by George Rosa

This June, Blackboard Inc. awarded Hostos EdTech its Catalyst Award in the category of “Optimizing Student Engagement” for the creation and implementation of the “Are You Ready” course. Carlos Guevara, David Dos Santos and the author are scheduled to receive the award at this year’s BlackboardWorld conference in New Orleans. As has been covered in other issues of this newsletter, the “Are You Ready” course is an online course on Hostos Blackboard that evaluates student preparedness for online coursework, and covers topics such as working in an online environment, Blackboard, Netiquette, where to get support and on-campus services. Although intended for students who plan to take an online course, the course is actually open to anyone in the Hostos community who is registered in the CUNYfirst or CUNY Portal. Please contact EdTech if you are interested in having your students take the course or would like to take the course yourself.

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards, according to Blackboard “honor those who push the boundaries of their educational programs and technology in order to deliver innovative and effective learning experiences.” Blackboard intends for its awards to focus on educators and administrators who are “passionate about using technology in education and collaborating on best practices”. There are several Catalyst Awards: for Leading Change, for Community Engagement, for Teaching and Learning, for Inclusive Education, for Professional Development, for Student Success, for Optimizing Student Experience, which is the award won by Hostos EdTech.

Are You Ready logoYou don’t need to be a Blackboard administrator or EdTech “techie” to win a Blackboard award. Any Blackboard user can be nominated for one of the awards. The Catalyst awards are an extension of Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program (ECP), whose mission is to explore and promote best practices that lead to superior courses. The program centers around the ECP Rubric, available under a Creative Commons license, which covers four main areas – Course Design, Interaction and Collaboration, Assessment and Learner Support.

An important part of the Exemplary Course Program is course design professional development through an online community, with the opportunity to learn from and network with other instructors and course designers. This community offers access to Exemplary Course tours posted by community members, course design tips by award winning instructors and designers, and opportunities for sharing resources, volunteering to peer review, and networking. The program recognizes three categories of course review, based on the ECP Rubric – Self-Review through the ECP Rubric, Peer Review from peer volunteers, and Achievement Review, where an ECP expert evaluates your course. Success in the Achievement Review leads to the course gaining exemplary status and winning the Exemplary Course Award. The award is ongoing and you can submit your course to the review process at any time. The benefits of winning the Exemplary Course Award are mainly professional recognition within the online teaching/learning community and promotion by Blackboard on its website and at conferences.

EdTech’s Online Course Initiative Program, designed to transition faculty new to online teaching is not based on the ECP Rubric. The approach taken is one of mentoring by an experienced practitioner of hybrid or asynchronous teaching, sharing best practices gained from years of online teaching experience and attending EdTech and CTL workshops and events. Instead of a rubric, review of courses created in the Initiative follow guidelines, or checklists, that are strongly influenced by the Quality Matters Rubric Standard and CSU Chico Rubrics for Online Instruction. Goals set by the various rubrics available for designing online courses are pretty similar, and following one in designing a course will match up well with others.

In the long run, academic freedom is respected at EdTech in the development of online courses, and the structure of an online course should be a reflection of the course syllabus as well as the way the instructor feels most effective at covering course content, both in-class and online. But the rubrics give a good measure of what’s been accepted by consensus of how an effective online course is built. And if you want to be recognized as teaching a Catalyst or Exemplary course, then go for it! We at EdTech are here to help.

Blackboard Catalyst Award

Exemplary Course Program

Exemplary Course Rubric


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