Project Members: Benjamin Vaughn, Benjamin Corkery, Steven O'Shields Problem Statement: Professors and students would like

to more effectively use Blackboard to supplement classroom communication; however, according to Stephen Nodine, faculty training coordinator at Clemson University, most professors fail to use many features available for Blackboard pages. Jessica Martin and Phil Randall, English professors at Clemson University, have stated that they spend hours each semester setting up Blackboard pages that don’t fully realize their visions of a course management system. As students, we have experienced the effects of poorly designed Blackboard pages throughout our college careers. Even though step-by-step instructions for setting up a page are available on the internet and through CCIT, this information focuses on the minutiae of setting-up Blackboard’s features and doesn’t explain why the professor would want to use these features. Moreover, there isn’t a well-documented example of an effective, communications-centered Blackboard page to guide or inspire professors to use features beyond the bare minimum. Our team will prepare a document that will inform professors of commonly unused Blackboard features, explain how those features could potentially benefit professors and students, and describe how those features can be implemented. Problem: The ultimate goal of every professor is to help students succeed in school. An integral part of student success is communication from the instructor to the student. With technologies developing at a rapid rate, it is becoming easier for professors to communicate with students when they're not in the classroom. The problem is that professors and faculty members either have not been informed of all the portals through which people can communicate today or aren't willing to take advantage of these communication technologies due to negative perceptions. This problem affects the audience (the professors) because when there is a lack of communication, there is generally a decrease in student grades. For example, if an instructor can't get his or her point across, the students in the course won't know what to do for class assignments. While this may not be an issue in a classroom setting where questions can be quickly answered, confusion about something posted on Blackboard can cause problems without the right tools in place. In general, professors and students would like to use Blackboard more efficiently to assist in classroom communication but most professors don’t implement many helpful features of Blackboard that can improve student-professor communication. Also, there are no welldocumented examples of communication-centered Blackboard page templates to assist instructors in using features beyond the most basic parts of the page. Proposed Solution: Our group will create a document that provides straightforward instructions to aid professors in the creation of a basic Blackboard page in a format that encourages student learning. The main project will be written like a manual that a professor can use as a reference. This format will satisfy the NAK of the audience because focus on the information that any professor is likely

to not know without wasting their time on details they’re already familiar with. This document will address the following problems: ● ● ● lack of organization in file structure clutter of Blackboard pages difficulty of access to important features for students

It is important for professors to understand what students see on their personal Blackboard pages and how basic changes in a professor’s organization of a Blackboard page can radically impact the way a student receives the information presented there. Our document will explain to professors which features and simple organizational choices can dramatically increase the effectiveness of a Blackboard page. With improved pages, professors allow students to quickly and easily access information deemed important for time spent outside of class. The current state of technology allows people of all ages to engage in various forms of communication besides in-person interaction. An individual project will be completed that will inform professors about the communication capabilities of services apart from Blackboard that could be used to facilitate learning outside of the classroom. Social media services such as Facebook or Twitter will be explored to describe their potential uses for facilitating communication between professors and students. Because some professors struggle with basic computer skills that may hinder their ability to construct an effective Blackboard page, an individual project will consist of the creation of a generic Blackboard page that can be downloaded and used as a template. This project will include straightforward instructions teaching professors how to implement this template within their own courses on Blackboard. This will simplify the process of setting up an effective Blackboard page by limiting the steps involved. Professors will be able to edit this template to their personal tastes once it is installed. Blackboard is an extremely intricate and powerful tool for communication between professors and students, yet most of the tools available within it are unused or, even worse, unknown. The third individual project will include a compilation of some of the most powerful tools within Blackboard that are unused or unknown to most professors. As the goal of a course management system is effective communication between professors and students that will facilitate effective learning for students, the Blackboard tools that are chosen will be chosen based on their decided importance from the viewpoint of a student. Overall, the goal of this project is to make life easier for both the teachers and the students who use Blackboard. By making the overall Blackboard experience easier for teachers, the set up process and maintenance will be shortened thus allowing teachers more time to focus on other resources than can be used in the classroom. Lastly, the process of making student-professor communication easier will then allow students to use Blackboard more efficiently. This increase in efficiency and communication will generally lead to students doing better in the course.

