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January 13, 2009

Chronicle of Higher Ed Features UMBC Blackboard Reports

This week's Chronicle of Higher Education contains a feature story that looks at the "average hits per user" approach behind UMBC's Most Active Blackboard Courses reports, which are published after the last day of classes each semester.

In "A Wired Way to Rate Professors," Senior Writer Jeffrey Young quotes or mentions three UMBC faculty about their "Top 50" rankings as teachers of UMBC's Fall 2008 most active Blackboard courses--across the university or within their disciplines.

Katie Morris
Katie Morris
The UMBC faculty include Gerald Canfield (Information Systems), Lili Cui (Physics) and Katie Morris (Social Work).

While the Chronicle's article focuses on "rankings" of faculty based on Bb activity data (which has drawn mixed reviews from commenters on a companion blog called "The Wired Campus"), it also acknowledges what DoIT staff have maintained since the project began:

Hits alone are no measure of course or instructor quality, but by publishing the activity data each semester, faculty and students can more easily seek each other out about what works or doesn't in using Blackboard.

One thing UMBC faculty and students may still be learning is how an "average hits per user" approach can also shed light on student learning. For example, an examination of 2007-08 Bb-activity based Grade Distribution Reports (GDRs) showed students earning a final grade of D or F tended to use Blackboard 35 percent less than students earning a final grade of C or higher.

This trend--and the tools DoIT staff have been developing to help students and faculty better understand and apply it in specific UMBC Bb courses--will be the focus of "Showing How Good Students Use Blackboard," the first Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) Brown Bag Workshop on Thursday, February 12.

For more information, contact John Fritz at or visit