. She has worked in higher education for 10 years with a background in online teaching, course design, and faculty professional development. Heather has a doctorate in strategy, an MBA, a bachelors in international business, and recently completed a masters in adult education and instructional design. Her research interests include the scholarship of online teaching and learning and trends impacting higher education. Heather’s passion is collaborating with faculty to create engaging, innovative, and meaningful learning experiences for students that align to the university’s mission and values.