Supporting faculty and teaching staff’s use of instructional technologies at Northern Illinois University is one the major functions of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, which requires us to keep up with trends in their use on campus so we can provide better support. Last academic year, the center focused on understanding how and why faculty at NIU use Blackboard Learn to support their teaching.
Blackboard Tool Use
NIU adopted Blackboard in 2002. As of the 2016 fall semester, 95% of enrolled students at NIU use Blackboard for at least one course, and 88% of NIU faculty use Blackboard to teach at least one course. The majority (64%) of for-credit course sections have some presence in Blackboard (learn more on trends in Blackboard usage). In addition to an increase in overall usage, there has been an increase in the use of many of the individual tools. The figure below shows the trend in usage for the top 10 most-used tools. Some interesting trends:
- All of the top tools are being used more, over time.
- Most tools in Blackboard are used at higher rates during summer semesters (compared to both fall and spring). Much of that increase is due to a greater percentage of online courses being offered each summer, as online courses naturally tend to use more of the tools within Blackboard.
- During the 2015 fall semester, the number of courses using several tools for posting content and collecting assignments electronically dramatically increased. We believe this was likely a response to university efforts to decrease the amount of printing on campus.
Motivation for Using Blackboard
Since understanding motivations for using Blackboard could provide greater insight than looking at simple tool usage, we sent out a survey to faculty and teaching staff in fall 2016. Based on the expanded Technology Acceptance Model, to see why those new to the LMS are using it, and why long-term users continue to do so. Several things initially stood out to us, including:
- Sentiment about Blackboard among NIU faculty is generally high:
- 82% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I feel confident using Blackboard features in general”
- 66% agreed with the statement “I find Blackboard easy to use”
- 72% agreed with the statement “Using Blackboard increases my efficiency”
- 95% had adopted Blackboard. The top reasons were its perceived requirement (though the University doesn’t require use of Blackboard, some departments may, or respondents may feel that students expect it), the value it brings to their teaching, and its ease of use.
- 5% had never adopted it, due to the perceived lack of need or because alternative tools are available.
- As online course delivery grows at NIU, Blackboard will be used even more heavily, by more students and faculty.
- Adoption is more than an initial decision to use Blackboard. It is an ongoing and continuous process of evaluating teaching needs and the wide array of tools available in Blackboard.
- While the vast majority of faculty at NIU use Blackboard in some way (and many find it easy to use for their purposes), there still exists a need for high quality support.
These data will continue to inform the center’s decision-making for providing resources and support, to maintain responsiveness and a commitment to serving NIU’s faculty.