Blackboard World 2012

Kelly Schmidt is the Online Curriculum Manager for Globe Education Network’s Online Division. She has worked in higher education since 2001 and with GEN Online since 2005. Kelly manages the online course development process and collaborates with program leaders and subject matter experts to ensure quality online curriculum or all GEN’s online courses and programs.

Earlier this month, I attended Blackboard World 2012, a conference where over 3500 attendees from more than 1000 institutions gathered to discuss and share ideas about technology and education. It was a privilege to attend and, having worked in education for more than ten years – six of those with fully online education, I left the conference feeling that technology and education is more exciting than ever before…the advancements in mobile learning, open source resources, and collaboration tools are astounding and inspiring.

While Bb World was a rejuvenating experience and offered many ideas that I’m eager to share with our faculty and implement in our online courses, one big “take-away” I had was this: GEN really is a great place for online students. While
we certainly are not perfect and there is always room for improvement and enhancement – especially in Online, where things change so rapidly – I think we have the fundamentals down…and that, more than any fancy bells and whistles we can add to our classes, is going to help our students be successful.

What do I mean by “the fundamentals” of online education? Based on my observations of others in our sector, coupled with what I know we are doing really well, here is what you’ll get as an online student at GEN that you may not find elsewhere…

  1. Your instructors will respond to you within 24 hours and will post grades within 72 hours of a submission deadline. How’s is that for quick turnaround?! We know from various studies (i.e. Grant & Thornton, 2007) how important it is for online students to feel connected and to receive prompt feedback, which is why we ensure our online instructors are timely and attentive in their communication with you.
  2. We following standard layout/design in all our online courses, which creates a more streamlined and consistent online learning experience…and this type of usability is likely to improve your learning (Shank, 2009). When you are in your courses, we want you to spend your time engaged and learning, not trying to find your way around the class wondering where all the important content is located.
  3. Online courses are collaborative. Every unit of every course includes an asynchronous discussion to help you engage in the course material by exchanging ideas with your classmates and instructor. Beyond that, many courses involve team projects and activities that promote interaction and collaboration, which helps develop valuable skills in teamwork and critical thinking.
  4. The GEN Online Library is amazing! Just because you aren’t taking courses on a physical campus doesn’t mean you won’t have access to a robust library system with countless resources. Our online librarians are hands-on and knowledgeable – but, most of all, they LOVE the library and they are eager to answer questions and help you succeed. Click here to see a video of all that is available to you in our library.
  5. Your online courses will go beyond the computer screen and textbook. Research suggests that students are more engaged and “work ready” when they have the opportunity to become active citizens as part of their educational experience (Zepek & Leach, 2010). At GEN, we promote a culture of community engagement and applied learning; more than 30 of our online courses include specified applied learning activities that allow students to engage in active citizenship associated with the subject matter and their future careers.

Based on the literature about student success in online courses, many factors are
individual to the student…however, when it comes to the content, design, and delivery of our online courses, I believe we offer an environment that will help students succeed!


Grant, M. R. & Thornton, H. R. (2007, December). Best practices in undergraduate adult-centered online learning: Mechanisms for course design and delivery. Journal
of Online Learning and Teaching, 3
(4), 346- 356. Retrieved July 26, 2012

Shank, P. (March 5, 2009). Usability issues that impact online learning. Faculty Focus Blog. Retrieved July 26, 2012 from

Zepke, N., and Leach, L. (2010). Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action. Active Learning in Higher Education, 11 (3), 167-177.