GVSU Supported Technologies

If you are going to teach an online or hybrid course, you need to know what's available to help you with your content delivery. There are many technology tools to support teaching and learning online. Here is a list of the supported technology tools that GVSU has available for you.

Please note that the handouts you find here are not comprehensive of all that are available. Visit the Bb Help page for more.


You are probably familiar with Blackboard and have used it to varying degrees. Blackboard is our Course Management System (sometimes called Learning Management System.) It is web based so that you and your students can access it from wherever you have access to the Internet. This is, essentially, where you host your online course. 

Blackboard has many features to assist you in teaching a very interactive course and forming a learning community. Here are some of the key things that you can do within the Blackboard environment.

Make announcements to your students. You can give a course welcome, post reminders, address course mechanic issues - think about the things that you might say to your students at the beginning of a traditional class.

Post documents. What information do you share with students in your traditional classes? In addition to your course syllabus and calendar, you can post a brief lecture, provide handouts, worksheets, assignment details, etc.

Links to external resources. To supplement your course material, you can post links to useful websites that serve as additional reading material, support assignments, or as opportunities for students to extend their learning.

Learning Modules. One way to organize your course content is through learning modules. You can set them up to be sequential or not, and students can progress through them in a similar way to how you might present material in your traditional course.

Adaptive Release. In a learning module, or other aspects of Blackboard, you can set it up so that students must reach a certain level of success before moving ahead in the course content. This could entail that they have read certain material before progressing, or earn a certain score on a quiz. This can help to ensure student understanding before moving into more complex material.

Course Copy. You can copy your course materials from one section into another. This includes a whole course from one semester to another, or individual documents.

Blackboard and Accessibility

The Blackboard learning management system conforms with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Priority AA (Deque Systems, December 2012), has gold level certification for non-visual access (The National Federation of the Blind) and conforms with the accessibility standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. '794 d), as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (P.L. 105 - 220), August 7, 1998. For more information, please see Blackboard's own page on accessibility issues.

Blackboard ensures the accessibility of navigation and access to the tools built into the LMS. Content that is added to a Blackboard course site is not automatically accessible unless prior steps have been taken to ensure that it is. For more information on the accessibility of course content, faculty are encouraged to contact a member of the IDeL team or to contact Grand Valley's Disability Support Resources office.

Resources Available through Blackboard

The following are also accessed through Blackboard. Some are directly created by the Blackboard company, but many are considered add-ons or learning objects and support an interactive dynamic course.

E-reserves. You can post the links to e-reserves. Any articles that you require, book chapters, and other materials that are part of providing course content can be placed on e-reserves in the library. (Remember, the library will pursue copyright clearance for you so you don't have to! They will also clean-up and post PDF files for easy access and reading.)

Summon. This is a great tool developed by University Libraries to assist with searching the online catalog directly from your course site.

  • Adding Summon to your Blackboard Course

Other library resources. Did you know that you can request your library liaison to be added to your Blackboard course to assist students with research and other information literary skills? Ask your liaison - they'll be pleased that you did!


Grand Valley offers several ways for you to communicate with your students, and for students to communicate among themselves. Some of these work through Blackboard.

Blackboard Email. Email can be sent to individual course members or to groups and individuals. The email goes to each individual's own email address (and is not retrieved in Blackboard.)

Blackboard discussion boards. Part of creating a learning community is dialogue, and providing a means for students to learn from each other. Asynchronous discussion is a great way to do this. It allows students time to consider their responses and promotes the use of higher order thinking skills. Students who may otherwise be quiet and reflective in a traditional course and rarely speak out, will find their voice here.

Blackboard Collaborate. Within Blackboard, you can also access the Collaborate suite of tools. These are further explained later.

Blackboard Groups. You can set up private groups to facilitate collaborative assignments. Although you will have access to each group, others in the class will only have access to their assigned group. They can share documents, have asynchronous and synchronous discussion, set up a task list, and plan and carry out a group project.

ooVoo.  Although not accessible directly through Blackboard, GVSU also supports the adoption and use of ooVoo. With ooVoo, you can have unlimited 6-way video conferencing,desktop sharing, file sharing, record video calls, send video messages instead of emails.  Often used for administrative meetings, there are also applications for the classroom.  Our relationship with ooVoo is through the efforts of Seidman Professor  Star Swift - watch as she talks about how she uses it.  GVSU has a special deal that includes one year of free access for every faculty, staff, and student. More information is on the GVSU ooVoo website.


Assignment management. Students can submit assignments directly through Blackboard, where you will retrieve them through the grade center (described below.) This saves your email limits and organization! You can then comment directly on a paper and return it to the students, who will retrieve it from the grade center, provide any other document back to the student, or just leave feedback in addition to their grade.

Quizzes. If you use tests and quizzes in your course, you can place these in Blackboard, have a lot of control over how the quiz is administered, and for objectives tests, Blackboard will grade them immediately so that you and your students will know their results as soon as they submit it (unless, of course, you don't want them to.) For subjective tests, you can access their responses and grade them in Blackboard, where students will see their grade and any comments you provide. You can also mix the methods, allowing Blackboard to grade the objective portions while you complete the grading of the subjective portions. Blackboard allows many types of questions.

