Linda K. Ryder Portfolio



The topic of this course is: Best Practices for Using Blackboard Learn 9.1 Achievements. The purpose of the course is to not just familiarize faculty at my institution with the tool and how it works, but to help them make informed decisions about its deployment. Achievements in Blackboard can be set to deliver certificates within the course environment or badges that can used and viewed in the Mozilla OpenBadges project. Badges and certificates are extrinsic rewards that if not used properly will alienate intrinsically motivated students, even while motivating others who are extrinsically motivated. Ultimately there should be 2 parts to this course, one that explains the "what" and "how", and one that explains the "why" and "should I".

Needs Assessment/Opportunity Exploration

Instructional Problem

New technology takes time to learn and in this community college setting the technology changes often. The Learning Management System is now on a yearly (sometimes twice yearly) upgrade schedule that often introduces new tools for faculty. I see this ongoing change as an opportunity for faculty to improve or experiment with new teaching strategies. But the new tools must be learned and their best uses demonstrated in order for them to be effectively deployed. Instruction on these new tools also presents challenges and problems which can be addressed with careful instructional design. A new tool of importance in the Blackboard LMS on this particular campus is the Achievements tool and the Certificates and Badges that can be deployed within it.

  • The instructional challenge: Faculty participants will have access to the new tools by default, and can use it without training if they so choose. This instruction should help avoid any confusing or misuse of tools that can undermine successful student-teacher interaction by presenting “best practices” in a compelling format.
  • The instructional problem: Simplifying and directly demonstrating the key concepts and “how-to” of the new tool, while demonstrating “best practices” for participants with a wide range of skills and varying levels of pedagogical knowledge (both of which this instruction can help improve) will need to be at the heart of the instruction.
  • The opportunity: Introduction of a new and potentially useful tool that if used well could help with student engagement and retention, which are current concerns for the college.

What is to be Learned

  • There is a new tool in the LMS
  • What it is, how it works and how to deploy it
  • The pedagogical options for its use (or not)
  • The impact on student motivation when used – pro and con
  • The potential for increased student engagement and retention with “best practices”

Learner Analysis

I can identify my primary audience as this community college’s faculty user with basic skills in Blackboard LMS and a desire to investigate a new tool that could help with student engagement. This course however would be open to all, which means some users might be more advanced, and some may discover they are in over their heads. The instruction would be directed at the primary audience to maximize its impact, but the others must be considered in the design. I can have learners self-assess and self-select at the start of the class, which could support learner choice as well as identifying my actual learners’ characteristics, potentially informing future modification. An important learner characteristic I must take into consideration would be motivation (probably most important). I need to know this so I can build something that puts them at the center and helps them solve known problems with tools that are accessible. Most of the faculty participants who would consider taking this course would have at least minimal level of interest in technology enhanced teaching. Faculty participants who voluntarily attend our workshops are more intrinsically motivated to learn about these tools. The faculty at this institution are extremely busy with little time for training, so this instruction must be efficient and make good use of their time. Observation over 10 years, self-assessment scores from a pre-training assessment instrument, training completion stats, and student satisfaction ratings and help desk calls for online learning at this institution in general have shown an extreme range of faculty technology skills, even when motivation is high.

Instructional Context

With recently mandated increased students in their classes, generally more interest in their subject matter content than new technologies, and commonly limited skills in Blackboard and web environments, faculty will need instruction that is simple enough for basic users but compelling and efficient for all. The basic users on this campus report instructional saturation after an hour of workshop time, so short and direct and immediately usable instruction will be critical. And yet for the more advanced users, this instruction will need to answer their questions and move quickly when they want it to. Overall it must be compelling and engaging in and of itself or this very busy faculty population will not be motivated to sacrifice their time spent on other parts of their jobs to participate. As I consider the reasons for instruction and begin analyzing short and long term goals of the mini-course in the context of culture and climate of our organization, I see that the short term goal would be the appropriate and informed use of a new tool to support online and web-enhanced course offerings. The long term goal would be student engagement and hopefully retention – an institutional concern at this time. I can see that communicating the potential for engagement and retention would be a way for the instruction to communicate its own relevance. This course will be designed on the MediaWiki KNILT site but converted to an LMS for actual delivery to this faculty population.