Work Plan: In order to complete this project, we must complete the following tasks: ● Talk to professors to understand the Blackboard features with which they’re having trouble ○ We must know the problems professors are having in order to create a document that they can be expected to consult voluntarily. ○ We need to know: What is the most time consuming part of building and maintaining a Blackboard page? What are some things you wish you could do on Blackboard but can’t/don’t know how to do? ● Select the important features in Blackboard that most professors aren’t using that will be discussed in the deliverables ● Learn how to use the features that will be discussed in the project ● Write clear explanations of how to implement those features including any images or diagrams that might assist the professors, format these instructions into documents ● Test the effectiveness of the document by asking a professor to complete a certain task discussed in the project and observing their results ● Make changes to the document in order to improve it’s effectiveness Individual Projects: ● Benjamin Vaughn - Introduce professors to non-Blackboard web services that could aid in professor-student communication. ○ This information will be compiled in a manual that could be used for reference. ○ The purpose of this document is to inform professors of web service information not part of Blackboard or supported in Blackboard that could help professors and students communicate or share information. ○ The audience of this document is professors who are teaching classes that might require the use of communication methods that aren’t supported by Blackboard such as Facebook, Twitter, IM, text messaging; or professors who want to collaborate with their students or require students to collaborate on group projects. ○ This individual project will be due April 21. ● Steven O’Shields - Create a communication-friendly Blackboard page template that can be implemented by a professor when starting to build their own page. ○ The information for this project will be both online through Blackboard and also in a document that will assist teachers in how to set up a basic Blackboard course. ○ The purpose for this document is to assist professors in setting up a simple, but powerful, Blackboard course that will take advantage of a few features of Blackboard to the best of their ability. ○ The audience for this individual project will be professors who use Blackboard and also for professors who don't use Blackboard as well to show all professors an easy way of creating a page in Blackboard. ○ This individual project will be due April 21. ● Benjamin Corkery - Write an “Encyclopedia of Commonly Unused Blackboard Features” as a reference and inspiration for professors when they are building Blackboard pages.

This project will cover similar topics to those in the main project. ■ More in-depth look at design options ■ Descriptions of more tools available to users The purpose of this document is to allow professors to quickly and easily access the necessary instructions to create a deeper and more powerful Blackboard page than the main project describes. The audience will be professors who wish to go above and beyond the minimum for Blackboard page creation or those who wish to explore more tools available within the current system. This individual project will be due April 21.

Schedule: March 21-25 Brainstorm for individual projects, finalize the scope of and begin work on individual projects. March 28-April 1 Begin work on main project: collecting screenshots, writing instructions, formatting, and organizing. Continue work on individual projects. April 4-8 Finish writing information pertinent to the scope of the project. Write second Progress Report. April 11-15 Solicit opinions and change ideas from professors and commissioner. Make necessary changes. April 18-April 21 (DUE) Revise all documents, check formatting and grammar. Qualifications: Benjamin Corkery: During my three years at Clemson, I have experienced a variety of issues with Blackboard that inspired complaints about the system in use. As a mechanical engineer, complaints turn to ideas, which turn into solutions. My knowledge based on the way engineers approach problems allows me to assess the current situation and brainstorm ways to improve on it. My experience with solving complex, involved, real-world problems in mechanical engineering allows me to methodically advance through the steps of a problem to determine an acceptable solution for the general public. Also, I co-oped in a manufacturing environment, which introduced me to the way that issues are resolved in industry. Of importance are time, cost, and ease of use, all of which will be incorporated into this project. I work quickly and effectively toward a goal of simplicity that my commissioner, who is similar to a customer in industry, will be pleased and impressed with. Another important consideration in why I am qualified is that I understand

Blackboard from the perspective of both a student and a professor. As previously stated, I have used Blackboard for three years, and our commissioner recently set up a fake course so that our group could work in Blackboard using the same interface that professors use. This specific combination of skills and experiences adequately qualifies me to complete this project. Steven O’Shields: In my both my years of college and high school, technology has been greatly underutilized by faculty members. These experiences are the reason why I am qualified to assist in making Blackboard a better communication tool for both students and faculty members of the university. I have two years of college as a mechanical engineer under my belt along with two years of experience using and being frustrated by the way professors use Blackboard. Blackboard is a very powerful tool and can be used to increase communication from professors to students and vice versa. It is this desire to make this website better for both parties (students and professors) that makes me qualified to work on improvements. Along with knowledge of Blackboard, I also have experience with other pieces of technology including smart phones, tablet computers, as well as knowledge of web services such as Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking/ sharing sites that increase communication between people or groups of people. These experiences motivate me to make overall communication between professors and students better and, as a result, make me qualified to work on this project. Benjamin Vaughn: As a mechanical engineering student at Clemson for three years, I have had a lot of experience with Blackboard and how Blackboard is currently used by many professors. As a student of new internet technology, I’m very aware of the capabilities of many web services and use them as often as I can to enhance my productivity and manage large projects. I’m always trying to find a better way to complete group projects and organize group efforts. Because of my experience with Blackboard as a student, I’m qualified to discuss which Blackboard use methods are effective and how Blackboard can be used to enhance students’ educational experience. Because of my experience with project management, group communication, and application web services, I’m qualified to inform professors about how these services can be used to assist in the effort of getting the classwork done.

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