Respondus. Respondus is a tool that works with Blackboard for easier uploading of tests. Instead of having to enter each question separately in Blackboard (a time consuming process for longer tests), you can create your test in Word and use Respondus to upload it into Blackboard. You can either have Respondus tell Blackboard when to make the test available, or you can do it yourself in Blackboard.

Respondus Lock-down Browser. If you set your quiz up to use the Respondus Lock-down browser, then students must take the quiz using a specific browser that does not allow them to open any other window. This adds an additional level of security to the online quiz.

  • Respondus Lockdown Browser
  • Accessing Respondus LockDown Browser from Lab Computers

Surveys. Using surveys periodically to gain insight from students on various aspects of the course is a great idea. Blackboard allows anonymous surveys that you can make available to students, then access the results through the Grade Center. Whether checking in with students about the overall course, a mid-term evaluation, specific aspects, or general information gathering to share anonymous class opinions on different topics, this is a class specific useful tool.

Grade Center. You can post all of the student's grades and provide feedback directly in the grade center. Student's then have access to track their grades, view your comments, and feel reassured that assignments were received. You can also see when a student last accessed your overall course site and even email them directly from the grade center.



Tracking and Performance Dashboard. You have the ability to check and see who accessed your documents or the overall Blackboard course site. If a student is not performing well or claims excuses for a late assignment (or not submitted at all), then you can check to see if they have accessed the course material, from an individual document, to a learning unit, or any content area. You can also post grades from the Performance Dashboard.

Plagiarism deterrence (and detection)

SafeAssign. Is a tool built within Blackboard that works in much the same way as Turnitin. It communicates with some of our online databases, but does not work with Academic Search Premiere, one of our primary databases.


Adding and Embedding Content into Blackboard. Blackboard supports Audio, Video, Images, and Mashups (embedding YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare).

iTunes U. Larger sound files and presentation can be hosted in iTunesU. Once your course site is made available, you can create a specific course site in iTunesU. In Blackboard, you would provide a link to your larger sound files, video files (that are not copyrighted), and PDF files. Faculty and students will need to have the iTunes software available on their computers.

Podcasting. Built directly into Blackboard, you can create short sound files (no larger than 5 MB) and upload them directly into Blackboard. Using this tool, students can listen directly from Blackboard without having to download the file.  You can also add Wimba Voice files anywhere that you have the text editor.

  • Adding Wimba Voice

RSS Feeds. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a format for sharing and distributing Web content. Perhaps you have a discipline specific podcast or blog, or news source that you would like your students to read regularly. By adding the RSS feed into Blackboard, it will be updated regularly from its host site, and your students will be able to access it directly from the course.

Additional Tools for Collaboration

Wikis. Wikis are online collaborative sites where the content is dynamic with multiple people accessing it to form the content. In Blackboard, the Learning Objects wiki tool provides a space for students to work together developing a website. This is often used as a presentation tool (instead of the standard in-class PowerPoint presentation), as a growing class dictionary resource, posting class notes or chapter outlines, and for a group project "product".

Blogs. A whole-class blog provides a place for students to write for an audience. The blog is a place for students to submit essays, have ongoing commentary about the course content, support peer reviews, and other whole-class (or group specific) writing assignments.

Journals. Unlike the blog, journals provide a private space between the students and instructor. This tool is useful for reflection and other confidential assignments that are meant to be only accessible by the instructor.

Blackboard Collaborate

Collaborate is a suite of three related products designed to support web-based and web-enhanced teaching and learning:

Web Conferencing. With this you can host an online synchronous class session. A dynamic and interactive tool, you can provide a lecture, question and answer period, break into groups for collaboration, share documents, have a dialogue that is either voice or chat supported, and even see participants with webcams. As well, you can record the entire session and post it as an archive for later review. Some are even using this tool to record lectures in advance and post them for students' asynchronous access.

Voice. Sometimes it is helpful for students to "hear" us instead of just read what we write. Blackboard Collaborate Voice allows you to leave a verbal announcement, talk students through a website, have a voice discussion board (instead of the traditional text-based), and even send a voice email to students.

Instant Messaging. Also a synchronous tool, Blackboard IM supports one-to-one or one-to-many voice and/or chat discussions. Blackboard IM supports voice, chat, webcam, document sharing, and has a unique design for office hours. Students often use it for collaboration.

Your Colleagues...

Can be a valuable source of information about what tools to use when. We've begun collecting stories from Grand Valley faculty about their experiences with instructional technology. Why don't you see what they have to say?

learn more

Upcoming Workshops

Want to learn more about how to use these supported technologies? The IDeL team offers a variety of workshops on instructional technology and e-pedagogy.

see all the workshops

Blackboard Learn / Collaborate

The Information Technology department offers a variety of workshops for those interested in learning to use GVSU's Blackboard learning management system and Blackboard's suite of Collaborate communication tools.

learn more

Page last modified May 11, 2017