11/18/14 Over the last few weeks I have been thinking that as a public site I don't really know who all my learners will be. That provides an opportunity as well as a challenge. The opportunity is to expose all the learners to the concept of badging and general gamification strategies whether or not they use an LMS, or if they are a Blackboard user, or if they just web enhance with an LMS or web tools. The challenge is to limit the scope so it is manageable to build and is still a "mini" course and guide them through the content. I had already considered the idea of multiple paths and now I have decided on a structure of 3 paths, identified with an action maze that is fun and game like, and then have them follow a color coded path through the material. Later they can come back and do any of the paths. All the paths will have some common elements. Each path will have its own learner outcomes stated.

Exploring the Problem and Solution

New tool and transition training is always an iterative process. These kinds of training activities meet the goals of our Center for Distance and Online Learning that are assessed in a program review every 5 years. This mini-course in new tool deployment would be a prototype for other short accessible online courses. As I consider instructional goals in the context of culture and climate and my faculty participant learners, I have to acknowledge that the faculty culture and contract is based on strongly held beliefs in "academic freedom" that results in training and “best practices” as totally voluntary. Student satisfaction with online offerings has dropped under 89% and enrollment in all modalities is down 5% for the college. Retention has been identified as a priority by the administration. This mini-course will not directly solve these larger problems but it could be a useful tool in engaging students, which often leads to increased retention if used well. If used badly, the literature indicates this kind of tool which offers external reward within a course system, often backfires by de-incentivizing students, especially if they are intrinsically motivated and engaged already. So it would not be too far-fetched to say that a large scale deployment of a new tool done without appropriate configuration and/or pedagogical awareness could exacerbate retention issues for a number of reasons.

11/18/14 Multiple paths in the public KNILT site will be easily translated back to my LMS version here on my campus but also create a sense of learning community for anyone taking it on KNILT. All users at all levels in all situations should find something to learn and outcomes to strive for. I also will introduce new learning tools like Quandary action mazes, and ClassMarker web based exam tool with feedback. I think this will model differentiation of instruction in an interesting game-like format as they will be self identifying based on interactive tools, following a path that they choose and can come back and "play" whenever they want as they "level up" in their Blackboard, badge making, web enhancing tool skills.


  • Create a compelling “just in time” training course that can be completed quickly for the new tool in the LMS
  • Create online instruction that is engaging and interactive
  • The course must appeal to faculty participants with a wide range of skills varying levels of pedagogical experience/knowledge, and therefore must have multiple layers and paths to choose from
  • The course must make a clear connection between “best practices” in use of the tools and student success
  • The faculty participants should leave the course with functional skills and a plan for use (or not) in their own course

11/18/14 Differentiate instruction for users with a fun interactive and customized paths through the material. Identify for learner the path to follow with visual organization Build learning community for future engagement and personal directions in uses, skills and brainstorming


This is a stand alone course, with no teacher. All assessments will be self-assessments that support the learners decision making about the use of this new tool. Essentially this makes all of the assessments formative.

Assessments to be included:

  • self assessment of skills necessary for using advanced tools in Blackboard Learn 9.1

Necessary prerequisites for taking this course using the Achievements tool are that the faculty have experience building content and activities in Blackboard Learn 9.1 and that experience is sufficient to act as a basis toward the addition of new tools. The faculty learner will also need skills in learning from tutorials, using self-paced material, and investigating resources to answer their own questions. The mini course however can have multiple paths so less skilled users can get ideas and be exposed to the concepts at their level.

After testing it seems the Quandary action maze works, so I will build sequential decision points for parsing out the Blackboard experience levels as well as general interest, resulting in 3 customized paths through the material based on learner skills and interests. I will use color-coded paths. Learners can return to use a different path as their skills progress. I will try to make it "fun" in the sense that fun is "optional hard work to overcome a voluntary challenge". I will use inviting language.

  • assessment of needs for the learner's course designs to determine which tool, if any to use

This will be a decision making activity using a mind map based on a template and an example to follow for the wrap up product of a mind map of how they will use or decide not to use Achievements in their course

The mind map will need to include affective components of faculty teaching intention - ie willingness to spend time redesigning their course, willingness to consider multiple paths through their course for different types of student motivation -this may be a task actually, not sure I will use a mind map template to prompt the generation of a "Plan Your Approach" mind map of their own, to be shared in the discussion for peer followup

  • Project based assessment will be the construction of a Certificate or Badges within the Achievements tool

Success will be self evident. The badges or certificates will be made and deployed in their course or not. Trouble shooting will be up to the learner, although materials will be available through web links - this will be actually an activity, in the middle part of the Whole parts Whole structure of the course flow - not sure if it is really an assessment if I rearrange these things Each path will have an assessment. A quiz for the general user and one for the Blackboard casual user to "Test Your Skills" in addition to the aforementioned building of a badge and putting it in Blackboard.

Analysis of the Learner and Context

Revisiting the learner and the context, I find some refinements should be made. I have to think about the motivation of the learner (faculty looking at a potential new tool) and consider how I can introduce the tool and its potential in a way that grabs their attention. I also need to factor in the technology available, and the wiki as a context for both the technology and the learning.

I had mentioned plugins for interactivity, but I have now narrowed it down to an online external quizzing tool or quizzes embedded in Camtasia video clips, to be used for self assessment at the beginning. In my discussion posts I explored and decided upon a whole-parts-whole structure for chunking the content and I believe this will fit nicely with my diverse learners in a multi-path mini-course. Learners can self-assess and choose a path or not participate. The learner planning process - an instructional activity- will be supported with an external web based mind mapping tool.

Some of the faculty learners will simply want to know how to use the tools, others will want to know why they should or how to decide. It will be important not to slow down or bore the highly motivated, but also have the important information available. I need to let the how-to be driven by the why in order to create meaningful and useful instruction.

The wiki lends itself to text but linking out of it will be helpful. Also in our discussions of communication, and our reflection on the text's suggestion that "communication is the instruction", the idea of communicating the learning path visually is something I want to try. So rather then a list/outline of units, I will create a visual "map" that will allow the learner to select and visualize a learning path.

Performance Objectives

Upon completion of this mini-course faculty participants will:

  • identify and configure Achievement tools in Blackboard Learn 9.1
  • identify appropriate pedagogical uses of Achievements, Badges and Certificates
  • create a concept map of Achievements for their course
  • design and deploy Certificates and Badges for intended venue (Openbadge or within course)

or....(using Bloom's Higher Order and Lower Order verbs)

Outcomes for experienced Blackboard users learning to use Achievements in their courses

Given tutorials, videos, instructional text and learning objects, experienced Blackboard Users will

  • accurately identify the new Achievement tool in the LMS and explain how it integrates with other Blackboard tools in the system
  • demonstrate how the Achievement tool works by using Blackboard tutorials to add functional Certificate(s) and/or Badges to their own Blackboard instance/course
  • create and save usable badges using the software tutorials and tools from OpenBadge from Mozilla
  • analyze pedagogical options for badges/certificate use (or not) and document the application of this knowledge in successful quiz results and usable mind map of activities
  • elaborate on the relationship between course design and use of Achievements by creating a concept map of how they could include the use of the Achievement tool in their course
Outcomes for casual users of Blackboard or other LMS systems who want to see how this all goes together

Given tutorials, videos, instructional text and learning objects, casual users of Blackboard will

  • explain what badging is and how it is being used in education and in Blackboard courses
  • identify the ways in which a LMS can incorporate badging for online or web-enhanced course design
  • create and save usable badges using OpenBadge from Mozilla
  • analyze pedagogical options for badges/certificate use (or not)and document the application of this knowledge in successful quiz results and usable mind map of activities
  • elaborate on the relationship between course design and use of Achievements by creating a concept map of how they could include the use of the Achievement tool or other badging tools in their course
Outcomes for general interest learners who want to learn about badges/certificates (with or without LMS)
  • explain what badging is and how it is being used in education
  • create and save usable badges using OpenBadge from Mozilla
  • analyze pedagogical options for badges/certificate use (or not)and document the application of this knowledge in successful quiz results and usable mind map of activities
  • elaborate on the relationship between course design and use of badges by creating a concept map of how they could include the use of the Achievement tool or other badging tools in their course

Task Analysis

Analysis of tasks using Gagne's Nine Events Strategy (based on table 8.7 in Larson and Lockee, pp 168-169 and worksheet in supplemental material)
Gagné’s Events of
Internal Conditions Guiding Question
for Planning
Instructional Strategies
1. Gain Attention Reception of incoming information How will you get and keep learner attention? (a) Explain why they might be interested (b) Provide short video on current use in the field (c) Hint at fun things they will learn
2. Inform Learners of the objectives Activating expectancy and leaner executive control How will you inform learners of the lesson objectives (a) Allow learners to select own objectives (b) Link objectives to paths through the material (c) Craft assessments to align with each path and an overall planning project (d) Show objectives in Welcome and Overview
3. Stimulate recall of prior knowledge/learning Retrieval of prior learning to working memory How will you remind learners of the applicable knowledge that they learned in the past, or their previous related experiences? (a) Create a decision tree that prompts them to reflect on their starting level and learning needs using Quandary interactive web-based action maze (b) Use results to recommend an individual path through the material
4. Present the stimulus (content or learning activity) Emphasizing features for the learner's selective perception How will you teach the information or what type of learning activity or environment will you create to foster learning? (a) Once a path is chosen based on learner need, present information in multiple modalities (video, articles, links) (b) Create simple example activities but also provide detailed tutorials for those on the path to implement a new technology tool (c) Wrap up for everyone will be an interactive web-based mind map exercise to apply what they are learning to their own plan for use
5. Provide guidance to the learners Semantic encoding and cues for retrieval How will you provide guidance (scaffolding, support) to the learners? (a) This is a standalone course requiring formative assessment (b) For knowledge based content provide simple "Test Yourself On..." self-assessments (c) For hands on activities the learner will have examples to compare (d) For the planning activity a prototype/template mind map will be provided which is also a wiki based tool with chat so serious learners can optionally contact me to guide them in the application and planning in a live session
6. Elicit performance from the learners Responding (also Retrieval) What types of homework, practice, or learning activities will you provide to help the learners learn? (a) Learners will be given access to a mind map tool where they can apply what they learned to their own plan for integrating into their teaching and course design (b) Blackboard users will have tutorials that walk them through the steps in their own LMS environment (c) General interest users will be able to create badges using tools provided and work in the mind map template
7. Provide feedback to the learners Establishing reinforcement How will you inform learners of their progress? How will you encourage, correct, and affirm? Although this is a standalone course with predominantly formative assessment, the option exists to access peer responses in the wiki based mind map as well as to contact me directly for live chat feedback via the MindMeister tool
8. Assess performance of the learners Activating retrieval of learning and facilitating reinforcement How will you know that the learners have learned the material or can do the desired tasks? (a) The MindMeister wiki based mind map will notify me when a learner has modified the mind map and I can see if the learner has grasped the concepts (b) The web based quizzing tool will notify me when learners complete the quizzes
9. Enhance the Retention & Transfer
of the New Skills, Knowledge, and/or Attitudes
Providing cues and strategies for retrieval and fostering generalization What will you do to enhance the retention and transfer of the new skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes? (a) For Blackboard user who decide to integrate the Achievements tool, the process will be iterative each time they deploy this in their course (b) For interested casual Blackboard users, the steps to acquiring the skills necessary will be included with encouragement to do so hopefully motivated by the course (c) The general users or those using other LMS will have resources to use for future application in their own environments

Notes for mapping out tasks: design that should result in learning outcomes corresponding to Gagne's Intellectual skills within his Cognitive domain. Learners will use the tools in their own environment (situated learning), construct their own understanding of how it applies to their course, and engage in:

  • "Discrimination" of Achievement tool components within Blackboard or which tools outside of Blackboard for the general user can be deployed in their course designs
  • "concrete concept formation" as they discover how the Achievement tool fits into the course tools and design or for the general user how badging can be used to support learning or certification in their course designs
  • "defined concept formation" as they determine appropriate applications of the Achievement tool to diverse tasks and instruction and for the general user how to use the open source tools in their own setting to support learning
  • "rule application" both literally in setting up rules in Blackboard and conceptually in the determination of when and when not to use the Achievements tool and for the general user, how to set up badge functionality in their own teaching and learning situation
  • use of "higher-order rules" as they customize the use of the Achievement tool to their pedagogical approach and course design and for the general user how badges could possibly expand the strategies for feedback, certification, and visible evidence of learning in their situations

(Larson and Lockee table 5.4 p 104)

Gagne's Events of Instruction as a behaviorist model is helpful to me in structuring differentiated instructivist paths through the material as I also attempt to provide enough guidance in the process for autonomous work in a stand-alone web course. Feedback and assessment are mostly formative but I am using tools that learners could use to connect with me for a direct instructional interaction or collaborative activity.

The instructional "parts" in the middle should be sequential, point back to key concepts and support decision making about tools that are based in knowledge of impact on student success. The how-to portion I had originally considered the first part of the course, then in our last few modules it was changed to the last part after discussion with several in the class. Now I see it as in the middle so the wrap-up at the end can connect them with the information and practitioners that would make this most enduring as an instructional package. (For this use the link to the resources on gamification)

Curriculum Map

LKRyder CurriculumMap.jpg

Click on this image to view the curriculum map or use this link to go to the MindMeister site Curriculum Map on MindMeister

References and Resources

  • 7 things you should know about badges from (pdf)

(Other sources as embedded directly in course pages)

Please go to Linda K. Ryder for a brief profile.

Please go to Best Practices for Using Blackboard Learn 9.1 Achievements for the Mini-course and its activities.